Posts tagged with "PsychCentral"

Collect your thoughts: The benefits of journaling

February 13, 2020

Many of us barely have time to answer our emails or call our best friends on a typical, jam-packed weekday, so communicating our own thoughts in a diary or journal may seem like a self-centered waste of time.

We rationalize, “Writing a few sentences in a journal may keep me healthier longer, but so will eating Brussels sprouts! Why should I bother journaling when I’ve already got too much on my plate already?”

However, according to a report by PsychCentral, researchers have found that journaling provide unexpected benefits. The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit, and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others, and the world around you.

According to PsychCentral, once you start, you may find that you are able to:

  • Clarify your thoughts and feelings. Are you ever unsure of what you want or feel? Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions (no editing!) will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
  • Know yourself better. If you write routinely, you will start to recognize what makes you feel happy and confident. You also will begin to realize whicht situations and people are toxic for you — important information for your emotional well-being.
  • Reduce stress. Writing about anger, sadness, and other painful emotions helps a person to release the intensity of these feelings. By doing so you will feel calmer and better able to be “present” in your life..
  • Solve problems more effectively. Typically, we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity to arrive at unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
  • Resolve disagreements with others. Writing about misunderstandings rather than stewing over them will help you to understand another person’s point of view. And you just may come up with a sensible resolution to the conflict.

In addition, keeping a journal allows you to track patterns, trends, and growth over time. When current circumstances appear insurmountable, you will be able to look back on previous problems that you have since resolved.

So how should you start? Your journaling will be most effective if you do it daily for about 20 minutes. Begin anywhere, and forget spelling and punctuation. Privacy is key if you are to write without censoring yourself. Write quickly, as this frees your brain from “shoulds” and other blocks to successful journaling. If it helps, pick a theme for the day, week, or month (for example, peace of mind, confusion, change, or anger).

The most important rule of all is that there are no rules. Through your writing you’ll discover that your journal is an all-accepting, nonjudgmental friend. And ity provide the cheapest therapy you will ever get.

Research contact: @PsychCentral

Nothing but a heartbreak: Bottling up emotions after a spouse dies increases risk of heart attack, stroke

February 10, 2020

Let those tears flow: After the loss of a spouse, a study conducted at Rice University in Houston suggests that it may be better for your health to fully “own” and express your emotions—particularly in the beginning, PsychCentral reports.

“There has been work focused on the link between emotion regulation and health after romantic breakups, which shows that distracting oneself from thoughts of the loss may be helpful,” said Dr. Christopher Fagundes, an associate professor of Psychology at Rice and the principal investigator for the grant that funded the study.

“However,” he told PsychCentral, the death of a spouse is a very different experience—because neither person initiated the separation or can attempt to repair the relationship.”

For the study, the researchers surveyed 99 grieving spouses to assess how they were coping with their loss. On a scale of 1 to 7, participants rated how closely they agreed with statements about certain coping mechanisms. (For example, they were asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “When I’m faced with a stressful situation, I make myself think about it in a way that helps me stay calm.”)

Meanwhile, the participants had their blood drawn so the researchers could measure the levels of inflammatory markers called cytokines.

“Bodily inflammation is linked to a host of negative health conditions, including serious cardiovascular issues like stroke and heart attack,” Fagundes said.

Overall, the results show that people who generally avoided expressing their emotions suffered more bodily inflammation than those who expressed their emotions freely.

“These findings really highlight the importance of acknowledging one’s emotions after the death of a spouse rather than bottling them up,” Fagundes said.

“The research also suggests that not all coping strategies are created equal, and that some strategies can backfire and have harmful effects; especially in populations experiencing particularly intense emotions in the face of significant life stressors, such as losing a loved one,” Dr. Richard Lopez, an assistant professor of Psychology at Bard College and lead author of the study told the news outlet.

In the future, the researchers plan to assess the traits of people who do not have considerable and prolonged physical and mental health problems at six months and 12 months following the death of a spouse.

The researchers say that expressing emotions immediately after the loss may promote better physical and mental health outcomes; however, after a certain amount of time has passed, if one is still doing so, it may reflect severe and prolonged mental and physical health problems, they said.

Research contact: @PsychCentral

Sleep apnea tied to gaps in life memories, depression

February 25, 2019

A study conducted at Australia’s RMIT University has found that people with sleep apnea struggle to retrieve memories of their own lives—possibly increasing their vulnerability to depression, PsychCentral reports.

Estimated to affect more than 936 million people worldwide, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious condition that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during slumber.

The new study examined how the condition affects autobiographical memory — and concluded that people with untreated OSA had problems recalling specific details about their lives.

Lead investigator Dr. Melinda Jackson told PsychCentral that the study was built on the known links between depression and memory.

“We know that overly general autobiographical memories—where people don’t remember many specific details of life events are associated with the development of persistent depression,” she said.

“Our study suggests sleep apnea may impair the brain’s capacity to either encode or consolidate certain types of life memories, which makes it hard for people to recall details from the past,” Dr. Jackson noted, adding, “Sleep apnea is also a significant risk factor for depression, so if we can better understand the neurobiological mechanisms at work, we have a chance to improve the mental health of millions of people,” she continued.

The study compared 44 adults with untreated OSA to 44 people without OSA, assessing their recall of different types of autobiographical memories from their childhoods, early adult lives, and recent lives.

The results established that people with OSA had significantly more loss of general memories—52.3% compared with 18.9% of the control group.

The study also looked at recall of semantic memory (facts and concepts from your personal history, such as the names of your elementary school teachers) and episodic memory (events or episodes, like your first day of high school).

While people with OSA struggled with semantic memory, their episodic memory was preserved, according to the study’s findings. This is likely related to their fragmented sleeping patterns, as research has shown that good sleep is essential for the consolidation of semantic autobiographical memory, researchers explain.

Across both groups, being older was associated with having a higher number of over-general autobiographical memories, while higher depression was linked to having worse semantic memory, the study discovered.

According to Jackson, the results show the need for further studies to better understand the role of untreated OSA on memory processing.

“Brain scans of people with sleep apnea show they have a significant loss of grey matter from regions that overlap with the autobiographic memory network,” she said.

“We need to look at whether there’s a shared neurobiological mechanism at work — that is, does the dysfunction of that network lead to both depression and memory problems in people with sleep apnea?”

The study was published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychology Society.

Research contact: @RMIT