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Category: Mental Wellbeing (page 1 of 7)

Increased Physical Activity May Protect Against Cognitive Decline and Ward Off Alzheimer’s Onset

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.

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Working With Your Hands Does Wonders for Your Brain

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.

And

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.

And

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.

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Meditation increases coping abilities strategies during times of stress

Stress and stressful events are part of everyone’s life. Learning to cope well with them is therefore a good skill and strategy.

Western Washington University researchers conducted a study to learn if even short-term mindfulness meditation could help deal with stress.

Researchers concluded that indeed mindfulness meditation increases the ability to monitor and modify coping strategies during times of stress, even after only one week of meditation. And that those that meditated more performed better.

Various studies how shown that mindfulness meditation is linked to better coping flexibility. This is the first study showing that as little as one-week of mindfulness intervention can improve coping and reduce perceived stress.

Results further suggested that the gains in coping flexibility that were evident at post-test were not only maintained but increased in the two weeks after the intervention.

Previous research has shown that people who can shift and adapt their responses to stress are more optimistic, and have less depression and anxiety. This latest study shows that meditation may help build long-lasting flexible coping skills that enable us to problem solve effectively in the face of stressful events.

Learn more about this latest study.

Spending as Little as 2 Hours a Week in Nature Can Lead to Better Health and Wellbeing

India Economic Times

People who spend at least 120 minutes a week with nature are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well-being than those who do not visit nature at all during an average week, said the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and well-being but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough,” said lead researcher Mat White of the University of Exeter Medical School in Britain.

“The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban green spaces seems to be a good thing,” White said.

And

“There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and well-being, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family,” said study co-author Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden.

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Middle-Aged Men in the USA are Dying in Record Numbers

Stephen Rodrick writing for Rolling Stone:

The Centers for Disease Control recorded 47,173 suicides in 2017, and there were an estimated 1.4 million total attempts. Many of society’s plagues strike heavier at women and minorities, but suicide in America is dominated by white men, who account for 70 percent of all cases. Middle-aged men walk the point. Men in the United States average 22 suicides per 100,000 people, with those ages 45 to 64 representing the fastest-growing group, up from 20.8 per 100,000 in 1999 to 30.1 in 2017. The states with the highest rates are Montana, with 28.9 per 100,000 people; Alaska, at 27 per 100,000; and Wyoming, at 26.9 per 100,000 — all roughly double the national rate. New Mexico, Idaho and Utah round out the top six states. All but Alaska fall in the Mountain time zone.

Last summer, I began a 2,000-mile drive through the American West, a place of endless mythology and one unalterable fact: The region has become a self-immolation center for middle-aged American men. The image of the Western man and his bootstraps ethos is still there, but the cliché has a dark turn — when they can no longer help themselves, they end themselves. I found men who sought help and were placed on a 72-hour hold in a hospital ward, and say they were sent home at the end of their stay without any help, collapsing back into the fetal position — the only thing accomplished was everyone in the small town now knew they were ill. I found men on both sides of the Trump divide: One whose anger toward his abusive parents was exacerbated by hours in his basement watching Fox News and Trump while drinking vodka; the other was a Buddhist mortician whose cries for help were met by scorn in a cowboy county that went 70 percent for Trump.

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Eating Fruits and Vegetables Can Improve Your Mood and Mental Well-Being

You already know you should eat fruits and vegetables for the nutrients they provide the body. But a new British study has again shown that the health benefits of produce don’t end there. Researchers at the University of Leeds have shown that eating fruits and vegetables can also improve your mood and mental well-being.

Researchers found that people whose diets included more fruits and vegetables reported being happier. Those who ate even just one extra portion of produce a day reported better life satisfaction than those who ate less. Researchers estimated that the extra portion could have the same effect on your mood as walking an additional 10 continuous minutes or more eight days a month.

Previous research conducted in Australia and New Zealand, and published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, showed a diet rich in fruits and vegetables makes people feel happier.

The latest study, entitled Lettuce Be Happy was published in Social Science and Medicine. It is based on a larger group of people who were followed for a longer period of time.

A Sense of Purpose Could Prolong Your Life

Ephrat Livni writing for Quartz:

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health analyzed data from nearly 7,000 individuals over 50 years old and concluded that “stronger purpose in life was associated with decreased mortality.” They believe that “purposeful living may have health benefits.”

The new research relied on data from individuals who enrolled in the American Health and Retirement Study (HRS)—longterm research that looks at a cross-section of subjects over time. The original research measured participants’ psychological well-being in 2006, their physical health and, subsequently, causes of death by 2010. The new analysis found that those whose psychological questionnaires reflected a lack of purpose were more likely to die than those who had “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals.”

In fact, people without a purpose were more than twice as likely to die than those with an aim and goals. Purpose proved to be more indicative of longevity than gender, race, or education levels, and more important for decreasing risk of death than drinking, smoking, or exercising regularly.

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A Beautifully Simple Way to Deal With Loneliness

The disease of loneliness is spreading. And it’s getting worse as we get more attached to technologies that isolate us from others, and away from ‘the real world.’

But the Danish have come up with a simple and elegant way to cope with loneliness. The program is call Ventilen, or “friend to one” in Danish.

First some background from Jenny Anderson’s piece in Quartz :

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that 22% of Americans, 23% of Brits and 9% of Japanese adults said they felt lonely all the time. When the BBC asked 55,000 people about their experiences with loneliness,33% of respondents said they were “often” or “very often” lonely. Among those aged 16-24, the figure was a shocking 40%.

Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general, has declared loneliness an “epidemic,” noting that it was dangerous both in its own right and because of its links to deep societal problems such as addiction and violence: “It’s prevalent, it’s common, and the studies Julianne [Holt-Lunstad] and others have done have shown a robust association with illnesses that we actually care about, including heart disease, dementia, depression and anxiety, and very importantly, longevity.”

Indeed, Holt-Lunstad’s research shows that being disconnected poses comparable danger to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is more predictive of early death than the effects of air pollution or physical inactivity.

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Time to Unplug Our Kids: WHO Recommends Zero Screen Time for Children Under One

Craig Timberg and Rachel Siegel writing in the Washington Post:

The World Health Organization issued strict new guidelines Wednesday on one of the most anxiety-producing issues of 21st Century family life: How much should parents resort to videos and online games to entertain, educate or simply distract their young children?

The answer, according to WHO, is never for children in their first year of life and rarely in their second. Those aged 2 to 4, the international health agency said, should spend no more than an hour a day in front of a screen.

The WHO drew on emerging — but as yet unsettled — science about the risks screens pose to the development of young minds at a time when surveys show children are spending increasing amounts of time watching smartphones and other mobile devices. Ninety-five percent of families with children under the age of 8 have smartphones, according to the nonprofit Common Sense Media, and 42 percent of children under 8 have access to their own tablet device.

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Burnt out people are everywhere

It’s important to recognize that balance and self-care are important. There’s nothing fancy about minimizing the effects of stress: daily physical activity, rest and sleep, real social connection with people you care about all go a long way to living a healthy life.

Jenny Rough, Washington Post writes:

Burnout is caused by chronic stress, not stressors, the Nagoskis say in their book. It’s important to differentiate the two. Stressors are external: to-do lists, financial problems or anxiety about the future. Stress, on the other hand, “is the neurological and physiological shift that happens in your body when you encounter [stressors],” the Nagoskis write.

To fix burnout, people need to address the stress itself. They must allow their body to complete its stress response cycle. Instead, people tend to focus on stressors. “They assume their stress will go away if they’re on top of things, if they’re accomplishing things and constantly checking things off their to-do list,” Emily Nagoski says.

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