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Social Connection May Be Strongest Protection Against Depression

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have found that social connection may be the strongest protective factor against depression, and suggest that reducing sedentary activities such as TV watching and daytime napping could also help reduce the risk of depression.

The team identified a set of modifiable factors from a field of more than 100 that could represent valuable targets for preventing depression in adults.

The findings are published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

“Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, but until now researchers have focused on only a handful of risk and protective factors, often in just one or two domains,” says Karmel Choi, Ph.D., investigator in the Department of Psychiatry and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and lead author of the paper. “Our study provides the most comprehensive picture to date of modifiable factors that could impact depression risk.”

The researchers took a two-stage approach. The first stage drew on a database of more than 100,000 participants in the UK Biobank to systematically scan a wide range of modifiable factors that might be linked to the risk of developing depression, including social interaction, media use, sleep patterns, diet, physical activity, and environmental exposures.

This method, known as an exposure-wide association scan (ExWAS), is comparable to genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that have been widely used to identify genetic risk factors for disease.

The second stage took the strongest modifiable candidates from ExWAS and applied a technique called Mendelian randomization (MR) to investigate which factors may have a causal relationship to depression risk.

MR is a statistical method that treats genetic variation between people as a kind of natural experiment to determine whether an association is likely to reflect causation rather than just correlation.

This two-stage approach allowed the MGH researchers to narrow the field to a smaller set of promising and potentially causal targets for depression.

“Far and away the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with family and friends, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion,” said senior author Jordan Smoller, M.D., Sc.D., associate chief for research in the MGH Department of Psychiatry.

“These factors are more relevant now than ever at a time of social distancing and separation from friends and family.”

The protective effects of social connection were found even among individuals who were at greater risk for depression as a result of genetic vulnerability or early life trauma.

On the other hand, factors linked to depression risk included time spent watching TV, though the authors note that more studies are needed to determine if that risk was due to media exposure or whether time in front of the TV was representative of being sedentary.

Perhaps more surprising, the tendency for daytime napping and regular use of multivitamins appeared to be tied to depression risk, though more research is needed to determine how these might be linked.

The study demonstrates an important new approach for evaluating a wide range of modifiable factors, and using this evidence to prioritize targets for preventive interventions for depression.

“Depression takes an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society, yet we still know very little about how to prevent it,” says Smoller.

“We’ve shown that it’s now possible to address these questions of broad public health significance through a large-scale, data-based approach that wasn’t available even a few years ago. We hope this work will motivate further efforts to develop actionable strategies for preventing depression.”

By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor      15 Aug 2020

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital   psychcentral.com

elder friends

3 Mental Problems
Linked To Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The deficiency is easy to rectify with diet or supplementation.

Mental confusion can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, research suggests.

People with a B12 deficiency can have problems with their memory and concentration.

Depression symptoms like low mood and low energy are also linked to the deficiency.

Low levels of vitamin B12 can even contribute to brain shrinkage, other studies have suggested.

Around one-in-eight people over 50 are low in vitamin B12 levels, recent research finds.

The rates of deficiency are even higher in those who are older.

Fortunately, these deficiencies are easy to rectify with diet or supplementation.

Good dietary sources of vitamin B12 include fish, poultry, eggs and low-fat milk.

Fortified breakfast cereals also contain vitamin B12.

People who may have difficulty getting enough vitamin B12 include vegetarians, older people and those with some digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease.

One study has found that high doses of B vitamins can help reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is one of the most serious types of mental illness.

It can cause delusions, hallucinations, confused thinking and dramatic changes in behaviour.

The study reviewed 18 different clinical trials, including 832 patients.

It found that high doses of B vitamins helped reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia.

The vitamins were particularly effective if used early on in treatment.

Dr Joseph Firth, the study’s lead author, said:

“Looking at all of the data from clinical trials of vitamin and mineral supplements for schizophrenia to date, we can see that B vitamins effectively improve outcomes for some patients.

This could be an important advance, given that new treatments for this condition are so desperately needed.”

Professor Jerome Sarris, study co-author, said:

“This builds on existing evidence of other food-derived supplements, such as certain amino-acids, been beneficial for people with schizophrenia.”

About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. 

The study was published in the journal Psychological Medicine (Firth et al., 2017).

August 20, 2020

source: PsyBlog


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A Simple Way To Boost Social Confidence

An easy self-affirmation exercise helps reduce social insecurities for at least two months.

Sometimes in life we get exactly what we expect.

Nowhere is this more true than in social relations.

When we meet someone new, if we expect to like them—for whatever reason—then they tend to like us.

If we experience apprehension or nascent dislike then things can quickly go wrong.

Psychologists have called it the ‘acceptance prophecy’ and there’s more about it in this article: The Acceptance Prophecy: How You Control Who Likes You.

The problem is that for insecure or socially nervous individuals it becomes the rejection prophecy.

A feeling of apprehension about meeting new people is outwardly expressed as nervous behaviour and this leads to rejection.

But a new paper published in Psychological Science provides a simple exercise that helps boost relational security and should help turn the rejection prophecy back into the acceptance prophecy.

 

Self-affirmation

Stinson et al. (2011) measured the relational security of 117 participants by asking them how much they agreed with statements like: “My friends regard me as very important in their lives” and “My partner loves and accepts me unconditionally”.

Half of them were then asked to do a very simple self-affirmation task.

Participants looked down a list of 11 values including things like spontaneity, creativity, friends and family, personal attractiveness and so on.

They put them in order of importance and wrote a couple of paragraphs saying why their top-ranked item was so important.

The results showed that this simple task boosted the relational security of insecure individuals in comparison with a control group.

Afterwards their behaviour was seen as less nervous and they reported feeling more secure.

And when they were followed up at four and eight weeks later, the benefits were still apparent.

It appears that even a task as simple as this is enough to boost the social confidence of people who feel insecure.

source: PsyBlog


Leave a comment

A Simple Way To Boost Social Confidence

An easy self-affirmation exercise helps reduce social insecurities for at least two months.

Sometimes in life we get exactly what we expect.

Nowhere is this more true than in social relations.

When we meet someone new, if we expect to like them—for whatever reason—then they tend to like us.

If we experience apprehension or nascent dislike then things can quickly go wrong.

Psychologists have called it the ‘acceptance prophecy’ and there’s more about it in this article: The Acceptance Prophecy: How You Control Who Likes You.

The problem is that for insecure or socially nervous individuals it becomes the rejection prophecy.

A feeling of apprehension about meeting new people is outwardly expressed as nervous behaviour and this leads to rejection.

But a new paper published in Psychological Science provides a simple exercise that helps boost relational security and should help turn the rejection prophecy back into the acceptance prophecy.

 

Self-affirmation

Stinson et al. (2011) measured the relational security of 117 participants by asking them how much they agreed with statements like: “My friends regard me as very important in their lives” and “My partner loves and accepts me unconditionally”.

Half of them were then asked to do a very simple self-affirmation task.

Participants looked down a list of 11 values including things like spontaneity, creativity, friends and family, personal attractiveness and so on.

They put them in order of importance and wrote a couple of paragraphs saying why their top-ranked item was so important.

The results showed that this simple task boosted the relational security of insecure individuals in comparison with a control group.

Afterwards their behaviour was seen as less nervous and they reported feeling more secure.

And when they were followed up at four and eight weeks later, the benefits were still apparent.

It appears that even a task as simple as this is enough to boost the social confidence of people who feel insecure.

source: PsyBlog


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11 Little Tricks to Stop Being Socially Awkward

Even the most confident communicators can sometimes feel insecure at a party, meeting, or other friendly get-together. Use these pro tips to summon your swagger, or at least feel more self-assured.

Play host

Put yourself more at ease by taking the lead socially. “Introduce people to each other,” suggests Dianna Booher, author of Communicate With Confidence: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time. “Take hats and coats and invite other guests to help themselves to the food.” People will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and you’ll always find yourself in the center of things because people will be “coming and going” all around you. Check out the habits that can help nix social anxiety.

Bring a buddy

By attending events with a friend, you get the opportunity to introduce your pal to small groups as you join them, offering an intriguing “tag line” about them. “Your buddy can return the favor in your introduction,” Booher says. “These ‘partner’ introductions seem much less intrusive and self-serving and give you an interesting way to connect with others.” Don’t miss these tips for sharpening your small talk skills.

Embrace an opportunity

Stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone often has a real payoff. The fact is that trying new experiences, even if you have to endure a bit of discomfort, can lead to personal growth and inner strength, according to recent Psychology Today article. If you’re feeling lonely, try some of these strategies for making a human connection.
Make a fashion statement

A standout piece of jewelry, wild shoes or a unique jacket can serve as an immediate conversation starter, because most people will comment on it. “And when others ask, ‘What’s this?’ or ‘What’s the story behind this piece?’ be ready with an intriguing line that makes them say, ‘Tell me more,'” Booher says. Check out these secrets to accessorizing, according to fashion stylists.

Learn to listen intently

If it’s not already obvious, people love to talk about themselves. Use that your advantage to keep a conversation flowing. “Just keep asking follow-up questions and show genuine interest,” she says. Check out the things all good listeners do daily.

 

Remember names

To earn respect from a new acquaintance, remember and then use that person’s name. “There are many techniques to help you remember,” says Daniel L. Kopp, MD, a family physician in New Hartford, New York. “Try associating the name or the person’s appearance with something that you can easily connect it to.” The most important thing you can do in remembering names, however, is to listen very carefully as you’re hearing it the first time, perhaps even repeating it to confirm that you heard it correctly. You can say, “Amanda, nice to meet you.” “Often, social nervousness has us so focused on what we’re going to say next that we’re not tuning in to the name given at all,” Dr. Kopp says.

Be humble

Resist the urge to initiate conversations by bragging or just generally talking too much about yourself. “Think to yourself: ‘I’m a very interesting person and have done many interesting things, but I don’t need to tell others about my experiences unless they’re truly interested,'” Dr. Kopp says. “Quiet confidence is almost always valued more than aggressive domination or monopolization of a conversation,” he adds. Check these signs you could be a bad listener.
Take stock of your best traits

Before entering a social situation—whether it’s in person or online—take a moment to reflect on your best qualities and characteristics and remind yourself that you’re a good and decent person, deserving of another’s friendship, Dr. Kopp says. This strategy will be confidence builder. If you’re meeting in person, don’t forget that your body language is another way to project confidence.
Have one great fact ready

Kimberly Friedmutter, a clinical hypnotherapist with a practice in Malibu, California, says offering up a tidbit about yourself opens the doors to a flowing conversation. “Keep an interesting go-to fact about yourself at the ready,” Freidmutter says. “People love to engage with a quip, a story, something interesting for an icebreaker.” It could be something as random as, “I’m parked at a one-hour meter, so if you see me dash out suddenly, that would be why!”
Create some imagery

Take the edge off a social situation by using your imagination. “When feeling awkwardly intimidated, simply look at those around you and imagine how they looked as children,” says Friedmutter. “The image you conjure in your mind will automatically relax you into approaching others without worry.”
Consider texting more

Studies have found that friends and partners who send affectionate messages are closer than their non-texting equivalents, according to an article in the Washington Post. Get familiar with the situations in which texting has the advantage over calling.

BY ERICA LAMBERG
source: www.rd.com