Posts tagged with "Psychology"

Try Good Housekeeping’s 30-day mental health challenge!

April 15, 2019

You’ve heard of ice-water challenges, dietary challenges, and social media challenges—but the most popular competition right now is all about your mind and stress. Searches for 30-day mental health challenges have increased by by 668% over the past year, Pinterest recently revealed.

Do these mini, month-long resets actually work? They can, but you have to approach them the right way, Helen L. Coons,  clinical director of the Women’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Service Line at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, recently told Good Housekeeping magazine.

“We know that small, realistic, and attainable steps help us sustain good health behavior,” she said. “So if we think that we’re going to lose 50 pounds this week, we tend not to do it, but if we think … ‘I’m going to skip the cookie today,’ that’s a good start. Same thing in mental health.”

The magazine’s editors teamed up with Dr. Coons to create a 30-day mental health challenge that aims to help you leave you feeling calmer and happier at the end of the month. Even better: You don’t need to spend a lot of money or have tons of free time to participate.

Before starting the challenge, GH recommends that participants position themselves for the best results by following four core guidelines:

  • Don’t think it’s selfish: “When we’ve taken good care of ourselves, not only do we have more energy for others, but we tend to be more focused and more present,” Dr. Coons advises.
  • Tap a friend:When we share our goals, we do better. Get a group of two, three, or four friends, for added accountability.
  • If you miss a day, don’t give up:The goal isn’t to be perfect. Even if you just do 25 or 15 days, that’s still an improvement from the previous month.
  • Keep it up afterward:Improving your well-being is an ongoing process, so adopt one or two new habits that changed your mood for the better.

Now, take a look at the activities below—one for each day of the next month, no matter when you start.

The upcoming month is all about focusing on self-care and finding ways to make physical and mental health a bigger part of your life, which may sound like a lot but in practice is pretty simple. The editors have designated one easy task per day, so that participants won’t feel too overwhelmed.

1. Do a deep breathing exercise: Count backwards from ten, breathing low and slow. Try it before a meeting, in the car, or before you greet your kids or partner after a long day.

2. Catch up with a good friend: Having a strong social support system is linked with a reduced risk of depression and high blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic.

3. Schedule something to look forward to: Plan a fun day later this month, whether you sign up for a cooking class, plan a mother-daughter movie marathon, or use the weekend to go on a mini road trip.

4. Donate or recycle something you never use: Visit givebackbox.com to download a free USPS shipping label, pack up your donations in an empty Amazon box, and it will go directly to Goodwill.

5. Do 30 minutes of yoga: Women who took twice-weekly yoga classes experienced a bigger decrease in chronic stress compared to a control group put on a wait-list, found a 2016 study published in the journal Cogent Psychology.

6. Plan a healthy meal: It’s no secret if you eat well, you feel well.

7. Ask for help with something: Tap into that support system for some assistance where you feel spread thin. After all, it takes a village.

8. Listen to your favorite happy music: In the car, in your home, in the shower…. Bonus points if you sing along.

9. Take 10 minutes to read: Either good stuff or junk! 

10. Go for a walk at lunch: Walking for 30 minutes in a natural or urban environment is linked with reducing stress hormone levels and improving mood, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

11. Budget 20 minutes of spa time: Whether it’s a manicure or a blowout, do whatever makes you feel good. “Not because of the superficial nature of it,” says Dr. Coons, “but when we tend to feel good about how we look, that also helps our well-being.”

12. Practice a favorite hobby: Coloring, doodling, and drawing all increase blood flow to the reward circuit in the brain, according to a 2017 study out of George Washington University, but do whatever creative activity brings you joy—knitting, jewelry making, you name it.

13. Let yourself get distracted by a movie: Go out or queue something up at home.

14. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier: Getting enough sleep can improve your mood, memory, and immune system, according to the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine.

\15. Drink water instead of alcohol or soda today: You’ll save money and avoid empty calories. Win-win.

16. Schedule a game night: Enjoy some friendly competition around a game board.

17. Set a mini goal: Make sure you eat breakfast every day this week, or find a friend sign up for a 5K with you.

18. Cross a lingering item off your to-do list: You know that doctor’s appointment you’ve been meaning to make for months?

19. Compliment someone: Put a little good karma into the world.

20. Plan a night in with friends: Gossip, laugh, eat, drink.

21. Try a 5-minute meditation: Download a free mindfulness app like Headspace and you can do it anywhere when you have a spare moment.

22. FaceTime with a family member: Just seeing Grandma happy will probably make you happy.

23. Do something outside: Walk the dog or find an empty bench to soak up some sun. Or look at the moon and stars before bedtime.

24. Book a date night with your partner: If you’re single, no problem. Call up a friend who appreciates you and plan something fun instead.

25. Unfollow negative people on social media: Those influencer accounts who make you feel any bit less-than? See ya, won’t miss ya.

26. Say no to something: Take a task off your calendar or move it to a more convenient or less stressful time.

27. Have a phone-free night at home: The blue light emitted by your screen can mess your with sleep hormones, so putting the tech away early will not only let you catch up on a new book, but also help you fall asleep faster.

28. Watch a silly video that makes you laugh: Remember, it’s the best medicine.

29. Write down something good that happened today: Even if you’ve just had the worst day, jot down what you’re grateful for instead.

30. Adopt a new habit: Reflect back on the past 30 days and think about making a change. Should game night become a weekly occurrence? Did going to a walk at lunch make feel that much ready to take on the rest of day? The month may be over, but you can make your favorite activities a regular, lifelong thing.

Research contact: @goodhousemag

One big happy family? Dads are more gratified than moms

February 11, 2019

In mom-and-pop households, a recent study conducted by the University of California-Riverside has found, fathers experience more well-being from parenthood than mothers.

Past studies have considered whether people with children have greater well-being than people without children. They do. But few have considered the relative happiness of fathers and mothers.

UCR psychologists and their colleagues analyzed three separate studies comprising more than 18,000 people to determine whether fathers or mothers experience greater happiness from their parenting roles.

Across the three studies, researchers looked at measures of well-being that included happiness, well-being, depressive symptoms, psychological satisfaction, and stress.

The first two studies compared well-being of parents with that of people who don’t have children. Across all outcomes measured in the first studies, fatherhood was more frequently linked with well-being than motherhood. Relative to peers without children, fathers reported greater satisfaction with their lives and feelings of connectedness to others, and they reported greater positive emotions and fewer daily hassles than mothers. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms than men without children; whereas mothers reported more depressive symptoms than women who don’t have children.

The third study considered parenthood and well-being while engaged in childcare or interacting with children, compared to other daily activities. In that cohort, researchers found, gender significantly impacted the association between childcare and happiness. Men were happier while caring for their children, while women were less happy.

In terms of daily interactions generally, both men and women were happier interacting with their children relative to other daily interactions. But men reported greater happiness from the interactions than women. One possible explanation for this finding is that, relative to mothers, fathers were more likely to indicate that they were playing with their children while they were caring for them or interacting with them.

“Fathers may fare better than mothers in part due to how they spend their time with their children,” said study author Katherine Nelson-Coffey, who worked in UCR psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky’s lab as a graduate student and is now an assistant professor of psychology at Sewanee: The University of the South.

Lyubomirsky said the study carries a suggestion: Perhaps all parents will benefit from finding more opportunity for play with their children.

The research paper, “Parenthood is Associated with Greater Well-Being for Fathers than Mothers,” was recently published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

 In addition to Lyubomirsky and Nelson-Coffey, authors include Kristin Layous, a former UCR graduate student and currently an assistant professor of psychology at California State University; Matthew Killingsworth, a senior fellow with Wharton People Analytics; and Steve Cole, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA.

Research contact: sonja.lyubomirsky@ucr.edu

Guppy love: The ‘feel-good’ properties of fish tanks

November 12, 2018

People who spend time watching aquariums and fish tanks could see improvements in their physical and mental well-being, according to findings of a study conducted cooperatively in the United Kingdom by the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth University, and the University of Exeter.

The team found that viewing aquarium displays led to noticeable reductions in blood pressure and heart rate, and that higher numbers of fish helped to hold people’s attention for longer and improve their moods. The study was published in 2015 in the journal, Environment and Behavior.

Lead researcher Deborah Cracknell of the National Marine Aquarium team said in a press release, “Fish tanks and displays are often associated with attempts at calming patients in doctors’ surgeries and dental waiting rooms. This study has, for the first time, provided robust evidence that ‘doses’ of exposure to underwater settings could actually have a positive impact on people’s well-being.”

The researchers benefited from a unique opportunity when the National Marine Aquarium refurbished one of its main exhibits —contained in a large 145,000-gallon tank—and began a phased introduction of different fish species. They were able to assess the mood, heart rate, and blood pressure of study participants as fish numbers in the exhibit gradually increased.

Dr Sabine Pahl, associate professor in Psychology at Plymouth University commented, “While large public aquariums typically focus on their educational mission, our study suggests they could offer a number of previously undiscovered benefits. In times of higher work stress and crowded urban living, perhaps aquariums can step in and provide an oasis of calm and relaxation.

Dr Mathew White, an environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter, remarked, “Our findings have shown improvements for health and well-being in highly managed settings, providing an exciting possibility for people who aren’t able to access outdoor natural environments. If we can identify the mechanisms that underpin the benefits we’re seeing, we can effectively bring some of the ‘outside inside’ and improve the well-being of people without ready access to nature.”

Research contact: Mathew.White@exeter.ac.uk