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Category: Mental Wellbeing (page 1 of 7)

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.

Why walking helps us think

Ferris Jabr, The New Yorker:

When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

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Who lives alone in Canada and how does that impact their health and wellbeing?

Questions continue to be raised about the possible impacts of living alone on the prevalence of social isolation and loneliness in society.

Statistics Canada has released a study that looked at the Canadian population living alone, using data from both the Census of Population and the General Social Survey on Family. Here’s some of what they found.

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These Three Steps Might Help Prevent Dementia

There is no magic shield against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Supplements don’t work. Yet there is evidence that some strategies may help.

Paula Span at the New York Times writes:

The three:

  • Increased physical activity;
  • Blood pressure management for people with hypertension, particularly in midlife;
  • And cognitive training.

That last recommendation doesn’t necessarily refer to commercial online brain games, said Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a neuropsychiatrist and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who served on the panel.

“It’s really the concept of being mentally active,” she said. “Find something you enjoy where you’re learning something new, challenging and stimulating your brain.”

Though the evidence to date doesn’t establish which mental workouts have the greatest impact or how often people should engage in them, “they’re not expensive and they don’t cause side effects,” Dr. Yaffe pointed out.

The blood pressure recommendation got a boost in January with the latest findings from the Sprint trial, a multisite study stopped early in 2015 when intensive treatment of hypertension (a systolic blood pressure goal of less than 120, compared to the standard 140) was shown to reduce cardiovascular events and deaths.

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How much leisure time do we need to be happy?

Research shows that too little leisure time leads to people feeling stressed. And there’s such a thing as too much leisure time, which tends to make people feel overly idle.

A research paper released late last year investigated this trade-off, attempting to pinpoint how much leisure time is best. Its authors examined the relationship between the amount of “discretionary time” people had—basically, how much time people spend awake and doing what they want—and how pleased they were with their lives. (Some examples of “discretionary” activities were watching TV, socializing, going to the movies, spending time with family, and doing nothing.)

The paper, which analyzed data covering about 35,000 Americans, found that employed people’s ratings of their satisfaction with life peaked when they had in the neighborhood of two and a half hours of free time a day. For people who didn’t work, the optimal amount was four hours and 45 minutes.

More at The Atlantic

The problem with trying to be perfect

There is no such thing as being perfect. To be human is to be flawed. To be a well-adjusted individual we must learn to accept our limitations and our failings.

Instead of concentrating on the end goal, this article argues, we should be focused on our personal values and the work we do.

Aim high, but get comfortable with good enough.

In well-adjusted perfectionism, someone who doesn’t get the gold is able to forget the setback and move on. In maladaptive perfectionism, meanwhile, people make an archive of all their failures. They revisit these archives constantly, thinking, as Pryor puts it, “I need to make myself feel terrible so I don’t do this again.”

Then they double down, “raising the expectation bar even higher, which increases the likelihood of defeat, which makes you self-critical, so you raise the bar higher, work even harder,” she says.

Next comes failure, shame, and pushing yourself even harder toward even higher and more impossible goals. Meeting them becomes an “all or nothing” premise. Pryor offered this example: “Even if I’m an incredible attorney, if I don’t make partner in the same pacing as one of my colleagues, clearly that means I’m a failure.”

Brustein says his perfectionist clients tend to devalue their accomplishments, so that every time a goal is achieved, the high lasts only a short time, like “a gas tank with a hole in it.”

Read more at The Atlantic

The lost art of concentration, and how to get some of that back, even in this digital world

We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration. In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.

Nicholas Carr picked up on this again in an article in the Atlantic in 2008, before going on to publish his book The Shallows two years later. “Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy,” he wrote. “My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

The impact of interruptions on individual productivity can also be catastrophic. In 2002, it was reported that, on average, we experience an interruption every eight minutes or about seven or eight per hour. In an eight-hour day, that is about 60 interruptions. The average interruption takes about five minutes, so that is about five hours out of eight. And if it takes around 15 minutes to resume the interrupted activity at a good level of concentration, this means that we are never concentrating very well.

More at The Guardian

Scottish doctors are issuing prescriptions for hiking and birdwatching

Doctors in the Shetland Islands have started issuing prescriptions for beach walks, hiking, and birdwatching to help treat chronic and debilitating illnesses. Doctors on the island have been authorized by the health authority to issue “nature prescriptions” to patients to help treat mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, stress, and other conditions.

The health authority, NHS Shetland, is not suggesting that nature prescriptions will replace conventional medicines, but to supplemented usual treatments.

More at The Guardian

How physical activity helps mental wellbeing

There are various ways that physical activity helps mental wellbeing, including:

Improved mood – Studies show that physical activity has a positive impact on our mood. One study asked people to rate their mood after period of exercise (i.e. walking or gardening) and after inactivity (i.e. reading a book). Researchers found that people felt more awake, calmer and more content after physical activity. For more information and a link to the study, go to the Mental Health Foundation website.

Reduced stress – Being regularly active is shown to have a beneficial impact on alleviating stress. It can help manage stressful lifestyles and can help us make better decisions when under pressure. Research on working adults shows that active people tend to have lower stress rates compared to those who are less active.

Better self-esteem – Physical activity has a big impact of our self-esteem – that’s how we feel about ourselves and our perceived self-worth. This is a key indicator of mental wellbeing. Those with improved self-esteem can cope better with stress and improves relationships with others.

Depression and anxiety – Exercise has been described as a “wonder drug” in preventing and managing mental health. Many GPs now prescribe physical activity for depression, either on its own or in conjunction with other treatments. It is effective at both preventing onset of depression and in terms of managing symptoms.

More at Sport England

Around the world, 800,000 people kill themselves every year

Sometimes they are famous names such as Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade that make headlines, but they are all sons or daughters, friends or colleagues, valued members of families and communities.

Suicide is the most extreme and visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to adequately address. Stigma, fear and lack of understanding compound the suffering of those affected and prevent the bold action that is so desperately needed and so long overdue.

One in four of us will have to deal with a mental health condition at some point in our lives, and if we’re not directly affected, someone we care for is likely to be. Our young people are particularly vulnerable, with suicide being the second leading cause of death globally among 15-29 year olds and half of all mental illness beginning by the age of 14.

This is from an opinion piece by Lady Gaga and Tedros Adhanom, Director general of the World Health Organization, published in The Guardian.

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