Asking people to stop using social media for just one week could lead to significant improvements in their wellbeing, depression and anxiety and could, in the future, be recommended as a way to help people manage their mental health say the authors of a new study.
The study, carried out by a team of researchers at the University of Bath (UK), studied the mental health effects of a week-long social media break. For some participants in the study, this meant freeing-up around nine hours of their week which would otherwise have been spent scrolling Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
Their results – published, Friday 6 May 2022, in the US journal ‘Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking’ – suggest that just one week off social media improved individuals’ overall level of well-being, as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
One in 10 adults in the United States struggles with depression, and antidepressant medications are a common way to treat the condition. However, pills aren’t the only solution. Research shows that exercise is also an effective treatment. “For some people it works as well as antidepressants, although exercise alone isn’t enough for someone with severe depression,” says Dr. Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
The exercise effect
Exercising starts a biological cascade of events that results in many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report. But for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The improvement in brain function makes you feel better. “In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression,” explains Dr. Miller.
The challenge of getting started
Depression manifests physically by causing disturbed sleep, reduced energy, appetite changes, body aches, and increased pain perception, all of which can result in less motivation to exercise. It’s a hard cycle to break, but Dr. Miller says getting up and moving just a little bit will help. “Start with five minutes a day of walking or any activity you enjoy. Soon, five minutes of activity will become 10, and 10 will become 15.”
What you can do
It’s unclear how long you need to exercise, or how intensely, before nerve cell improvement begins alleviating depression symptoms. You should begin to feel better a few weeks after you begin exercising. But this is a long-term treatment, not a onetime fix. “Pick something you can sustain over time,” advises Dr. Miller. “The key is to make it something you like and something that you’ll want to keep doing.”
Stroke survivors may have a higher risk of developing depression or another mood disorder within the first year, according to new research that compared their risk to the general public as well as people who survived a heart attack.
Past research shows depression is common after stroke, affecting nearly one-third of survivors. For the new study, researchers wanted to dig deeper and see how stroke impacts other mental disorders.
The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, focused on 86,111 people in Danish hospitals from 2004 to 2018 with no history of mental health disorders who had a stroke.
It found that stroke survivors had a 15% risk of developing a mood disorder, primarily depression, within the first year. This risk corresponded to an approximately 2.3-fold increased risk compared with matched individuals from the Danish general population. Stroke survivors also had an increased risk for other mental health problems, including substance abuse disorders and stress and anxiety disorders, as well as brain disorders such as dementia. But these conditions were less common.
A large scale new study provides further evidence that being overweight causes depression and lowers well being and indicates both social and physical factors may play a role in the effect.
With one in four adults estimated to be obese in the UK, and growing numbers of children affected, obesity is a global health challenge. While the dangers of being obese on physical health is well known, researchers are now discovering that being overweight can also have a significant impact on mental health.
The new study, published in Human Molecular Genetics, sought to investigate why a body of evidence now indicates that higher BMI causes depression. The team used genetic analysis, known as Mendelian Randomization, to examine whether the causal link is the result of psychosocial pathways, such as societal influences and social stigma, or physical pathways, such as metabolic conditions linked to higher BMI. Such conditions include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
New research reveals how key proteins interact to regulate the body’s response to stress
Targeting these proteins may help treat or prevent stress-related psychiatric disorders
The biological mechanisms behind stress-related psychiatric conditions, including major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are poorly understood.
New research now details the interplay between proteins involved in controlling the body’s stress response and points to potential therapeutic targets when this response goes awry. The study, which was conducted by an international team led by investigators at McLean Hospital, appears in the journal Cell Reports.
“There’s a stigma around mental illness,” says Cvengros, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Rush University Medical Center. “And that makes people hesitant to tell their loved ones, or their doctors, that something is wrong.” Cvengros was writing in the Rush Stories publication.
But even those who don’t say anything usually communicate their problem via changes in their body language and behavior.
Learning to recognize these six nonverbal signs can equip you to extend needed help and compassion to the people in your life who may be struggling with depression:
1. Changing body language
“If someone in your life is depressed, you’ll probably notice that their body language changes,” Cvengros says. How it changes depends on the person. Some people might make less eye contact than usual. Others may have a more slumped posture. Their hand gestures may become less frequent, or slower.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many families found themselves suddenly isolated together at home. A year later, new research has linked this period with a variety of large, detrimental effects on individuals’ and families’ well-being and functioning.
The study — led by Penn State researchers — found that in the first months of the pandemic, parents reported that their children were experiencing much higher levels of “internalizing” problems like depression and anxiety, and “externalizing” problems such as disruptive and aggressive behavior, than before the pandemic. Parents also reported that they themselves were experiencing much higher levels of depression and lower levels of coparenting quality with their partners.
Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development at Penn State, said the results — recently published in the journal Family Process — give insight into just how devastating periods of family and social stress can be for parents and children, and how important a good coparenting relationship can be for family well-being.
“Stress in general — whether daily hassles or acute, crisis-driven stress — typically leads to greater conflict and hostility in family relationships,” Feinberg said. “If parents can support each other in these situations, the evidence from past research indicates that they will be able to be more patient and more supportive with their children, rather than becoming more harsh and angry.”
It seems like 100 years ago that I took care of my aunt who was suffering form Alzheimer’s Disease. Going into her first afflicted winter, I recalled her having told me that she “always felt down” in the winter time. Not long before that, her physician had said to me that it would be no problem keeping her in her home if she didn’t become aggressive. As I wanted her to remain in her home, I started looking into Seasonal Affective Disorder.
During this time of long hours in our homes due to the pandemic, and with the onset of shorter, darker winter days, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about SAD.
Here is what the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says about SAD.
Many people go through short periods of time where they feel sad or not like their usual selves. Sometimes, these mood changes begin and end when the seasons change. People may start to feel “down” when the days get shorter in the fall and winter (also called “winter blues”) and begin to feel better in the spring, with longer daylight hours.
In some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities. If you have noticed significant changes in your mood and behavior whenever the seasons change, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression.
In a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, the team named social connection as the strongest protective factor for depression, and suggested that reducing sedentary activities such as TV watching and daytime napping could also help lower the risk of depression.Continue reading →
Older adults with depression may be at much higher risk of remaining depressed if they are experiencing persistent or worsening sleep problems, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The researchers, who published their findings online April 30 in the journal Sleep, analyzed data from almost 600 people over 60 years old who visited primary care centers in the Northeast U.S. All patients met clinical criteria for major or minor depression at the outset of the study. Continue reading →
Millions of Americans are being impacted by the psychological fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath, and large numbers may experience emotional distress and be at increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, according to a new article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The Perspective article, co-authored by Carol North, M.D., a UT Southwestern crisis psychiatrist who has studied survivors of disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, calls on already stretched health care providers to monitor the psychosocial needs of their patients as well as themselves and fellow health care workers during this time. Continue reading →
As far as I am concerned when it comes to the benefits to our body and brain from exercise, the hits just keep on coming. The University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions reports the following good news.
Summary: Researchers report, in animal models of addiction, daily aerobic exercise alters the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain.
Daily aerobic exercise altered the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
New research by the University has identified a key mechanism in how aerobic exercise can help impact the brain in ways that may support treatment — and even prevention strategies — for addiction.
Also known as “cardio,” aerobic exercise is brisk exercise that increases heart rate, breathing and circulation of oxygen through the blood, and is associated with decreasing many negative health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. It also is linked to numerous mental health benefits, such as reducing stress, anxiety and depression.Continue reading →
Eating a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit and whole grains it may lead to a reduced risk of depression, according to a study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center.
Study author Dr. Laurel Cherian will present a preliminary study abstract with these conclusions during the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles from April 21 to 27, 2018.
Study participants who closely adhered to a diet similar to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet were less likely to develop depression than people who did not closely follow the diet. The DASH diet recommends fruits and vegetables and fat-free or low-fat dairy products and limits foods that are high in saturated fats and sugar.
“Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke,” said Cherian, a vascular neurologist and assistant professor in Rush’s Department of Neurological Sciences. “There is evidence linking healthy lifestyle changes to lower rates of depression and this study sought to examine the role that diet plays in preventing depression.”.”
The National Institutes of Aging-funded study evaluated a total of 964 participants of the Rush Memory and Aging Project with an average age of 81 annually for approximately six-and-a-half years. Each participant was monitored for symptoms of depression and filled out questionnaires about how often they ate various foods. The researchers examined how closely the participants’ reported diets adhered diets such as the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet, which is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables.
The researchers categorized participants in three groups based on how closely they adhered to these diets. Those who were in the two groups that followed the DASH diet more closely were 11 percent less likely to develop depression than people in the group that did not follow the diet closely. Conversely, the researchers found that the more closely people followed a Western diet, the more likely they were to develop depression.
Cherian noted that the study does not prove that the DASH diet leads to a reduced risk of depression; it only shows an association.
For the record, this has nothing to do with losing weight, but everything to do with providing your body and your brain with proper nourishment. I especially liked the final segment which points out how your brain benefits from exercise.
I have written extensively about how important a good night’s sleep is to living a healthy life. Now, it seems there are potential psychological vulnerabilities, too. I will give the link at the end of post.
Sleeping less than the recommended eight hours a night is associated with intrusive, repetitive thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Binghamton University Professor of Psychology Meredith Coles and former graduate student Jacob Nota assessed the timing and duration of sleep in individuals with moderate to high levels of repetitive negative thoughts (e.g., worry and rumination). The research participants were exposed to different pictures intended to trigger an emotional response, and researchers tracked their attention through their eye movements. The researchers discovered that regular sleep disruptions are associated with difficulty in shifting one’s attention away from negative information. This may mean that inadequate sleep is part of what makes negative intrusive thoughts stick around and interfere with people’s lives . Continue reading →