Improve your cognitive and mental health with the latest brain health and fitness news, carefully curated and medically reviewed, from around the web.
Long-Term Exposure to Adversity May Dampen Dopamine Production
Long-term exposure to extreme adversity may alter the brain’s dopamine system. Examples of these kinds of stressors include having faced poverty, grief, domestic violence, or social discrimination.
Niksen: The Dutch Art of Purposefully Doing Nothing
Purposely “doing nothing” may be one of the reasons the Dutch are among the happiest people on earth. Time spent daydreaming or simply “being” can decrease anxiety, enhance creativity, and boost productivity.
What’s the Best Way to Learn? The 85% Rule Says It’s OK to Make Mistakes
If you want to optimize your ability to learn, set aside your perfectionist tendencies and don’t be afraid of making some mistakes. The sweet spot seems to be allowing for a 15% error rate.
Study Finds Brains of Girls and Boys Are Similar, Producing Equal Math Ability
That boys are better at math and science than girls is a brain myth that won’t die. But the latest research found no gender disparity in how boys and girls learn and perform math skills.
World’s First Airport Therapy Pig Hogs the Limelight at San Francisco Airport
Pigs might not fly, but one pig is making air travel less stressful. LiLou the pig is part of San Francisco International Airport’s “Wag Brigade” — a program that brings therapy animals to the airport to help ease passengers’ travel anxieties.
Fair Fighting Rules From a Marriage Therapist
Resolving conflict within a marriage or other serious relationship requires a unique set of skills — the ability to listen, communicate without blame, and manage difficult emotions. In this article, a marriage and family therapist reveals how to fight fair, saving your relationships from destructive arguments and saying things you’ll later regret.
What Focusing on the Breath Does to Your Brain
We’ve all heard the age-old wisdom of calming down by taking a deep breath. Recent research confirms that this works by activating several areas of the brain linked to emotion, attention, and body awareness.
People Who Try to Be Environmentally-Friendly by Buying Less Stuff Are Happier
“Buying green” is largely an oxymoron. You can better help the environment and be happier by simply buying less stuff.
Blue Spaces: Why Time Spent Near Water Is the Secret of Happiness
Spending time in green spaces is good for your mental well-being, but so is being near water. But if you don’t live near a large body of water, even spending time near a fountain will do.
Tobacco Smoking Increases Risk of Depression and Schizophrenia
It is well-known that smoking is much more common among people with mental illness, but it’s not clear which comes first. The latest research conducted on nearly a half million participants determined that smoking increases the risk of certain mental disorders, not the other way around.
Consumer Reports Tests: Turmeric and Echinacea
Turmeric is a popular brain supplement. Of the turmeric products Consumer Reports tested, one-third did not meet their standards due to elevated levels of lead or bacteria, or low levels of active compounds (curcuminoids). Learn which turmeric supplements met their criteria, and which did not.
Shockingly Simple: Aspirin, Advil, Fish Oil Effectively and Safely Help Curb Depression
There’s growing evidence that depression may be a result of chronic inflammation. Anti-inflammatory agents, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and fish oil, can curb the symptoms of major depression. They also enhance the effects of prescription antidepressants when taken together.
Alzheimer’s Risk May Be 75% Higher for People Who Eat Trans Fats
Here’s another good reason to avoid trans fats, those unhealthy fats found in fast food, fried foods, coffee creamer, and other processed foods. People with higher levels of trans fats in their blood are up to 75% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Half of All Commonly Used Drugs Profoundly Affecting the Gut Microbiome
It’s common knowledge that antibiotics disrupt your gut bacteria. But surprisingly, proton pump inhibitors (for acid reflux), Metformin (for diabetes), and laxatives are also among the worst drugs that disrupt gut bacteria. A dysfunctional microbiome can be the root cause of anxiety, depression, ADHD, memory loss, concentration issues, chronic inflammation, and more.
5 Effective Exercises to Help You Stop Believing Your Unwanted Automatic Thoughts
Psychology professor Steven Hayes, PhD, reveals five simple exercises to quiet automatic negative thoughts, the constant stream of internal statements, criticisms, and commands we all have running through our heads.
For Most Healthy People, Benefits of Statins “May Be Marginal at Best”
For years, doctors have been pushing statins even though they are among the worst drugs for causing memory loss. The latest research finds the benefits of statins for heart disease prevention to be “small and uncertain” and the indiscriminate use of statins is “a waste of healthcare resources.”
How Did Halloween Become a Monster Holiday?
How did an ancient pagan ritual become a billion-dollar holiday? People like to experience fear in a safe, controlled environment, such as watching horror movies or riding roller coasters. (And free chocolate doesn’t hurt either.)
Stimulants: Using Them to Cram for Exams Ruins Sleep and Doesn’t Help Test Scores
The non-prescription use of stimulants as smart drugs is a growing problem on college campuses. They are potentially addictive and interfere with the sleep your brain needs to function. These drugs are more hype than help since there’s no evidence they actually help make students smarter or help them get better grades.
A Happy Place: Wolcott Therapeutic Farm Redefining Mental Health Care
One Connecticut counselor who finds nature to be an important part of any mental health treatment plan is offering a new approach. His office resides on a farm where patients can hike, meditate, garden, interact with animals, and reconnect with nature.
Scientists Have Found a New Benefit of Drinking Tea for the Brain
Researchers have found another good reason to drink tea. The brains of tea drinkers are more symmetrical and information more readily flows between various regions of the brain. This results in a more efficient brain and slows the rate of cognitive decline.
Can a Jellyfish Protein Improve Your Memory?
Prevagen is a popular brain supplement whose main ingredient is made from a jellyfish protein called apoaequorin. But studies show that this protein is readily digested by stomach acid, and so never makes it into your brain. This article suggests eating fish, a known brain food, instead.
NBA Exec: “It’s the Dirty Little Secret That Everybody Knows About”
Lack of sleep is a huge problem for many people, but especially for NBA basketball players who play 82 games and fly up to 50,000 miles per season. Learn about the steps these pros are taking to get the sleep they need.
“Dopamine Fasting” Is the Newest “Sounds Fake, But OK” Wellness Trend
Dopamine fasting is a growing trend that may have some merit. To combat the effects of too much dopamine caused by overstimulation, Silicon Valley biohackers are taking time off from electronic devices, drugs, and sex, and even embracing silence for 24-hour periods.
Researchers Find Moderate Wine Drinking Does Not Increase Dementia Risk
Harvard researchers confirm that people who drink in moderation suffer from lower rates of cognitive decline than heavy drinkers. Additionally, moderate drinkers are at no greater risk for dementia than non-drinkers.
Top 7 Evidence-Based Mental Health Apps
There’s an abundance of apps that claim to help with mental health issues, but not all of them deliver on that promise. These seven evidenced-based mental health apps have either met US Food and Drug Administration requirements or have at least one clinical research study to support their effectiveness.
Digital Psychiatry: Augmenting the Future of Mental Health Practice
Digital psychiatry is gaining acceptance and shows considerable potential to change the face of clinical practice. Current uses include telepsychiatry clinics and online chats.
It Only Takes 3 Weeks of Eating These Key Foods to Reduce Depression
Young adults who ate a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, and lean meat reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in only three weeks. It seems that forgoing processed food was even more important than the addition of healthy foods.
Want to Enjoy Life More? Ruthlessly Eliminate This Personality Trait
It’s easy to become bitter when faced with disappointments. Bitterness is like a drug that poisons your attitude and relationships. Discover the simple antidote to bitterness.
Stanford Psychology Expert: This Is the No. 1 Work Skill of the Future — But Most Fail to Realize it
In the age of increased automation, the most sought-after jobs are those that require the kind of human ingenuity that comes from focusing deeply on the task at hand. Having laser-like focus is expected to become the single most important job skill you can develop.
How to Identify When Your Brain Is Taking a Harmful Shortcut
So-called “gut reactions” are the result of your brain making decisions using your limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Unfortunately, the limbic system has a poor track record for making the best decisions.
To Pay Attention, the Brain Uses Filters, Not a Spotlight
Your brain’s ability to filter out distractions might be one of its most important skills to help you pay attention. Be sure to check out the short, fun “Awareness Test” video to see how you do!
A 60,000-Year-Old Cure for Depression
In some Australian hospitals, indigenous healers are now working alongside Western doctors and mental health experts to treat depression or “sickness of the spirit” using complementary treatments including herbs, spiritual ceremonies, and massage.
Genetics and Mental Illness
Many major psychiatric disorders have been found to have a genetic component. So far, the evidence suggests that anxiety disorders and depression are 20-45% inherited, substance abuse is 50-60% inherited, while bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and attention disorders are upwards of 75% inherited.
How Dishonesty Drains You
Even small instances of dishonesty, ie, “white lies,” have unintended consequences for your emotional intelligence. They undermine your ability to read others’ emotions and consequently negatively affect relationships.
Better With Age: Women Over 50 Are Happier, More Secure Than Women in Their 20s
In our youth-oriented society, older women are generally overlooked. But a survey commissioned by Platinum magazine found that women in their 50s and 60s are more happy and confident than women in their 20s. Mature women also report greater relationship satisfaction.
Virtual Assistants with Personality Can Help with Mental Illness
Many people who could benefit from mental health therapy lack access to a therapist. Automated virtual therapists with natural language and personalities are being developed to fill this need.
Here’s the Truth About CBD, From a Cannabis Researcher
Jeffrey Chen, executive director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, explains the potential benefits (eg, for anxiety, schizophrenia, addiction, and Parkinson’s) as well as the drawbacks and unknowns of using CBD oil.
Tai Chi Training Might Promote Emotional Stability and Slow Gray Matter Atrophy in Seniors
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese moving meditation practice. Long-term tai chi practitioners have better emotional stability and more gray matter in two regions of the brain.
A growing number of studies are pointing to a link between air pollution and mental health disorders across all age groups, from kids to adults.
This Could Be Why You’re Depressed and Anxious
Journalist Johann Hari shares insights on the causes of depression and anxiety from experts around the world — as well as some exciting emerging solutions.
What Is the Best Diet for Mental Health?
An analysis of studies with nearly 46,000 participants of all ages confirms that a whole-food diet heavy on fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed protein can lift your mood and protect you from depression, while too much junk food puts your mental health at risk.
The Grandmaster Diet: How to Lose Weight While Barely Moving
Your brain uses a disproportionate amount of oxygen, water, nutrients, and energy. A chess grandmaster can burn 560 calories in two hours of playing chess — or roughly what Roger Federer burns playing an hour of tennis!
How to Stop Checking Your Phone: 4 Secrets From Research
Collectively, smartphone users check their phones 5 billion times a minute. One study found that nearly half of people asked would prefer a broken bone to a broken phone. Here’s how to not be one of those people.
Antidepressants May Reduce Anxiety More Than Depressive Symptoms
The largest placebo-controlled trial of an antidepressant not funded by a drug company did not confirm the expected results. This study found that sertraline (generic form of Zoloft), a commonly prescribed antidepressant, works better at reducing anxiety than as an antidepressant.
11 Ways Plants Enhance Your Mental and Emotional Health
Living near green spaces and spending as much time outdoors as possible can improve mood, reduce stress, improve cognition, and enhance overall well-being in people of all ages.
How Sexism Hurts Mental Health
Sexism is a reliable predictor of women’s mental health. Women who experience sexist discrimination are three times more likely to be depressed than women who don’t.
Back to Work Blues Are Real and Treatable
Feeling blue and let down after summer vacation is normal. Dr. Randy Hillard, a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, offers advice for transitioning back to your real life.
Tim Ferriss, the Man Who Put His Money Behind Psychedelic Medicine
Tim Ferriss, author of the blockbuster book The 4-Hour Workweek, has organized millions of dollars in funding commitments (and donated $2 million of his own money) for a Johns Hopkins Medicine research center to study the use of psychedelic drugs for mental disorders.
Money Matters: Financial Stress Literally Making 2 in 5 Young Americans Sick
Financial stress is impacting an entire generation of young Americans. They report financial stress is damaging relationships, affecting performance at work, and affecting their health.
Scientists Reveal One Supplement That Helps Depression More Than Others
The world’s largest review of studies on supplements and mental health found omega-3 supplements to be the most effective at relieving depression.
The Psychology Behind Why Clowns Creep Us Out
This has been a banner year for horror movies, many of which feature clowns or clown-like villains. Psychologist Rami Nader studies coulrophobia, the irrational fear of clowns. He believes that clown phobias are fueled by the fact that clowns wear makeup and disguises that hide their true identities and feelings.
Doctors Are Now Prescribing House Plants for Anxiety and Depression
Patients are increasingly being prescribed time in nature and community gardening projects as part of “green prescriptions” by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. But when that’s not possible, growing house plants provides similar benefits.
Dark Chocolate for Depression
A study of over 13,000 adults found that people who eat dark chocolate are less likely to report depression. Interestingly, the same effects were not seen with milk chocolate.
Starbucks to Boost Workers’ Mental Health Benefits, Reduce ‘Remedial Tasks’
Starbucks is putting mental health on its employee benefits agenda. It is now offering several mental health services to employees, including providing counseling as well as access to Headspace, a guided meditation app. The company also plans to reduce boring, repetitive tasks so that baristas can spend more time connecting with customers.
Cheers! Sports Fans Enjoy Self-Esteem Boost For Days After Watching Their Team Win
Football fans experience a boost in happiness and self-esteem that lasts for days after a team victory. This effect is most pronounced when watching the game with friends. Watching with friends also softens the blow when your team loses.
Walking School Buses Get Kids Moving, Alert, and Ready to Learn
Less than 15% of children now walk to school. The “walking school bus” movement gets kids walking, which helps them develop healthy habits and makes them better students.
Want to Live Longer? Be an Optimist, Study Says
Research confirms that only about 25% of optimism is genetic, the rest is under your control. Learn how to train your brain to be more positive.
Do Plant Based Diets Deprive the Brain of an Essential Nutrient?
There’s a growing trend towards plant-based diets, but they may be lacking in choline, an important nutrient found mainly in animal foods. Choline is the building block of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter of learning and memory.
How Climate Change Affects Your Mental Health
Extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods, and wildfires put residents at risk for anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidality.
When study participants were given a compound secreted by the Colorado River toad (5-MeO-DMT), they felt less depressed, anxious, and stressed for up to four weeks after a single dose. We don’t suggest you try this at home!
Selfie-Conscious Study: People Who Post Selfies Less Liked, Less Successful, Less Confident
According to researchers, frequent selfie-takers are almost universally viewed as less likable, less successful, more insecure, and less open to new experiences than those who typically share photos of themselves taken by other people.
Regularly breathing polluted air puts you at increased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder and depression.
Genetic Tests for Depression Treatment Aren’t Effective
Dozens of companies offer tests which aim to predict how a depressed patient will respond to medications based on their genetic makeup. It sounds great in theory, but there’s little evidence that these tests work.
Related on Be Brain Fit —
Commercial testing for mental health conditions is fraught with problems. Read about the issues with memory testing.
Drinking Fluoridated Water During Pregnancy May Lower IQ in Sons
A study published in the prestigious JAMA Pediatrics reports a link between maternal fluoride ingestion during pregnancy and a decrease in IQ score of their offspring. Noting the controversial nature of their work, the authors of the study hope that their findings spur further investigation.
City Parks Lift Mood as Much as Christmas
A team of scientists from the University of Vermont discovered that visiting an urban park increases happiness on par with the mood spike experienced on Christmas, considered the happiest day of the year.
How To Be Happy: 20 Ways to Be Happier Today
“How can I get happy?” is one of the most popular Google search queries. If you want to learn how to be happier, here are 20 tips from Zack Friedman, author of The Lemonade Life.
Here’s What Happens to Your Body and Brain When You Pull an All-Nighter
Next time you’re tempted to pull an all-nighter, be aware of the consequences! Staying awake for 23 hours or more causes reduced connectivity between regions of the brain and loss of brain tissue. It’s not quite as clear whether these changes are permanent.
FCC Suggests ‘988’ as New Suicide Prevention Hotline
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. The current official Suicide Hotline phone number is an unmemorable 10-digit number. A new shorter number — “988” — is being proposed instead.
A Swiss Army Knife for Your Mind
A “thought record” is a cognitive behavioral therapy tool that you can use on your own or when working with a therapist. According to clinical psychologist Jonathan N. Stea, it is so powerful for addressing mental health concerns that “It should be taught in schools. Everyone should know what it is and it should become embedded within popular culture.”
A Blood Test for Alzheimer’s? It’s Coming, Scientists Report
For decades, researchers have sought a blood test for beta amyloid, a protein that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have developed a new blood test that is more accurate and identifies beta amyloid plaques sooner than brain scans.
The Single Word That Stops Negative Self-Talk
A major research project found that the magic word to stop negative self-talk is “gratitude.” Expressing gratitude can help you be happier, more optimistic, satisfied with life, connected to others, and productive.
Ghosting, Gaslighting, Orbiting: How Putting a Name to a Bad Behavior Can Help You Heal
When others manipulate you or otherwise treat you badly, it’s natural to take on some of the blame. But putting a name to someone else’s bad behavior can help you avoid wrongful self-blame, move past it, and avoid it in the future.
AMA President: Don’t Equate Mental Illness With Mass Shootings
Mass shootings and gun control are highly emotional issues. The president of the American Medical Association, psychiatrist Dr. Patrice Harris, rejects blaming mental illness for mass shootings. She calls for lawmakers, law enforcement, and physicians to think critically and work together to find solutions based on facts and data.
Three Emerging Insights About Happiness
Last month, researchers from around the world gathered at the International Positive Psychology Association’s World Congress to share cutting-edge insights on the science of well-being. Here are three surprising things they learned about what makes people happy.
Every year millions of children and teens suffer from traumatic brain injuries. While you might suspect that most injuries occur during sporting activities, in fact, just as many are caused by everyday items around the house. Ironically, this list includes car seats. Learn about potential hazards and how to keep your family safe.
The Impacts of Extreme Heat on Mental Health
Extreme heat can impact anyone’s mood, but its effect is more pronounced in those with mental health disorders. They are more likely to experience heat stroke, as well as changes in cognition, mood, sleeping patterns, and propensity towards violence.
Prevent Unnecessary Medical Care — By Asking Your Doctor These 4 Questions First
By asking your doctor the right questions, you can avoid unnecessary medications, tests, treatments, or procedures. This holds true for both physical and mental health care decisions.
Tart Cherry Juice May Juice Up the Brain and Improve Cognitive Function
As a natural source of melatonin, tart cherry juice has been used to get a good night’s sleep. There’s now evidence that it may also improve cognitive functions such as memory, speed, and accuracy due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
‘It’s a Superpower’: How Walking Makes Us Healthier, Happier and Brainier
One neuroscientist believes that plenty of regular walking unlocks the cognitive powers of the brain like nothing else. He explains why you should trade in your gym membership for a pair of comfy shoes and get walking instead.