Jules Howard, writing in The Guardian »
The good news, at face value, is this: if you are looking for proof that having a pet improves your general health, the evidence abounds. For instance, there is plenty about how a bout of pet-stroking can lower your heart rate (and the pet’s), easing your body into a less stressed condition. This seems to apply across the spectrum, from dogs and cats to snakes and goats. And there’s more. There’s evidence from Germany and Australia (sample size: 10,000) that pet-owners make fewer visits to the doctor and, from China, that pet-owners sleep more soundly than those who aren’t. Just last week, the American Heart Association reported that the survival prospects for people who have had heart attacks and strokes are better in dog-owners than in those who are not.
If we were able to put all these pros and cons into a melting pot and come up with a definitive answer to the question of whether or not pets are good for us, what would the answer be? The answer would be … complicated. Because humans and our circumstances are so universally mixed up and complex. The simple truth is that having a pet has good and bad sides, and it may not be for everyone. Which means we have a duty to think carefully before acquiring one. We need to imagine the good times we might have with a pet and to consider the bad times, too: the insecurity, the grumpiness in old age, the infirmity.
Read the whole article at The Guardian »
Exercise training and increased physical activity are effective for both prevention and treatment of depression, concludes research published in the Current Sports Medicine Reports, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
“The evidence of the use of physical activity and exercise for the management of depression is substantial and growing fast,”comment Felipe Barretto Schuch, PhD, of Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil, and Brendon Stubbs, PhD, of King’s College London, lead authors of the special ‘Exercise Is Medicine’ article. “Despite this substantial evidence, the incorporation of exercise as a key component in treatment is often inconstant and often given a low priority.” Continue reading
Today is World Mental Health Day, an event run by the World Health Organization with the aim of breaking down the stigma of mental health and draw attention to resources and organizations available to help people cope.
Today, the Harvard Business Review published an article outlining five practical strategies to help combat the constant feeling of being overwhelmed.
Rebecca Zucker, writing for HBR (paywall) »
In their book, Immunity to Change, Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey discuss how the increase in complexity associated with modern life has left many of us feeling “in over our heads.” When this is the case, the complexity of our world has surpassed our “complexity of mind” or our ability to handle that level of complexity and be effective. This has nothing to do with how smart we are, but with how we make sense of the world and how we operate in it.
Our typical response to ever-growing workloads is to work harder and put in longer hours, rather than to step back and examine what makes us do this and find a new way of operating.
The author proposes some strategies that help »
- Pinpoint the primary source of overwhelm.
- Set boundaries on your time and workload.
- Challenge your perfectionism.
- Outsource or delegate
- Challenge your assumptions.
For a more detailed look at these, read the article at HBR »
Nancy Clanton, writing in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution »
About one in six adults in England suffer from mental health disorders, the researchers noted. Depression and anxiety are more likely in people from lower income backgrounds. But their findings suggest that “access to the coast could help to reduce these health inequalities in towns and cities close to the sea.”
The Exeter team used data from the Health Survey for England and compared people’s health in relation to their proximity to the coast: from those living about half a mile away to those more than 30 miles away.
“Our research suggests, for the first time, that people in poorer households living close to the coast experience fewer symptoms of mental health disorders,” said Jo Garrett, who led the study, which was published in the journal Health and Place. “When it comes to mental health, this ‘protective’ zone could play a useful role in helping to level the playing field between those on high and low income.”
Kelly Greenwood, Vivek Bapat, and Mike Maughan writing for the Harvard Business Reviews (paywall) »
Less than half of our respondents felt that mental health was prioritized at their company, and even fewer viewed their company leaders as advocates.
This needs to change. Mental health is becoming the next frontier of diversity and inclusion, and employees want their companies to address it. Eighty-six percent of our respondents thought that a company’s culture should support mental health. This percentage was even higher for Millennials and Gen Zers, who have higher turnover rates and are the largest demographic in the workforce. Half of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers had voluntarily left roles in the past for mental health reasons, compared with just 20% of respondents overall, a finding that speaks to a generational shift in awareness. It is not surprising then that providing employees with the support they need improves not only engagement but also recruitment and retention, whereas doing nothing reinforces an outdated and damaging stigma.
Because companies are not doing enough to break down this stigma, many people don’t self-identify as having a diagnosable mental health condition, even though up to 80% of us will manage one in our lifetimes. Low levels of self-identification mean that many workers won’t seek treatment, and it might explain why disclosure rates in companies are low. Our research showed that while nearly 60% of respondents experienced symptoms in the past year — a number much higher than the oft-cited 20% of people who manage a condition in any given year — close to 60% also never talked about their conditions at work. When conversations about mental health did occur, less than half were described as positive. In fact, respondents were the least comfortable talking with their company’s HR and senior leaders, although senior leaders, including CEOs, were just as likely to struggle with mental health symptoms as individual contributors.
Read more at HBR »
The review data, collected and analyzed by researchers Charles Hall and Melinda Knuth at Texas A&M University and published in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture, supports the notion that living in or near green spaces, and spending as much time as possible in both natural settings and cultivated gardens, can improve mood, reduce the negative effects of stress, encourage physical activity and other positive behaviors, improve cognition, reduce aggression, and enhance overall well-being in people of all ages under many different circumstances.
Specifically, the researchers found that people who surround themselves with plant life and other forms of natural beauty, indoors and out, experience emotional and mental health benefits that have a positive impact on their social, psychological, physical, cognitive, environmental, and spiritual well-being,
» Read more at Psychology Today…
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have found that higher levels of daily physical activity may protect against cognitive decline and brain tissue loss in adults who are believed to be at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The best results were found among the research participants who took more than 8,900 steps per day.
Traci Pedersen, writing in PsychCentral:
“One of the most striking findings from our study was that greater physical activity not only appeared to have positive effects on slowing cognitive decline, but also on slowing the rate of brain tissue loss over time in normal people who had high levels of amyloid plaque in the brain,” said Jasmeer Chhatwal, M.D., Ph.D. of the MGH Department of Neurology, and corresponding author of the study.
The results suggest that physical activity might reduce b-amyloid (Ab)-related cortical thinning and preserve gray matter structure in regions of the brain that have been associated with episodic memory loss and Alzheimer’s-related neurodegeneration.
The underlying processes of Alzheimer’s disease can begin decades before clinical symptoms appear and is characterized by early accumulation of b-amyloid protein.
The new study is among the first to demonstrate the protective effects of physical activity and vascular risk management in the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, while there is an opportunity to intervene prior to the onset of substantial neuronal loss and clinical impairment.
“Because there are currently no disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, there is a critical need to identify potential risk-altering factors that might delay progression of the disease,” Chhatwal said.
The new research published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
These actions have focused outrage and attention on the current U.S. Administration’s callous, racial, and white supremacist agenda.
What shocks me the most is not that these actions are supported by many Americans. The U.S.A. has a long history of problems over race. What shocks me the most is just how deep and wide the support really is.
This is the United States of America today. This is what is happening now. And there is a good chance this will continue for a while as there’s a good chance he will get reelected.
The horrific conditions under which immigrants and especially immigrant children are being held in US detention centers, rightly reminds us of the Nazi concentration camps. Lessons of the past have been forgotten.
What I’ve Learned: If their words don’t match their actions, trust their actions. More important than talk is how one lives their life and how they treat others.
Isaac Chotiner, writing for The New Yorker (paywall):
What most concerns you about what we have read about and seen from these border facilities holding children?
Oh, God, where do I begin? I think—to cut through all of the noise, the politics, the back-and-forth on the details—there are just two core issues that are screaming out. One is the fact that the forced and abrupt separation of children from their parents is a huge psychological trauma and assault. The magnitude of the nature of the crisis for a child’s health and well-being cannot be overstated. Abrupt separation from primary caregivers or parents is a major psychological emergency.
The second issue is the prolonged placement of children in institutional settings. Obviously, the two are linked in this particular situation. From the perspective of what we know about children’s health and well-being, what we know about trauma, abrupt separation is one area where we have a lot of research and a lot of evidence about its consequences. But prolonged institutionalization is a separate area in which we have an equally deep research base and knowledge about how damaging that kind of setting is for kids. We are dealing with two very well-studied, serious assaults on the health and well-being of children.
Working with our hands may be key to maintaining a healthy mood, and may lessen feelings of irritability, apathy, and depression.
Susan Biali Haas M.D. writing in Psychology Today:
First, when we use our hands on a task that doesn’t demand much cognitively, it gives the mind a chance to relax and rest. As a knowledge worker (I’m a doctor, writer, coach, speaker, etc.), I’m constantly using my brain. It’s gotten worse with the advent of the smartphone, as I spend so much of my downtime reading interesting articles. I also love reading novels. My brain rarely catches a break.
Second, when my brain is “offline,” it gives it a chance to work on problems behind the scenes. From a number of essays and articles that I read on this topic, it’s not uncommon for people to have breakthrough ideas while mindlessly working on something with their hands.
Third, working productively with our hands is profoundly pleasurable. There is something primal about this. We are made to be active, and have actively used our hands as part of our daily survival for thousands of years. With the advent of so much technology, many of us move through our days with minimal physical effort. We push a button instead of scrubbing dishes or laundry. Overall, we get far less physical activity than would be optimal for our bodies and minds.