Guy Winch TedTalk: Why we all need to practice emotional first aid
In this engaging and entertaining TedTalk, Guy Winch points out that we teach our children to take care of their physical health but neglect to teach them about the importance of taking care of their mental health. I hadn’t heard of Guy Winch until recently and I was intrigued when I stumbled upon his Ted Talk, which I enjoyed immensely. He’s a very likeable speaker and his wittiness adds to one’s enjoyment of his talk. Winch points out that we are often quick to see the doctor when we have a flu or a cold, but yet when faced with more difficult psychological challenges we have a tendency to try and figure things out on our own rather than seek professional help. He argues that we should take care of our mental health with as much care and attention as we do our physical health and he gives interesting examples of how to practice what he refers to as “emotional first aid”. The importance of mental health being overlooked is nothing new; just a couple of years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO; see http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/) reported that mental disorders such as depression are the leading cause of disability worldwide. What are we waiting for? Let’s start taking better care of our mental health and teaching our children to do the same!
Tim Ferris and Jane McGonigal podcast: Getting More Done with Less Stress and the Health Benefits of Gaming
Wow! This was a fascinating podcast about the benefits of playing games on our well being in addition to our ability to be resilient. McGonigal talks about fascinating research on the benefits of using games and play. Research has demonstrated games to be helpful for overcoming head trauma, reducing the risk of developing PTSD after witnessing a trauma, reducing anxiety, helping to change a habit, etc. (Roepke, Jaffee, Riffle, McGonigal, Broome, & Bez, 2015). Looks like I have found a great excuse to play a little Tetris everyday! See this article describing the effects of "Superbetter" (McGonigal’s game) on depression, anxiety and general well being.
Oxytocin - The Next Big Anti-Anxiety Medication?
The neurohormone oxytocin is attracting a lot of attention in both popular media and scientific communities! Some studies suggest that oxytocin nasal sprays have social benefits, including making people more trusting (Kosfeld, Heinrichs, Zak, Fischbacher & Fehr, 2005) and generous (Zak, Stanton, Ahmadi, 2007). Other studies have found relationships between levels of oxytocin and psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety (see Neumann & Landgraf, 2012). Does that mean that oxytocin will be the basis for the next big anti-anxiety medication? Not necessarily. See this article by researcher Paul Zak to find out why it’s not quite that simple.
Breaking the Cycle Between Depression and Inactivity
Decades of research have shown the benefits of exercise on mood (Dinas, Koutedakis, & Flouris, 2011). Many people report that they have less desire or energy to do things like daily chores, socializing, and exercising when they’re feeling depressed. This makes sense because decreased motivation, energy and pleasure can be symptoms of depression! The problem is that this can create a cycle where we feel down so we become more inactive/sedentary, but then this inactivity makes us feel even more down. Check out this link to learn more about how you can make small changes to your activity level in order to help break this cycle and improve your mood.
Moving towards difficult experiences with psychological flexibility
In this TEDx talk, Steven Hayes, psychologist and founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), shares his personal struggles with Panic Disorder. Like most of us, he initially tried to run from or fight against his anxiety, but after much struggle he came to the realization that what he needed to do was turn toward his experience, and stand with his experience in a kind and loving way. He describes how this psychological flexibility, directing our attention flexibly to our internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, physical sensations), and then choosing to move towards what we think is important, is associated with improved mental health and well-being (Levin, Hildebrandt, Lillis, & Hayes, 2012). Moreover, Hayes emphasizes that bringing love to our experiences and ourselves even when it’s hard opens the door for living a more meaningful and purposeful life.
Fat-shaming isn’t just cruel; it doesn’t work
This article describes how a downright disturbing campaign to shame overweight people is not only cruel, but ineffective. The author points to a study showing that people who experience weight discrimination gained more weight than those we didn’t report weight discrimination (Sutin & Terracciano, 2013), and a survey demonstrating that anti-obesity campaigns with “blaming” messages are perceived as less motivating than ones with more neutral messages or ones that don’t mention obesity or weight at all (Puhl, Peterson, & Luedicke, 2013). Unfortunately, the idea that we should shame people into losing weight is pervasive. I think an overhaul of the ways in which we try to motivate people to lose weight is long overdue.