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This Supplement May Stop Sadness Becoming Depression

Probiotics may stop sadness turning into depression by helping people let go of the past, a new study finds.

Researchers at the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition found that probiotics stopped people ruminating so much.

Rumination is when people focus on bad experiences and feelings from the past.

Dr Laura Steenbergen, the study’s first author, said:

“Rumination is one of the most predictive vulnerability markers of depression.
Persistent ruminative thoughts often precede and predict episodes of depression.”

In the study 40 people were given a sachet to take with water or milk every day for four weeks.

Half of the people received sachets that contained a multispecies probiotic.

The other half received a placebo for the four weeks.

Before and afterwards people’s so-called ‘cognitive reactivity’ was measured.

‘Cognitive reactivity’ is the extent to which a sad mood can turn into something more serious.

The authors explained the results:

“…in the probiotics supplementation condition participants perceived themselves to be less distracted by aggressive and ruminative thoughts when in a sad mood.”

In other words, when people felt sad, those taking the probiotics ruminated less.

depression probiotics

The authors write:

“…studies have shown that the tendency to engage in ruminative thoughts is sufficient to turn mood fluctuations into depressive episodes, and that individuals who typically respond to low mood by ruminating about possible causes and consequences of their state have more difficulties in recovering from depression.”

Probiotics have been increasingly linked to good mental health.

But this is the first study to identify this specific link.

Dr Lorenza Colzato, another of the study’s authors, said:

“Even if preliminary, these results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood.
As such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of probiotics to serve as adjuvant or preventive therapy for depression.”

The research is published in the journal  Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (Steenbergen et al., 2015).

source: PsyBlog
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The Number One Global Diet Risk

Dr. Michael Greger      May 27, 2015

The Global Burden of Disease Study published in 2012, is the most comprehensive and systematic analysis of causes of death undertaken to date, involving nearly 500 researchers from more than 300 institutions in 50 countries, and starting with almost 100,000 data sources. What did the researchers find? Here in the U.S., they determined that our biggest killer was our diet. Number 1 on their list of the most important dietary risks was not eating enough fruit, responsible for an estimated 4.9 million deaths a year around the world.

A set of dangerous, often lethal, illnesses continues to wreak havoc in the United States. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: “If Americans ate just one more serving of fruits or vegetables per day, this would save more than 30,000 lives and $5 billion in medical costs each year.” One antidote for individuals is easy, painless, and even pleasurable: exploit the multiple nutritional and protective benefits of fruits and vegetables.

How do fruits do this? One way may be because of their antiplatelet effects. Platelets are what triggers the blood clots that cause heart attacks and most strokes. And beyond their obvious function in blood clotting, platelets are now considered to play a pivotal inflammatory role in the hardening of the arteries in the first place, and in allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer.

Normally, under healthy conditions, platelets circulate in a quiescent, inactive state. But once they become activated, they can emerge as culprits in inflammation. Platelets transport a vast amount of inflammatory chemicals, and upon activation they release these chemicals, which can recruit the inflammatory cells that form the pus pockets within our arterial walls that can burst and kill us.

This involvement of platelet activation in atherosclerosis development is well established. We’ve long recognized the platelets role in the final stages; however, a growing body of data indicates that platelets may also play an important role in the initiation and propagation of atherosclerosis in the first place. How can we prevent the excessive activation of platelets? It’s generally recognized that platelet hyperreactivity is associated with high levels of cholesterol circulating in the blood, so we can cut down on foods that have trans fats, saturated fats and dietary cholesterol.

We can also eat more fruits and vegetables. For example, different varieties of strawberries have shown a significant antiplatelet effect in a petri dish and in people. Here’s how researchers figured it out. If you click on the above video, you can see a platelet in a resting state, packed with little round granule grenades of inflammatory chemicals, which fuse together and are released when the platelet gets activated. Because resting and activated platelets look so different, we can just take blood from people and count how many are resting and how many are activated before and after people eat more than a pint of strawberries every day for a month. From just adding strawberries to people’s diets, there’s a small but significant drop in the percentage of activated platelets circulating throughout their bodies.

Other berries had a similar effect, even at a more modest two servings a day. Drinking orange or grapefruit juice doesn’t seem to help, but purple grape juice successfully reduces platelet activity on the same order that aspirin does.

Studies have shown that daily aspirin can reduce heart attacks and strokes; however, aspirin can also cause severe gastrointestinal disturbances and bleeding problems and so should not be used for the primary prevention of heart attacks and stroke as the benefits don’t clearly outweigh the serious risks. It’s nice to have safe, side-effect free alternatives.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.


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A Helpful Guide to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
—Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve struggled with it most of my life. Typically, I blame it on having a twin brother who is five inches taller with much broader shoulders. But if I was being truly honest, more likely, it is simply a character flaw hidden somewhere deep in my heart.

I’ve lived most of my life comparing myself to others. At first, it was school and sports. But as I got older, I began comparing other metrics: job title, income level, house size, and worldly successes.

I have discovered there is an infinite number of categories upon which we can compare ourselves and an almost infinite number of people to compare ourselves to. Once we begin down that road, we never find an end.

The tendency to compare ourselves to others is as human as any other emotion. Certainly I’m not alone in my experience. But it is a decision that only steals joy from our lives. And it is a habit with numerous shortcomings:

  1. Comparisons are always unfair. We typically compare the worst we know of ourselves to the best we presume about others.
  2. Comparisons, by definition, require metrics. But only a fool believes every good thing can be counted (or measured).
  3. Comparisons rob us of precious time. We each get 86,400 seconds each day. And using even one to compare yourself or your accomplishments to another is one second too many.
  4. You are too unique to compare fairly. Your gifts and talents and successes and contributions and value are entirely unique to you and your purpose in this world. They can never be properly compared to anyone else.
  5. You have nothing to gain, but much to lose. For example: your pride, your dignity, your drive, and your passion.
  6. There is no end to the possible number of comparisons. The habit can never be overcome by attaining success. There will also be something—or someone—else to focus on.
  7. Comparison puts focus on the wrong person. You can control one life—yours. But when we constantly compare ourselves to others, we waste precious energy focusing on other peoples’ lives rather than our own.
  8. Comparisons often result in resentment. Resentment towards others and towards ourselves.
  9. Comparisons deprive us of joy. They add no value, meaning, or fulfillment to our lives. They only distract from it.

Indeed, the negative effects of comparisons are wide and far-reaching. Likely, you have experienced (or are experiencing) many of them first-hand in your life as well.

How then, might we break free from this habit of comparison? Consider, embrace, and proceed forward with the following steps.

A Practical Guide to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Take note of the foolish (and harmful) nature of comparison.

Take a good look at the list above. Take notice of comparison’s harmful effects in your life. And find priority to intentionally remove it from the inside-out.

greener

Become intimately aware of your own successes.

Whether you are a writer, musician, doctor, landscaper, mother, or student, you have a unique perspective backed by unique experiences and unique gifts. You have the capacity to love, serve, and contribute. You have everything you need to accomplish good in your little section of the world. With that opportunity squarely in front of you, become intimately aware of your past successes. And find motivation in them to pursue more.

Pursue the greater things in life.

Some of the greatest treasures in this world are hidden from sight: love, humility, empathy, selflessness, generosity. Among these higher pursuits, there is no measurement. Desire them above everything else and remove yourself entirely from society’s definition of success.

Compete less. Appreciate more.

There may be times when competition is appropriate, but life is not one of them. We have all been thrown together at this exact moment on this exact planet. And the sooner we stop competing against others to “win,” the faster we can start working together to figure it out. The first and most important step in overcoming the habit of competition is to routinely appreciate and compliment the contribution of others.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

Gratitude always forces us to recognize the good things we already have in our world.

Remind yourself nobody is perfect.

While focusing on the negatives is rarely as helpful as focusing on the positives, there is important space to be found remembering that nobody is perfect and nobody is living a painless life. Triumph requires an obstacle to be overcome. And everybody is suffering through their own, whether you are close enough to know it or not.

Take a walk.

Next time you find yourself comparing yourself to others, get up and change your surroundings. Go for a walk—even if only to the other side of the room. Allow the change in your surroundings to prompt change in your thinking.

Find inspiration without comparison.

Comparing our lives with others is foolish. But finding inspiration and learning from others is entirely wise. Work hard to learn the difference.

Humbly ask questions of the people you admire or read biographies as inspiration. But if comparison is a consistent tendency in your life, notice which attitudes prompt positive change and which result in negative influence.

If you need to compare, compare with yourself.

We ought to strive to be the best possible versions of ourselves—not only for our own selves, but for the benefit and contribution we can offer to others. Work hard to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Commit to growing a little bit each day. And learn to celebrate the little advancements you are making without comparing them to others.

With so many negative effects inherent in comparison, it is a shame we ever take part in it. But the struggle is real for most of us. Fortunately, it does not need to be. And the freedom found in comparing less is entirely worth the effort.

WRITTEN by JOSHUA BECKER


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Can People Transmit Happiness by Smell?

Lab experiment with ‘scent samples’ suggests humans pick up on others’ positive emotions via sweat

TUESDAY, May 26, 2015 (HealthDay News) – As emotions go, happiness usually hides in plain sight: seen in a broad smile, heard in a raucous laugh, felt in a big hug.

But new research suggests there may be a less obvious way to pick up on another person’s positive vibes: smell.

According to a team of European researchers, happiness may generate chemicals that get secreted in sweat, and that sweat signal gets sniffed by those around us.

The experiments also suggest that we not only breathe in the upbeat emotions of others, but by doing so we actually become happier ourselves.

“Human sweat produced when a person is happy induces a state similar to happiness in somebody who inhales this odor,” said study co-author Gun Semin, a research professor in the department of psychology at Koc University in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada in Lisbon, Portugal.

The findings were published recently in Psychological Science.

The researchers noted that prior research has already demonstrated that negative emotions, such as fear or disgust, can be communicated via odors in sweat.

To see whether the same holds true for the happier feelings, Semin’s team gathered sweat samples from 12 young men after each watched videos designed to induce a variety of emotions, including happiness and fear. All the men were healthy, drug-free nonsmokers, and none drank, consumed smelly foods or engaged in sexual activity during the study period.

In turn, 36 equally healthy young women were engaged to smell the samples while their reactions were monitored. The smell group, explained investigators, was confined to women because women typically have a better sense of smell than men and are also more sensitive to emotional signaling.

After analyzing the facial expressions of the smell group, the research team concluded that there does, in fact, appear to be a so-called “behavioral synchronization” between a sweating person’s emotional state, the sweat generated, and the reaction of the person who sniffs that sweat.

Specifically, that meant that the faces of women who smelled “happy sweat” displayed facial muscle activity deemed to be representative of happiness.

Sniffing_happiness

Sweat didn’t always produce a contagious response in the smeller, however. For example, those smellers who verbalized having a “pleasant” or “intense” reaction to a sweat sample did not manifest those reactions in their facial expressions.

What is it exactly that makes “happy sweat” infectious?

Semin, who is also professor of social and behavioral sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, acknowledged that “we have not demonstrated what the nature of the chemical compound is in sweat.”

Pamela Dalton is an olfactory (smell sense) scientist with the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. She said she found the findings “a little surprising.”

However, “what is interesting about this study is that it suggests a positive emotion can be communicated – which in my opinion is far less important in human evolution and behavior than to be able to transmit and recognize a negative emotion, such as fear or anger,” Dalton said.

For that reason, Dalton said she “would expect the ability to communicate a happy emotion to [actually] be less potent than the ability to transmit a negative emotion.”

But Andreas Keller, a research associate with The Rockefeller University in New York City, said the study findings make intuitive sense.

“Hearing happy people and seeing happy people makes you happier,” he said, “so the fact that smelling them would make you happier, too, is probably not so surprising.”

According to Keller, the next step “would be to find out what the chemical difference in fear sweat and happy sweat is that mediates these effects. This would open the door to study what is going on at a mechanistic level.”

View Article Sources          WebMD News from HealthDay     By Alan Mozes    HealthDay Reporter
 source: HealthDay


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Why This Beautiful Human Behaviour is Highly Infectious

The wonderful human behaviour that elevates all our morals.

Acts of kindness can spread surprisingly easily between people — just by observing someone else being generous.


They activate parts of the brain involved in motivating action and of social engagement, a new study finds.


In turn we are also more likely to ‘pay it forward’.

Scientists call this the ‘moral elevation’ effect.

The first evidence from the lab of this effect was found in 2010.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Harvard demonstrated moral elevation by having people playing a simple ‘giving’ game in the lab.


When people gave selflessly to others, researchers could see this act of kindness spreading from person to person.


One act of kindness was ultimately tripled in value by people subsequently giving more and more.


Dr James Fowler, one of the study’s authors, said:

“Though the multiplier in the real world may be higher or lower than what we’ve found in the lab, personally it’s very exciting to learn that kindness spreads to people I don’t know or have never met.We have direct experience of giving and seeing people’s immediate reactions, but we don’t typically see how our generosity cascades through the social network to affect the lives of dozens or maybe hundreds of other people.”

kindness


Now neuroscience has given us an insight into what is happening in the brain when we see an act of kindness.


Researchers scanned people’s brains while they watched videos showing heroic acts of kindness.


They found that areas of the brain involved in arousal and those involved in social engagement were activated at the same time.


Professor Nicholas Christakis, one of the 2010 study’s authors, said:

“Our work over the past few years, examining the function of human social networks and their genetic origins, has led us to conclude that there is a deep and fundamental connection between social networks and goodness.The flow of good and desirable properties like ideas, love and kindness is required for human social networks to endure, and, in turn, networks are required for such properties to spread.Humans form social networks because the benefits of a connected life outweigh the costs.”

The original study was published in PNAS and the latest study was published in the journal Biological Psychology (Fowler et al., 2010; Piper et al., 2015).

source: Psyblog


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8 Tips to Buy Better Yogurt

Michelle Schoffro Cook      May 22, 2015

Despite all of the hype not all yogurt is good for you. Here are 8 tips to help you select the best and healthiest yogurt for you:

1. Look for live cultures. The live cultures in yogurt provide the many beneficial gut health and overall health benefits we attribute to yogurt. So be sure to look for a yogurt that says “live cultures” on the package. It could be in the ingredients list or somewhere else on the package but it needs to be there.

2. Check the sugar content. Some yogurt contains a whopping 26 to 29 grams of sugar for an individual serving of yogurt. That’s more than many soft drinks or doughnuts. Most of the sugars naturally present in milk or milk alternatives should be eliminated during the culturing process since the sugars act as food for the probiotic cultures. If the yogurt contains much sugar that means either a) the manufacturer added sugar to the yogurt after the culturing process; or b) the culturing process didn’t take place and the manufacturer added flavors and thickening agents to the milk instead.

3. Check the serving size. Some brands of yogurt list the amount of nutrients and sugars for a four-ounce serving while others indicate a six- or eight-ounce serving size. That way you can compare the amount of sugar and nutrients based on similar servings.

4. Avoid any yogurt that says it has been “heat treated” after the culturing process or during the packaging process. The beneficial probiotics that proliferate during the yogurt-making process are heat-sensitive.   If they are heated during packaging or at another stage of the manufacturing process it is unlikely you will reap any of the health benefits of eating the yogurt. This type of product is better left at the store.

Yogurt

5. Avoid yogurt with fillers. Making yogurt takes two ingredients: a type of milk (or milk alternative) and live cultures. The cultures do the rest of the work to transform the milk into yogurt. If the yogurt you purchase contains more ingredients than just milk and live cultures it probably contains harmful ingredients like sugar, colors, fillers, or other less-than-healthy substances and is best avoided.

6. Go Greek. When it comes to yogurt varieties Greek or plain yogurt are preferable. That’s because most of these varieties contain fewer ingredients like colors, fillers, or sweeteners.

7. Dairy-free yogurt alternatives can also make excellent choices. In my research I found that dairy-free yogurt varieties often contained a greater diversity of probiotic strains than dairy yogurt. That doesn’t mean all dairy-free yogurt is better than cow’s milk yogurt, but it does mean that if you’re vegan or just avoiding milk products you can still reap the health benefits of yogurt.

8. If you’re choosing cow’s milk yogurt, choose organic as much as possible. Cow’s milk frequently contains antibiotic or other medication residues as well as the genetically-modified hormone known as rBST. BST is a hormone known as bovine somatotropin; rBST is a genetically-modified version of the hormone developed by Monsanto using genetically-engineered E. coli bacteria and is probably not something you want in your body.

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules since there are many manufacturing and processing variables that determine the quality of the yogurt you choose but the above guidelines will help you pick the best one for your buck.

For more information check out The Probiotic Promise: Simple Steps to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out (DaCapo, 2015, Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM).


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The Simple Mindset That Makes Everyone Happier, All Around The World

Despite deep cultural differences between nations, there is one attitude that makes all humans happy.

Acting like an extrovert — even if you are an introvert — makes people all around the world feel happier, recent research suggests.

The findings come from surveys of hundreds of people in the US, Venezuela, the Philippines, China and Japan (Ching et al., 2014).

Across the board, people reported that they felt more positive emotions in daily situations where they either acted or felt more extroverted.

The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, also found that people tended to behave in a more upbeat way when they felt most free.

This is the first study to show the positive effects of extroverted behaviours in countries with more group-oriented and less individualistic cultures, like those in South America and Asia.

introvert

Professor Timothy Church, one of the study’s authors, said:

“Cross-cultural psychologists like to talk about psychic unity.
Despite all of our cultural differences, the way personality is organized seems to be pretty comparable across cultural groups.
There is evidence to show that 40 to 50 percent of the variation in personality traits has a genetic basis.”

The findings complement an earlier experiment which looked at the effects of extroverted behaviours, such as being talkative, adventurous and having high energy levels (Fleeson et al., 2002).

Participants in the study were told to act in an outgoing way for 10 minutes and then report how it made them feel.

Even amongst introverts — people who typically prefer solitary activities — acting in an extroverted way gave them a boost of happiness.

Professor William Fleeson, who led the earlier study, said:

“We tend to look at the external world for being responsible for our happiness — good things happen to us and then we get happy.
What’s exciting about this is that it brings attention to the role we have in our own happiness.
All you have to do is act extraverted and you can get a happiness boost.”

So, whether you’re an introvert, extravert or ambivert, try smiling at a stranger or calling an old friend and feeling the difference.

If you need further encouragement, read: Why You Should Talk To Strangers.

source: PsyBlog