Investing in Mental Health is Good for Everyone

Mental health is important for everybody and painting it can be challenging for many people. As with most preventive practises it’s wise to invest in it. The benefits of keeping society in good mental health is a benefit for everybody.

Where relevant statistics have been available, a huge trove of data has been collected over the past 15 years on how these mental health issues translate into healthcare costs and disability claims expenses. While nations that don’t really recognize or provide for mental health issues don’t have to deal with the aforementioned costs, the data also consistently shows that mental health problems result in quantifiable losses in productivity and profitability due to days skipped, employee turnover, and even just zoning out or slowing down while at work. Estimates from the early 2000s claim an office could lose up to six days of labor per month to absenteeism, and 31 days per month due to presenteeism (being there but working at a low speed), problems up to three times more likely to occur in mentally unhealthy workers than in other groups. In the U.S., mental health disorders contribute to job loss or the inability to find a job for over three million workers per year, and chronic unemployment seems even more common the more severe one’s mental health issues become.

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Habits for Happiness

It turns out that just by doing some small changes to your daily routine you can dramatically improve your happiness. By adding very small habits to your day you can see big change! It’s not only for happiness but you can also use habits to alter other aspects of your life.

The key is not to think about grand, sweeping changes, but rather, small ones. Fogg would say very, very small. Back at Stanford, Fogg used his research to develop the “Tiny Habits” formation by keeping it deliberately simple. It runs counter to the way we think about changing habits. No one tries to meditate for three breaths; it’s often 15 or 30 minutes. Maybe we think aiming big is important because, that way, at least we’ll do half of it. It turns out the exact opposite is true.

To build a habit, Fogg says, you use an existing routine, such as brushing your teeth, as the anchor. That anchor becomes the reminder. Next, you do an incredibly simple version of the target behaviour. If you want to develop the habit of flossing, you make your goal to floss one tooth. That’s it. The habit isn’t learning how to floss, because everyone knows how to do it. The habit, Fogg says, is remembering to do it. Then, the final step is to celebrate instantly. Maybe shout “Victory!” or think of the theme music to Rocky. “What you’re doing is, you’re hacking your emotional state,” says Fogg. “You’re deliberately firing off an emotion right after you floss.” It sounds odd, especially because your fingers are probably messy and your gums could be painful. But, says Fogg, “emotions create habits. The habits that form quickly in our lives have an instant emotional payoff.”

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Band of the Month: Eytan Tobin

Annnnnd we’re back!

February’s Band of the Month is Eytan Tobin.
Admittedly, I know very little when it comes to electronic music. But I know what I like when I hear it, and Toronto’s Eytan Tobin‘s blend of hip-hop, dance, and electronic keeps me checking his Soundcloud regularly for the most recent release. From patient, hypnotic, rainy-urban-alleyway loops, to soulful and uplifting, electric, synth-layered crescendos, provoking head-bobbing satisfaction is this guy’s game.

Hear it for yourself….

Band of the Month by Greg O’Toole

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Mindfulness Meditation Effective in Improving Sleep

Mindfulness meditation is already pretty great, and it keeps getting better! Not only can it help you go amongst your day in a more thoughtful, productive, focussed manner, it can even help you sleep!

A six week trial of getting people who had trouble sleeping to mediate proved to help them get better rest.

Importance
Sleep disturbances are most prevalent among older adults and often go untreated. Treatment options for sleep disturbances remain limited, and there is a need for community-accessible programs that can improve sleep.

Objective
To determine the efficacy of a mind-body medicine intervention, called mindfulness meditation, to promote sleep quality in older adults with moderate sleep disturbances.

Conclusions and Relevance
The use of a community-accessible MAPs intervention resulted in improvements in sleep quality at immediate postintervention, which was superior to a highly structured SHE intervention. Formalized mindfulness-based interventions have clinical importance by possibly serving to remediate sleep problems among older adults in the short term, and this effect appears to carry over into reducing sleep-related daytime impairment that has implications for quality of life.

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Drinking Coffee Regularly Decreases DNA Damage

I start my day with coffee and writing a post about good news. Today those two things merged rather well: it turns out drinking coffee regularly can lower the chances that one’s DNA will get messed up.

DNA is always doing bizarre things and if those things get too bizarre then it can cause some very bad mutations. For some reason coffee keeps your DNA doing the right thing.

As one commentator on Reddit said:

Their findings indicate that those who drank 750 ml (~3 cups) of coffee per day experienced 27% fewer strand breaks in white blood cells than those who only drank water, controlling for diet and body weight.

Here’s the paper’s abstract:

Abstract
PURPOSE:
Coffee consumption has been reported to decrease oxidative damage in peripheral white blood cells (WBC). However, effects on the level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks, a well established marker of health risk, have not been specifically reported yet. We analyzed the impact of consuming a dark roast coffee blend on the level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks.

METHODS:
Healthy men (n = 84) were randomized to consume daily for 4 weeks either 750 ml of fresh coffee brew or 750 ml of water, subsequent to a run in washout phase of 4 weeks. The study coffee was a blend providing high amounts of both caffeoylquinic acids (10.18 ± 0.33 mg/g) and the roast product N-methylpyridinium (1.10 ± 0.05 mg/g). Before and after the coffee/water consumption phase, spontaneous strand breaks were determined by comet assay.

RESULTS:
At baseline, both groups exhibited a similar level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks. In the intervention phase, spontaneous DNA strand breaks slightly increased in the control (water only) group whereas they significantly decreased in the coffee group, leading to a 27 % difference within both arms (p = 0.0002). Food frequency questionnaires indicated no differences in the overall diet between groups, and mean body weight during the intervention phases remained stable. The consumption of the study coffee substantially lowered the level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks in WBC.

CONCLUSION:
We conclude that regular coffee consumption contributes to DNA integrity.

See the full paper here.

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