Stress

5 ways to hold on to optimism — and reap health benefits

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Despite many Americans feeling discouraged as 2016 ended, optimism abounds for the future. Such an attitude is not just a trait of those with a sunny disposition: Research indicates that optimism can positively impact both mental and physical health. If you find yourself with a more cynical mindset, there are methods that can improve your outlook on life. We offer five ways to help you see the world through rosier glasses.

The “thinking” benefits of doodling

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Remaining focused for extended periods of time is difficult, but researchers believe that doodling gives a break to parts of the brain, making it possible to absorb and retain more information overall. While this phenomenon is not well understood, neuroscience is starting to learn how doodling might help boost attention and and focus.

Regular meditation more beneficial than vacation

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

A study of participants in a mindfulness workshop found that the benefits of meditation and yoga are as significant as the relaxation benefit of taking a vacation, and are more persistent. In addition, regularly practicing meditation and yoga can boost immunity, and seems to promote healthier aging.

Shift stress to calm: An “inner family” affair

Margaret Moore, MBA
Margaret Moore, MBA, Contributor

The new book Organize Your Emotions, Optimize Your Life proposes that the human psyche has nine life forces speaking as our “inner voices,” each with its own agenda and emotions. Learning to listen and respond to those voices can help you shift your stress to a sense of balance.

The (not-so-hidden) costs of caregiving

Leo Newhouse, LICSW
Leo Newhouse, LICSW, Contributor

Americans provide nearly $650 billion worth of unpaid caregiving for their ill or aging loved ones every year. But the less tangible costs are important, too. A new study has revealed that caregivers of critically ill family members are at high risk for depression — and that this risk remains high long after the initial health crisis is over. Fortunately, there are several strategies caregivers can use to keep their bodies — and minds — healthy.

What men can gain from therapy

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Men are often reluctant to seek therapy. After all, it involves asking for help and talking candidly about one’s emotions, two things that many men are eager to avoid. But men should know that there’s no need to “tough out” whatever they’re going through. There are plenty of professionals out there who are ready and willing to lend an ear.

Mind over back pain

Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D.
Ronald D. Siegel, Psy.D., Contributing Editor

If you’re suffering from chronic back pain, it’s only natural to assume you have an injury. But recent research has suggested that our feelings, emotions, and behaviors may have much more to do with chronic back pain than any detectable problem with the spine — and this has just been confirmed by a study in JAMA. Here, we’ve listed what really works to help combat chronic back pain — and what you can do today to rid yourself of it.

Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety

Uma Naidoo, MD
Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor

Millions of adults in the United States struggle with anxiety, but making the right dietary choices can help. The body’s slower metabolism of complex carbohydrates helps avoid drops in blood sugar, and foods with specific nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and antioxidant substances can ease anxiety as well.

How simply moving benefits your mental health

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

The connection between your brain and your body is a two-way street. This means that how you feel affects how you move — and that the opposite is true, too. Here, we’ve assembled plenty of evidence that movement — whether it’s aerobic exercise in a gym or a simple meditative walk — is incredibly effective not only for boosting your mood, but for reducing symptoms of many common mental disorders, too.

New survey reveals the rapid rise of yoga — and why some people still haven’t tried it

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

A recently published study confirms what many of us have already observed: the popularity of yoga in the U.S. is exploding. More Americans now practice yoga than ever before — and they’re enjoying a range of health and wellness benefits associated with it. While there are still some negative perceptions of yoga that can discourage people from trying it, there’s a lot the yoga community can do to help them feel included.