Mental Health Is Improved By This Improvisation Technique

Improvising is not just good for theatre, it is good for life.

Improvising is not just good for theatre, it is good for life.

Improvising boosts people’s well-being and improves creative thinking, a study finds.

People asked to improvise in groups for the study used the “Yes, and…” technique of theatre improvising.

This involves accepting what your improvisation partner says and then adding to it.

For example, I say “Can you see that tiger in the distance?”

And you say: “Yes, and it is coming straight for us!”

Agreeing with your partner keeps the improvisation going, while adding something builds up the scene you are creating together.

Twenty minutes of doing improvisations like this caused people to feel more tolerant and comfortable with uncertainty.

Research has found that people who are more tolerant of uncertainty are less likely to experience mental health issues.

Improvising is not just good for theatre; it is good for life — given how much is made up as we go along.

The research involved 205 people and for one study participants either did 20 minutes of improv exercises or they practised scripted theatre.

People who improvised felt higher well-being afterwards.

Professor Colleen Seifert, study co-author, explained:

“Individuals also reported a happier mood compared to a control group, who didn’t get the same satisfaction when performing scripted tasks.”

Improvising also boosted people’s divergent creativity.

Divergent creativity refers to creating lots of potential answers to a problem.

For example, try to think of as many uses as you can for a brick.

Building a house is the obvious one, but you might also list sitting on it, using it to smash open a coconut, or painting a face on it and using it as a puppet (admittedly not a very expressive puppet!).

Professor Seifert said:

“Improvisation is shown in these experiments to produce benefits beyond every day, routine social interactions.”

The study’s authors think that improvisation is a good therapeutic option:

“As a means to enhance psychological health, improvisational theater training offers benefits without the negative stigma and difficulties in access surrounding other therapeutic interventions.

These results support its popular use beyond the theater to improve social and personal interactions in a variety of settings.”

The study was published in the journal Thinking Skills and Creativity (Felsman et al., 2020).

Long COVID: The Top 2 Neuropsychiatric Symptoms

A quarter of people with long COVID met the criteria for depression.

A quarter of people with long COVID met the criteria for depression.

Headaches and fatigue are the top neuropsychiatric symptoms of so-called ‘long COVID’, research finds.

These were the two most common symptoms reported over four months after people had had COVID, with 69 percent reporting fatigue and 67 reporting headaches.

Next most common were:

  • changes to taste (54 percent) and smell (55 percent),
  • mild cognitive impairment (47 percent),
  • 30 percent had problems with memory,
  • and 20 percent report confusion.

Other physical symptoms of long COVID include:

  • cough,
  • muscle aches,
  • nasal congestion,
  • and chills.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 25 percent also met the criteria for depression.

Dr Elizabeth Rutkowski, study co-author, said:

“There are a lot of symptoms that we did not know early on in the pandemic what to make of them, but now it’s clear there is a long COVID syndrome and that a lot of people are affected.”

Long COVID study

The results come from 200 patients who were recruited around four months after becoming infected with COVID.

The numbers suffering some effects of long COVID may be higher, as some people did not notice the changes in themselves.

Dr Rutkowski explained that taste strips were used to check people’s sense of taste, but it may be that the sense of taste has changed, rather than having totally gone:

“They eat a chicken sandwich and it tastes like smoke or candles or some weird other thing but our taste strips are trying to depict specific tastes like salty and sweet.”

Long COVID and fatigue

Fatigue is likely such a common symptom of long COVID because the infection raises levels of inflammation in the body — and these levels remain raised.

Dr Rutkowski said:

“They have body fatigue where they feel short of breath, they go to get the dishes done and they are feeling palpitations, they immediately have to sit down and they feel muscle soreness like they just ran a mile or more.

There is probably some degree of neurologic fatigue as well because patients also have brain fog, they say it hurts to think, to read even a single email and that their brain is just wiped out.”

Cognitive problems, including lack of vocabulary, may also reflect the long spells people have spent in isolation.

Dr Rutkowski said:

“You are not doing what you would normally do, like hanging out with your friends, the things that bring most people joy.

On top of that, you may be dealing with physical ailments, lost friends and family members and loss of your job.”

ACE2 receptors

COVID is thought to have such widespread effects on the human body because the virus attaches itself to angiotensin-converting enzyme-2, or ACE2.

ACE2 regulates many different bodily functions including inflammation and blood pressure.

ACE2 is found throughout the body: in the brain, heart, lungs kidneys and gastrointestinal tract.

The ACE2 receptor is on the surface of cells and acts like a doorway to allow the virus inside.


The study was published in the journal  Brain, Behavior, & Immunity (Chen et al., 2022).

The Long-Term Side-Effects Of Painkillers Are Startling

Long-term effects of short-term pain relief could be startling.

Long-term effects of short-term pain relief could be startling.

Painkilling opioids like morphine could actually prolong pain rather than reduce it, according to research on mice.

Scientists found that just a few days of treatment with an opioid led to chronic pain that went on for months.

In the long-term, the opioid increased the pain signals sent from immune cells in the spinal cord.

Some of the most common opioids are:

  • codeine,
  • meperidine (Demerol),
  • hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER),
  • fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora),
  • hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin),
  • hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo),
  • and methadone (Dolophine, Methadose).

Professor Peter Grace, who led the study, said:

“We are showing for the first time that even a brief exposure to opioids can have long-term negative effects on pain.

We found the treatment was contributing to the problem.”

The study on mice treated an injury with opioids.

The scientists found that the long-term consequences of taking the drugs were serious.

The injury plus the opioid delivered a kind of ‘one-two punch’ to cells in the spinal cord called microglia.

Professor Linda Watkins, one of the study’s authors, said:

“The implications for people taking opioids like morphine, oxycodone and methadone are great, since we show the short-term decision to take such opioids can have devastating consequences of making pain worse and longer lasting.

This is a very ugly side to opioids that had not been recognized before.”

Around 100,000 people in the US died of prescriptions opioid overdoses in 2020-2021 (Dyer, 2021).

Increased pain is not the only risk from opioids, they are also addictive.

People given opioid pain medication are 25 percent more likely to use the drugs chronically, a recent study found.

Study author Dr Susan Calcaterra said:

“These drugs are highly effective for pain control, but also cause feelings of euphoria.

For these reasons, patients may ask their physicians for additional opioid medication even after their acute issue is resolved.”

Dr Calcaterra continued:

“…patients [given opioid painkillers] were more likely to become chronic opioid users and had an increased number of opioid refills one year post-discharge, compared to patients without opioid receipt.

They were five times more likely to be chronic users after one year.”

The studies were published in the journals PNAS and the Journal of General Internal Medicine (Grace et al., 2016Calcaterra et al., 2015).

The Everyday Foods Linked To Good Mental Health

The foods can offset the impact of major life events, like divorce and unemployment.

The foods can offset the impact of major life events, like divorce and unemployment.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of depression, research concludes.

An extra four portions of fruit and vegetables per day can offset the impact of major life events, like divorce and unemployment.

The boost from more fruit and vegetables could counteract half the pain of getting divorced or one-quarter that of being unemployed.

The effect on mental well-being of eating 8 portions per day compared with none is even more dramatic.

These benefits come on top of the well-known protective effect against cancer and heart disease.

The conclusions come from an Australian survey of 7,108 people carried out every year since 2001.

All were asked about their diet and lifestyle.

The results showed that the more fruit and vegetables people ate, the less likely they were to be diagnosed with mental health problems later on.

Dr Redzo Mujcic, the study’s first author, said:

“If people eat around seven or eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day the boost in mental wellbeing is as strong as divorce pushing people the other way, to a depressed state.

We found being made unemployed had a very bad and significant effect on people’s mental health, greatly increasing the risk of depression and anxiety.

But eating seven or eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day can reduce that by half.

And the effect is a lot quicker than the physical improvements you see from a healthy diet.

The mental gains occur within 24 months, whereas physical gains don’t occur until you are in your 60s.”

One possible mechanism by which fruit and vegetables affect happiness is through antioxidants.

There is a suggested connection between antioxidants and optimism.

Dr Mujcic said:

“If people increase their daily intake of fruit and vegetables from zero to eight they are 3.2 percentage points less likely to suffer depression or anxiety in the next two years.

That might not sound much in absolute terms, but the effect is comparable to parts of major life events, like being made unemployed or divorced.

We tested for reverse-causality—ie whether it might be that depression or anxiety leads to people eating less fruit and vegetables—but we found no strong statistical evidence of this.”

The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine (Mujcic & Oswald, 2019).

The Brain-Boosting Superfood That Reduces Stress (M)

They are full of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols and many other micronutrients that improve brain and gut health.

They are full of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols and many other micronutrients that improve brain and gut health.

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The Great Disconnect: How Humans Are Losing Touch With Nature (M)

All around the world people are becoming more disconnected from nature — despite its enormous psychological benefits.

All around the world people are becoming more disconnected from nature -- despite its enormous psychological benefits.

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The Most Depressed College Majors

These college majors have a higher risk of serious mental illness, including depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

These college majors have a higher risk of serious mental illness, including depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

People studying artistic subjects like painting, music or drama are 90 percent more likely to be hospitalised for schizophrenia later in life, research reveals.

The epidemiological study adds weight to the argument that creativity is linked to madness.

Among almost 4.5 million Swedish people, those studying creative subjects were also 62 percent more likely to be hospitalised for bipolar disorder.

Similarly, they were 39 percent more likely to be hospitalised for depression.

Hospitalisations were most likely to occur when the person reached their 30s.

Those in the visual arts — like painters, designers, photographers and so on — had the strongest link to mental illness.

The authors write:

“…the association with mental illness was strongest for core creative subjects, especially for visual arts.

It is notable that, in the visual arts, most if not all practitioners are engaged in the creative process, whereas performing arts place more emphasis on interpretation.

Hence, the core creative subjects, particularly visual arts, may capture the concept of creativity most closely, supporting the idea that mental disorder is associated with creativity per se.”

The study was published in the The British Journal of Psychiatry (MacCabe et al., 2018).

Types Of Delusions: 13 Mind-Blowing Mental Syndromes

Types of delusions include Cotard’s syndrome, erotomania delusion, Capgras syndrome and Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome.

Types of delusions include Cotard’s syndrome, erotomania delusion, Capgras syndrome and Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome.

Types of delusions come in all shapes and sizes; from transient episodes to full-blown and incurable mental illnesses.

Delusions frequently accompany mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, psychosis, dementia, bipolar disorder and even depression.

But all the types have one thing in common: being detached from reality.

Delusions do not listen to reason and they do not bow to facts.

Here are thirteen of the strangest types of delusional beliefs…

1. Alice-in-Wonderland syndrome

Named after the novel by Lewis Carroll, this types of delusion affects perceptions of both space and time.

The sufferer may see some objects as smaller than they really are and others as bigger than they really are.

They may also find it difficult to judge time.

A relatively common delusion, not necessarily associated with mental illness, people sometimes report experiencing this as children or even just before falling asleep.

Often, though, the delusion is caused by migraines, which Lewis Carroll suffered from and may have used as inspiration for the story.

2. Cotard’s syndrome

Also known as ‘Walking Corpse Syndrome’, Cotard’s syndrome or Cotard’s delusion is when the sufferer believes he or she is dead, does not exist or has lost their internal organs.

Typically, those suffering from this type of delusion will deny they exist; naturally, this means they find it very difficult to make sense of reality.

People with Cotard’s syndrome become very withdrawn from others and tend not to look after themselves properly.

The delusion is often found amongst people suffering from schizophrenia.

3. Capgras syndrome

Capgras syndrome or delusion is thought to be neurologically similar to Cotard’s.

This type of delusion is the belief that a person who is close to the sufferer has been replaced by an imposter who appears identical, but isn’t the same person.

The delusion is named after French physician Joseph Capgras who first described it.

Capgras is often associated with schizophrenia but the delusion may also result from brain damage and dementia.

4. Folie à deux delusion

Winner of my special award for most attractively named delusion, Folie à deux literally means ‘madness shared by two’.

So much better than the technical name of ‘shared psychotic disorder’.

It’s when two (or more) people who (usually) live in close proximity come to share the same delusion(s).

5. Thought insertion delusions

Thought insertion is the delusion that the sufferer’s thoughts are not their own.

The person will sometimes think they are coming from another specific person and sometimes they won’t know where they are coming from.

The delusion of thought insertion is often a symptom of schizophrenia.

6. Paris syndrome

Paris syndrome is a transient experience that affects tourists to Paris who find that the City of Light does not live up to their expectations.

They may experience hallucinations, delusions of persecution, anxiety and other somatic symptoms.

Paris syndrome may sound like a joke, but around twenty Japanese tourists a year are thought to be hospitalised with it.

Some think it is brought on by culture shock, as the Japanese have a particularly idealised view of Paris.

The usual treatment for Paris syndrome is to go home.

7. Jerusalem syndrome

Paris does not have the monopoly on causing visitors to be struck down by mental illness.

Some visitors to Jerusalem can become obsessed with the city after arriving.

Those experiencing the syndrome may suffer from anxiety, start wearing a toga, begin singing hymns or shouting out verses from the Bible.

Some even begin giving poorly practised sermons in public.

Estimates place the number of people who require hospital admission from this type of delusion at around 40 per year.

As for Paris syndrome, the normal treatment is to go home.

8. Othello syndrome

This type of delusion is the belief that the sufferer’s partner is cheating on them, despite there being no evidence whatsoever.

It’s much more than just common-or-garden jealousy, though, with sufferers experiencing strong obsessive thoughts.

They may continuously check up on their partner, stalk them, interrogate them about where they’ve been and, in extreme cases, it can lead to violence.

9. Ekbom’s syndrome

Ekbom’s syndrome is the stuff of nightmares.

In this particularly nasty form of hypochondria, the sufferer thinks their body has been infested by parasites.

It is not uncommon for sufferers to contact pest control specialists or dermatologists rather than psychologists or psychiatrists.

It is named after Swedish neurologist Karl Axel Ekbom, who wrote about it in the 1930s.

10. Clinical lycanthropy delusions

Clinical lycanthropy is the belief that the person has, or is in the process of, turning into an animal.

And it’s not just wolves that people believe they are turning into: published cases of clinical lycanthropy include people believing they were turning into frogs, cats, horses, birds, hyenas and even bees.

The condition is very rare.

11. Reduplicative paramnesia delusions

This condition is usually caused by brain damage and results in the person believing a place or location has been duplicated and/or moved somewhere else.

Soldiers with head injuries have been reported to believe that the hospital in which they are recuperating is actually in their home town, when in fact it is nowhere near.

It shares some features with Cotard’s syndrome and Capgras syndrome in that people, places or things have been replaced or are somehow transformed.

12. Subjective doubles syndrome

This is where someone genuinely believes that they have a doppelgänger who looks like them, but has a different personality and a different life.

Sometimes the doppelgänger can be a stranger, sometimes it can be a family member.

In some cases sufferers can become enraged by someone they perceive has having stolen their appearance, and this can lead to psychological or physical attacks.

The syndrome is most commonly seen in people with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, although it is very rare.

13. Erotomania delusions

Not quite as exciting as it sounds, erotomania, also known as de Clérambault’s Syndrome, is named after a French physician.

Erotomania is a delusion in which the sufferer is convinced that another person is in love with them.

Typically, the object of an erotomania delusion is unobtainable because they are married, disinterested or in some cases almost unknown to the sufferer or even dead.

Erotomania occurs more in women, who may believe they have several ‘secret admirers’ who send them coded messages which are so subtle as to be obviously random — such as, crossing their legs a certain way.

Erotomania is sometimes caused by or accompanies another serious mental health problems, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Why these types of delusions persist

Many of these mental delusions seem so far fetched that it can be difficult to understand how people can continue to believe them — especially when they are repeatedly assured of the ‘truth’.

One reason people find it difficult to break free of mental delusions or hallucinations is down to faulty ‘reality testing’, one psychologist argues (Gerrans, 2014).

This is caused by a fault in part of the brain that normally checks strange ideas against reality.

Professor Philip Gerrans, the study’s author, explains:

“Normally this ‘reality testing’ in the brain monitors a ‘story telling’ system which generates a narrative of people’s experience.

A simple example of normal reality testing is the person who gets a headache, immediately thinks they might have a brain tumor, then dismisses that thought and moves on.

Their story episode ‘I might have brain cancer’ gets tested and quickly rejected.

In someone who has problems with reality testing, that story might persist and may even be elaborated and translated into action.

Such people can experience immense mental health difficulties, even to the point of becoming a threat to themselves or to others.”

Professor Gerrans describes one man who had a serious head injury and developed Capgras syndrome:

“His family looked familiar but didn’t feel familiar, and the story in his head made sense of that feeling.

It didn’t matter how much people tried to point out that his family was the same, in his mind they had been completely replaced by impostors.”

A familiar point at which we often reject a delusion is when experiencing déjà vu, said Professor Gerrans:

“People also experience feelings of familiarity and unfamiliarity in déjà vu — a sense that a new place is strangely familiar, and the reverse, jamais vu — a sense of extreme unfamiliarity evoked by a familiar place.

However, such feelings do not lead to delusion in people whose reality testing is intact.”

Understanding the reality testing system in the brain could help to treat people experiencing delusions and hallucinations:

“Trying to treat someone experiencing these delusions by telling them the truth is not necessarily going to help, so new strategies need to be developed to assist them.

Ultimately, that’s the aim of this work — to help explain the nature of reality testing in order to help people find a way of working through or around their delusions so that the delusions no longer adversely affect their lives.”