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Cora H.

@corahh268

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Staying mentally strong and healthy

Prevention is the best medicine. It is really difficult to pull out of negative spirals once we've fallen into them.

  • It's hard to pull out of a major depressive episode once we're in the habit of beating ourselves up.
  • It's hard to stop worrying once we've started imagining all the worst possible outcomes.

Not that pulling out of these problems is impossible. It isn't. But it can be a struggle. Life can be much better if we can creatively avoid these negative cycles in the first place.

@corahh268

Powerful Mental Health Habits from a Professional Psychologist

nickwignall.com

Mindfulness is a great way to train and control your attention - what you choose to focus on. Mindfulness can help you stop worrying and instead focus on the positives in your life; it can help you stop criticizing yourself and prevent you from procrastinating.

Good ways to get started:

  • Formal mindfulness practice, where you practise in a structured way for a fixed time.
  • Ordinary mindfulness, where you apply the lessons learned in mindfulness practice to real-life situations.
High-Intensity Interval Training

This method is where you exercise very intensely for short amounts of time. For example, 3 - 4 intense 30-minute workouts per week.

Regular exercise is one of the best ways to stay mentally healthy. High-Intensity Interval Training is logistically convenient and has beneficial effects from sleep to depression.

Getting consistently good rest will benefit everything from your immune system to your emotions.

Do just these two things:

  1. Be consistent with your evening routine each night. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will train your mind to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  2. Don't think or worry in bed. Your brain should associate bed with falling asleep. This means you should have a dedicated time and routine for problem-solving before bed.
Intermittent fasting

Intermittent Fasting means that you restrict your eating to a certain window of time. For example, start eating at noon and eat the last meal at 7:00.

Intermittent Fasting is the simplest framework for eating well. Cultivating an effective and reliable intermittent fasting system is very good to maintain our physical and mental health.

We all have shortcomings and blindspots. Try to take active steps to counteract them by regularly asking for feedback from people you trust.

This is often uncomfortable but almost always productive as it forces us to stay self-aware and keep working on ourselves.

Assertiveness

The ability to directly and respectfully ask for what you want, and setting boundaries on what you don't want, is key to building self-confidence and living according to your values.

Being assertive is not being rude or demanding, but a way to respect ourselves enough to ask for what we want. In the long run, we're teaching our brain that our wants are worthy of being taken seriously.

When you feel stressed or anxious, never worry in your head.

If you must worry, write out how you think and feel rather than just letting it loop over in your head. Putting it on paper forces you to slow your thoughts down.

The 4:55 drill

Staying organized and on track with all your responsibilities is a big part of not getting stressed out.

An effective technique for staying focused and productive is the 4:55 drill. At 4:55 ( or five minutes before you leave your office), jot down the three most important things you need to do the following day and leave that face-up on your desk.

  • It decreases your anxiety and stress about work during the evenings.
  • It clarifies what you need to do and reduces friction in the morning.
  • Not all mental health habits and routines should apply to everyone, but most are universally applicable.
  • Not all mental health habits are mentioned, nor are they gospel.
  • Many of the mental health habits are not psychological in nature. Mental health is built on top of a foundation of physical health. If that foundation isn't strong, what sits on top will also not be strong.
All About Endorphins
  • Research in the 1970s revealed that endorphins are natural narcotics inside our body, neurotransmitters that pass along signals in the nervous system.
  • Endorphins are produced during stress, pain or fear and originate from the pituitary gland, the spinal cord and other parts of the brain and nervous system.
  • There are 20 different kinds of endorphins, with beta-endorphins being the strong type.

Endorphins are secreted during stress or pain to block out the bad sensations, and are also responsible for pleasurable sensations that we get from eating our favourite food or having sex. Our brain generates emotions from an area called the limbic system, which has a specific region called hypothalamus, responsible for functions like breathing, hunger and emotional response.

Problems with the endorphin binding process result in clinical depression or sudden changes in emotions.

Endorphins are our own personal drugs supplied to us by our body, without the addiction part. Opiates (the artificial, addictive drug) are not as effective or safe as endorphins, which provide us with a sense of well-being and pleasure simply by belief and anticipation, called the Placebo Effect.

Opiates are addictive while endorphins are completely non-addictive, due to the fact that endorphins are more easily broken down and digested by our body’s receptors, leading to non-dependence.

Our endocrine system decides when we eat when we will reach puberty and when we need endorphins and other hormonal secretions from various glands.

Endorphins are triggered by the hypothalamus in our bodies when we are in stress, in pain or are doing:

  1. Heavy exercise.
  2. Meditation or controlled-breathing exercise like Pranayama (Yoga).
  3. Childbirth
  4. Light drinking.
  5. Eating hot chilli.
  6. Acupuncture or massage therapy.
  7. Ultraviolet Light.
Love is vital in recovering from serious mental illness

Love is critical to help us keep faith with life and rescue us from severe mental illness.

In fact, anyone who has ever suffered from mental illness and recovers will do so because of love, whether from a friend, a partner, a child, or a parent.

The Role of Love in Mental Health

theschooloflife.com

When we are sick in our minds, we have this punishing sense of how terrible we are, even if we often can't point to a specific crime. We are appalled by, and unforgiving of, who we are.

In this situation, a loving companion can make all the difference. They don't try to persuade us of our worth. They make pleasant conversation about something that won't make us anxious. They can tolerate how ill we are and will stick by us. They love us for who we are rather than what we do.

Patronising pity can make the attention of others oppressive.

Loving companions do not judge us as beneath them. They don't oppress us by clinging to their belief in their own solidity and competence. Our companions indicate that they too might one day be in our place and suffer with and for us.

Many mental traumas are the result of abandonment, and the neglect has thrown us off balance ever since. We may find it hard to depend on others.

A loving companion is ready to fight to earn our trust. We may try to incite despair and frustration and say some awful things to a carer we love. A wise companion will remain unruffled because they understand they are tested.

The mentally ill person is continually worried about ongoing and limitless torment. What if someone wants to take them away? What if the voices in their head never go away?

The loving companion does their best to quieten the panic. They present the future as unknowable but that the future will be fundamentally safe and bearable. They insist that they will be there.

When mentally ill, we may want to return again and again to the subject that should normally have been dealt with.

However, the loving response is to take the worry as seriously as possible and address it head-on without scoffing or denying the scale of the concern.

A loving companion looking after a mentally sick friend doesn't care very much about what other people may think. They don't care if they are in a minority when loving us.

We are not loved for anything we have done, but simply because we exist.

Your mental health is like a wallet

This metaphor means seeing your mental health as a wallet: money comes in, money comes out. How much money is in there is how many adverse events you can go through while sustaining your mental health.

We usually only worry about our mental health during distressing events, and don't take into consideration the many daily events that empty our mental health wallet, often without us realizing it.

Mental wealth: managing your mental health budget

nesslabs.com

  • The ways people are using social media has more of an impact on their mental health than just the frequency and duration of their use.
  • Microaggressions and discrimination.
  • Urban life: urbanites are 21% more likely to have anxiety disorders and 39% more likely to have mood disorders.
  • Financial worries have been linked to mental health issues among university students, and about half of people in problem debt.
  • Lack of sleep, a poor diet and alcohol consumption.
  • Journaling has many science-based benefits. It can be used to reduce your anxiety or process traumatic events.
  • Exercise is powerful medicine. Whenever you are feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, try to go for a short run to clear your head.
  • Talking it out. Not expressing your feelings will not help you process them. And talking about your emotions is not about receiving advice. Instead, it’s about having someone to share what you are going through.
  • Educate yourself. Read about mental health, common adverse events impacting people’s mental health, and the different realities faced by different populations when it comes to mental health.
  • Listen without judgement. Validate the person’s experience. Do not jump to giving advice. Offer them a space to share.
  • Be mindful of your language. Avoid vocabulary such as “crazy” or “insane” which may dehumanise the person you are trying to help.
The beaked masks from the 17th century

During the 17th century plague, doctors were said to have worn long cloak, grotesque bird-like mask, a wide-brimmed hat, and wooden cane, serving as protection against the odors coming from the plague. It was a particular sight for sure.

Why did 17th-century plague doctors wear peculiar beaked masks?

historyextra.com

The doubtful existence of the beaked mask 

While today one can still find a lot of images on the way doctors were dressed during the 17th-century plague in Italy, the same cannot be said about England. Here there is no evidence about such a costume to have ever been worn.

A new study reveals that even though we are exercising and eating at the same levels as 30 years ago, we are not able to sustain our weights like before, leading to obesity and other disorders. The reasons for this phenomenon:

  1. More exposure to chemicals(packaged foods, pesticides) leading to hormonal changes.
  2. Prescription drugs which have exotic side-effects.
  3. Processed foods, especially those with artificial sweeteners, which are mutating our microbiome (gut bacteria).

It's Harder for Millennials to Stay Thin Than It Was for Boomers

theatlantic.com

Salt: The Flavour Potentiator

One of the oldest foods in the world, salt is not as much a flavour in itself as it is an enhancer, bringing out the flavors in all kinds of foods. It makes noodles, watermelon, meat, and all other kinds of food taste richer and generally better.

Humans crave salt as it has the chemicals we need to survive in the ionic compound composed of sodium and chlorine.

A Guide to Salt, the World’s Most Popular Food

seriouseats.com

Salt is harvested from ocean water, and now increasingly from salt mines, like the Himalayan Pink Salt mine called Khewra in Pakistan. Salt is mined much like coal, with explosives and excavations.

All salt is essentially sodium chloride, and it originates from the oceans and seas, even when it is harvested from caves. Salt is a mineral and if no anti-caking agents are added to it, is sometimes labeled as organic, which is not accurate as it isn’t an organically grown substance.

Drying the ocean or sea water is a universal way of extracting sea salt, though the french method of retaining some moisture gives it a softer consistency.

Sea salt is also harvested from ponds and is generally from the bottom depths known as oeillets. The french method prefers harvesting from the surface, with some variants having larger crystals.

A dried variant of sea-salt, hawaiian salt is dried using lava beds, giving it a brick-like (red Hawaiian salt) or darker (black Hawaiian Salt) color.

Charcoal is also added to normal sea salt to produce the same effect, and a similar color does not guarantee a similar process of extraction.

The standard cubic crystal salt is known as table salt, with the small and even crystals making it flow from the container easily.

This popular salt may have added anti-caking agents like silicon dioxide or dextrose so that the salt is not clumpy. Iodine is generally added to table salt, and according to medical science, is an important nutrient.

A non-iodine salt, Kosher salt is of a larger and fluffier shape, which makes it stick to the food it is sprinkled on and detonate it’s flavour. The large crystals of this salt are used to ‘kosher’ meat according to Jewish laws, hence the name.

Many varieties of kosher salt contain a bit of anti-caking agents like yellow prussiate soda, or sodium ferrocyanide (I would skip that!)

This salt is mined from Pakistan and is pinkish in color, and is marketed in an exotic manner, adding to its appeal. The natural pink color glows, and all other properties remain the same as sea-salt.

  • Flake Salt: Pyramid-shaped crystals make this salt brittle and crunchy.
  • Slab Salt: Slabs of Himalayan pink salt are used to serve food, as they retain the heat well. These salt trays are usually the mined slabs of pink salt.
  • Rock Salt: This salt has uses in ice-cream making and in retaining dry ice, due to its rocky, chunky shape. It is also used to melt ice on the roads.
  • Pickling Salt: A fine salt with smaller crystals, this variety is free from anti-caking agents and iodine.
  • Kala Namak: Also known as black salt, this indian variety of salt has traces of copper and caramel, and tastes a bit like overcooked boiled eggs, or even rotten eggs.
  • Infused/Seasoned Salts: Various smoked and seasoned salts are in the market providing infusions, flavours and colors like saffron, garlic, vanilla, various kinds of herbs. They are able to blend well, as salt is a preservative in itself.
Our Relationship With Food Through The Ages

While everyone eats every day, hungry or not, our relationship with food changes, based on our age.

Apart from hunger, our mind and body get the ‘cue’ to eat using advertising, smells, sounds and certain visuals, leading to recreational consumption.

There are seven stages of appetite that influence our eating habits.

How your age affects your appetite

bbc.com

  • Age 0-10: Rapid growth and heavy dietary requirements mark this time, and one has to watch out for junk food eating habits along with certain controlled eating formations in kids.
  • Age 10-20: The hormonal changes in this age along with the teen lifestyle trigger unhealthy food choices in this critical age.
  • Age 20-30: College, marriage, live-in or parenthood often leads to weight gain, as the body tends to send strong signals to eat, but not for overeating.
  • Age 30-40: Lack of a work-life balance and certain food addictions affect one’s health during mid-life. The working population often sacrifice their hunger pangs by unhealthy snacking (like coffee and doughnuts), as the focus is on productivity, not health.
  • Age 40-50: Lifestyle problems start to come in the picture in this age due to the kind of diet consumed in the earlier stages, though some symptoms are silent, like high blood pressure or cholesterol.
  • Age 50-60: The body starts to decline, with a gradual loss of muscle mass (called sarcopenia) which is due to less physical activity and consuming less protein.

Age 60-70: Good nutrition along with a functioning body is crucial at an old age, due to lack of hunger which leads to a loss of weight and illnesses of the mind and body.

Food is crucial in all ages but is especially important (along with physical activity) in old age even though many complications arise like dental problems, swallowing issues and reduced taste and smell.

One should savour and relish the food we eat and follow the basic guidelines of exercise and nutrition.

Loneliness Is A Kind Of Pain
  • Loneliness affects 19 to 43 per cent of adults who are now past 60 years of age.
  • Just as physical pain is a warning from the body telling us to take appropriate action, our feeling of being lonely and disconnected is a social pain, a signal that we need to take care of ourselves by the means of companionship.
  • Loneliness, if prolonged, is also associated with heart disease, strokes and other lifestyle diseases.

How social isolation changes the brain

inverse.com

Studies show that older adults who are lonely see a decline in their thinking abilities, which is rapid if paired with other factors like physical inactivity, anxiety, poor sleep and high blood pressure.

Prolonged social isolation is a kind of mental stress leading to various mental and physical health issues like faster ageing, dementia and cognitive decline. It has also been linked to the factors that lead to Alzheimer’s disease, like a build-up of certain toxic proteins in the brain.

  • The negative impact of prolonged loneliness can be curbed with maintaining high-quality relationships and social activity.
  • How we manage our feelings and relationships is important for our brain’s health.
  • Self-care is an essential component of our mental and physical health, and we have to focus our attention towards better sleep and exercise routines, healthy eating and engaging in enjoyable activities.
Binaural beats

Binaural beats are an auditory illusion that has stress-busing properties. Proponents claim that listening to binaural beats can boost focus, promote relaxation, and reduce stress and anxiety.

However, some studies concluded that the impact of binaural beats on cognitive performance "remains to be seen."

Sounds like hype: there's scant evidence the 'binaural beats' illusion relaxes your brain

theconversation.com

  • Binaural beats is a perceptual illusion that happens when two slightly different frequencies (notes) are played into each ear separately, usually using headphones.
  • The resonance between the two frequencies is interpreted as a third sound - or binaural beat - and is heard as a frequency between the two played frequencies.
  • The claim is that this third frequency prompts brain cells to begin firing at the same frequency, which purportedly is similar to the frequency of brain waves that occur during deep sleep at our most relaxed states.

Specific frequencies are thought to be involved in specific cognitive tasks.

  • During deep sleep, the predominant brain activity occurs with frequencies between 1 and 4 Hertz (delta waves.) Delta waves are associated with learning and motivation.
  • Theta waves (4-7Hz) are linked to memory and emotional regulation.

Brain entrainment - where brain cells fire at the same frequency - is a real effect that happens in response to particular rhythmic frequencies perceived by our senses. A deep-pitched musical tone can cause your brain cells to start firing at the same frequency.

  • The authors played binaural or monaural (normal) beats to 16 participants, and recorded their brain activity with EEG.
  • They found both beats can entrain the brain to their particular frequency, but participants described no significant effect on their mood changes.
  • However, binaural beats can generate "cross-frequency connectivity," where the brain coordinates its activity across different types of brain waves.
  • It's then possible that binaural beats can be beneficial to some types of cognition, including memory recall.
  • An analysis of 35 studies demonstrated a modest effect on attention, memory, anxiety, and pain perception. However, these were not tested in the current study.

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