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The 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

The 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

Do you practice any of these unproductive mental health habits? This article discusses the most common pitfalls that people engage in that hurt our mental health and why they are so damaging.

Health.com / Carey Rossi@goodhealth  /  Nov. 3, 2014

Change these simple, everyday routines to live a happier life

Depression is usually brought on by factors beyond our control—the death of a loved one, a job loss, or financial troubles. But the small choices you make every day may also affect your mood more than you may realize. Your social media habits, exercise routine, and even the way you walk may be sucking the happiness out of your day, and you may not even know it. Luckily, these behaviors can be changed. Read on for 12 ways you’re sabotaging your good moods, and what you can do to turn it around.

How we feel can affect the way we walk, but the inverse is also true, finds a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. Researchers found that when subjects were asked to walk with shoulders slouched, hunched over, and with minimum arm movements, they experienced worse moods than those who had more pep in their steps. What’s more, participants who walked in the slouchy style remembered more negative things rather than positive things. Talk about depressing.

Get happy now: Lift your chin up and roll your shoulders back to keep your outlook on the positive side.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Sufferers Have More Than Just Winter Blues

What are the winter blues? Can you just power through until the Spring? Should you seek treatment or are there things you can do to improve your mood? Dr. Rohan answers these questions in this article. SAD expert Kelly Rohan, PhD, explains the difference

Reporters/editors/producers note: The following feature was produced by the American Psychological Association. You may reprint it in its entirety or in part. We only request that you credit APA as the source.

7 New Year's Resolutions To Stop Making + What To Do Instead

How often have your new year's resolutions failed? For a majority of individuals, the answer is most if not all. Often the problem has to do with the type of resolution you set and whether it is truly achievable. Unfortunately, many set unrealistic goals and once they "fall off the wagon" feel they failed.  This article discusses the most common resolutions and how to go about setting yourself up for success.

BY JINI CICERO DECEMBER 29, 2014 5:17 AM EST

Every January 1, millions of people make New Year's resolutions. Chances are, they won't stick around for too long. Why?

Because most resolutions are unrealistic, or even unreasonable. Here are seven outdated fitness and nutrition resolutions that are destined — and deserve — to fail, along with smarter options to make sure you follow through and succeed.

Why Erotic Romance Books Are Good For You

Can erotic romances be good for you? There are multiple reasons why these books can help you improve your love life beyond providing entertainment.

By Charlotte Rose

Although erotic romance books have been around for a long time, they have experienced an amazing resurgence since Fifty Shades of Grey.  And they have gone mainstream! 

When I wrote my first erotic romance 20 years ago, it was sold in the secret back section of book stores or sex novelty shops, or by mail order, in a plain brown wrapper. How things have changed!  Books are so much more accessible now due the advent of the e-reader, the convenience (and addictive nature) of technological wonders such as the Amazon “one click” buying method, and the explosion in self-published books in the erotic romance genre.

Speaking of Psychology: Music and your health

Can music help improve your physical and mental health? Listen to this 10 minute lecture of music and its healing effects. Can music make us healthier or even smarter? Can it change how we experience pain? In this episode, former rock musician and studio producer Daniel Levitin, PhD, talks about how music changes our brain’s chemistry and affects our health.

Click on link below to listen to lecture.

Link to lecture

Depression, the secret we share

Andrew Solomon shares his experience of depression and poses many challenging questions within this Ted Talk.  Is the opposite of depression not happiness but vitality? What role does our shame about mental illness play in maintaining our silence and avoiding treatment? Is access to treatment prejudiced by our expectations? Link to Ted talk

Treating Depression Helps Some Smokers Quit

Does depression make quitting smoking more difficult? This study seems to find that treating depression does help people quit smoking. Read more to find out.

Sep. 19, 2013 — Studies have shown that people with depression are about twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as people without depression and they are less likely to successfully quit than smokers without depression. A new evidence review in The Cochrane Library finds that depressed smokers may stop smoking longer and benefit overall from mood management interventions after they quit smoking.

“Health professionals should encourage their smoking patients with depression to use a smoking cessation intervention that includes a psychosocial mood management component,” said the study’s lead author Regina van der Meer, MPH, a researcher at the Dutch Expert Centre on Tobacco Control.

The researchers studied 49 randomized controlled trials, including 33 trials that focused on smoking cessation with a mood management element for those with current or past depression. The analysis compared both smoking cessation programs using psychosocial interventions, like counseling or exercise, and those using bupropion, an antidepressant to standard non-smoking programs.

When psychosocial components were added, smokers were able to stop smoking for longer periods. While bupropion was effective for those with a history of depression, it was not found to be effective for smokers with current depression.

Gregory L. Kirk, M.D., director of Rocky Mountain Psychiatry Consultants, LLC in Denver, who agreed with the review’s findings, emphasized that smokers with depression, past or present, have more medical problems from smoking and higher death rates from smoking-related illnesses.

“In a standard smoking cessation program, people with depression are more likely to have negative mood changes from nicotine withdrawal, but the non-depressed group can experience mood states as well. But when depressed smokers quit, depression symptoms may actually improve. This makes it all the more critical to understand this high-risk group of smokers and what helps them quit tobacco,” he said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Health Behavior News Service.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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Diabetes + Depression = Increased Risk of Death, Review Finds

Can depression lead to death in people with diabetes? According to new research depression causes people with diabetes to follow a cycle of hopelessness, poor self care and increased risk of other health conditions. This in turn leads to increased mortality. This study urges integrative care to address the depression in individuals with diabetes.

Feb. 21, 2013 — People living with diabetes who also have untreated depression are at increased risk of death, according to a new evidence review in General Hospital Psychiatry.

 More than 42,000 patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and depression were analyzed in the review. The reviewers discovered that depression was associated with a 1.5 fold increase in the risk of dying. In four of the studies reviewed, co-morbid depression was linked to about a 20 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death for people with diabetes.

Diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the U.S., according to the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet, and about 30 percent of these people also experience symptoms of depression.

"Depression consistently increased the risk of mortality across virtually all studies," said Mijung Park, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. "We can now postulate that the harmful effect of depression is universal to individuals with diabetes."

Todd Brown, M.D., associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said it is very common to see a patient go into a downward spiral when obesity-related co-morbidities, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression converge.

"Obesity can lead to worsening metabolic status that can lead to hopelessness and decreased physical activity, which in turns worsens obesity, and the cycle continues," he explained.

The encouraging news is that depression is a highly treatable condition, said Park. Because depression can make diabetes self-care more difficult and lessen quality of life, she suggested that depression treatment should be included in overall diabetes care strategies.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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In the Brain, Broken Down 'Motors' Cause Anxiety

Having "motors" in the brain not working properly might lead to less serotonin getting to where it needs to go, in turn leading to higher levels of anxiety. This is promising new research that can lead to medication that "fixes" the "motors" and restores serotonin pathways and levels. Read article below for further details.

Feb. 7, 2013 — When motors break down, getting where you want to go becomes a struggle. Problems arise in much the same way for critical brain receptors when the molecular motors they depend on fail to operate. Now, researchers reporting in Cell Reports, a Cell Press publication, on February 7, have shown these broken motors induce stress and anxiety in mice. The discovery may point the way to new kinds of drugs to treat anxiety and other disorders.

The study in mice focuses on one motor in particular, known as KIF13A, which, according to the new evidence, is responsible for ferrying serotonin receptors. Without proper transportation, those receptors fail to reach the surface of neurons and, as a result, animals show signs of heightened anxiety.

In addition to their implications for understanding anxiety, the findings also suggest that defective molecular motors may be a more common and underappreciated cause of disease.

"Most proteins are transported in vesicles or as protein complexes by molecular motors," said Nobutaka Hirokawa of the University of Tokyo. "As shown in this study, defective motors could cause many diseases."

Scientists know that serotonin and serotonin receptors are involved in anxiety, aggression, and mood. But not much is known about how those players get around within cells. When Hirokawa's team discovered KIF13A at high levels in the brain, they wondered what it did.

The researchers discovered that mice lacking KIF13A show greater anxiety in both open-field and maze tests and suggest that this anxious behavior may stem from an underlying loss of serotonin receptor transport, which leads to a lower level of expression of those receptors in critical parts of the brain.

"Collectively, our results suggest a role for this molecular motor in anxiety control," the researchers wrote. Hirokawa says the search should now be on for anti-anxiety drug candidates aimed at restoring the brain's serotonin receptor transport service.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Link to article

How to make stress your friend-Ted talk

Can how we think about stress make us healthier and stronger? Can seeking social support extend our lifespan despite our stress level?  Watch this insightful Ted talk and find out. http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend.html

Anxious? Activate Your Anterior Cingulate Cortex With a Little Meditation

Practicing mindful meditation lights up the parts of the brain that control thinking emotions such as worry are activated. Anxiety levels are reduced.

June 4, 2013 — Scientists, like Buddhist monks and Zen masters, have known for years that meditation can reduce anxiety, but not how. Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, however, have succeeded in identifying the brain functions involved.

"Although we've known that meditation can reduce anxiety, we hadn't identified the specific brain mechanisms involved in relieving anxiety in healthy individuals," said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow in neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study. "In this study, we were able to see which areas of the brain were activated and which were deactivated during meditation-related anxiety relief."

The study is published in the current edition of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

For the study, 15 healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety were recruited for the study. These individuals had no previous meditation experience or anxiety disorders. All subjects participated in four 20-minute classes to learn a technique known as mindfulness meditation. In this form of meditation, people are taught to focus on breath and body sensations and to non-judgmentally evaluate distracting thoughts and emotions.

Both before and after meditation training, the study participants' brain activity was examined using a special type of imaging -- arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging -- that is very effective at imaging brain processes, such as meditation. In addition, anxiety reports were measured before and after brain scanning.

The majority of study participants reported decreases in anxiety. Researchers found that meditation reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39 percent.

"This showed that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety," Zeidan said.

The study revealed that meditation-related anxiety relief is associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain involved with executive-level function. During meditation, there was more activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls worrying. In addition, when activity increased in the anterior cingulate cortex -- the area that governs thinking and emotion -- anxiety decreased.

"Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings," Zeidan said. "Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful."

Research at other institutions has shown that meditation can significantly reduce anxiety in patients with generalized anxiety and depression disorders. The results of this neuroimaging experiment complement that body of knowledge by showing the brain mechanisms associated with meditation-related anxiety relief in healthy people, he said.

Support for the study was provided by the Mind and Life Institute's Francisco J. Varela Grant, the National Institutes of Health grant NS3926 and the Biomolecular Imaging Center at Wake Forest Baptist.

Co-authors are Katherine Martucci, Ph.D., Robert Kraft, Ph.D., John McHaffie, Ph.D., and Robert Coghill, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist.

 

Link to article

'Personality Genes' May Help Account for Longevity

Laughing, being optimistic, staying engaged in activities, and being outgoing can help you live longer? These personality traits appear to be common among those that live to be 100. May 24, 2012 — "It's in their genes" is a common refrain from scientists when asked about factors that allow centenarians to reach age 100 and beyond. Up until now, research has focused on genetic variations that offer a physiological advantage such as high levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. But researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology of Yeshiva University have found that personality traits like being outgoing, optimistic, easygoing, and enjoying laughter as well as staying engaged in activities may also be part of the longevity genes mix.

The findings, published online May 21 in the journal Aging, come from Einstein's Longevity Genes Project, which includes over 500 Ashkenazi Jews over the age of 95, and 700 of their offspring. Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews were selected because they are genetically homogeneous, making it easier to spot genetic differences within the study population.

Previous studies have indicated that personality arises from underlying genetic mechanisms that may directly affect health. The present study of 243 of the centenarians (average age 97.6 years, 75 percent women) was aimed at detecting genetically-based personality characteristics by developing a brief measure (the Personality Outlook Profile Scale, or POPS) of personality in centenarians.

"When I started working with centenarians, I thought we'd find that they survived so long in part because they were mean and ornery," said Nir Barzilai, M.D., the Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert Chair of Aging Research, director of Einstein's Institute for Aging Research and co-corresponding author of the study. "But when we assessed the personalities of these 243 centenarians, we found qualities that clearly reflect a positive attitude towards life. Most were outgoing, optimistic and easygoing. They considered laughter an important part of life and had a large social network. They expressed emotions openly rather than bottling them up." In addition, the centenarians had lower scores for displaying neurotic personality and higher scores for being conscientious compared with a representative sample of the U.S. population.

"Some evidence indicates that personality can change between the ages of 70 and 100, so we don't know whether our centenarians have maintained their personality traits across their entire lifespans," continued Dr. Barzilai. "Nevertheless, our findings suggest that centenarians share particular personality traits and that genetically-based aspects of personality may play an important role in achieving both good health and exceptional longevity."

The study is titled "Positive attitude towards life and emotional expression as personality phenotypes for centenarians." The POPS was developed by lead author Kaori Kato, Psy.D., now at Weill Cornell Medical College, who validated it through comparisons with two previously established measures of personality traits. Other authors of the study were Richard Zweig, Ph.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Einstein and director of the Older Adult Program at Ferkauf, and Gil Atzmon, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine and of genetics at Einstein.

Link to article

Yoga Helps Ease Stress Related Medical and Psychological Conditions, Study Suggests

Yoga might increase GABA activity, low GABA (neurotransmitter) is linked to anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, epilepsy, and chronic pain. So practicing yoga might reduce distress from these disorders. Mar. 6, 2012 — An article by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), New York Medical College (NYMC), and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (CCPS) reviews evidence that yoga may be effective in treating patients with stress-related psychological and medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease. Their theory, which currently appears online in Medical Hypotheses, could be used to develop specific mind-body practices for the prevention and treatment of these conditions in conjunction with standard treatments.

It is hypothesized that stress causes an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (parasympathetic under-activity and sympathetic over-activity) as well as under-activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). Low GABA activity occurs in anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, epilepsy, and chronic pain. According to the researchers, the hypothesis advanced in this paper could explain why vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) works to decrease both seizure frequency and the symptoms of depression.

"Western and Eastern medicine complement one another. Yoga is known to improve stress-related nervous system imbalances," said Chris Streeter, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM and Boston Medical Center, who is the study's lead author. Streeter believes that "This paper provides a theory, based on neurophysiology and neuroanatomy, to understand how yoga helps patients feel better by relieving symptoms in many common disorders."

An earlier study by BUSM researchers comparing a walking group and a yoga group over a 12-week period found no increase in GABA levels in the walking group, whereas the yoga group showed increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety. In another 12-week BUSM study, patients with chronic low back pain responded to a yoga intervention with increased GABA levels and significant reduction in pain compared to a group receiving standard care alone.

In crafting this neurophysiological theory of how yoga affects the nervous system, Streeter collaborated with Patricia Gerbarg, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at NYMC, Domenic A. Ciraulo, MD, chairman of psychiatry at BUSM, Robert Saper, MD MPH, associate professor of family medicine at BUSM, and Richard P. Brown, MD, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at CCPS. They are beginning test these theories by incorporating mind-body therapies such as yoga in their clinical studies of a wide range of stress-related medical and psychological conditions.

Link to article

Mental Illness and Marriage

I was interviewed on how mental illness affects marriage and how to cope. Listen to the podcast.

What kind of impact does mental illness have on a marriage?

In today’s society, it’s becoming more and more common for individuals to be living with some sort of mental health condition or illness like anxiety or depression. And while there are many issues and conditions that present themselves in different, unique ways, oftentimes the effects on a marriage are very similar.

In addition to anxiety and depression, some people suffer from more extreme conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse problems. When these issues creep in without the proper treatment, their impact on a marriage and the individual can be fundamentally problematic. In some situations, the partner without the condition will have to pick up the slack for the other. And in many cases, couples will begin to suffer from tension and exhaustion within their marriage.

Our guest today is Dr. Nerina Garcia, a clinical psychologist with Williamsburg Therapy and Wellness in Brooklyn, NY. Nerina is here to give us some advice about how couples and individuals can learn to cope with mental illnesses within marriages while building a network of support.

To find out more about Nerina and her practice, visit her website or call (917) 816-4449.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

Link to podcast

Preventing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder by Facing Trauma Memories

This article discusses the benefits of facing our painful memories, challenging our beliefs about the traumatic experience, self care and breathing exercises.

Nov. 27, 2012 Sciencedaily.com— Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a form of learning that begins at the moment of the exposure to extremely stressful situations and that grows in impact as trauma-related memories are rehearsed and strengthened repeatedly. This somewhat oversimplified view of PTSD yields a powerful prediction: if one could disrupt the rehearsal and strengthening of traumatic memories, a process called reconsolidation of memories, then one might reduce PTSD risk or PTSD severity after potentially traumatic events.

To be certain, it is tricky to attempt to alter traumatic memory reconsolidation. In fact, some early strategies for "trauma debriefing" turned out to strengthen rather than diminish posttraumatic learning.

Despite these challenges, a new study by Dr. Barbara Rothbaum and colleagues reports that a behavioral intervention delivered to patients immediately post-trauma is effective at reducing posttraumatic stress reactions.

"PTSD is a major public health concern," said Rothbaum, professor in Emory's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. "In so many people, what happens immediately after a traumatic event can make things worse or better. Right now, there are no accepted interventions delivered in the immediate aftermath of trauma."

To conduct the study, the researchers approached patients who presented to the local emergency room due to a traumatic event, including rape, car accident, or physical assault. Half of those who agreed to participate received the behavioral intervention, which was started immediately, while the other half did not. All patients were repeatedly assessed for symptoms of depression and stress over a twelve-week period.

The intervention is a modified form of exposure therapy in which a survivor confronts anxiety about a traumatic event by recounting it. Administered over the course of 3 1-hour sessions, the goal is to alter the person's thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event. Trained therapists asked the participants to describe the trauma they just experienced and recorded the description. The patients were instructed to listen to their recordings every day. The therapists also helped the patients look at obtrusive thoughts of guilt or responsibility, and taught them a brief breathing relaxation technique and self care.

They found that the intervention was safe, feasible, and successful at reducing posttraumatic stress reactions, compared to those who were assigned to the assessment-only condition, at 4 and 12 weeks post-injury.

"This study provides an elegant and clinically important test of the trauma reconsolidation hypothesis," commented Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry.

The implications of this study are immense, Rothbaum explained. "If we know what to do, then we can train emergency workers to intervene with patients on a large scale. In addition to being implemented in the emergency room, it can help on the battlefield, in natural disasters, or after criminal assaults."

She concluded, "More research is needed, but this prevention model could have significant public health implications. A long-standing hope of mental health research is to prevent the development of psychopathology in those at risk instead of being limited to symptom treatment after disease onset."

Elsevier (2012, November 27). Preventing posttraumatic stress disorder by facing trauma memories. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/11/121127094102.htm

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