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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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How Does Diet Affect Mental Health? A New Study Shows The Way Age Factors In

What you eat can have a huge impact on your mental health, which many people who deal with mental health conditions have learned firsthand. I have clinical depression and general anxiety disorder, and I feel much more stable when I’m eating regularly and prioritizing fresh foods. Previous research has shown that diet can affect mental health conditions like depression, ADHD, and anxiety. But according to a new study, the foods that impact your mental health change as you age. Researchers at Binghamton University in New York say our diet affects our mental health in different ways as we get older, so millennials and baby boomers should actually eat different diets to support their mood.

Researchers surveyed people between 18 and 29 years old and people who were 30 years old and older. They asked them to fill out an anonymous questionnaire about their diet and foods that are linked to changes in mood. After analyzing the data, researchers found that young adults reported benefitting benefited from frequent meat consumption, which can improve brain function. But the story was different for older adults, who need food that increases the antioxidants in your system (antioxidants can help avoid cell damage) for optimal mental health. People over 30 also reported feeling better when they avoided coffee and skipping breakfast, according to the research. What you eat can affect mental health, but if you’re looking for resources to help improve mental health issues, it’s always best to talk to a medical professional.

Lead author Lina Begdache, who is an assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, said in a press release that one of the study’s biggest takeaways is that diet choices will affect people differently depending on how old they are.

“One of the major findings of this paper is that diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus mature adults,” Begdache said. “Young adult mood appears to be sensitive to build-up of brain chemicals. Regular consumption of meat leads to build-up of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood.”

The most effective way to handle mental distress is talking to a doctor or therapist who can help you figure out your options. But if you’re looking to adjust your eating habits to support your mood and you’re under 29 years old, exercise and meat consumption may be the way to go.  The researchers found that people who were sedentary and ate meat less than three times a week “showed a significant mental distress.” If you’re not a meat eater, you can try foods like nuts, avocados and dark chocolate to get a dopamine release. For people over 30, antioxidants are a major key. It’s never a bad idea to consume antioxidants, but the effect is more profound as you age. As you get older, your body produces oxidants that can cause disturbances in your brain chemistry, so eating foods with antioxidant qualities can help avoid unnecessary mental distress. The next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some grapes, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and green vegetables like kale and broccoli, which can all help improve mental health.

The study tells people over 30 to stay away from foods that trigger the sympathetic nervous system, like coffee. It can feel impossible to stay away from the sweet taste of caffeine, but it increases activity in your sympathetic nervous system, which can lead to stress. According to Begdache, “our ability to regulate stress decreases” as we age, so if you’re looking to adjust your diet for mood support, know that carbohydrates can also potentially trigger the sympathetic nervous system.

The study shows that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to diet and mental health. Your brain changes as you get older, so it makes sense that you may need to make adjustments to your diet as you age if you choose to include foods that support your mood. It’s not always realistic to eat healthy foods, especially because eating regular meals and keeping a balanced diet is a hard adjustment to make for people who are mentally healthy, let alone those who already deal with mental illness. Healthy foods can also be inaccessible to people who can’t afford them, or who live in food deserts. But if you are looking for ways to change up your food routine with an eye toward your mental health, this study is something to keep in mind. I have a few years left before I need to avoid coffee, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

By AYANA LAGE     December 12, 2018
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Owning A Dog Is Good For Your Heart — Study Says What We All Knew

It seems unconditional love from a fluffy, drooling canine is one key to a healthier life — as many people already expected.

A study of more than 3.4-million people revealed that having a dog in the house is linked to living a longer life. The research, published in Scientific Reports by Uppsala University in Sweden, reviewed a national registry of people aged 40 to 80 for up to 12 years. Just over 13 per cent were dog owners.

By evaluating health records, it found that registered dog owners had a lower risk of having heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions. It said owning a dog cuts down the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 36 per cent for people that live alone.

There is a slightly lower benefit to owning a canine for those who don’t live alone — the risk was cut by only 15 per cent. Researchers even considered other factors such as smoking and body weight to make sure the results were as accurate as possible.

While the study stops short of determining a direct “causal effect” between dog ownership and lower heart disease, it indicates that dog owners may have better health because they stay active by walking their pets, even in bad weather.

A new study says owning a dog can lower chances of developing heart problems.

It adds that having a fluffy friend could also help ease feelings of isolation, depression and stress.

“Dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in single households and with a reduced risk of cardiovascular and all-cause death in the general population,” the study concludes.

And it’s just one of many studies that have come to a similar conclusion about the health benefits of owning a dog.

Earlier this year, a study found that seniors who own a dog spend an average of 22 more minutes per day staying active and take an additional 2,760 steps per day.

Dogs have also been found to improve mental health in children, and help soothe stress for travellers nervous about their flight and students during exams.

— With files from Global News reporter Tania Kohut

By Maham Abedi   National Online Journalist, Breaking News    November 17, 2017
source: Global News


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Giving Up Helicopter Parenting Can Prevent Kids’ Future Mental Health Issues

Over-parenting doesn’t make for more successful kids, it leads to children who grow up unable to function at their best.

We’re in the middle of a youth mental-health crisis that’s going to have implications for everyone, in the near and distant future. These young people are the future workers and leaders of our society, and if they’re struggling, and not functioning optimally, it bodes ill for the rest of us.

According to an article by Kristin Rushowy in the Toronto Star, a new report released in Ontario shows that the mental health of our college and university students is at an all-time low.

Linda Franklin, president of Colleges Ontario, warns in the Star story that “we are seeing the acceleration of these challenges beyond what we might have expected to see.” This means that the size of this problem is worse than what we might expect under ordinary circumstances.

CBC recently reported on the dire situation in East Coast universities in Canada, where young people are committing suicide at an alarming rate.

The article quotes Elizabeth Cawley, the regional mental health coordinator with the Association of Atlantic Universities, who states that it’s “absolutely urgent that we begin tackling student mental health.”

In both of the above stories, a variety of possible solutions to the problem is discussed, but there’s no mention in either article of the possible causes. I suggest that helicopter parenting, which has become more and more common these days, could be in part what’s at fault.

We’re living in extremely challenging times due to a variety of political, social and economic reasons. Because of this, it’s essential that our youth are raised to be independent thinkers, good problem-solvers, self-sufficient and resilient in dealing with the ups and downs of young adulthood.

Helicopter parents, while having the best of intentions, inadvertently cripple their children by doing too much for them. Their hovering and smothering leaves their kids unable to cope with the typical challenges they might face when they arrive at college or university.

The more parents bubble-wrap their children, the less confident, independent and self-sufficient these kids will be. The more the parents solve their kids’ problems, the less these young people are equipped to deal with their own difficulties, if and when they should arise.

Helicopter parenting is, to some extent, a backlash against the previous, harsher and more negligent parenting styles, as well as an over-reaction to perceived (but non-existent) threats, such as “stranger-danger.”

Many parents these days are overly-invested in the progress of their children, doing everything they can, including their kids’ homework, to ensure that their children are accepted into the best schools and receive the best grades.

Unfortunately, over-parenting doesn’t make for more successful kids, it leads to children who grow up unable to function at their best. I believe that this is one reason why we’re seeing a disproportionately large number of young people suffering from anxiety disorders today.

The more parents bubble-wrap their children, the less confident, independent and self-sufficient these kids will be.

We can throw more money into treatment, but this will only be a drop in an ever-expanding bucket. I think that it will be a lot more cost-effective and more importantly, beneficial to our young people, to address the root cause of the problem.

That’s why I believe that it’s time we start teaching parents that helicoptering is the worst thing they can do for their kids. We have to show parents that hovering over their kids, over-protecting them, fighting all their battles and doing too much for them is setting these kids up for mental health problems in the future.

When parents learn to back off from their hovering and instead, raise their children to stand on their own two feet and solve their own problems, we’re going to see more young people with good coping strategies, confidence and resilience.

When parents begin to instill qualities like autonomy and self-sufficiency into their children, I’m convinced that we’ll start to see a significant decrease in mental health problems in our college-aged youth.

 
10/30/2017     Marcia Sirota   Author, speaker, coach and MD
 


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Treating Insomnia First Can Help With Mental Health Problems

New research has found that treating insomnia with online cognitive behavioral therapy could in turn help treat mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and paranoia.

Carried out by researchers at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford, the team set out to try to improve sleep in a group of university students with insomnia to look at sleep’s effect on paranoia (excessive mistrust), anxiety, and depression.

The study, which involved 3,755 participants, is thought to be the largest ever randomized controlled trial of a psychological treatment for mental health and the first study large enough to determine the effects of treating insomnia on psychotic experiences.

Participants were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving online cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for insomnia while the other group received access to standard treatments.

The six sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy included behavioral, cognitive and educational components, such as learning to associate bed with sleep, encouraging people to put time aside to reflect on their day before going to bed, and facilitating a pro-sleep environment.

The interactive program also used information from the participants’ daily sleep diaries to tailor the advice.

Participants’ mental health was also monitored through a series of online questionnaires at 0, 3, 10 and 22 weeks from the start of the treatment.

After analyzing the results the team found that participants who received the CBT sleep treatment showed large reductions in insomnia, as well as small, sustained reductions in paranoia and hallucinatory experiences.

CBT treatment also helped improve other mental health problems including depression, anxiety, nightmares, and psychological well-being, as well as daytime work and home functioning.

“Sleep problems are very common in people with mental health disorders, but for too long insomnia has been trivialized as merely a symptom, rather than a cause, of psychological difficulties. This study turns that old idea on its head, showing that insomnia may actually be a contributory cause of mental health problems,” commented the study’s lead author Daniel Freeman.

“A good night’s sleep really can make a difference to people’s psychological health. Helping people get better sleep could be an important first step in tackling many psychological and emotional problems,” he concluded.

The results can be found published online in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Relaxnews   Friday, September 8, 2017


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Loneliness Even Unhealthier Than Obesity

Loneliness Even Unhealthier Than Obesity, Should Be A Public Health Priority: Psychologist

Loneliness should be a major public health concern, according to an American psychologist.

Loneliness is a major health risk, like obesity or smoking, and public health programs should address it in the same way, says a psychologist.

New research by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, found that social isolation contributes as strongly to mortality as does smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

“This is something that we should all be taking seriously for our health,” she said.

Holt-Lunstad’s research, presented at a conference of the American Psychological Association, analyzed studies on mortality risk to find out how feelings of social isolation and loneliness compared to other risk factors. She found that it has a greater effect than obesity or exercise.

Having few social connections is associated with various health effects, she said, such as cardiovascular problems, immune response, cognitive decline, and cellular aging, she said. But having other people around helps in other ways too: people are more likely to take their medication, to exercise, and to visit the doctor with encouragement from others.

“Our relationships help provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life. And that can translate to better self-care as well as less risk-taking,” said Holt-Lunstad.

Isolation

It’s an important message at a time when more Canadians than ever are living alone – one of the risk factors examined by Holt-Lunstad in her research.

Census data shows that 28.2 per cent of Canadian adults lived alone in 2016 – the highest proportion since Confederation. And, for the first time, this was the most common household type in the country.

This is partly due to Canada’s aging population, according to Statistics Canada, though more than one-in-10 Canadians under 60 also lives alone.

But everyone can feel the effects of loneliness, said Holt-Lunstad.

“We tend to assume that this is an issue that may be specific to older adults or the elderly, and while of course, that population is important to consider, it’s not isolated to that group,” she said.
“When we look across the data, this affects both men and women. We don’t see any effect in terms of it being stronger in older age and in fact, we have some evidence to suggest that it may be stronger in those under 65.”

 

Until the age of 60, men are more likely than women to live by themselves. This reverses after 60, likely due to men’s lower average life span, meaning there are lots of widowed women. More than half of women over 85 are living alone, according to census data.

A recent survey of seniors by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons found that more than 16 per cent of respondents reported lacking companionship. Fourteen per cent said they have nobody to talk to.

And another survey by the Vancouver Foundation in 2012 found that 25 per cent of residents of that city said they were alone more often than they would like to be.

Public health programs

Holt-Lunstad would like to see information about the effects of loneliness be included in public health programs in the same way information about the dangers of smoking or obesity is.

“I’ve heard people say things like, ‘You can’t put good relationships in the water.’ Or, ‘We can’t legislate that like we may be able to do with a Clean Air Act,’” she said. While that’s true, she believes people should prioritize their relationships in the same way that many have started to do with regular exercise.

“If we approach it as we can all be working on nurturing and fostering our own relationships, this may have a much broader population-wide impact.”

She also believes that research about the health impacts of loneliness should be included in medical training so that doctors can screen their patients for social isolation and provide information when needed. Kids should also learn about relationships the same way that they learn about nutrition, as a way to prevent future problems.

Holt-Lunstad’s research will be published next month in the journal The American Psychologist.


By Leslie Young   National Online Journalist, Investigative       Global News


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How to Train Your Brain To Stop Overthinking

Overthinking may be something you want to train your brain to stop doing, especially if it causes problems for you. For example, does your overthinking lead to a negative mood or increase your level of anxiety? Does it stop you from doing things that you need to get done? Are you procrastinating making a decision because you want to weigh all of the possible outcomes?

Overthinking can have negative consequences for those who are chronic worriers. Focusing on future uncertainties makes us anxious when we feel a lack of control. Overthinking can also keep us from enjoying the present moment. Let’s explore ways to train your brain to stop overthinking and start appreciating what is here for us in the now.

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara showed images of kaleidoscope colors to study participants and then tested their ability to remember if they had seen an image before. Participants who took their best guess at the memory test did better than those who spent time trying to remember colors and patterns. The overthinkers focused their brain power on recalling the visual information that they were presented with did less well than those who did not focus their attention on remembering details.

The researchers say that this study shows ‘why paying attention can be a distraction and affect performance outcomes.’ The area of the brain in our prefrontal cortex that is active when we pay attention is the dorsolateral area. Participants with less prefrontal cortex stimulation during the test remembered the images better. In other words, paying more attention to details actually hurt their ability to remember what they had seen.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO STOP OVERTHINKING AND SEE THE BIG PICTURE

The research shows that a more broad overview approach may be better for recalling complex images. To train your brain to process information this way, try to imagine taking in all of the details at once, as if your brain is taking a photo and seeing all of the pieces of information at once.

You can practice underthinking by finding a picture book, opening to a random page and looking at an image for 5 seconds. Close the book and try to recall everything that you saw. The short amount of time prevents your brain from overthinking, but you will be surprised at how much you can recall. Try this repeatedly until you feel more confident in your brain’s ability to process information quickly.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY

There are things you can know, and things you may never know. Overthinkers have trained their brains to focus on the uncertainties because they are trying to solve them. For an overthinker, their brain is like that of a two year old constantly seeking answers. Although some questions can be answered, overthinkers may tend to dwell on those that can’t.

Or at least they think they can’t be answered, for example ‘What could they possibly have meant when they said that’ could be easily answered by asking the person to clarify their meaning. ‘I wonder what they think of me’ could be answered by asking the person whose opinion you are overthinking. Either seek the answer to the question that you are overthinking, or tell your brain that you’ll have to be okay with not knowing the answer.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO OBSERVE YOUR NEGATIVE SELF-THINKING

Meta-thinking is thinking about how you think, which requires some self-observation. If you’re reading this article and have concerns about your overthinking, you are already aware of your own unproductive thinking patterns. People who experience distress about overthinking usually have negative thoughts about themselves because of their thoughts.

Allowing negative thoughts to exist while rejecting them as being part of what we identify as ‘self’ is part of a technique that can help overthinkers. Researchers in the journal Behavior Therapy found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) helped people to feel more self-compassion rather than negative emotions about their overthinking. People who went through MBCT therapy experienced less stress associated with their thoughts.

FIND ONE THING YOU CAN CONTROL

If overthinking is happening because you need to gain control over a situation, then find one concrete action step that you can do to gain back some sense of control. For example, writing down the problem is simple and it allows your brain to stop trying to remember the issue. Then identify one more thing you can do that will be a step in the right direction, for example, making a phone call to get more information.



REFERENCES:
HTTP://THEMINDUNLEASHED.COM/2014/09/8-WAYS-STOP-THINKING-FIND-PEACE.HTML
UC SANTA BARBARA
HTTP://WWW.NEWS.UCSB.EDU/2013/013593/OVERTHINKING-CAN-BE-DETRIMENTAL-HUMAN-PERFORMANCE
MINDFULNESS
HTTPS://WWW.INFONA.PL/RESOURCE/BWMETA1.ELEMENT.ELSEVIER-8BD302D8-2A24-3686-9CFC-C75269D9138D


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10 Habits That Improve Mental Health

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran

Some argue that mental health is just as important as physical health; fair enough, but one could make a strong case that the former supersedes the latter. Without proper mental faculties, no level of physical prowess will overcome this weakness.

Our state of mental health is dynamic in the sense that it affects everything every experience. For example, when our mental health is good, our job performance, relationships, and overall quality of life are good as well. When it’s suffering, we cannot effectively navigate our daily life.

As important is mental health is, it’s quite easy to take for granted. In an externally-focused world, it is easy to succumb to social pressures that place physical attributes (e.g., appearance, body weight) over the mental. Furthermore, those that do seek consolation for any mental health problems fear being stigmatized, perceived as “weak,” or otherwise being negatively judged.

The truth is that mental health problems are not a character weakness – they are a chemical imbalance in the brain. Plain and simple. Nothing less and nothing more.

We do, whether we realize it or not, have a responsibility to maintain our mental health. This responsibility should be second-to-none.

Which brings us to the topic of this article: ways to maintain and improve your mental health.

HERE ARE 10 SUCH WAYS:

1. VALUE YOURSELF.

It’s natural to be our “own worst enemy” at times; harshly criticizing any (real or perceivable) mistake, and continually punishing ourselves psychologically.

Despite this default mechanism, make every attempt to practice some self-compassion (there are many ways of doing this, meditation among them.) Allocate time for the things that you enjoy, such as your favorite hobbies.

Put simply: do things that make you feel good about being you!

2. CARE FOR YOUR BODY.

The connection between physical and mental health is well-established. As such, it is important to take care of your body. Here are some things you can do:

– Do not smoke
– Drink a lot of water
– Get at least 30 minutes of exercise
– Sleep at least 7 to 9 hours per night
– Eat a well-balanced diet; avoiding high-fat and sweet foods and drinks

 

3. WATCH YOUR SOCIAL CIRCLE.

Not everyone is blessed to have solid family ties, which (unsurprisingly) helps with mental development. That said, it’s our responsibility to allow the “right kinds” of people into our life. This means supporting family members and/or friends; as well as searching for social events that can bring good people into your life.

4. GIVE WHAT YOU CAN.

You don’t need to give away half your paycheck to reap the mental health benefits of generosity. Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else; find a worthy cause you can fully support and stick with it.

5. UNDERSTAND AND PRACTICE STRESS-MANAGEMENT.

Here’s an uncomfortable truth: some of us are atrocious at managing stress. These types of people face significant disadvantages in terms of both physical and mental well-being.

Several structured stress-management systems exist, and many of them are quite effective. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is one worth mentioning. There are also plenty of simple stress-reduction techniques that can help, such as moment-to-moment mindfulness.

6. SILENCE YOUR MIND.

Our minds possess exceptional powers. Unfortunately, our minds can also be a liability. We can develop habits such as overthinking that threaten our mental states. As such, it’s important to practice techniques to counteract our “monkey mind.” Among them: mindfulness, prayer, deep breathing, relaxation techniques.

7. LOOK AT YOUR JOB

Job-related mental health problems are attributed their inherent stressful requirements. Certain professions, according to health.com, are associated with higher levels of depression (e.g. nurses, teachers, salespeople).

Should you suspect that your job is taking a dramatic toll on your mental health, it may be time to consider your options. Not many jobs are fun, but they shouldn’t be stressful as to threaten your mental stability.

8. GET RID OF ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS

Sure, booze and pills can offer some temporary stress relief. However, when this behavior becomes habitual, it manifests into some other severe problems.

The challenge lies in making people “see the light” when it comes to alcohol and drug use. More specifically, that the long-term consequences of their use are NOT worth it.

9. SHAKE THINGS UP

Monotony is an inductor of stress. When we do the same thing, day in and day out, accumulated stress can pose a (sometimes severe) threat to our mental health. Find a way to mix in something enjoyable, or find ways to “switch up” your approach to work, hobbies, and other routine activities.

10. GET SOME HELP

In the U.S., many employers offer something called an employee assistance program, or EAP. EAP is designed to help employees “with personal problems and/or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, mental and emotional well-being.” Other advanced countries offer something similar.

Regardless if it’s a board-certified psychiatrist or someone you look up to, find an outlet. Remember: getting help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and courage.

SOURCES:
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN. UNIVERSITY HEALTH SERVICE. (2017). RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 02, 2017, FROM HTTPS://WWW.UHS.UMICH.EDU/TENTHINGS
WIKIPEDIA. EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM. (N.D.). RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 02, 2017, FROM HTTPS://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/EMPLOYEE_ASSISTANCE_PROGRAM
WORTH, T. (N.D.). 10 CAREERS WITH HIGH RATES OF DEPRESSION. RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 02, 2017, FROM HTTP://WWW.HEALTH.COM/HEALTH/GALLERY/0,,20428990,00.HTML/VIEW-ALL