The Headache of Adapting to the Cold, Literally
Image Credit: sciencedaily.com
A common genetic variant implicated in migraine headaches may have proliferated because it helped early humans adapt to cold weather in northern climates. Felix Key of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and colleagues report these findings in a new study published May 3rd, 2018 in PLOS Genetics.
Within the last 50,000 years, some humans left the warm climate of Africa to colonize colder locales in Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world. “This colonization could have been accompanied by genetic adaptations that helped early humans respond to cold temperatures” says Aida Andres, who supervised the study. To find evidence of this adaptation, researchers took a closer look at TRPM8, a gene that codes for the only known receptor that enables a person to detect and respond to cool and cold temperatures. They discovered that a genetic variant upstream from the gene, which may regulate it, became increasingly common in populations living in higher latitudes during the last 25,000 years. Only 5% of people with Nigerian ancestry carry the variant, compared to 88% of people with Finnish ancestry. Currently, the percentage of people in a population that carry the variant increases at higher latitudes and with colder climates. Interestingly, scientists had already identified this variant as being strongly associated with migraine headaches.
Migraine is a debilitating neurological disorder that affects millions worldwide. The percentage of people who suffer from the disorder varies across human populations, but is highest in individuals of European descent, which is also the population with the highest frequency of the cold-adaptive variant. The researchers suspect that adaptation to cold temperatures in early human populations may have contributed, to some extent, to the variation in migraine prevalence that exists among human groups today. Felix Key pointed out that “this study nicely shows how past evolutionary pressures can influence present-day phenotypes.”
4 Ways to Get Better Sleep
People with insomnia struggle to get a good night’s rest and wonder how to sleep better They may be plagued by trouble falling asleep, unwelcome awakenings during the night, or fitful sleep — alone or in combination. They may feel drowsy during the day and yet be unable to nap. Insomnia can leave a person feeling anxious and irritable or forgetful and unable to concentrate.
Finding an effective solution requires uncovering the cause. Nearly half of insomnia cases stem from psychological or emotional issues. Stressful events, mild depression, or an anxiety disorder can make falling asleep and staying asleep difficult. Ideally, once the underlying cause is treated, the insomnia improves.
If you are having trouble sleeping or sleeping well, the following four techniques may help you sleep better.
Sleep restriction. Fight the tendency to spend a lot of time in bed with the hope of falling asleep. In reality, less time in bed helps you to sleep better and make the bedroom a welcome sight instead of a torture chamber.
Reconditioning. A few simple steps can help people with insomnia to associate the bedroom with sleep instead of sleeplessness and frustration. For example, use the bed only for sleeping or sex and go to bed only when you’re sleepy. If you’re unable to sleep, move to another room and do something relaxing. Stay up until you are sleepy, and then return to bed. If sleep does not follow quickly, repeat.
Relaxation techniques. A racing or worried mind is the enemy of sleep. Sometimes physical tension is to blame. Techniques to quiet a racing mind — such as meditation, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and biofeedback — can help you sleep better.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT for insomnia aims to change the negative thoughts and beliefs about sleep into positive ones. People with insomnia tend to become preoccupied with sleep and apprehensive about the consequences of poor sleep. This worry makes relaxing and falling asleep nearly impossible. The basic tenets of this therapy include setting realistic goals and learning to let go of inaccurate thoughts that can interfere with sleep.
Now Mental Health Patients Can Specify Their Care Before Hallucinations and Voices Overwhelm Them
Image Credit: /parkinsonsnewstoday.com
Steve Singer, who has bipolar and borderline personality disorders, knows when he’s on the verge of a mental health crisis. The female voice he hears incessantly in his head suddenly shuts up, and the hula hoop he gyrates while walking to the grocery store stops easing his anxieties.
That’s when he gets to a hospital. Usually, talking briefly with a nurse or social worker calms him enough to return home. But this year a hospital placed him on a locked ward, took his phone, and had an armed guard watch him for 20 hours before a social worker spoke with him and released him.
“I get the heebie-jeebies thinking about it,” said Mr. Singer, 60. “They didn’t help me, they hurt me.”
Deeply upset, he turned to something he’d never known existed: He completed a psychiatric advance directive, a legal document declaring what treatment he does and doesn’t want. Increasingly, patients, advocates and doctors believe such directives (called PADs) could help transform the mental health system by allowing patients to shape their care even when they lose touch with reality. Hospitals must put them in patients’ medical records and doctors are expected to follow them unless they document that specific preferences aren’t in the patients’ best medical interest.
Published by: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/03/health/psychiatric-advanced-directives.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FMental%20Health%20and%20Disorders&action=click&contentCollection=health®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=19&pgtype=collection
Trying to be Perfect can Cause Anxiety
Image Credit: magnifymoney.com
- A (100% effort): This is reserved for what’s most important to you. For example, if your career is most valuable, your goals might be to impress the boss, make sure clients are happy, put out good products at work.
- (above average, maybe 80% effort): Perhaps you like playing golf or tennis or want to learn a new language. You enjoy these activities, but have no plans to go pro.
- C (average effort): Perhaps having a clean home is important, too. But how often does your home need to be cleaned? People aren’t coming to see it every day. Could you just clean up on the weekends? Or focus on a few rooms that get the most traffic?
- F (no effort): Time-consumers that don’t advance your values or bring you pleasure — for example, lining up all your hangers or folding all your clothes in a specific way. Do you have any tasks that, upon reflection, don’t really matter — you’ve just done them one way for so long that you’re on autopilot? These deserve to be pruned.
Omega-3s for Anxiety?
Image Credit: healthline.com
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help ease anxiety symptoms in people diagnosed with a range of physical and mental health problems, according to a review published in the Sept. 14, 2018, JAMA Network Open. The report pooled findings from 19 different studies and included 1,200 people. Most of the studies compared omega-3 supplements to a placebo. Taken together, the studies included people with a range of health problems, including heart attacks, attention deficit disorder, substance abuse, depression, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as some groups without any specific clinical diagnosis. Researchers found that people who took high doses of omega-3s (up to 2,000 mg a day) seemed to have the most reduction in anxiety symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are usually derived from fish oil, have a number of biological effects in the body. Brain membranes contain a high proportion of these fats, and human studies suggest that a lack of omega-3s in the brain may induce various behavioral and psychiatric disorders. For now, it’s too soon to recommend high-dose omega-3 supplements for treating anxiety. Larger trials testing the supplements (both alone and combined with standard treatments) are needed, the study authors say.
Study Links Vitamin D-Deficient Older Adults with Greater Risk of Developing Depression
Image Credit: nutraingredients-asia.com
A new study by researchers from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin has shown for the first time in Ireland that a deficiency in vitamin D was associated with a substantial increased risk of depression (+75%) over a four-year follow up period. The findings form part of the largest representative study of its kind and have just been published in The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (JAMDA).
Later life depression can significantly reduce quality of life and is a potent risk factor for functional decline, admission to residential care and early death. Given the complex nature of depression, including the fact that the majority of older adults are undiagnosed, prevention is a priority and the identification of important risk factors is crucial.
Vitamin D or the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is essential for bone health and deficiency, and has recently been linked with other non-bone health outcomes such as inflammation and diabetes. Small studies have found links between vitamin D and depression but few have followed up with the same affected people over time, while others have not taken into account other factors that can also affect depression. These findings are important as the TILDA team has previously reported that 1 in 8 older Irish adults are deficient in vitamin D.
The current study investigated the links between vitamin D and depression in older Irish adults and then re-examined the participants four years later to see if vitamin D status affected the risk of developing depression.
The authors found that:
- Vitamin D deficiency was associated with a 75% increase in the risk of developing depression by 4 years
- This finding remained robust after controlling for a wide range of relevant factors including depressive symptoms, chronic disease burden, physical activity and cardiovascular disease
- Furthermore, excluding participants taking anti-depressant medication and vitamin D supplementation from the analyses did not alter the findings
The authors suggest that the findings could be due to the potential direct effect of vitamin D on the brain. Given the structural and functional brain changes seen in late life depression, vitamin D may have a protective effect in attenuating these changes. Similarly, other studies have shown that vitamin D status has also been linked with neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
These finding are important as vitamin D status is relatively easy and inexpensive to modify through supplementation or fortification. However, In Ireland, fortification of food products with vitamin D is voluntary and few manufacturers do this. This is compounded by the lack of any vitamin D guidelines from Government.
Commenting on the significance of the research, first author of the study and Specialist Registrar in Geriatric Medicine, St James’ Hospital Dublin, Dr Robert Briggs, said: “This is the largest representative and most comprehensive study of depression risk and vitamin D status in older adults ever conducted in Ireland. Our findings will provide useful information to help inform public health policy — particularly regarding the proposition of the usefulness of vitamin D treatment/supplementation for depression.”
Senior author of the study, and Research Fellow with TILDA, Dr Eamon Laird, added: “This study shows that vitamin D is associated with a health condition other than bone health. What is surprising is the large effect on depression even after accounting for other control variables. This is highly relevant for Ireland as our previous research has shown that one in eight older adults are deficient in the summer and one in four during the winter. Moreover, only around 8% of older Irish adults report taking a vitamin D supplement.”
“Given that vitamin D is safe in the recommended intakes and is relatively cheap, this study adds to the growing evidence on the benefits of vitamin D for health. It also helps to continue to impress the need on our public health bodies to develop Irish vitamin D recommendations for the general public. Up to this point, these are severely lacking.”
Principal Investigator of TILDA, Professor Rose Anne Kenny, said: “The new finding that the development of depression could potentially be attenuated by having a higher vitamin D status could have significant policy and practice implications for Government and health services. TILDA has consistently assisted policy makers by providing strong evidence-based data on which to make recommendations but also by assisting with information of most vulnerable people and therefore those who should be targeted.”
“It is our responsibility to now ascertain whether supplementation will influence depression. There are many reasons for vitamin D supplementation in Ireland. Benefits to something as disabling and often ‘silent’ as depression are therefore important for wellbeing as we age.”
TILDA is funded by the Department of Health, Irish Life plc. and The Atlantic Philanthropies.
The Science of Silence: Why Silence Is So Good For Your Brain
Silence is my subject today – it is not just good for you, it can do amazing things to your brain.
“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” – Francis Bacon.
A few weeks ago I went to a live music gig at the Bournemouth O2 academy to see a couple of bands that I grew up with in my teens (those of you who follow me on social media will have seen pictures) whereby Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and The Wonder Stuff are touring together again. I had such great fun with some wonderful friends. The next day when I woke up, my ears were still ringing. What’s more they were ringing for a couple of days. I was desperate for some silence. It made me wonder how on earth band members actually have any hearing left at the end of a week, let alone a 30 year career. It also made me wonder how much damage noise creates.
We live in a noisy world, where we are typically bombarded with an array of sounds throughout the day; sounds with varying degrees of pleasantness. It is very rare for us to experience silence. Today, I want to tell you a little bit about why silence matters….
Research throughout the past century has linked noise pollution to an increase in heart disease and tinnitus. The World Health Organization likened it to a “modern plague” and stated that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.”
We are not just passive recipients to noise either. We bombard our ears with live music venue speaker systems, YouTube, music, TV, radio, news, podcasts and, of course, all of those sounds that we are busily and constantly creating in our own heads.
How much time each day do you think you spend in proper and complete silence? The answer is probably; very little.
As the noise in our lives gets louder, more people are beginning to seek out silence, be that by adopting a practice of sitting quietly for 10 minutes every morning or heading off to a silent retreat. Some silent retreats promote the power of silence by refraining from reading, writing, or eye contact. Back in 2011, 100 scientists attended a silent retreat in the name of research and discovered that shutting off speech heightens awareness in other areas. They practiced vipassana meditation in silence, which aims to promote overall wellbeing.
If you are unable or not really inclined to go and seek out such a retreat, then finding time for silence in your life is something that will bring you (and your brain) much reward. Today I am writing about actual silence and the effect it can have upon us – I am not talking about philosophical, political or symbolic silence – that is a discussion about other topics altogether, and one for another day at least. Here are a number of science-backed ways that silence is really good for you and your brain.
1. Silence Is a Stress Reliever:
Noise has a pronounced physical effect on the brain, which often leads to increased production of stress hormones. Sound waves arrive at the brain in the form of electrical signals via the ear, which the body reacts. In particular, the amygdala (the part of the brain that is associated with memory formation and emotion) is activated, which leads to the release of the stress hormone cortisol.
A 2006 study to feature in the Heart journal showed that silence can release tension in the brain and body in just a couple of minutes. Researchers found silence to actually be more relaxing than listening to so-called “relaxing” music. As if you needed another excuse to ditch that “Pan pipes versions of pop music hits” CD, eh?
Florence Nightingale, the 19th century British nurse and social activist, argued that unnecessary sounds were the cause of distress (especially amongst recovering patients), and once stated “Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well.”
A 2004 paper by environmental psychologist Dr. Craig Zimring supported what FloNigh (the urban moniker I’ve given her) suggested; that higher noise levels in neonatal intensive care units can lead to elevated blood pressure, increased heart rates and disrupted patient sleep patterns.
Just as too much noise can cause stress and tension, research has found that silence has the opposite effect, relieving stress and releasing tension in the brain and the body. That by itself ought to be enough motivation to seek out some regular silence, there’s so much more though….
2. Silence Replenishes Mental Resources:
This is something that I have found incredibly important and appealing, and has resulted in me buying some noise cancelling headphones! There is so much sensory input coming our way from all angles in so many varying forms. When we get away from so much disruption (noise-based in particular), our brains’ attention centres start to restore themselves.
The never-ending attentional demands of modern living place a significant burden on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is involved in high-order thinking, decision-making and problem-solving. All things I have spent a great amount of time studying, researching and applying in my work as a lecturer and therapist.
When we make lots of decisions each day, engage in a lot of problem solving, have to think a great deal, our attentional resources are drained. Noise and incessant sound drains it even further. When our attentional resources are depleted, we are easily distracted, mentally fatigued, we struggle to focus, we struggle to solve problems effectively and our ability to come up with new ideas gets stunted.
Research looking into this has resulted in attention restoration theory, that demonstrates the brain can restore those depleted cognitive resources when we are in environments with much less sensory input than usual. For example, meditating in silence, or in the quiet stillness you find when walking alone in nature, or bobbing around in sensory deprivation tank, gives your brain the chance to let down it’s sensory guard, so to speak. We can once again tap into our creativity, we can reflect and enjoy the other restorative benefits. As Herman Melville wrote, “All profound things and emotion of things are proceeded and attended by silence.”
Here are a couple of related articles that will help you greatly in this respect too:
3. When Silent, We Tap Into the Brain’s Default Mode Network:
This builds upon the previous point.
When we talk about activating the default mode network of the brain, we’re talking about what scientists refer to as “self-generated cognition,” which occurs when we daydream, meditate, fantasize about the future or just let our minds freely wander.
In silence (one way of doing it) as discussed in the previous point, the brain is disengaged from all that external stimuli, and we get to tap into our stream of consciousness. Engaging the default mode network helps us to create meaning out of our experiences, empathise with others, be more creative and engage in mental and emotional reflection. That is, we get to go deeper, rather than being held in the shallow surfaces of the mind with all of life’s distractions.
Again, I refer you to the Herman Melville quote in my previous point.
4. Silence Can Regenerate Brain Cells:
I know this might seem crazy, but silence can quite literally create growth in the brain.
A 2013 study published in the Brain, Structure, and Function journal, involved comparing the effects of silence with varying types of noise and seeing the effects it had on the brains of mice. The researchers initially set out to use silence as a control in the study, what they discovered was two hours of silence daily led to the development of new cells in the hippocampus region of the brain that is associated with learning, memory and emotion. How about that?!
The findings offer some potential areas for further studies, but of course suggest that silence could have therapeutic benefit for people with depression or Alzheimer’s, which are typically associated with decreased rates of neuron regeneration in the hippocampus.
5. Silence Advances Sleep:
Evidence suggests that periods of silence throughout the day can enhance sleep and lessen insomnia.
A 2015 study in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that older adults who had trouble sleeping experienced less insomnia, fatigue, and depression after doing mindfulness meditation in silence. Any form of meditation or self-hypnosis practice that helps to break the train of everyday thoughts leading to a relaxation response (mental and physical) is very worthwhile.
6. Silence Improves Memory:
Building upon point 4, going for a walk in nature alone can cause brain growth in the hippocampus, which also can lead to better memory function. A 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that adults who walked for 40 minutes three times a week for a year had brain growth in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with spatial memory. Silence does this and additionally, immersing ourselves in nature helps the brain to have better memory consolidation.
There you go, science-backed reasons that silence is good for your brain and general health. I am prescribing some silence to you!
Ok, I am off for a gentle and mindful run in the sunshine along the sea front, in as much quiet as that environment affords me.
I’d like to leave you with silence, but I can’t resist leaving you with this track, from another favourite band of mine when I was much younger, Depeche Mode (though my friends who liked them less than I, used to refer to them as “Depressed Mode”)…..
Have some of themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Do you need help or support in a particular area of your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others? Are you a hypnotherapist looking for stimulating and career enhancing continued professional development and advanced studies?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist looking to fulfil your ambitions or advance your career?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book.
Published by: https://www.adam-eason.com/science-silence/
Future of Alzheimer’s Therapy: What is the Best Approach?
Image Credit: health.com
Millions of people worldwide live with a form of dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, there is no way to halt its progress, but clinical trials of new drugs are underway. What approach will serve specialists best?
The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is aging, and people ages 65 or older are the most vulnerable.
Current treatments for this condition address its symptoms, such as memory loss and behavioral changes. However, more and more research aims to find a therapy that will tackle the biological changes that characterize Alzheimer’s disease.
But are researchers on the right track with their investigations, and what would be the best treatment approach? A new comprehensive review published in the journal Neurology, and available online, addresses these questions.
Most trials target brain pathologies
In the review, specialists from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation in New York, NY analyze current clinical trials for dementia drugs and advise about the best approach going forward.
“Alzheimer’s is a complex disease with many different factors that contribute to its onset and progression,” explains Dr. Howard Fillit, the review’s senior author.
“Decades of research have revealed common processes that are relevant to understanding why the aging brain is vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. New therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease will come from this understanding of the effects of aging on the brain.”
-Dr. Howard Fillit
Because current therapies for Alzheimer’s focus on symptom management, but not on stopping the condition in its tracks, recent research has looked into attacking the Alzheimer’s mechanism, particularly in the brain.
One key characteristic of this condition is the buildup of toxic proteins, such as beta-amyloid and tau, which form plaques that interfere with communication between brain cells.
Thus, as the new review points out, many studies have focused on developing drugs that would effectively target beta-amyloid and tau.
In fact, such experimental drugs dominate the landscape of phase III clinical trials for Alzheimer’s treatments, with 52 percent of them testing drugs that interact with the two proteins.
Still, as Dr. Fillit notes, “It is currently not known if these classic pathologies (amyloid and tau) represent valid drug targets and if these targets alone are sufficient to treat Alzheimer’s disease.”
The reviewers observe that therapies targeting beta-amyloid and tau proteins have not, so far, been able to significantly slow down the development of Alzheimer’s, but that the trials have offered more important clues about the condition’s mechanisms.
Combination therapy most likely to succeed
Although most trials have focused on drugs that target changes in the brain, the review’s authors note that a few trials in earlier phases (phases I or II) have been looking into other strategies, particularly ones that target aging processes that may exacerbate Alzheimer’s.
“Targeting the common biological processes of aging may be an effective approach to developing therapies to prevent or delay age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Fillit says.
These processes include:
- low-grade, chronic inflammation, which is associated with thinning layers of the cerebral cortex and poor blood flow to the brain — both of which can impact cognitive function
- metabolic dysfunctions that can lead to cellular damage in the brain
- vascular dysfunction, which can be associated with cognitive problems because it can mean that the brain does not receive enough blood, and thus may lack oxygen
- changes in gene regulation that may contribute to Alzheimer’s mechanisms
- a loss of synapses, the connecting points between neurons, which allow information to flow between brain cells
Dr. Fillit believes that “Our success in fighting Alzheimer’s disease will likely come from combination therapy — finding drugs that have positive effects on the malfunctions that happen as people age.”
By developing a series of drugs that each targets one of these key processes, specialists will see more success in halting the progress of Alzheimer’s, the authors argue.
“Combination therapies are the standard of care for other major diseases of aging, such as heart disease, cancer, and hypertension, and will likely be necessary in treating Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,” adds Dr. Fillit.
Published by: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323944.php
Largest Brain Study of 62,454 Scans Identifies Drivers of Brain Aging
In the largest known brain imaging study, scientists from Amen Clinics (Costa Mesa, CA), Google, John’s Hopkins University, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco evaluated 62,454 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans of more than 30,000 individuals from 9 months old to 105 years of age to investigate factors that accelerate brain aging. SPECT tomography) evaluates regional cerebral blood flow in the brain that is reduced in various disorders.
Lead author, psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, founder of Amen Clinics, commented, “Based on one of the largest brain imaging studies ever done, we can now track common disorders and behaviors that prematurely age the brain. Better treatment of these disorders can slow or even halt the process of brain aging. The cannabis abuse finding was especially important, as our culture is starting to see marijuana as an innocuous substance. This study should give us pause about it.”
The current study used brain SPECT imaging to determine aging trajectories in the brain and which common brain disorders predict abnormally accelerated aging. It examined these functional neuroimaging scans from a large multi-site psychiatric clinic from patients who had many different psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Researchers studied 128 brain regions to predict the chronological age of the patient. Older age predicted from the scan compared to the actual chronological age was interpreted as accelerated aging. The study found that a number of brain disorders and behaviors predicted accelerated aging, especially schizophrenia, which showed an average of 4 years of premature aging, cannabis abuse (2.8 years of accelerated aging), bipolar disorder (1.6 years accelerated aging), ADHD (1.4 years accelerated aging) and alcohol abuse (0.6 years accelerated aging). Interestingly, the researchers did not observe accelerated aging in depression and aging, which they hypothesize may be due to different types of brain patterns for these disorders.
Commenting on the study, George Perry, PhD, Chief Scientist at the Brain Health Consortium from the University of Texas at San Antonio, said, “This is one of the first population-based imaging studies, and these large studies are essential to answer how to maintain brain structure and function during aging. The effect of modifiable and non-modifiable factors of brain aging will further guide advice to maintain cognitive function.”
Co-investigator Sachit Egan, Google Inc. (Mountain View, CA), said, “This paper represents an important step forward in our understanding of how the brain operates throughout the lifespan. The results indicate that we can predict an individual’s age based on patterns of cerebral blood flow. Additionally, groundwork has been laid to further explore how common psychiatric disorders can influence healthy patterns of cerebral blood flow.”
Tips to Remember
Image Credit: fotosipsak/Getty Images
Does this sound familiar? You go into the kitchen, but can’t remember why. Or you can’t recall a name you just heard during a conversation, or miss a routine appointment because it slipped your mind.
“Everyday memory lapses like this can be upsetting, but they are more common than we often assume,” says Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist specializing in behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
“As you physically age, so does your brain, and as the structure of the brain ages, so does its ability to think and process. Almost all of your brain’s abilities slowly decline after young adulthood with a few exceptions, such as vocabulary. These changes can make it slightly more difficult at times to learn and recall new and existing information.”
However, the good news is that many of these types of memory lapses are not necessarily signs of dementia due to brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Even better news: there may be ways to help sharpen your everyday memory.
The aging brain
Many people notice these types of memory lapses beginning in their 50s. This is when age-related chemical and structural changes can begin in brain regions involved with memory processing, such as the hippocampus or the frontal lobes, says Dr. Salinas.
“As brain cells have a harder time functioning, the networks they’re a part of also have a harder time if there aren’t other cells ready to serve as spares,” he says. “Imagine a large choir, for example. If one tenor loses his voice, the audience might not be able to tell the difference. But you’ll be in trouble if many tenors lose their voices and there are no understudies to take their place.”
These brain changes at the level of cells and cell networks may slow processing speed, occasionally making it hard to recall familiar names, words, or new information.
However, age is not always the only culprit. Memory is susceptible to depression, anxiety, stress, medication side effects, and lack of sleep, so it’s important to speak with your doctor to determine if any of these may be related to your lapses.
What you can do
While you cannot reverse the effects of aging, there are ways to sharpen your everyday memory and help your brain obtain and retain information. Here are a few strategies that may help.
Get organized. If you routinely misplace items, keep them in a designated space. For example, put all your everyday belongings, like glasses, keys, and wallet, in one container and place it in a spot with regular foot traffic. “The repetition of finding these items in the same place makes it easier for your brain to learn the pattern and create a habit that becomes second nature,” says Dr. Salinas.
Set reminders. Write notes and leave them where you’ll see them. For example, post a sticky note on your bathroom mirror to remind you to go to your afternoon appointment or to take your medicine. You can also use the alarm on your cellphone, or have a friend call you. Another option is to email yourself reminders.
Break down tasks. If you have trouble remembering an entire sequence of steps needed to complete a task, break it down into smaller parts and address them one at a time.
For example, memorize the first three numbers of a phone number, then the next three, then the last four. “The brain has an easier time paying attention to quick, small chunks of information than long unwieldy strings of information, especially if that information has no logical sequence,” says Dr. Salinas.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Repetition increases the likelihood you’ll record the information and can retrieve it later. Repeat out loud what you heard, read, or thought. When you meet someone for the first time, repeat their name twice. For instance, say “Mark …. It’s great to meet you, Mark!”
When someone gives you directions, repeat them back, step by step. After you have an important conversation, for example with your doctor, on the ride home recite out loud over and over what was said during the appointment.
Create an association. Make mental snapshots of what you want to remember, and combine, exaggerate, or distort them so they stand out. For instance, if you parked your car in space 3B, picture three enormous bees hovering over your car. If it is an odd or emotion-inducing image, you are more likely to remember it.
Keep learning. Place yourself in situations where you have to consistently learn and recall new information. Get a part-time job or volunteer. Take a class at the local college, learn an instrument, take an art class, play chess or bridge, or join a book club. Challenging yourself is the key.
Picture this. Playing out an action in your mind may help you remember to do it. For example, when you need to pick up milk on your way home, recreate the activity in your mind in vivid detail. Imagine yourself walking into the store, going to the dairy section, choosing a specific brand, and then paying for it, and mentally repeat the sequence over and over.
It might feel awkward at first, but the technique has been shown to help enhance prospective memory — the ability to remember to perform a planned action — even among people who suffer from mild cognitive impairment, according to a study in the July 2018 Neuropsychology.
Stay connected. Research has found that regular social interaction provides mental stimulation. Conversing, listening, and recalling information all can help improve your memory. Some studies have suggested that just 10 minutes of conversation can be effective. “Overall, people who are more socially integrated also are more likely to have healthier functioning brains and a lower risks for age-related brain diseases, like stroke or dementia,” says Dr. Salinas.
Mental Health Issues Rise Alongside Global Temperatures
Image Credit:carers matter norfolk
It’s no secret that the impacts of climate change extend far beyond our surrounding environment. Numerous sources have shown that our changing climate is associated with a variety of health issues: infectious disease, heatstroke, hyperthermia, respiratory problems, and natural disaster-related injury. However, new literature is beginning to dive deeper on these issues, and how they can affect more complicated outcomes, such as mental health.
Recently, a study conducted by MIT’s Nick Obradovich examined how rising temperatures may be responsible for both direct and indirect causes of mental health issues. The report evaluated 2 million randomly-sampled individuals in the U.S. for mental health issues, which included anything falling in the range of stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues. Obradovich roughly defined these issues as “basically means things that are less extreme than hospitalization and suicide but more significant than like grumpiness or day-to-day emotional [agitation]”.
Following this, his team linked these reports with weather data from their respective cities. The team examined how different climate-change weather events (rising temperatures, excessive precipitation, lack of precipitation, extreme temperature changes, and hurricanes) might be associated with the mental health reports for that region. The team found that most of these weather or climate characteristics were linked to a higher likelihood of mental health cases.
Despite this critical new findings, there’s still much to be understood regarding the mechanisms underlying these outcomes. Most of the current hypotheses consider stress a huge mediator. Not only do these events cause stress, but they often disproportionately affect people living in poverty. Researchers are trying to understand these relationships, so that better preventative measures and interventions can be made going forward.
The Comprehensive Guide to Sleep Deprivation: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
It has been stated that 1 in 3 adults in the USA is not getting enough sleep, and this is a problem. Sleep deprivation can cause a whole range of negative things, from accidents at work to health conditions that can permanently affect you. As a result, it is important that you get enough sleep, and that you learn how to improve your nighttime schedule if your pattern is way off base. We know it isn’t an easy thing to try and overcome, but with this handy guide, we are here to help you out.
We know that we can answer all of your questions, concerns, and more, so keep on reading and see if you (or someone you know) could be suffering from this common ailment.
To read the whole topic please see the link below:
Students Develops Jelly Drops to Support Dementia Patients Like his Grandmother
London-based student Lewis Horn by is a grandson on a mission. When he noticed that his dementia-afflicted grandmother was having trouble staying hydrated, he came up with Jelly Drops bite-sized pods of edible water that look just like tasty treats.
Each of these colorful candies is made up of mostly water, with gelling agents and electrolytes making up just 10% of their composition. Available in a rainbow of colors and presented in packaging reminiscent of a box of chocolates, Jelly Drops are an easy and engaging way to avoid dehydration common problem for those suffering from degenerative neurological diseases.
It is very easy for people with dementia to become dehydrated,he explains. Many no longer feel thirst, don’t know how to quench thirst, or don’t have the dexterity to drink. With this in mind, Horn by set out to find a solution. In addition to seeking advice from psychologists and doctors, he opted to experience life with dementia himself through the use of virtual reality tools and a week in a care home.Once he was familiar with what dementia patients need, he brainstormed what they want. From my observations, people with dementia find eating much easier than drinking. Even still, it can be difficult to engage and encourage them to eat. I found the best way to overcome this is to offer them a treat! This format excites people with dementia, they instantly recognize it and know how to interact with it.??
Case in point Horn by’s own grandmother’s reaction: When first offered, grandma ate seven Jelly Drops in 10 minutes, the equivalent to a cup full of water something that would usually take hours and require much more assistance.
Though Jelly Drops is still in its trial phase, it has already earned Horn by two honors: the Helen Hamlin Design Award Snow don Award for Disability and the Dyson School of Design Engineering DESIRE Award for Social Impact.
Published by: https://mymodernmet.com/lewis-hornby-jelly-drops/
Blood Pressure Treatment Might Protect your Brain
Aggressively treating high blood pressure might help ward off cognitive changes, according to findings presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July. Researchers from the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial compared two strategies to manage high blood pressure in more than 9,300 older adults (average age about 68). One strategy aims to achieve the standard treatment level for high systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading), keeping it under 140 mm Hg. The more aggressive strategy sets a goal of less than 120 mm Hg. The aggressive strategy reduced not only heart risks, but seemed to protect the brain.
People in the more aggressively controlled blood pressure group were 19% less likely than those in the standard treatment group to develop new cases of mild cognitive impairment (often a forerunner to dementia). They were also 15% less likely to develop any form of dementia or mild cognitive impairment. This study provides another reason to work with your doctor to reduce high blood pressure.
Cant sleep? You May be at Risk for Atrial Fibrillation
If you have problems sleeping through the night, you may be at risk for atrial fibrillation (afib), an irregular heart rate that may cause heart palpitations and is a leading cause of stroke.
A study published online June 25, 2018, by Arrhythmia reviewed four studies and found a link between afib and poor sleep. In one study, people with afib had more frequent nighttime awakenings compared with those who did not have the condition. In the other studies, poor sleep quality, including frequent nighttime awakenings and less REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, predicted which individuals would develop afib.
It’s not clear how poor sleep may be a possible risk factor for afib, but the researchers noted that other studies have shown that sleep apnea disorder in which your breathing repeatedly stops and restarts is also associated with a higher risk of afib, although the exact reason is unknown.
They suggested people speak with their doctor about any sleep problems and try to practice better sleep hygiene for instance by going to bed at the same time each night; creating a dark, cool sleeping environment; and avoiding caffeine and screen time before bedtime.
Antidepressants tied to weight gain
We’re learning more about the link between weight gain and several major classes of antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like sertraline (Zoloft), and tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil). Research has shown that putting on pounds is a possible short-term side effect of the medications. But a study published May 23, 2018, in The BMJ suggests that antidepressants are also associated with sustained weight gain. Researchers analyzed the health information of more than 300,000 people in the United Kingdom (average age 51) who’d had their weight and body mass index measured at doctor appointments between 2004 and 2014. About 18% had been prescribed antidepressants. During the study period, people who took antidepressants had a 21% higher risk for a 5% or greater weight gain, compared with people who didn’t take antidepressants. The risk peaked in the second and third years. There was no evidence of weight gain after seven years. The study was observational and didn’t prove that antidepressants cause weight gain. But researchers hope the findings will encourage people to talk to their doctors about weight gain as a possible side effect of antidepressants, and plan for potential and even delayed weight gain if they’re using the medications.
Headache Me This
What causes headaches I find myself Googling this at least once every few months when a particularly nasty or persistent headache of my own decides to show up. And I think its because I never really get a satisfying explanation from my searches, likely due to the fact that there are hundreds of headache types and only 10% have a known cause. Let’s focus on primary headaches, ones not caused by an underlying condition.
There are a lot of culprits for primary headaches. Nerves/blood vessels/tissue around the skull, muscles of the head/neck, and chemical changes within the brain can spur on that pain. So what triggers these physical pain signalers? It is probably no surprise that stress or alcohol are included. Skipping meals, poor posture (thanks, laptops), disrupted sleep patterns, and changing weather as well.
Some of these triggers are outside of our control like the weather, but there are measures we can take for prevention. Even though yes, easier said than done, try to avoid known stressors where possible. Eat low-processed meals at regular intervals and prioritize consistent sleep habits. Deficiencies in magnesium may play a role so eat some avocado and nuts. And when all else fails, put the screens away, take a warm shower, apply a soothing compress to the neck, and go the heck to sleep. Admittedly just writing about all the things that I should be doing right now has not made my headache go away, so off to self-care I go.
Are you Processing or are you Ruminating?
I am a self-described over-thinker. From a young age, my family often complained that I over analyzed everything. While this has served me well in many pursuits, I recently read that it may not be so great for my health.
According to a recent article by U.S. News and World Report, rumination over stressful or negative events may lead to prolonged psychological recovery time along with increased blood pressure and heart rate (1).While I’m still an advocate for processing difficult situations, rumination is different. Rumination typically leads to repeatedly and cyclically thinking about the same situation while creating moods that spiral downward (1). People often end up ruminating without realizing it; they think they’re attempting to problem-solve instead (1). I know this speaks to the analytical Ms. Fix-it in me.
According to the article, people can identify if they’re in rumination mode by asking themselves if their thoughts are unproductive, creating feelings of being overwhelmed, or causing distractions from their surroundings (1). Suggestions to get past this include distraction by taking a walk or enjoying a hobby (1).
Now, all of this is said with a giant caveat- if you feel like you need mental health help, get it. Rumination often happens when people are dealing with something traumatic in their lives. I am by no means telling you to shove your feelings down and avoid them. What I am encouraging you to do is stop and ask yourself if you’re having the same negative thoughts over and over again.If you feel like it’s something minor, you may want to stop and distract yourself to break the cycle. If it’s something that’s a big deal to you, then you may need to enlist the help of a mental health professional.
Thinking about situations is helpful, but if three days have passed, and you’re still thinking about how the coffee-shop barista spelled your name wrong, you may be ruminating and hurting your health in the process.
Study Confirms Grad Students have Higher Rates of Anxiety and Depression
I’m currently in my second semester of grad school, and I have heard many people talking positively about mental healthcare since I’ve been here.Within the first few days of classes in August, we were informed where and how to get mental health help on campus.I know plenty of people who have sought assistance with their mental health, and they speak about it without any sort of stigma. All of this talk got me wondering, what’s behind this positivity Is it:
A) My department is super supportive
B) We’re a bunch of public health enthusiasts who want to dismantle stigma in every way we can
C) There’s a huge need for mental healthcare among graduate students
It turns out that the answer is likely: D) all of the above.
According to a recent study published in Nature Biotechnology the prevalence of both moderate to severe and anxiety and moderate to severe depression is over six times higher in graduate students than in the general population (1). The good news is that the study also found that a good work-life balance helps improve mental health (1). This means the next time someone tells you to take care of yourself, they’re not just repeating trite advice. It really is important.
If you’re one of the many grad students (or anyone for that matter) who feels overwhelmed, know that you’re not alone. Many of us are there with you, and it’s OK if you need to enlist the help of a professional. Personally, I view this as a sign of strength instead of weakness.
Always Worried about your Health? You May be Dealing with Health Anxiety Disorder
You spend hours on the Internet researching health information. When you get a scratchy throat you automatically think cancer not a cold. And even when medical tests come back showing that you’re healthy, it doesn’t make you feel better. In the back of your mind you still feel like something is wrong.
If this sounds like you or a loved one, it may be health anxiety.
Health anxiety is a condition that causes healthy people to worry that they are sick even when they have no symptoms, or minor symptoms like a scratchy throat.
“People with health anxiety for the most part tend to fear severe illness, such as HIV, cancer, or dementia. They worry far less about strep throat, twisting their ankle, or getting a cold,” says Dr. Timothy Scarella, instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. This fear that they have a serious illness can interfere with their daily life. It might lead them to seek out unnecessary testing, to waste hours in the doctor’s office, and to spend days consumed by worry. But it’s not only their own health that people with health anxiety may focus on. “Some people also worry excessively about their children’s health,” he says.
Health anxiety is a relatively common condition, known to affect some 4% to 5% of people. But experts believe it may be underreported and that the percentage could be closer to 12% or even twice that, says Dr. Scarella. Unlike other anxiety disorders that are more prevalent in women, health anxiety appears to affect men and women equally.
Not all health worries indicate health anxiety
Being concerned about your health is not the same as health anxiety. It’s normal to be worried about your health from time to time. You may wonder if your stomachache is a sign of a more serious condition. If you have had a severe illness in the past, you may be anxious about an upcoming imaging scan.
“There is a difference at least medically speaking between a person who has no symptoms or minimal symptoms and is frequently worried and anxious about being or getting sick and a person who is worried about concerning symptoms,” says Dr. Scarella. However, he notes that anxiety about real health conditions can also become problematic.
People with health anxiety often misinterpret normal or benign physical symptoms and attribute them to something more serious. For example, if they were to compress an arm while asleep, instead of rolling over and shaking off the numb feeling, they might worry they were having a stroke. Symptoms produced by anxiety which can include muscle pain, chest pain, heart rate changes, headaches, and dizziness, among others can heighten existing anxiety about one’s health.
Is it health anxiety?
So how do you know if you are sick, or if you’re just anxious about being sick? Here are some telltale signs of health anxiety:
- You have no symptoms, but still fear that you are sick.
- When a doctor reassures you that you don’t have an illness or a test shows you’re healthy, it doesn’t relieve your nervousness.
- You find yourself constantly seeking health information online.
- If you read a news story about a disease, you start worrying that you have it.
- Your worries about your health are interfering with your life, family, work, or hobbies and activities.
Most often, people with health anxiety have a pattern of this behavior that a primary care physician may begin to notice over time. “I talk to people who call their doctor five, six, or seven times a week,” says Dr. Scarella. “Every three or four months they may go to their doctor looking for an HIV test despite the fact that they haven’t had any new sexual partners or any experiences that would elevate their risk.”
Does testing ease the nerves?
While testing may seem like a quick, easy way to alleviate health-related worries, for people in whom health anxiety has become uncontrollable, testing rarely provides lasting relief. “Repeated testing is unable to reassure people with health anxiety; people don’t feel calmed when they get new information that disproves their fear,” says Dr. Scarella. Doctors often fall into this trap, thinking “What’s the harm in doing a test to reassure this person?” It seems like a reasonable approach. But, ultimately, no amount of testing ends the worry, Dr. Scarella says, and in fact, it may only serve to reinforce the anxiety.
While some people constantly consult their doctor and request testing, in other cases health anxiety causes people to avoid the doctor entirely, which can lead to treatable conditions going undiagnosed. “There are real risks in not going to the doctor for example, not getting appropriate cancer screenings,” says Dr. Scarella. This avoidance can become very dangerous when someone has a real condition but is afraid to get checked out for fear of bad news such as a person who has appendicitis but puts off going to the doctor.
Treating health anxiety
“The most important thing to know about health anxiety is that it’s a treatable problem,” says Dr. Scarella. Statistics show that anxiety disorders, in general, are vastly undertreated. Only 37% of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
This may reflect the stigma related to these conditions, and in the case of health anxiety, people may not actually attribute their symptoms to anxiety, but truly believe they are sick. And they may not know that help is available.
For people who are suffering from health anxiety, it’s not helpful to tell them that their symptoms are fake or it’s all in their head, says Dr. Scarella. “It’s often more constructive to encourage them to look at what the worry is doing to their life,” he says. “How is it interfering with the things they enjoy?”
If you suspect you might have health anxiety, focus on what you’re losing. Would you rather spend several hours in the emergency room waiting for a test result when you already had the same test two weeks ago or do something you love?
Then seek an evaluation from a mental health professional. Your primary care doctor can provide a referral.
It’s common for people with health anxiety to have other mental health conditions as well, such as depression, other types of anxiety disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder, says Dr. Scarella. Because of this, treatment may need to address multiple issues. Treatment options include medications and psychotherapy, often in the form of talk therapy, which can help you manage and move past your worries.
But ultimately, those who seek help are often able to overcome the constant anxiety. “This can get better,” says Dr. Scarella.
Depression Risks in the Medicine Cabinet
Are you taking a medication that has depression or suicidal thinking as a potential side effect? One or both risks have been linked to use of more than 200 prescription and over-the-counter pills, including medicines that treat high blood pressure, heartburn, pain, and headaches. The more of these drugs you use, the higher the likelihood that you’ll experience depression, suggests a study published June 12, 2018, in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Working with five surveys conducted over a nine-year period, researchers evaluated health information from 26,192 adults. About 37% of them reported taking such medications. Of individuals taking three or more of the medications with depression as a possible side effect, about 15% reported depression, compared with about 5% in people not using those medications. Even for people already taking an antidepressant, the addition of one or more of the identified medicines was linked to higher rates of depression. This study was based on surveys, so it didn’t prove that the medications caused the reported depression. Nonetheless, if you think you’re depressed (and have symptoms such as apathy, hopelessness, changes in sleep or eating habits, and persistent fatigue), ask your doctor if any of the medicines you are taking may be responsible.
Looking for an Earlier Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease
Image Credit: Pixabay
Are you worried about your mental sharpness? Or maybe that of a loved one’s?
Mild forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. If you have trouble remembering someone’s name but it comes to you later, that’s not a serious memory problem.
But if memory problems are seriously affecting your daily life, they could be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. While the number of symptoms you have and how strong they are vary, it’s important to identify the early signs. You need to ask yourself some tough questions.
This is the most common symptom. Do you easily forget information you just learned? Do you lose track of important dates, names, and events? Do you forget big things even happened? Do you ask for the same information over and over? Do you rely heavily on memory aids like Post-it notes or reminders on your smartphone?
- Trouble planning and problem solving
Do you have trouble making plans and sticking to them? Is it tricky to follow a recipe, even one you’ve used many times? Is it hard to concentrate on detailed tasks, especially if they involve numbers? For example, can you keep track of your bills and balance your checkbook?
- Daily tasks are a challenge
Even familiar things can become hard. Do you have trouble driving to a location you go to often? Can you complete an ordinary task at work? Do you forget the rules of your favorite game?
- Times and places are confusing
Can you fully grasp something that’s not happening right now? Are you disoriented? Do you get lost easily? Do you forget where you are? Do you remember how you got there?
- Changes in vision
Is it harder to read the words on the page? Do you have trouble judging distance? Can you tell colors apart? This is important because it can affect your driving.
- Words and conversations are frustrating
Vocabulary becomes hard. Can you find the right word you’re looking for? Or do you call things by the wrong name?
Conversations can be a struggle. Do you avoid joining in? Are you able to follow along? Do you suddenly stop in the middle of a discussion because you don’t know what to say? Do you keep repeating yourself?
- You lose things
Everyone misplaces things from time to time, but can you retrace your steps to find them again? Do you put things in unusual places, like your watch in the refrigerator? Do you accuse people of taking things?
- Lapse in judgment
Have you made poor decisions lately? Do you make mistakes with money, like giving it away when you normally wouldn’t
Are you showering as often? Do you take less care of yourself? Do you dress for the wrong weather?
- Social withdrawal
Are you scaling back on projects at work? Are you less involved with your favorite hobbies? Do you lack motivation? Do you find yourself watching television or sleeping more than usual?
- Mood changes
Do you get upset more easily? Do you feel depressed, scared, or anxious? Are you suspicious of people?
Seeing Your Doctor
If you notice these signs, talk with your doctor. She will evaluate your physical and mental health. She will look over your medical history and do a mental status test, which looks at your memory, ability to solve simple problems, and thinking skills. She may also do blood or brain imaging tests.
She may then refer you to someone who specializes in Alzheimer’s, like a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in treating the brain and nervous system), psychiatrist, psychologist, or geriatrician (a doctor who specializes in treating older people).
Why You Should Make an Appointment Now
The sooner you know, the better. Starting treatment may help relieve symptoms and keep you independent longer.
It also helps you plan better. You can work out living arrangements, make financial and legal decisions, and build up your support network.
A Different Type of Stress Eating
Exercise has long been prescribed as a remedy to anxiety and stress. Are there certain nutrients that may help as well?
Vitamin B1: Prevents the production of excess lactic acid (often recognized as a biochemical factor in triggering anxiety).
Vitamin B6: Helps make mood-influencing neurotransmitters including serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine.
Vitamin B9: Maintains homocysteine levels (high levels linked to anxiety) by converting into mood-stabilizing S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) and antioxidant glutathione.
Vitamin B12: Serves in production of methionine, precursor of SAMe, necessary for myelin sheath and nerve function.
Magnesium: Reduces lactic acid levels, binds to and stimulates GABA receptors, and can regulate the stress response by suppressing stress hormones.
Zinc: Stimulates enzymes necessary in the synthesis of serotonin and GABA.
Tryptophan: Acts as the amino acid precursor to serotonin.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Decreases proinflammatory cytokins, small proteins that interfere with the regulation of glutamate (a neurotransmitter that is associated with anxiety).
Vitamin C: Moderates the release of stress hormones like cortisol.
Breath in… Breath out..
Feeling anxious or stressed? Consider diaphragmatic or deep breathing exercises! Deep breathing can be a helpful technique for relaxing both mind and body, as well as stress and anxiety management. It can even improve our energy levels!
With deep breathing, we are able to consciously control our breathing, lower our blood pressure and heart rate, and relax our muscles. During normal breathing, we typically breathe shallow breaths using our chest and not our bellies. However, with deep breathing, we breathe with our bellies, taking in slow, deep breaths.
One key muscle involved in the process of deep breathing is our diaphragm, located between our chest and abdomen. When we inhale, we contract our diaphragm, expanding our abdomen, which then pushes air into our lungs. We then exhale, relaxing our diaphragm, and air is pushed out of our lungs.
The Brain Controls the Body, but can the Body Control the Brain?
We all know our moods can affect how active we are, but did you know how much you move can also have an affect on our mood?
That’s right, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School, the connection between your brain and your body is a two-way street. They found that consistent exercise, such as running, cycling, and aerobics can affect your mood by increasing a protein found in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or simply BDNF, which aids in the growth of nerve fibers.
Other studies have shown that those with ADHD can reduce their symptoms (although only temporarily) by doing 20-minutes of exercises such as cycling. Afterward, participants were motivated to do tasks that required thought and were less depressed, tired, and confused.
Forms of meditation, such as yoga, qigong, and tai chi were all shown to be helpful at alleviating depression, by allowing people to pay closer attention to their bodies and not on external factors. These changes in posture, breathing, and rhythm have all shown to affect the brain in a positive way. In some cases, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) no longer met the qualifications for it once they began practice meditative movement.
Additionally, another study has shown that while exercise is beneficial for well being, self-esteem if further improved when moving synchronously with someone else. Moving along with someone else also showed signs of cooperation and charity toward others, as well as improved memory and recall skills.
Ultimately, these findings only stress the close connection held between your brain and body, and show that how much you move can not only help you stay physically fit, but can also affect the way you think and feel. These findings also present an alternative remedy to more traditional treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and medication.
So next time you find yourself exhausted and completely overwhelmed, put on your sneakers and take a few minutes to get some exercise. You’ll not only sleep better, but in time, you may find yourself feeling more positive about life as well.
Are you Feeling Lucky?
Everyone’s heard the phrase the luck of the Irish but it turns out that you don’t need to be Irish nor do you need to find a four leaf clover in order to experience the benefits of good luck, all you have to do is believe that luck is one of your stable intrinsic personal attributes.
A belief in luck was originally thought by psychologists to be an irrational and maladaptive belief with negative consequences for health. For example, if you believe that you’re lucky you may engage in risky behaviors like smoking or indoor tanning because you don’t think you’ll suffer harmful consequences like cancer.
However, psychologists now believe that a belief in luck might actually be a positive attribute which could lead to greater feelings of confidence, control, and optimism. In addition to allowing people to be more open and optimistic about new experiences and opportunities, people who believe in luck have also been shown to be less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than those who do not believe in luck.
Also, when negative events outside of their control occur, those who believe in luck may be better able to cope with these experiences due to their increased ability to remain optimistic and persevere.