- Unplug and relax
- Prioritise sleep
- Practise gratitude
- Establish healthy habits
The link between lack of sleep and cancer is now so strong that the World Health Organization has classified any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen.
Sleep is your life-support system and Mother Nature’s best effort yet at immortality, says sleep scientist Matt Walker. In this deep dive into the science of slumber, Walker shares the wonderfully good things that happen when you get sleep — and the alarmingly bad things that happen when you don’t, for both your brain and body. Learn more about sleep’s impact on your learning, memory, immune system and even your genetic code — as well as some helpful tips for getting some shut-eye.
- It is by now well established that exercise has positive effects on the brain, especially as we age.
- Less clear has been why physical activity affects the brain in the first place.
- Key events in the evolutionary history of humans may have forged the link between exercise and brain function.
- Cognitively challenging exercise may benefit the brain more than physical activity that makes fewer cognitive demands.
People often consider walking and running to be activities that the body is able to perform on autopilot. But research carried out over the past decade by us and others would indicate that this folk wisdom is wrong. Instead exercise seems to be as much a cognitive activity as a physical one. In fact, this link between physical activity and brain health may trace back millions of years to the origin of hallmark traits of humankind. If we can better understand why and how exercise engages the brain, perhaps we can leverage the relevant physiological pathways to design novel exercise routines that will boost people’s cognition as they age—work that we have begun to undertake.
» Instead of trying to be the best, do your best. Knowing that you’ve done the best you could do, with what you have, under the circumstances, even if it falls short of other people’s expectations, is really the only thing you can ask of yourself.
Christie Aschwande, writing for Vox »
Perfectionism is a broad personality style characterized by a hypercritical relationship with one’s self, said Hewitt, who co-authored Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment. Setting high standards and aiming for excellence can be positive traits, but perfectionism is dysfunctional, Hewitt said, because it’s underscored by a person’s sense of themselves as permanently flawed or defective. “One way they try to correct that is by being perfect,” Hewitt said.
Curran and his colleague Andrew Hill gathered data from more than 40,000 college students who had taken a psychological measure of perfectionism between 1989 and 2016. In 1989, about nine percent of respondents posted high scores in socially prescribed perfectionism, but by the end of the study, that had doubled to about 18 percent, he says. “On average, young people are more perfectionistic than they used to be,” Hill says, and “the belief that other people expect you to be perfect has increased the most.”
The rise in perfectionism is especially troubling because it has been linked to an array of mental health issues — a meta-analysis of 284 studies found that high levels of perfectionism were correlated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harm and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The constant stress of striving to be perfect can also leave people fatigued, stressed and suffering from headaches and insomnia.
Striving for perfection isn’t the same as being competitive or aiming for excellence, which can be healthy things. What makes perfectionism toxic is that you’re holding yourself to an impossible standard that can never be achieved — essentially setting yourself up for perpetual failure.
‘Tis the season when the conversation shifts to what you’re thankful for. Gathered with family and friends around a holiday feast, for instance, people may recount some of the biggies – like their health or their children – or smaller things that enhance everyday life – like happening upon a great movie while channel-surfing or enjoying a favorite seasonal food.
Psychology researchers recognize that taking time to be thankful has benefits for well-being. Not only does gratitude go along with more optimism, less anxiety and depression, and greater goal attainment, but it’s also associated with fewer symptoms of illness and other physical benefits.
In recent years, researchers have been making connections between the internal experience of gratitude and the external practice of altruism. How does being thankful about things in your own life relate to any selfless concern you may have about the well-being of others?
As a neuroscientist, I’m particularly interested in the brain regions and connections that support gratitude and altruism. I’ve been exploring how changes in one might lead to changes in the other. Continue reading
Over 11 years of follow-up, they found that the greater the women’s exposure to PM 2.5, the tiny particulate matter that easily penetrates the lungs and bloodstream, the lower their scores on the cognitive tests.
After excluding cases of dementia and stroke, they also found a possible reason for the declining scores: The M.R.I. results showed that increased exposure to PM 2.5 was associated with increased brain atrophy, even before clinical symptoms of dementia had appeared. The study is in the journal Brain.
“PM 2.5 alters brain structure, which then accelerates memory decline,” said the lead author, Diana Younan, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southern California. “I just want people to be aware that air pollution can affect their health, and possibly their brains.”
Published article in the journal Brain » Particulate matter and episodic memory decline mediated by early neuroanatomic biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease
Brittany A. Roston, writing for SlashGear »
The latest research on the topic comes from the University of Toronto, which found that both men and women who eat low amounts of fruit and vegetables are more likely to suffer from depression. As well, the study found that men in particular were at a higher risk of depression if they ate high levels of fat or consumed low amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
This isn’t the first study to find that eating more fruit and vegetables may lower depression risk, underscoring the persistent relationship between the two. Though the exact link between depression and these foods remains unclear, researchers speculate that the various beneficial compounds found in fruit and vegetables may play a role in protecting mental health.
As well, the researchers note that various nutrients — specifically, certain vitamins and minerals — found in vegetables and fruit are known to lower the plasma concentration of C-reactive protein, which is a biomarker for low levels of inflammation that has been linked to depression.
Steve Casimiro, writing in Adventure Journal »
A new study shows that national parks worldwide are worth an estimated $6 trillion—with a “T”— in mental health benefits. A team from Australia’s Griffith University, comprised of ecologists, psychologists, and economists, looked at the psychological benefits of national park visits and compared them to the costs of poor mental health. They sampled 20,000 people in three groups, looking at improved cognition, sleep, stress relief, and reduced anxiety and depression. Overwhelmingly, parks made things better.
The researchers were able to attach an economic value on the mental health benefits of national parks, and open spaces in general, by factoring in how much countries spend on mental health treatment and care, while taking into account poor workplace productivity and antisocial behavior. They also examined the quality-adjusted life years of the three groups under study, an economic tool that experts use to measure the value of medical care by reducing a person’s pain, whether mental or physical.
Columbia University doctor Kelli Harding has been examining the phenomenon in her recent book, The Rabbit Effect.
She says: “It helps the immune system, blood pressure, it helps people to live longer and better. It’s pretty amazing because there’s an ample supply and you can’t overdose on it. There’s a free supply. It’s right there.”
Microsoft experimented with a four-day workweek this past August. Employees received Fridays as paid leave. Not 92% of employees were happy with the program.
All of 2,300 employees working at Microsoft Japan had three-day weekends in August this year, as part of the company’s ‘Work Life Choice Challenge.’
Getting an extra day off every week made for improvements in several areas, including productivity and operational costs. Sales per employee, used to determine productivity, rose by 39.9 percent as compared to figures in August 2018, while remaining closed for an extra day reduced the firm’s electricity costs by 23.1 percent and saw a 58.7 percent decline in paper printing.
Given that employees had only four days to work, meetings were capped at 30 minutes, while remote conferences were increased to eliminate commuting where possible. The experiment also incorporated self-development and family wellness schemes and received positive feedback by the majority of employees, 92.1 percent of whom liked the shorter workweek.