When stress affects your brain and its many nerve connections, the rest of the body is affected as well. Alternatively, if your body feels better, so will your mind. Exercise and other forms of physical activity release endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that work as natural painkillers. They also enhance sleep quality, which decreases stress.
Exercise is important for maintaining mental health and can help alleviate stress. According to research, it is particularly good in reducing tiredness, increasing alertness and attention, and improving general cognitive performance. This is especially useful if anxiety has sapped your energy or ability to focus.
Regular exercise, according to some research, works as well as medicine for some people in reducing feelings of anxiety and depression, and the results can be long-lasting. A strenuous exercise session can help relieve symptoms for hours, and a regular plan can help lessen them significantly over time.
Here are some excises to do if you are burdened with anxiety
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) for anxiety
Progressive muscle relaxation aims to show your brain what it feels like for your muscles to be relaxed and tension-free. Make yourself at ease in a seated position before beginning PMR. Flex each major muscle group for 10 seconds, then release for 10 seconds, beginning at the tips of your toes and working your way up. Continue to the next muscle group, flexing for 10 seconds and then releasing for 10 seconds.
Square breathing exercises for anxiety
Square breathing helps to balance the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bodies, which can go out of balance when we are anxious. Breathing in, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding it again for four counts each is square breathing.
Repeat the cycle for a few minutes. This anxiety reduction technique improves relaxation and better thinking, which aids in the resetting of emotional peaks.
The result, like other types of therapy, might vary: some individuals may respond well, others may feel it has no influence on their mood, and some may only have a minor short-term gain. Nonetheless, studies believe that the benefits of exercise on physical and mental health are undeniable and that people should be encouraged to be physically active.
Since the dawn of time, loneliness has existed as a phenomenon that we all encounter. Every single one of us experiences it occasionally, and it can happen amid life transitions like the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or a relocation to a new place. Researchers refer to this type of loneliness as reactive loneliness.
Chronic loneliness is more likely to develop when people lack the emotional, mental, or financial resources to get out and meet their social requirements, or when they lack a social circle that can give them these advantages.
Loneliness may occur even when people are surrounded by others—on the subway, in a classroom, or even with their wives and children. Loneliness is not synonymous with intentional isolation or solitude. Rather, loneliness is characterised by people’s degrees of happiness with their connectivity or their perceived social isolation.
Prolonged isolation can have a negative impact on physical and mental health, affecting sleep and dietary patterns and diminishing opportunities for mobility (Cacioppo and Hawkley, 2003). As a result, the natural channels of human expression and enjoyment become depressed, affecting mood and subjective well-being (Nardone and Speciani, 2015).
Those who are lonely may develop harmful behaviours if they do not receive support from family or friends. Loneliness is related to emotions of emptiness, despair, and humiliation, as well as a subjective impression of being cut off from people. It can occur not just in the setting of social isolation, but it can also extend beyond this and be felt even while people are physically present. Loneliness, like social isolation, has been associated with depression, elevated cortisol levels, reduced immunity, and clinical illness, with attendant increases in hospital time and frequency.
Loneliness is more likely to strike elderly persons when they are suffering from functional limitations and have no family support. Loneliness in elderly persons is reduced by increased social engagement and less family tension. Loneliness can cause long-term “fight-or-flight” stress signals, which can impair immune system function. Simply put, persons who are lonely have lower immunity and more inflammation than those who are not.
Everyone’s experience with social isolation is unique, and what works for you may not work for someone else. Keeping a journal and writing about your social experiences may also be beneficial. A therapist may also be a valuable resource, assisting you in working through feelings of isolation and toward a more connected lifestyle. Learn more about improving your memory power by taking our online course. Click here to get started.
Have you found yourself irritable, sad or close to tears when watching the news lately? If so, you are not alone.
Experiencing empathy has its benefits, but there are also many downsides to it, which is why we must learn to practise healthy empathy.
Empathy is an ability to sync emotionally and cognitively with another person; it is a capacity to perceive a world from their perspective or share their emotional experiences. It is essential for building and maintaining relationships, as it helps us connect with others at a deeper level. It is also associated with higher self-esteem and life purpose.
There are broadly two types of empathy: cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Emotional empathy is about sharing feelings with others to the extent that you may experience pain when watching someone in pain, or experience distress when watching someone in distress. This is what happens to many people when they watch upsetting news on TV, especially when they relate to specific people and their lives.
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But emotional empathy isn’t just about experiencing negative emotions. Empathetic people may experience an abundance of positivity when watching other people’s joy, happiness, excitement, or serenity and can get more out of music and other daily pleasures.
While this emotional contagion is suitable for positive states, having too much empathy when watching people suffer can be very upsetting and even lead to mental health problems. Too much empathy towards others, especially when we prioritise other people’s emotions over our own, may result in experiences of anxiety and depression, which explains why so many of us feel bad when watching the news about the war in Ukraine.
The other type of empathy – cognitive empathy – refers to seeing the world through other people’s eyes, seeing it from their perspective, putting ourselves into their shoes without necessarily experiencing the associated emotions and, for example, watching the news and understanding at a cognitive level why people feel despair, distress or anger. This process may lead to emotional empathy or even somatic empathy, where empathy has a physiological effect (somatic being from the ancient Greek word “soma” meaning body).
The effect of empathy on the body has been well documented. For example, parents experiencing high levels of empathy towards their children tend to have chronic low-grade inflammation, leading to lower immunity. Also, our heart beats to the same rhythm when we empathise with others. So the impact of empathy when watching the news is both psychological and physiological. In some circumstances, it may result in what some refer to as “compassion fatigue”.
The burnout experienced by excessive empathy has traditionally been termed compassion fatigue. But more recently, using MRI studies, neuroscientists have argued that this is a misnomer, and that compassion does not cause fatigue. The distinction is important because it turns out that compassion is the antidote to the distress we feel when we empathise with people who are suffering. We need less empathy and more compassion.
Empathy and compassion are distinct events in the brain. Empathy for another person’s pain activates areas in the brain associated with negative emotions. Because we feel the other person’s pain, the boundary between the self and others can become blurred if we do not have good boundaries or self-regulation skills and we experience “emotional contagion”.
Everyone has bad days when they are exhausted, irritated, and depressed. It’s natural to feel unhappy in response to painful life events, loss, or changes, but these feelings can linger for a long time if left ignored, making it difficult to get through each day.
Depression affects practically every aspect of your life, interfering with how you think, feel, and perform daily tasks from sleeping, working to socialising.
Although important life events can impact some people’s despair, the truth is that depression can strike anyone at any time with no cause or warning. In reality, depression is one of the most frequent mood disorders, affecting 8.7% of women and 5.3% of men each year. According to research, genetics, biology, environment, and psychology can all have a part in depression.
It’s crucial to remember that depression can range from moderate to severe, but even mild episodes should be addressed seriously. Depression is not only a “poor mood” or something that can be “snapped out of,” but it is very curable.
If you have severe depression, you will most likely notice the following symptoms:
A pessimistic perspective or catastrophic thinking
Suicide is a genuine threat to those of us who are severely depressed. Some suicides go unreported because they are mislabelled as accidents, drug overdoses, or shootings. Up to 15% of adults with untreated depression will commit suicide.
Be mindful that suicidal behaviour is frequently impulsive. Remove any weapons, medicines, or other potential means of self-harm. Ask a trusted individual to keep a gun or other weapon away from you. Get rid of unused pills by putting them in a bag with cat litter or dirt and throwing the entire package away. By removing such items from your environment, you may gain valuable time to resist a suicide inclination and consider alternate ways to cope with your grief.
If you see any of these significant depression signs in yourself or someone you care about, seek treatment immediately. According to the APA, major depression is a fairly curable condition in most people, with a wide range of drugs and therapies that have been demonstrated to help. Check out our online course on how to take care of your memory and other memory loss-related illnesses. Click here to get started.
The word “gut” isn’t exactly the most pleasant word in the English language, and maybe that’s because nothing is more unpleasant than an unhappy gut. From constipation to irritable bowel syndrome to chronic acid reflux, your gut—also known as your gastrointestinal tract—seems to know exactly how to ruin your day.
You may exercise and manage your stress and get plenty of sleep, but if you aren’t paying attention to your gut health, your overall health will suffer. On the other hand, when your tummy is happy, you’ll process food better, feel more energetic, and even better ward off illnesses through a strengthened immune system.
Thankfully, tending to your gut’s needs isn’t expensive or complicated: In fact, here are a few foods that contribute to your GI health.
Listen to your grandmother and eat more prunes. These dried plums are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber combines with bile acids in your intestines and then forms a gel that’s passed.
You may have heard of probiotics, but how familiar are you with prebiotics? Most cultures naturally include prebiotic foods in their diets, but Americans have managed to eliminate most healthy foods from our plates and that includes vegetables like asparagus, artichokes, and leeks.
Prebiotics are the only foods that feed good bacteria in our guts, and that good bacteria plays a role in improved digestion, lowered stress response, and lower risk for weight gain.
Prebiotics and probiotics work together to maintain gut health; kefir happens to have both, which makes it synbiotic. Kefir is a type of yogurt, and it’s great at feeding lactobacillus, bacteria that helps with lactose intolerance and overall gut health.
In fact, check out the BBC’s study that showed how significantly people who drank kefir improved in overall gut health. There’s one catch, though: Store-bought kefir usually contains much lower amounts of probiotics and prebiotics, so save some cash and make your own.
Gut bacteria have an important role in your mood and mental wellness. They can alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, but they can also exacerbate them.
Trillions of bacterial cells live in your colon, forming a unique environment known as the gut microbiome. Their functions influence your brain in addition to allowing nutrients into the body and keeping opportunistic microorganisms out.
When the body is stressed, it undergoes a sequence of changes that send all energy and key resources to the muscles and brain. Stress also leads the body to release cortisol, which can all have an impact on the gut microbiota.
Similarly, if your gut microbiota is out of balance (dysbiosis), your general mood can suffer. This is due to the fact that the activity of your gut bacteria affects stress and anxiety – a balanced microbiome can promote stress resilience, but an imbalanced microbiome can harm your mental health.
Your gut microbiota needs to be diverse to sustain your health, and diversity helps keep it balanced. However, if it is not balanced — a condition known as dysbiosis — opportunistic bacteria can take advantage of the situation and multiply, resulting in inflammation.
Because your body does not desire opportunistic bacteria, your immune system is activated, causing inflammation. Inflammation, interestingly, can cause depression and sadness can cause inflammation. However, a diversified microbiota can help to reduce inflammation.
Controlling inflammation can thus assist to enhance both mood and anxiety. Diet is one approach to boost the abundance of certain bacteria while decreasing inflammation. Because fibre is a vital source of energy for beneficial gut bacteria, they flourish on a natural, plant-based diet.
It’s tempting to think of the body’s systems as distinct entities, and while they are in some ways, they are also interconnected and can influence each other’s actions. The gut and the brain are good instances of how one can influence the other.
Dysbiosis, or an imbalanced gut microbiome, has been linked to a variety of ailments, including mood disorders such as depression. Similarly, depression can produce inflammation, which disrupts the natural environment in the gut. However, encouraging evidence reveals that probiotics and prebiotics are having positive benefits on depression, anxiety, and stress resilience.
Mental health impacts every aspect of our lives, whether we’re aware of it or not. It affects how we think and feel, and guides us in our decisions and how we act around other people. Mental health also has a direct impact on individuals’ physical health—poor mental health could make an individual more susceptible to certain chronic physical conditions.1
Mental illnesses have been around just as long as humans have. Thankfully, we are now living in a society that is beginning to understand the importance of discussing these issues and offering acceptance to the individuals in our lives who struggle with their mental well-being.
In “This is Depression”, psychiatrist Dr. Diane McIntosh shares what she’s experienced in the 20 years she’s been working with patients who have been diagnosed with depression. She takes readers through common causes of depression, the diagnosis process for depression, and the many possible treatment options an individual may be prescribed.
Her take on the topic is not only founded in research, but her use of stories shared by patients also provides real-life examples for anyone experiencing depression in their own life. This book is a necessary guide for anyone who faces depression— whether their own or a loved one’s— in their life.
We’ve Been Too Patient: Voices from Radical Mental Health
“We’ve Been Too Patient” is a collection of 25 stories and essays that portray the unfortunate reality of many who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Editors Kelechi Ubozoh (consultant and keynote speaker) and L.D. Green (advocate and author) diligently curated stories of mental health experiences, all in an attempt to break the stigmas that so easily surround the mental health space.
These stories, while in many cases hard to stomach, shed light on experiences of overmedication, electroconvulsive therapy, involuntary hospitalization, and other traumatic events that can forever alter someone’s life. Their discussion of the systemic problems within mental health care educates readers, empowers writers, and breaks stigmas.
Psychotherapist Julia Samuel uses hours of conversations with patients to showcase how individuals adapt differently in the face of hardship. Backed by academic, medical research, her analysis of the stories she shares clearly explains how mental health is different for every person, yet the prioritization of positive mental health (and smart, easily enforced coping mechanisms) should remain the same.
Author and mental health advocate Terri Williams knows that Black people are hurting. She knows because she is one of them. In Black Pain, Williams addresses the topic of depression, a topic that is still taboo, especially in the Black community.
With down-to-earth discussions, Williams tackles emotional pain and how it uniquely affects the Black experience, encouraging women and men to seek the help they need without feeling ashamed.
Having experienced depression first-hand after overworking herself as the head of a demanding public relations company, Williams knows what it takes to finally come to terms with your inner sorrow. She reminds us that we are brave, not cowardly, for facing our traumas head-on and finding solutions with the help of others.
Mental health is a widely discussed concept, these days. You might notice discussions about mental health online, in conversation, on your favorite show, or any number of other places.
But widespread, frequent use of any term can lead the meaning to become blurred, if not misinterpreted entirely. So, if you come across the term often but still have some uncertainty around exactly what “mental health” refers to, you’re definitely not alone.
Nurturing your mental health can also help you manage health conditions that are worsened by stress, like heart disease, says Seponara.
Your mental health can impact everything about your life, Adeeyo says, including the ways you view and move through the world and your ability to handle the things life throws at you.
That’s why building habits for better mental health can make a big difference in your day-to-day life.
As you explore new behaviors and begin incorporating them into your routine, aim to frame these changes as self-kindness, not self-punishment. Maintaining a gentle, kind attitude toward yourself can do a lot more to improve your mental health and overall outlook than criticism and negative self-talk.
“Work on your mental health from a place of care,” Davis recommends.
Sleep isn’t just a nonnegotiable for physical health. It also plays an essential role in mental health.
One 2021 studyTrusted Source included data from 273,695 adults in the United States. The researchers found that people who averaged 6 hours of sleep or less per night were about 2.5 times more likely to report frequent mental distress than those who averaged more than 6 hours of sleep.
The quality of your sleep matters, too: Disrupted sleep can contribute to mental health symptoms.
Know, too, that mental health concerns can also lead to poor sleep. So, changes to your sleep environment and nighttime routine might not make a lasting difference. If you don’t notice much improvement, connecting with a therapist may be a helpful next step.
“Constantly consuming information about other people’s lives may cause someone to compare themselves and promote feelings of low self-worth, which increases feelings of anxiety and depression,” says Adeeyo.
To spend less time on social media, try to:
keep your phone in a drawer or outside your bedroom while sleeping
make a list of alternate, more meaningful activities to replace your usual scrolling sessions
turn off notifications or delete social apps from your phone
You have plenty of options for cultivating positive connections and nurturing your friendships:
Keep in touch by checking in regularly, even with just a quick text or funny meme.
Meet up for a morning walk or breakfast.
Call for a short chat during your lunch break.
Schedule biweekly or monthly dinner dates.
Making a point to catch up when you do spend time together can make a difference, too. Research from 2018 suggests catching up and joking around in person predicted closer bonds above and beyond the number of hours participants spent together.
Movement can involve something different for every person, and it doesn’t have to mean going to the gym — unless you genuinely want to. Instead, make movement enjoyable for you by opting for physical activities that work best for your body, health, and preferences.
To get started, experiment with a range of physical activities and keep doing the ones that resonate with you.
In other words, you don’t have to do a vigorous workout to support mental wellness.
“Taking a few minutes to stretch can make a huge difference for your overall mental health. Stretching will help with blood flow and get more oxygen through your body, which can help you feel more relaxed and happy,” says Christopher S. Taylor, PhD, LPC-S, founder of Taylor Counseling Group, author of “My Digital Practice” and host of the “For Self-Examination” podcast.
I’ve been living with depression for so long that I feel like I’ve gone through every symptom the condition has to offer.
Hopelessness, check. Fatigue, check. Insomnia, check. Weight gain — and weight loss — check and check.
Living with depression is hard, no matter what symptoms you’re experiencing. Sometimes, just the act of getting out of bed can seem like such a major hurdle that you’re not sure how everyone does it every day.
And if you’re like me, sleep disturbances are a common symptom. I’ve even managed to simultaneously experience insomnia and hypersomnia (sleeping too much).
Although I’m using medication, working with a therapist, and practicing other helpful techniques that get me through the day right now, sometimes the biggest undertaking is starting the day.
Here are some tips I’ve collected over the years to pull myself out of bed (and out of deep depression).
Many people — myself included — get stuck in a routine of dragging themselves out of bed to get to work… and that’s it. We barely have time for breakfast in our routine. We’re just trying to get out the door.
But if you create a morning routine worth waking up for, you may have a different outlook for your morning.
1. Start slow: Sit up
Start with the basics: Just try to sit up. Push your pillows up, and maybe have an extra pillow stashed nearby to prop yourself up.
Sometimes just the act of sitting up can get you closer to getting up, getting ready, and starting your day.
2. What’s for breakfast? Start thinking food
Thinking about food or your first cup of coffee can be great motivation. If your stomach starts grumbling enough while you’re forcing yourself to think about eggs, bacon, and French toast, you’ll be more likely to pull yourself up.
This doesn’t always work, though, especially if you’re experiencing a loss of appetite from depression. Still, know that eating something in the morning — even if it’s just a slice of bread — will help you get up.
Plus, if you take medications in the morning, it’s usually a good idea to have something in your stomach.
3. Don’t disregard the classics — try an alarm
Go back to the classics. Set an alarm — or a whole slurry of annoying alarms — and put your phone or clock out of your reach.
You’ll have to get up to shut it off. While it’s easy to just climb into bed again, if you have multiple alarms set, by the third one you’ll probably just be like, “FINE! I’M UP!”
4. Focus on what’s around you
Paper and pens may seem old-fashioned, but the affect they have definitely isn’t. Consider writing down something you’re grateful for every day. Or even better, do this at night and reread your gratitude in the morning. Reminding yourself about the positives in your life can start your day a little better.
Another option is to focus on your pets, which have shown to provide many benefitsTrusted Source. They can be a great motivation for waking up in the morning, whether it’s feeding, walking, or cuddling with them.
Spending just a few minutes being unconditionally loved by your pet can have an overwhelming positive effect on your mood.
People who exercise daily do so because it offers them a tremendous sense of well-being. They have more energy all through the day, sleep well at night, have clearer memories, and are more relaxed and optimistic about themselves and their life. It’s also an effective treatment for a variety of common mental health issues.
Exercise regularly can have a profoundly favourable effect on depression, anxiety, and even ADHD. It also reduces stress, enhances memory, promotes sleep, and improves your general mood. You don’t have to be a fitness enthusiast to gain the benefits. According to research, even small quantities of exercise can make a significant difference. You may learn to use exercise as a strong tool to deal with mental health issues, increase your energy and attitude, and get more out of life, regardless of your age or fitness level.
Exercise has been shown in studies to be as helpful as antidepressant medication in treating mild to moderate depression—without the adverse effects, of course. A recent Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study discovered that running for about 20 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduced the risk of severe depression by 26%. In addition to alleviating depression symptoms, research shows that sticking to an exercise routine can help you avoid relapsing.
Exercise is a safe and effective natural anti-anxiety medication. It reduces tension and stress, increases physical and mental vitality, and improves overall well-being by releasing endorphins. Something which gets you moving will help, but paying attention rather than zoning out can provide a greater benefit.
Regular exercise is one of the simplest and most effective strategies to minimise ADHD symptoms and improve focus, motivation, memory, as well as mood. Physical activity quickly increases dopamine, norepinephrine, plus serotonin levels in the brain, all of which influence focus and attention. In this regard, exercise functions similarly to ADHD drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall.