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Category: Mental Wellbeing (page 1 of 9)

People are feeling pressured to be perfect, and it’s killing them

» 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.

The link between gratitude and generosity

Volunteering at a food bank is one way people feel rewarded by giving.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Christina Karns, University of Oregon

‘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

Air pollution causes brain structure changes that resemble Alzheimer’s disease

Nicholas Bakalar »

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.”

Read the whole article at the NY Times »

Published article in the journal Brain » Particulate matter and episodic memory decline mediated by early neuroanatomic biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease

Diets low in fruits and vegetables have been linked to depression

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.

 

National Parks may save $6 trillion in mental health costs worldwide

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.

Being kind could help you live longer

Lauren Turner, writing in BBC »

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.”

A 4-day workweek at Microsoft Japan boosted employees’ productivity

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.

Humza Aamir, writing in Techspot » 

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.

More » The Inquirer, Interesting Engineering, Bored Panda

New study links trans fatty acids to dementia

Trans fats have been known to increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A new Japanese study has found that people with higher levels of trans fats in their blood were 50 to 75 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia than people with lower levels of trans fats in their blood.

American Academy of Neurology »

The study found that people with higher levels of trans fats in their blood were 50 to 75 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia years later than people with lower levels of trans fats in their blood.

The study involved 1,628 people living in a Japanese community with an average age of about 70 who did not have dementia. The level of trans fats from industrial-produced sources in the participants’ blood was measured at the beginning of the study, and they were divided into four groups based on those levels. Participants were also given a questionnaire about how often they ate certain foods.

Then they were followed for an average of 10 years. During that time, 377 people developed dementia.

Of the 407 people with the highest level of trans fats, 104 developed dementia, or an incidence rate of 29.8 per 1,000 person-years. For people with the second-highest level of trans fats, 103 of the 407 developed dementia, for an incidence rate of 27.6 per 1,000 person years. Of the 407 people with the lowest level, 82 developed dementia, an incidence rate of 21.3 per 1,000 person-years.

In 2004, Denmark was the first country to start regulating industrially-produced trans fatty acids. Today they are banned in Canada, the United States, and other jurisdictions. In the U.S. however, the Food and Drug Administration allows foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fats to be labeled as containing zero grams of trans fats. Consequently, some foods still contain partially hydrogenated oils and could continue to pose an increased risk.

Trans fats are also typically found in foods that can be hard to resist.

The researchers also looked at which foods contributed the most to high levels of trans fats in the blood. Sweet pastries were the strongest contributor, followed by margarine, candies and caramels, croissants, non-dairy creamers, ice cream and rice crackers.

Trans fats are also found in cookies, chips, baked goods, french fries, doughnuts, popcorn.

The World Health Organization has called for trans fats to be eliminated worldwide.

Read more »

Journal Reference » Neurology, October 23, 2019

More » NY Times, The New Daily, Medical News Today, MedPageToday

People with stress disorders have a higher risk of life-threatening infections

Lisa Rapaport, writing for Reuters »

“Severe or prolonged emotional stress causes alterations in multiple bodily functions through dysregulation in the release of stress hormones,” said Dr. Huan Song, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

“The hypothesis behind our research is that a severe reaction to trauma or other life stressors, through these pathways, leads to impaired immune function and thereby susceptibility to infection,” Song said by email.

[…]

People with stress disorders were 47% more likely to develop infections than those without any history of stress-disorders.

Read more »

Research » Stress related disorders and subsequent risk of life threatening infections: population based sibling controlled cohort study

Research » Stress related disorders and physical health

Number of Americans living with dementias will double over the next 20 years

Science Daily »

Milken Institute research estimates that by 2020, roughly 4.7 million women in the US will have dementia, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all people living with the condition.

The number of both women and men living with dementia is projected to nearly double by 2040, with the number of women projected to rise to 8.5 million, and the number of men expected to reach 4.5 million (up from 2.6 million in 2020), according to the report, which was released at the 2019 Milken Institute Future of Health Summit in Washington, D.C.

Over the next 20 years, the economic burden of dementia will exceed $2 trillion, with women shouldering more than 80 percent of the cumulative costs.

Read more »

More » The Hill, AARP, WebMD

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