2 Positive Personality Traits That Support Good Mental Health

Both personality traits can be increased with practice.

Both personality traits can be increased with practice.

Working towards long-term goals is a trainable key to good mental health, research finds.

People who keep following their dreams are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or panic attacks.

The other trait that helps people maintain good mental health is being optimistic.

Both being optimistic and persistent can be increased with practice.

Ms Nur Hani Zainal, the study’s first author, said:

“Perseverance cultivates a sense of purposefulness that can create resilience against or decrease current levels of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Looking on the bright side of unfortunate events has the same effect because people feel that life is meaningful, understandable and manageable.”

The study included 3,294 people who were surveyed three times over 18 years.

Each time they were asked about their goal persistence and positive reappraisals.

Along with other questions, they were asked if they agreed with statements like:

  • “When I encounter problems, I don’t give up until I solve them.”
  • “I can find something positive, even in the worst situations.”

People who agreed with these statements early in the study had a reduced incidence of depression, anxiety and panic disorders 18 years on.

Those who had better mental health at the start of the study also found it easier to focus on the positive and keep working at their long-term goals, the researchers found.

Ms Zainal said:

“Our findings suggest that people can improve their mental health by raising or maintaining high levels of tenacity, resilience and optimism.

Aspiring toward personal and career goals can make people feel like their lives have meaning.

On the other hand, disengaging from striving toward those aims or having a cynical attitude can have high mental health costs.”

Self-mastery, which the researchers also measured, was not linked to mental health.

Dr Michelle G. Newman, study co-author, said:

“This could have been because the participants, on average, did not show any changes in their use of self-mastery over time.

It is possible that self-mastery is a relatively stable part of a person’s character that does not easily change.”

Giving up can lead to vicious circle, said Ms Zainal:

“Clinicians can help their clients understand the vicious cycle caused by giving up on professional and personal aspirations.

Giving up may offer temporary emotional relief but can increase the risk of setbacks as regret and disappointment set in.

Boosting a patient’s optimism and resilience by committing to specific courses of actions to make dreams come to full fruition despite obstacles can generate more positive moods and a sense of purpose.”

The study was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology (Zainal et al., 2019).

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.

Related:

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).

Are You Living A Life Without Direction? The Risks Revealed (M)

What kind of things give your life meaning?

What kind of things give your life meaning?

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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).

The Most Common Myth About Psychosis And Violence (M)

The media regularly contributes to this myth about how delusions and hallucinations affect behaviour.

The media regularly contributes to this myth about how delusions and hallucinations affect behaviour.

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