3 Charming Pastimes Linked To Better Mental Health

Adult learners reported feeling greater satisfaction with their lives along with improved mental and physical health.

Adult learners reported feeling greater satisfaction with their lives along with improved mental and physical health.

Classes in singing, crafts and creative writing all boost wellbeing, a series of three studies concludes.

Weekly sessions over seven months at all three subjects left people feeling in better mental and physical health.

Dr Eiluned Pearce, the first author of all three studies, said:

“The students reported benefits including increased self-confidence, a greater feeling of control over their lives and more willingness to take on new challenges.

Some said the classes made them more motivated to be more active, despite the classes not specifically involving physical activity.

Participants also said that the classes broadened their networks of friends and gave them an increased sense of belonging.

We also found that the more someone felt part of their group, the more their health and wellbeing improved.”

Participants in the study attended seven different day-time adult education classes in the UK.

While the results were positive, the classes did not all have the same benefits, Dr Pearce explained:

“The results showed that those in the singing and creative writing groups built up relationships with other individuals more quickly than the crafters, and singers felt more connected to the class as a whole more quickly than both the other groups.

‘While this confirms our earlier finding that singing has an ‘ice-breaker effect’ compared to other activities, it shows that other activities may enable people to increase their social networks just as much, even if it takes them longer to feel connected to their group as a whole.”

Howard Croft, the Worker’s Educational Association Regional Education Manager, said:

“The findings reiterate the feedback that we have had from our students over the years: learning is a fantastic way to boost your self-esteem and confidence.

Also of note, is its therapeutic effect.

For many students, creative courses are a means of finding a new outlet for expressing their feelings.

This can be of immense help during times of personal difficulty or emotional upheaval, such as divorce or bereavement.

Simply going to a course can offer much-needed respite.

For others, learning can be an opportunity to reignite a former passion.

This could be anything from a subject which you enjoyed at school to an area which you are interested in.

Whatever your reason, there are so many benefits to be gained by signing up to a course.”

The studies were published in the journals Arts & Health, The Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology and Psychology of Music (Pearce et al., 2016Pearce et al. 2016; Pearce et al. 2016).

Learning To Cook Boosts Mental And Physical Health (M)

After completing the course, people reported feeling stronger, more active and full of energy.

After completing the course, people reported feeling stronger, more active and full of energy.

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Coffee Has Surprising Effect On Mental Health

How coffee consumption is linked to both mental and physical health.

How coffee consumption is linked to both mental and physical health.

Moderate coffee consumption is linked to reduced depression risk and lower levels of Parkinson’s and dementia, research finds.

Not only that, but the review of more than 200 studies found that drinking 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day is linked to many other benefits.

These include lower levels of heart disease, reduced risk of some cancers, diabetes and liver disease.

The study’s authors write:

“Coffee consumption was consistently associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, even after adjustment for smoking, and across all categories of exposure.

Decaffeinated coffee was associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, which did not reach significance.

Consumption had a consistent association with lower risk of depression and cognitive disorders, especially for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Coffee was also associated with a lower risk of several cancers:

  • prostate cancer,
  • endometrial cancer,
  • skin cancer,
  • and liver cancer,

Risk of type 2 diabetes, gallstones and gout was lower in those drinking coffee as well.

Coffee’s apparent effect was particularly strong for liver conditions, such as cirrhosis.

The evidence for drinking decaffeinated coffee was not as strong.

So, if you don’t drink coffee already, should you start?

Writing in a linked commentary, Professor Eliseo Guallar, an expert in public health, gives the answer:

“Should doctors recommend drinking coffee to prevent disease?

Should people start drinking coffee for health reasons?

The answer to both questions is “no.” “

But if you do already drink coffee, then how much should you drink?

Professor Guallar explained:

“…the lowest risk of disease is associated with drinking three to five cups of coffee a day.

Higher intake may reduce or reverse the potential benefit, and there is substantial uncertainty, both in individual studies and in meta-analyses, about the effects of higher levels of intake.

Conclusions on the safety of coffee should thus be restricted to moderate intake, generally considered as ≤400 mg of caffeine a day (about four or five coffee drinks).”

The research was an ‘umbrella review’ which is a kind of review of the reviews.

It aggregates data from lots of different studies including many participants.

However, the way the studies were designed, it cannot tell us that drinking coffee causethese health benefits.

It just tells us there is a link to be explained.

The study was published in The British Medical Journal (Poole et al., 2017).

The Personality Trait Linked To Good Mental Health

The personality trait associated with less depression and anxiety.

The personality trait associated with less depression and anxiety.

People whose emotions are more stable have better mental health, research finds.

Stable emotions are linked to low levels of neuroticism, one of the five major personality traits.

People low in neuroticism report frequently feeling calm, unstressed and satisfied.

Indeed, people generally report feeling even more content, positive and cheerful in their middle and later years.

In other words, most people become more satisfied with their lives with age — and that is linked to good mental health.

However, people who are high in neuroticism tend to have more mental health problems, explained Dr Rebecca Ready, the study’s first author:

“People who score high on a neuroticism scale had less mental well-being over time and this pattern was stronger for older and midlife adults than for younger persons.”

The results come from 1,503 people who were followed over 10 years.

People whose personality was most stable at the start of the decade were least likely to experience common mental health problems like depression and anxiety at the end of the period.

The results showed that being neurotic was particularly problematic for older people.

Dr Ready said:

“On average, neuroticism tends to decrease during adult development, but not at the same rate for everyone.

Such decreases may result in better, broader and richer emotional experiences in later life.

This hypothesis is supported by results of the current study.”

Many people incorrectly think personality traits cannot change.

However, people can become significantly less neurotic after undergoing therapy, research finds.

Dr Ready said:

“We did not assess risk for future depressive disorders but it is reasonable to speculate that older and midlife adults high in neuroticism are at greater risk for depressive symptoms in the future than are persons lower in neuroticism.

They may also experience less well-being and may have less tolerance for complex emotions.”

The study was published in the journal Aging and Mental Health (Ready et al., 2012).

The Foods That Boost Mental Wellbeing In 2 Weeks

It reduces depression and anxiety, increases happiness and leads to higher social-emotional well-being.

It reduces depression and anxiety, increases happiness and leads to higher social-emotional well-being.

A couple more servings of fruits and vegetables per day is enough to lift your mood in only 2 weeks, research finds.

The young adults in the study who ate two extra portions of fruit and veg for 2 weeks saw increases in both motivation and vitality.

It also made them want to carry on eating more fruit and veg.

Dr Tamlin Conner, the study’s first author, said:

“The message from this study is we should be giving people more fruits and vegetables to eat, not simply reminding people to eat their 5+ a day.

People in dormitories, children in daycare centres, patients in hospitals, employees in the workplace, could be provided with fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.”

For the research, 171 young adults were split into three groups.

They either ate as normal, were given vouchers to buy fruit and veg, or were actually handed the fruit and veg directly.

Only those given the fruit and veg directly saw the improvements.

Those given vouchers for fruit and veg tended to cook them with other foods, while those given them directly tended to eat them raw.

Perhaps, eating the fruit and veg raw is vital to the wellbeing boost.

This is far from the first evidence that fruit and veg can make you feel better.

The study’s authors write:

“There is also growing evidence that people who eat more FV have better mental health.

Higher consumption of FV is correlated with several psychological outcomes including a lower incidence of depression and anxiety, greater happiness, higher life satisfaction, and greater social-emotional well-being or “flourishing”.”

The study’s authors conclude:

“We conclude that providing young adults with high-quality FV [fruits and veg], rather than reminding them to eat more FV (with a voucher to purchase FV), resulted in significant short-term improvements to their psychological well-being.

These results provide initial proof-of-concept that giving young adults fresh fruit and vegetables to eat can have psychological benefits even over a brief period of time.”

The study was published in the journal PLoS One (Conner et al., 2017).

The Best Type Of Jobs For Good Mental Health

How jobs can be adjusted to improve people’s mental and physical health.

How jobs can be adjusted to improve people’s mental and physical health.

Jobs that give employees control over their work are better for mental and physical health, research reveals.

When employees are given control over their work, even in the face of high demands, their health is improved.

Typical ways of giving employees control are to let them set their own schedules and allow them to decide how the work gets done.

However, jobs that put huge demands on employees without giving them control are damaging to mental health.

The study shows the importance of control at work for both mental and physical health.

Dr Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, the study’s first author, said:

“When job demands are greater than the control afforded by the job or an individual’s ability to deal with those demands, there is a deterioration of their mental health and, accordingly, an increased likelihood of death.”

The study included 3,148 people in Wisconsin who were tracked over 20 years.

Dr Gonzalez-Mulé explained the study’s aim:

“We examined how job control—or the amount of autonomy employees have at work—and cognitive ability—or people’s ability to learn and solve problems—influence how work stressors such as time pressure or workload affect mental and physical health and, ultimately, death.

We found that work stressors are more likely to cause depression and death as a result of jobs in which workers have little control or for people with lower cognitive ability.”

Being given control at work, though, improved physical and mental health.

Smarter people were also able to adapt to more stressful jobs without letting it affect them.

Dr Gonzalez-Mulé said:

“We believe that this is because job control and cognitive ability act as resources that help people cope with work stressors.

Job control allows people to set their own schedules and prioritize work in a way that helps them achieve their work goals, while people that are smarter are better able to adapt to the demands of a stressful job and figure out ways to deal with stress.”

Dr Gonzalez-Mulé has this advice for managers:

“Managers should provide employees working in demanding jobs more control, and in jobs where it is unfeasible to do so, a commensurate reduction in demands.

For example, allowing employees to set their own goals or decide how to do their work, or reducing employees’ work hours, could improve health.

Organizations should select people high on cognitive ability for demanding jobs.

By doing this, they will benefit from the increased job performance associated with more intelligent employees, while having a healthier workforce.

COVID-19 might be causing more mental health issues, so it’s particularly important that work not exacerbate those problems.

This includes managing and perhaps reducing employee demands, being aware of employees’ cognitive capability to handle demands and providing employees with autonomy are even more important than before the pandemic began.”

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Gonzalez-Mulé et al., 2020).

The Best Diet For Good Mental Health

People eating the right diet experience better mental health and a stronger sense of wellbeing.

People eating the right diet experience better mental health and a stronger sense of wellbeing.

Diet can have a very real effect on mental health, according to the latest review of the research.

People eating the right diet experience better mental health and a stronger sense of wellbeing.

For example, there is good evidence that the Mediterranean diet can improve depression and anxiety.

Here are ten typical ingredients of the Mediterranean diet:

  • Green leafy vegetables,
  • other vegetables,
  • nuts,
  • berries,
  • beans,
  • whole grains,
  • fish,
  • poultry,
  • olive oil,
  • and wine.

The Mediterranean diet is anti-inflammatory as it includes more vitamins, fibre and unsaturated fats.

Vitamin B12 has also been shown to help with depression, poor memory and fatigue.

For those with epilepsy, a ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, can be helpful.

However, in other areas the effects of diet on mental health are less strong.

For example, the evidence that vitamin D supplements are beneficial for mental health is relatively weak.

Professor Suzanne Dickson, study co-author, said:

“We have found that there is increasing evidence of a link between a poor diet and the worsening of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.

However, many common beliefs about the health effects of certain foods are not supported by solid evidence.”

The conclusions come from a review of the research in nutritional psychiatry.

For some conditions, the evidence was comparatively thin, said Professor Dickson:

“With individual conditions, we often found very mixed evidence.

With ADHD for example, we can see an increase in the quantity of refined sugar in the diet seems to increase ADHD and hyperactivity, whereas eating more fresh fruit and vegetables seems to protect against these conditions.

But there are comparatively few studies, and many of them don’t last long enough to show long-term effects.”

Nutrition during pregnancy is very important and can significantly affect brain function, the researchers found.

However, the effect of many diets on mental health is small, said Professor Dickson:

“In healthy adults dietary effects on mental health are fairly small, and that makes detecting these effects difficult: it may be that dietary supplementation only works if there are deficiencies due to a poor diet.

We also need to consider genetics: subtle differences in metabolism may mean that some people respond better to changes in diet that others.

There are also practical difficulties which need to be overcome in testing diets.

A food is not a drug, so it needs to be tested differently to a drug.

We can give someone a dummy pill to see if there is an improvement due to the placebo effect, but you can’t easily give people dummy food.

Nutritional psychiatry is a new field.

The message of this paper is that the effects of diet on mental health are real, but that we need to be careful about jumping to conclusions on the base of provisional evidence.

We need more studies on the long-term effects of everyday diets.”

The study was published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology (Adan et al., 2019).