Tag Archives: wellness

Researchers pinpoint brain’s happiness region

creativity1.jpg Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence,” the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said. But how does one reach this goal? According to a new study by researchers from Japan, a person’s happiness may depend on the size of a specific brain region.

Researchers found people who were happier had larger gray matter volume in the precuneus region of the brain.

Study leader Dr. Wataru Sato, of Kyoto University in Japan, and colleagues publish their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

The definition of happiness has been debated for centuries. In recent years, psychologists have suggested that happiness is a combination of life satisfaction and the experience of more positive than negative emotions – collectively deemed “subjective well-being.”

But according to Dr. Sato and his colleagues, the neurological mechanisms behind a person’s happiness were unclear.

“To date, no structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) investigation of the construct has been conducted,” they note.

“Identification of the neural substrates underlying subjective happiness may provide a complementary objective measure for this subjective construct and insight into its information-processing mechanism.”

 

Meditation may boost happiness by targeting precuneus brain region

To address this research gap, the team used MRI to scan the brains of 51 study participants.

After the scans, subjects were asked to complete three short questionnaires that asked them how satisfied they are with their lives, how happy they are and how intensely they feel positive and negative emotions.

The researchers found that individuals who had higher happiness scores had larger gray matter volume in the precuneus of the brain – a region in the medial parietal lobe that plays a role in self-reflection and certain aspects of consciousness – than their unhappy counterparts.YMen.jpg

What is more, the researchers found that one’s happiness may be driven by a combination of greater life satisfaction and intensity of positive emotion – supporting the theory of subjective well-being.

“These results indicate that the widely accepted psychological model postulating emotional and cognitive components of subjective happiness may be applicable at the level of neural structure,” they add.

These findings, the researchers say, indicate that individuals may be able to boost their happiness through practices that target the precuneus, such as meditation:

“Previous structural neuroimaging studies have shown that training in psychological activities, such as meditation, changed the structure of the precuneus gray matter.

Together with these findings, our results suggest that psychological training that effectively increases gray matter volume in the precuneus may enhance subjective happiness.”

Dr. Sato adds that, while further research is required, these current findings may be useful for developing psychological programs that boost a person’s happiness.

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National Public Health Week

The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and communities. We strengthen the profession of public health, foster understanding, engagement and support for key public health issues and directly influence public policy to improve global health. Our members represent virtually every public health discipline and are active in more than 40 countries. APHA publishes the American Journal of Public Health and The Nation’s Health, convenes an mindembodiedorangAnnual Meeting and Exposition where thousands of participants share the latest public health research and leads public awareness campaigns such as Get Ready and National Public Health Week.

During the first full week of April each year, APHA brings together communities across the United States to observe National Public Health Week as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation. For nearly 20 years, APHA has served as the organizer of NPHW. Every year, the Association develops a national campaign to educate the public, policymakers and practitioners about issues related to each year’s theme. APHA creates new NPHW materials each year that can be used during and after NPHW to raise awareness about public health and prevention.

Men and Depression

In my years f doing groups I have on occasion facilitated men only groups. One issue that comes up is depression. We all have bouts of sadness now and than and when those bouts of sadness interfere with our daily lives than we need to take a step in the direction of change. Below is a handout I often use, particularly with dual diagnosed men.  5241352878_f53a343088

Symptoms of Depression

Not everyone who is depressed or manic experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few; some people suffer many. The severity of symptoms varies among individuals and also over time.

· Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood.

· Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.

· Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.

· Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyable

· Decreased energy, fatigue; feeling “slowed down.”

· Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.

· Trouble sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping.

· Changes in appetite and/or weight.

· Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.

· Restlessness or irritability.

· Persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain that do not respond to routine treatment.


Co-Occurrence of Depression with Other Illnesses

Depression can coexist with other illnesses. In such cases, it is important that the depression and each co-occurring illness be appropriately diagnosed and treated. Research has shown that anxiety disorders which include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder commonly accompany depression.

Substance use disorders (abuse or dependence) also frequently co-occur with depressive disorders. Research has revealed that people with drug and/or alcohol addiction are almost twice as likely to experience depression.

Depression has been found to occur at a higher rate among people who have other serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV, diabetes, and Parkinson’s.

Causes of Depression

Very often, a combination of cognitive, genetic, and environmental factors is involved in the onset of depression. Modern brain-imaging technologies reveal that, in depression, neural circuits responsible for the regulation of moods, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior fail to function properly.

In some families, depressive disorders seem to occur generation after generation; however, they can also occur in people with no family history of these illnesses. Genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of specific multiple genes acting together with non-genetic factors.

Environmental factors such as trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, financial problem, or any stressful change in life patterns, whether the change is unwelcome or desired, can trigger a depressive episode in vulnerable individuals. Once someone experiences a bout of depression later episodes of depression may occur without an obvious cause.

Men and Depression

Men are more likely than women to report alcohol and drug abuse or dependence in their lifetime; however, there is debate among researchers as to whether substance use is a “symptom” of underlying depression in men or a co-occurring condition that more commonly develops in men. Nevertheless, substance use can mask depression, making it harder to recognize depression as a separate illness that needs treatment.

Instead of acknowledging their feelings, asking for help, or seeking appropriate treatment, men may turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed, or become frustrated, discouraged, angry, irritable, and, sometimes, violently abusive. Some men deal with depression by throwing themselves compulsively into their work, attempting to hide their depression from themselves, family, and friends. Other men may respond to depression by engaging in reckless behavior, taking risks, and putting themselves in harm’s way.

How to Help Yourself if You Are Depressed

Depressive disorders can make one feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. It is important to realize that these negative views are part of the depression and do not accurately reflect the actual circumstances. Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect. In the meantime:

  • Engage in mild exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame, or participate in religious, social, AA/NA meetings or other healthy activities.
  • Set realistic goals and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
  • Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and what you can as you can.
  • Try to be with other people and to confide in someone; it is usually better than being alone and secretive.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately.
  • Feeling better takes time. Often during treatment of depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions. Before deciding to make a significant transition–change jobs, get married or divorced–discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Do not expect to ‘snap out of’ a depression. But do expect to feel a little better day-by-day.
  • Remember, positive thinking will replace the negative thinking as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Let your family and friends help you.