Improve your cognitive and mental health with the latest brain health and fitness news, carefully curated and medically reviewed, from around the web.
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.
How the Sound in Your Home Affects Your Mood
The quality of the sound you listen to all day affects your mood, concentration, and performance. There is growing recognition that buildings should ideally be aesthetically and acoustically pleasing.
The Unfortunate Connection Between Lyme Disease and Mental Illness
Lyme disease, an infectious disease spread by ticks, has become an epidemic, yet few people realize its mental health ramifications. Lyme disease symptoms can mimic paranoia, dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, depression, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
What Are the Psychological Effects of Watching TV? 7 Subtle Signs It’s Impacting Your Mental Health
Most TV shows have a hook to ensure that you keep watching. Experts reveal the signs that your TV watching could be taking a toll on your mental health.
Research Shows Gig Economy Gives a Mental Health Boost to Workers
Compared to employees in the mainstream economy, gig workers experience more self-confidence, self-worth, and happiness. This seems to be due to their having more control and flexibility in their jobs.
In China, Mental Health Care Goes Virtual
China, where the mental health care system is swamped and stigma around mental health abounds, has embraced the use of virtual reality mental health treatments which can yield fast and often dramatic results.
Not everyone with depression responds to antidepressants, and researchers may have uncovered one piece of the puzzle. A substantial number of these patients also have undiagnosed sleep apnea.
Warning to Those Wanting to Spice Up Their Lives
Chili pepper consumption is beneficial for body weight and blood pressure, but new research links a highly spiced diet to cognitive decline in older adults.
We All Need to Ask for Help to Get Through Life — Here’s How NOT to Do It
Social psychologist Heidi Grant, author of Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You, shares common ways people make mistakes in asking for help by making the request unnecessarily awkward.
Do Antidepressants Work Better Than Placebo?
Scientists have been debating the efficacy of antidepressants for decades. An analysis that covered 522 trials and over 100,000 participants concludes that they work no better than a placebo.
Students in Oregon Will Now Be Able to Take ‘Mental Health Days’ Off From School
Students and employees of all ages have always taken surreptitious “mental health days.” Now students in Oregon will be able to take them without having to lie about it. This measure is meant to help change the stigma around mental health in a state plagued with high suicide rates.
Berkeley Talks Transcript: Joel Moskowitz on the Health Risks of Cell Phone Radiation
A smartphone typically has five different types of microwave transmitters and, with the advent of 5G, they will have even more. According to Dr. Joel Moskowitz, award-winning cell phone radiation expert, the safety of exposure to these types of radiation has not been established. In this interview, he reveals steps you can take to reduce your risk of harm from cell phone radiation.
3 Science Backed Reasons to Take That Vacation
Americans are particularly reluctant to use their vacation days, but taking a vacation, and completely unplugging from work while gone, will make you happier, healthier, and more productive when you return.
Wearing Hearing Aid May Help Protect Brain in Later Life
Hearing loss is linked to memory loss and an increased risk of dementia. Many seniors resist getting a hearing aid, but it can help keep cognitive decline at bay.
Healthy Lifestyle May Offset Genetic Risk of Dementia
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce your chances of getting dementia, even if you have a high genetic risk.
According to an expert on the hazards of social media, you don’t need to give up social media entirely. Here’s her advice on how to avoid the pitfalls of social media use without sacrificing the benefits you derive from it.
Study Finds Psychiatric Diagnosis to Be ‘Scientifically Meaningless’
Modern psychiatry operates by making diagnoses and then treating patients according to these labels. New research has found these diagnostic categories to be flawed and contradictory, often with huge overlaps in symptoms.
The Nordic countries consistently rank as the happiest countries and are held in esteem as models for how to live the good life. However, a recent study found that people living in parts of southern Europe rank higher in mental well-being than their northern neighbors.
Women Who Stop Drinking Alcohol Improve Mental Health, Study Finds
Many women drink alcohol to combat stress. But new evidence suggests that stopping that daily drinking habit is a better way to improve women’s mental health.
Unexpected Evidence of a Brain Microbiome
It’s always been assumed that the brain is a sterile environment, but the presence of bacteria in the brain is making researchers rethink this idea. It seems that the brain may have its own microbiome similar to that found in the intestines.
8 Reasons to Try Low-Carb for Mental Health
A growing body of evidence lends credence to the idea that high-sugar diets jeopardize brain health while low-carbohydrate diets support it.
Your Insurance Company Doesn’t Want You to Access Mental Health Care
It seems that insurance companies intentionally make it difficult to seek mental health help. When researchers called 360 psychiatrists on Blue Cross Blue Shield’s in-network provider, for various reasons they were unable to make appointments with 74% of providers on the list. Shockingly, some of the listed phone numbers were for retail shops or fast food restaurants!
‘Save Your Money’: No Evidence Brain Health Supplements Work, Say Experts
You may have read news items with similar headlines this past week.
I read the report these articles are referring to, The Real Deal on Brain Health Supplements, and found headlines like the one above misleading on many levels.
AARP assembled this report’s team of experts and paid them to participate.
Several of these experts acknowledged conflicts of interest since they receive regular consulting fees from drug companies.
A major point these news stories don’t mention is that this report focused on the efficacy of supplements for stopping, slowing, or treating Alzheimer’s and dementia, not for general cognitive health or mental well-being.
There are numerous supplement studies mentioned in this report that support the opposite — that supplements do offer brain benefits.
(Specifically mentioned are vitamins B, D, and E, coenzyme Q10, curcumin/turmeric, flavonoids/cocoa, huperzine A, MCT oil/coconut oil, fish oil, and phosphatidylserine.)
One thing we do agree with is that many brain supplement manufacturers are guilty of making exaggerated or false marketing claims.
This is why consumers should do their homework before buying any supplements.
You can learn what to look for when buying supplements in our article How to Choose Supplements that Work.
If you’d like to read the AARP report, you can view or download a PDF of it here.
How to Make Grilling Healthier
Summer is in full swing and many of us will be firing up our outdoor grills this holiday weekend. Cooked meat contains carcinogenic compounds, but there are easy steps you can take to make your barbecuing healthier and even more delicious.
Study: Deep Breathing Techniques Improve Focus, Keep Brain ‘Youthful’
Deep breathing stimulates the release of brain chemicals that improve focus and grow new connections between brain cells.
Why Lead Is Dangerous, and the Damage It Does
Lead exposure is not a thing of the past. This dangerous neurotoxin is harmful to people of all ages, but is especially detrimental for the brain development of children.
Fake It Till You Make It: 5 Cheats from Neuroscience
The expression “fake it until you make it” has some merit. Here are 5 ways, based on neuroscience, to trick your brain into making real-life changes.
Do Something You Are Bad At — Your Brain Will Love It
Typically, we hide our weaknesses, play up our strengths, and do things we are good at. But the human brain thrives and grows only when challenged.
How Does Your Brain Take Out the Trash?
The brain has its own system for clearing away debris called the glymphatic system. This poorly-understood system may hold the key to neurodegenerative diseases.
Can Gingivitis Cause Alzheimer’s Disease? [A Scientific Review]
We don’t fully understand the cause of Alzheimer’s which is why 99% of Alzheimer’s drugs fail. Recent research suggests that advanced gum disease may be a root cause of Alzheimer’s.
Commonly Prescribed Drugs Are Tied to Nearly 50% Higher Dementia Risk in Older Adults, Study Says
Anticholinergic drugs work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter of memory and learning. A long-term study on over 280,000 people found that taking anticholinergic drugs greatly increases the risk of dementia.
Researchers have discovered a fat in soil-dwelling bacteria. This fat is thought to positively impact mental well-being and increase resistance to stress by reducing brain inflammation.
What Is a Mental Disorder? Depends on Who You Ask
Mental disorders are not clearly defined, but fall on a continually changing spectrum. Even the experts disagree on which mental conditions should be considered a mental illness.
How the Online World Is Affecting the Human Brain
The effects of the internet and the digital world on the brain are poorly understood. Scientists from around the world are studying how being online affects attention, concentration, memory, and social intelligence.
An analysis of over 100,000 college students found that loneliness, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thinking increased significantly when they did not get adequate sleep.
Heart Disease Can Have Long-term Impact on the Brain
There’s an adage that “what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.” A diagnosis of heart disease puts you at greater risk for cognitive decline later in life.
How Your Keto Diet Is Making You Depressed
A new study reveals that a high-fat diet, whether it be a keto diet or the Standard American Diet (SAD), can cause depression due to excessive amounts of palmitic acid.
Psychiatrists Call for Warnings Over Antidepressant Withdrawal
Current guidelines suggest that most people should be able to withdraw from antidepressants over a period of four weeks. Some psychiatrists are finally acknowledging that this tapering schedule is way too aggressive.
Researchers Have Investigated “Derailment” as a Cause and Consequence of Depression
When life changes to the point that you lose your thread of inner continuity, you may experience derailment — a feeling of disconnection between who you are today and who used to be. This can be a cause and a symptom of depression.
Yoga as a Remedy for Our Stressed, Sedentary Digital Age
Yoga can alleviate the stress, anxiety, and aches and pains that come with too much sitting in front of our electronic devices. This article includes four essential moves you can do at your desk or in your office.
Facebook Admits It Poses Mental Health Risk – But Says Using Site More Can Help
A former Facebook executive admits, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.” Facebook, however, continues to design features that make it addictive.
9 Shocking Things That Happen to Your Brain When You Get a Phone or Email Notification
Seeing or hearing an alert can trigger a cascade of emotions and neurochemical reactions. This, in turn, can result in stress, anxiety, anger, and loss of focus.
Depression and Anxiety Prescriptions are Climbing Nationwide
The use of prescription medications for depression and anxiety is on the rise in some areas of the country. See how your state ranks.
Practicing Hygge: What We Can Learn from the Danish Culture on Mental Health
Denmark is consistently rated as one of the happiest countries. It may be due, in part, to their embrace of hygge, an attitude of living with a sense of comfort, coziness, and peace.
How Stress Leads to Facebook Addiction
Relying only on Facebook “friends” for emotional support during times of stress puts users at risk for developing a pathological dependence on it.
5 Ways to Challenge Your Perfectionism
Perfectionists set unattainable standards and never feel good enough. Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen covers 5 ways to challenge the mindset of perfectionism.