Mind & Mood

Your mood and your mental health affect every aspect of your life, from how you feel about yourself to your relationships with others and your physical health. There's a strong link between good mental health and good physical health, and vice versa. In the other direction, depression and other mental health issues can contribute to digestive disorders, trouble sleeping, lack of energy, heart disease, and other health issues.

There are many ways to keep your mind and mood in optimal shape. Exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction techniques like meditation or mindfulness can keep your brain — and your body — in tip-top shape.

When mood and mental health slip, doing something about it as early as possible can keep the change from getting worse or becoming permanent. Treating conditions like depression and anxiety improve quality of life. Learning to manage stress makes for more satisfying and productive days.

Mind & Mood Articles

Depression: Not just a run-of-the-mill bad day

Feeling blue is normal. Bouts of sadness, disinterest, or lack of motivation happen to everyone. But when those feelings persist for more than two weeks, it's more than just a run-of-the-mill bad day. It's depression. In 2014, almost 7% of American adults reported experiencing an episode of depression in the year before the survey. That means 15.7 million adults in this country felt hopeless, discouraged, irritable, and unhappy, and these feelings affected all aspects of their lives. More »

Six relaxation techniques to reduce stress

We all face stressful situations throughout our lives, ranging from minor annoyances like traffic jams to more serious worries, such as a loved one's grave illness. No matter what the cause, stress floods your body with hormones. Your heart pounds, your breathing speeds up, and your muscles tense. This so-called "stress response" is a normal reaction to threatening situations, honed in our prehistory to help us survive threats like an animal attack or a flood. Today, we rarely face these physical dangers, but challenging situations in daily life can set off the stress response. We can't avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. More »

A workout for your brain

Some hospitals, research centers, and private practices offer brain fitness programs. They typically include a combination of physical exercise, cognitive training, good nutrition, better sleep, and meditation. Look for programs that offer a multidisciplinary approach with a neurologist, psychologist, social worker, physical therapist, and dietitian. Beware of promises of cures, and don’t assume that doing well on a computer game means there is improvement in cognition. Look for programs that measure the biological effect of the training and experts who can explain the results and how they plan to use that information. More »

Do we lose memories forever?

Scientists used to assume that memories lost to dementia were permanently lost. Now, some research suggests that memories aren’t lost but are buried deeper in the brain. (Locked) More »

Meet Your Inner Family (all nine of you)

While there aren’t really nine of you, as we learned from the Oscar-winning Pixar movie Inside Out, multiplicity of mind is natural and normal. It’s messy, but not a mess. In our new Harvard Health book Organize your Emotions, Optimize Your Life, which I co-authored with Harvard Medical School professor Eddie Phillips and writer John Hanc, we propose a new model of the human psyche that is an adult version of Inside Out, positing that the human psyche has nine internal life forces sculpted by evolution, speaking as our inner “voices,” with distinct needs, agendas and emotions. More »

5 ways to fight loneliness and isolation

Loneliness and isolation are associated with developing a number of health conditions, such as coronary artery disease and stroke. Avoiding loneliness and isolation takes planning and effort. Strategies include reaching out to family and friends, even if it’s just a phone call or video call; signing up for rides through senior centers; joining a club or spiritual community, such as a church or synagogue; getting a pet; and signing up for visits from volunteers at senior centers. (Locked) More »

Need a quick brain boost? Take a walk

A 20-to-30-minute bout of moderate exercise before performing mental tasks may quicken reaction speed and sharpen decision making in people of all ages. A dose of caffeine may have similar effects. (Locked) More »

Unveiling post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious and potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced a natural disaster, war, terrorism, serious accident, sudden death of a loved one, violent personal assault, or other life-threatening events. In fact, research suggests that 70% of men ages 65 and older have been exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event during their lifetime. PTSD is often difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms overlap with depression. But most people recover when treated early. (Locked) More »