Having an Honors degree in Human Movement Studies and working in gyms in a former life while studying for my Clinical Masters degree, I have seen this to be true. Of course it seems self evident, but these researchers have used great science with an excellent and now research-proven written program and workbook. These, along with their recent meta-analytic research review, show just how effective exercise can be in improving mood.
Credit: PhysOrg.com) — Exercise is a magic drug for many people with depression and anxiety disorders, according to researchers who analyzed numerous studies, and it should be more widely prescribed by mental health care providers.
“Exercise has been shown to have tremendous benefits for mental health,” says Jasper Smits, director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The more therapists who are trained in exercise therapy, the better off patients will be.”
The traditional treatments of cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy don’t reach everyone who needs them, says Smits, an associate professor of psychology.
“Exercise can fill the gap for people who can’t receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don’t want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments,” he says. “Exercise also can supplement traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged.”
Smits and Michael Otto, psychology professor at Boston University, presented their findings to researchers and mental health care providers March 6 at the Anxiety Disorder Association of America’s annual conference in Baltimore.
Their workshop was based on their therapist guide “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders,” with accompanying patient workbook (Oxford University Press, September 2009).
The guide draws on dozens of population-based studies, clinical studies and meta-analytic reviews that demonstrate the efficacy of exercise programs, including the authors’ meta-analysis of exercise interventions for mental health and study on reducing anxiety sensitivity with exercise.
“Individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of stress and anger,” Smits says. “Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors. For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing.”
After patients have passed a health assessment, Smits says, they should work up to the public health dose, which is 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity.
At a time when 40 percent of Americans are sedentary, he says, mental health care providers can serve as their patients’ exercise guides and motivators.
“Rather than emphasize the long-term health benefits of an exercise program — which can be difficult to sustain — we urge providers to focus with their patients on the immediate benefits,” he says. “After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy — and you’ll be motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood is no longer a barrier to exercise; it is the very reason to exercise.”
Smits says health care providers who prescribe exercise also must give their patients the tools they need to succeed, such as the daily schedules, problem-solving strategies and goal-setting featured in his guide for therapists.
“Therapists can help their patients take specific, achievable steps,” he says. “This isn’t about working out five times a week for the next year. It’s about exercising for 20 or 30 minutes and feeling better today.”
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Psychologists have long studied the grunts and winks of nonverbal communication, the vocal tones and facial expressions that carry emotion. A warm tone of voice, a hostile stare — both have the same meaning in Terre Haute or Timbuktu, and are among dozens of signals that form a universal human vocabulary.
But in recent years some researchers have begun to focus on a different, often more subtle kind of wordless communication: physical contact. Momentary touches, they say — whether an exuberant high five, a warm hand on the shoulder, or a creepy touch to the arm — can communicate an even wider range of emotion than gestures or expressions, and sometimes do so more quickly and accurately than words.
“It is the first language we learn,” said Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life” (Norton, 2009), and remains, he said, “our richest means of emotional expression” throughout life.
The evidence that such messages can lead to clear, almost immediate changes in how people think and behave is accumulating fast. Students who received a supportive touch on the back or arm from a teacher were nearly twice as likely to volunteer in class as those who did not, studies have found. A sympathetic touch from a doctor leaves people with the impression that the visit lasted twice as long, compared with estimates from people who were untouched. Research by Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute in Miami has found that a massage from a loved one can not only ease pain but also soothe depression and strengthen a relationship.
In a series of experiments led by Matthew Hertenstein, a psychologist at DePauw University in Indiana, volunteers tried to communicate a list of emotions by touching a blindfolded stranger. The participants were able to communicate eight distinct emotions, from gratitude to disgust to love, some with about percent accuracy.
“We used to think that touch only served to intensify communicated emotions,” Dr. Hertenstein said. Now it turns out to be “a much more differentiated signaling system than we had imagined.”
To see whether a rich vocabulary of supportive touch is in fact related to performance, scientists at Berkeley recently analyzed interactions in one of the most physically expressive arenas on earth: professional basketball. Michael W. Kraus led a research team that coded every bump, hug and high five in a single game played by each team in the National Basketball Association early last season.
In a paper due out this year in the journal Emotion, Mr. Kraus and his co-authors, Cassy Huang and Dr. Keltner, report that with a few exceptions, good teams tended to be touchier than bad ones. The most touch-bonded teams were the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, currently two of the league’s top teams; at the bottom were the mediocre Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats.
The same was true, more or less, for players. The touchiest player was Kevin Garnett, the Celtics’ star big man, followed by star forwards Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors and Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz. “Within milliseconds of shooting a free throw, Garnett has reached out and touched four guys,” Dr. Keltner said.
To correct for the possibility that the better teams touch more often simply because they are winning, the researchers rated performance based not on points or victories but on a sophisticated measure of how efficiently players and teams managed the ball — their ratio of assists to giveaways, for example. And even after the high expectations surrounding the more talented teams were taken into account, the correlation persisted. Players who made contact with teammates most consistently and longest tended to rate highest on measures of performance, and the teams with those players seemed to get the most out of their talent.
The study fell short of showing that touch caused the better performance, Dr. Kraus acknowledged. “We still have to test this in a controlled lab environment,” he said.
If a high five or an equivalent can in fact enhance performance, on the field or in the office, that may be because it reduces stress. A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
In the brain, prefrontal areas, which help regulate emotion, can relax, freeing them for another of their primary purposes: problem solving. In effect, the body interprets a supportive touch as “I’ll share the load.”
“We think that humans build relationships precisely for this reason, to distribute problem solving across brains,” said James A. Coan, a a psychologist at the University of Virginia. “We are wired to literally share the processing load, and this is the signal we’re getting when we receive support through touch.”
The same is certainly true of partnerships, and especially the romantic kind, psychologists say. In a recent experiment, researchers led by Christopher Oveis of Harvard conducted five-minute interviews with couples, prompting each pair to discuss difficult periods in their relationship.
The investigators scored the frequency and length of touching that each couple, seated side by side, engaged in. In an interview, Dr. Oveis said that the results were preliminary.
“But it looks so far like the couples who touch more are reporting more satisfaction in the relationship,” he said. Again, it’s not clear which came first, the touching or the satisfaction. But in romantic relationships, one has been known to lead to the other. Or at least, so the anecdotal evidence suggests.
The best way to achieve happiness according to several new studies conducted by Todd Kashdan, associate professor of psychology at George Mason University, is to be grateful.
Gratitude, the emotion of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a gift, is one of the essential ingredients for living a good life, Kashdan says. Kashdan’s most recent paper, which was published online in March at the Journal of Personality, reveals that when it comes to achieving well-being, gender plays a role. He found that men are much less likely to feel and express gratitude than women.
“Previous studies on gratitude have suggested that there might be a difference in gender, and so we wanted to explore this further – and find out why. Even if it is a small effect, it could make a huge difference in the long run,” says Kashdan.
In one study, Kashdan interviewed college-aged students and older adults, asking them to describe and evaluate a recent episode in which they received a gift. He found that women compared with men reported feeling less burden and obligation and greater levels of gratitude when presented with gifts. In addition, older men reported greater negative emotions when the gift giver was another man.
“The way that we get socialized as children affects what we do with our emotions as adults,” says Kashdan. “Because men are generally taught to control and conceal their softer emotions, this may be limiting their well-being.”
As director of the Laboratory for the Study of Social Anxiety, Character Strengths, and Related Phenomena at Mason, Kashdan is interested in the assessment and cultivation of well-being, curiosity, gratitude and meaning and purpose in life. He has been active in the positive psychology movement since 2000, when he taught one of the first college courses on the science of happiness.
Kashdan says that if he had to name three elements that are essential for creating happiness and meaning in life it would be meaningful relationships, gratitude, and living in the present moment with an attitude of openness and curiosity. His book “Curious?,” which outlines ways people can enhance and maintain the various shades of well-being, was released in April 2009 with HarperCollins.
Source: Tara Laskowski
George Mason University
Just having a break from work is not enough suggests new research, it is activities in the open air which have the strongest restorative effects on our mental states.
Everyone gets down sometimes – it’s only natural. It would be more unusual never to be depressed. The idea that depression is an on-off condition with a purely chemical foundation is a myth no psychologist would endorse. The causes of depression can be many and widespread. But one cause many of us have to cope with is work.
One of the main weapons against stress building up from work is going on vacation. Holidays are a firmly established way of allowing the mind and body to recuperate. In research, however, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, Hartig, Catalano and Ong (2007) find that all holidays are not created equal.
The lead author of this paper, Terry Hartig, lives and works in Sweden, a country well known for its long, dark winters. As such, the Swedes know the importance of getting out in the sunshine, when it finally arrives. There is even a law requiring employers to provide four consecutive weeks of holiday in the summer. And it’s actually this law that is crucial to Hartig et al’s findings.
Hartig and colleagues suggest that being stuck indoors on vacation can limit mental recuperation. On the other hand, when able to roam outdoors, we can exert ourselves at a favourite sport or simply linger in the park. Psychologically, beautiful scenery can distract us from our troubles, help us forget our normal stressful environments and reconnect us to nature.
This is a nice theory that is intuitively attractive and plausible. The problem is how to test it scientifically.
Anti-depressant prescriptions and the weather
Hartig et al. decided to use the number of SSRI anti-depressants prescribed between and as a proxy for the general level of depression in the population of Sweden. They then looked for correlations between the weather and the amount of anti-depressants prescribed, which they duly found.
Wait, though, there’s a problem with this. Perhaps people are simply happier when the weather is warmer? It would then follow there would be an association between anti-depressant prescriptions and temperature.
Hartig et al. anticipated this problem. They remove the variation in anti-depressant prescriptions associated with the general change in monthly mean temperature from the equation. Then they get a really interesting finding. Now there’s only a correlation between temperature and anti-depressant medications in one month: July. There’s no similar effect even for the adjacent months of June or August.
How can that be explained? Why would the relationship only occur in July?
Why July is unusual
Here is the authors’ reasoning. In Sweden people take most of their holiday in July at the centre of the period stipulated by law (from 1 June to 31 August). A survey found it is over 90%. This means that during July they have the highest likelihood of being free to enjoy outdoor pursuits. On average, the rest of the year they will be working, so even if the weather is unseasonably warm in May, for example, they won’t be able to take advantage of it.
The reasoning goes, then, that if the weather is bad in July people are stuck indoors. This means they are unable to fully recuperate mentally before returning to work. Alternately, if the weather is good in July people are, on average, mentally rested and have less need for medication.
Remember that this explanation relies on averaging out many people’s behaviour across nine years. Obviously not everyone requires anti-depressants to get through a spell of bad weather. Similarly some people require them whatever the weather. But think about it in terms of the people who are slipping across the boundary of requiring/asking for medication. Then the authors’ explanation makes sense.
I know this study falls into the category of telling us something we already know. But it does so in rather an ingenious way that takes advantage of Swedish vacation patterns. Also, we can’t be reminded often enough that we should take every opportunity to get out in the open air.
Truly, happiness is looking out across fresh fields, gazing at a distant tree, feeling the sun on your back and the wind brushing your skin.Sourced from Psyblog.com
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High School and College years cannot be forgotten easily. Why? Because it is one of the hardest and the toughest stage in a person’s life. It entails lots of preparations and adjustments.
College life is full of challenges. College students are faced of mountainous confrontations and obstacles that must be faced. These students must work hard to prove not only to themselves but to other people that they are worthy of getting into college and finishing successfully.
To do and accomplish all the challenges and dares that are facing the college students, proper time management is necessary. College student should know how to manage time properly and how to consume time for worthy things.
The ability to manage and schedule time wisely makes college life easier. Missing important deadlines and appointments may cause difficulty and complications to both the academic and social life of the student. These things can also result to guilt, anxiety, stress, frustrations and other negative feelings.
The following are some of the tips for college students on how to manage time their time successfully.
• Learn how to prioritize. Prioritization is one of the most important aspects of time management. Proper prioritization of engagements and responsibilities is very necessary. There are too many college students that are ignorant and do not know how to set prioritization. This can often lead to procrastinations.
• Make use of ‘to do list’. This does not necessarily mean making a schedule. This is only listing the things that are important to be done. List things according to their importance.
• Stop being a perfectionist. Nothing is perfect. God created no perfect things and individuals. When you try to be perfect, you are only setting your self up for defeat. Many difficult and hard tasks lead to avoidance and procrastinations.
• Set goals. Setting goal is good in managing the time of college students. You should set goals that are not only attainable but should also be challenging.
• Try to combine several activities. Trying to combine many several activities in one sitting. Example of these are the following:
when watching a sit-com, try to compute your bills in between commercials; when taking a shower, list in your mind the things that are needed to be done; while you are commuting on the way to school, listen to taped notes. These things can save you some of your time that could have been set aside for other things.
• Survey your personal time. Making personal time survey help in estimating how much time is consumed and spent in many typical activities. This is very important if you are wanting to manage your time properly. Do these by tracking the time you spent for a day or a week. This gives you an idea on how much time you are consuming in different activities and things. This will also allow you to realize and identify the time wasters.
• Make a daily schedule to be followed. There are many different styles of time schedules that you can use. Try to make use of the time schedule that can fit into your personality. The common styles of time scheduling are through engagement books, cards, a piece of poster board tacked to a wall and many other styles. Once you are know what style to use, construct it soon. Put in the time schedule all the things that are necessary, including your personal needs.
• Take some notes and review them before the end of the day. This will help identify the things that you have done properly and the things that you have failed to do. This can help you develop proper time management skills.
• You should learn how to say no. There is nothing wrong in saying no in some instances and cases. For example, somebody invited you to watch a movie at a time when you have got something to do. Leave out the movie and prioritize your task. You can do that later on.
Learning proper time management for college students is very important. Learning these things early on will prepare them for the life that lay ahead of them. These will be their tool in achieving the life they are dreaming of.
Article Source: http://www.content-corral.com
“The psychological benefits make a big difference from my perspective,” says James Blumenthal, professor of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, N.C. “People have a greater sense of being in control. They feel better about themselves and have more self-confidence.”
A physical change can instigate a mental change, says Vaccaro, director of development at Moonview Sanctuary, a psychological treatment center in Santa Monica. “When you’re getting somebody to move and getting them to change a pattern in their life, just that little bit of pattern change can relate to a mood change, and they start to see themselves as a person who is active, not just a couch potato. They change their perception.” There may be direct physical effects on the brain as well. The treatment center encourages exercise — yoga in particular — as a way to manage many types of mood disorders. Besides having a strong mind-body connection, “yoga is something that can be modified to someone’s activity level and is something they can do throughout their life,” Vaccaro says.
Several studies illustrate the benefits of exercise.In one, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 2007, 202 men and women with major depression were randomly assigned to participate in a supervised exercise program in a group setting, do home-based exercise, take an antidepressant medication or take a placebo pill. After 16 weeks, 41% were in remission, meaning they no longer had major depressive disorder. Those who were in the exercise and medication groups tended to have higher remission rates than the placebo group.
Another study examined how much cardiovascular exercise was needed to see changes in mood among those with mild to moderate major depressive disorder. The 80 men and women who took part in the research were randomly placed in four exercise groups that varied in the number of calories burned and the frequency of the activity. A placebo group did flexibility exercises three days a week. Those in the group that exercised at moderate intensity three to five days a week for about 40 minutes (consistent with public health recommendations) showed the biggest decrease in depressive symptoms compared with those who exercised less, or just did stretching.
The 2005 study appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Other pieces of the puzzle are still missing, however. Scientists aren’t sure what changes happen in the brain — and why — when people exercise. Many scientists and physicians believe that exercise increases levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to be linked to mood regulation. However, most of the studies supporting this have been done on animals. “It’s hard to quantify it in humans for a number of reasons,” Leuchter says. “We don’t entirely understand exactly why patients get depressed in the first place. We have theories, but it’s hard to know in individual cases. And we don’t have a good way of looking at [changes] in the brain.” Scientists do know that exercise causes an increase in blood flow to the brain and raises the amount of energy the brain uses. And even though the link between blood flow and mood isn’t known, Leuchter says, “the brain in general seems to be in a healthier state.”
Activity is key
Exercise may be key in fighting depression, but no generic prescription fits everyone. Overall health and exercise history factor into what kind of regimen might be prescribed. “If someone was a runner, I’d get them back to running,” Leuchter says. “If not, I’m not going to have the goal of turning someone into a major athlete. I’d simply want to get them active, and even walking around the block might be good.” Those who aren’t currently in treatment for depression should consult with a physician before exercising to make sure they have no underlying health problems. Patients who are on medication or in therapy for depression shouldn’t consider exercise a substitute for either treatment. “The key,” Blumenthal says, “is really maintenance. You have to do it on an ongoing basis. You should find something you enjoy, but doing something is better than nothing.”