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

Berry good for health

Berries contain antioxidants, vitamins, and a generous amount of fiber, making them an excellent component of a more healthful diet. Evidence for berries having health benefits has come from three sorts of studies. First, a variety of lab and animal experiments have shown that berries or their extracts halt or interfere with disease processes of various kinds. A typical example is a report in 2010 that a blueberry extract protected rat brain cells from the toxic effects of a protein that has been linked to Alzheimer's disease. Second, short-term studies in people have demonstrated positive effects on cholesterol profiles, blood sugar levels, and the like. And third, a handful of epidemiologic studies point to a correlation between high berry consumption and some favorable health outcomes. (Locked) More »

New Alzheimer's guidelines define early stages of the disease

More than five million people in the United States have been diagnosed with AD. By 2050, barring breakthroughs in prevention or treatment, about 16 million will be affected. New guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease are intended to support the emerging theory that the disease is present in the body long before it manifests in diminished cognitive capacity. (Locked) More »

Generalized anxiety disorder

Anxiety is often a healthy response to uncertainty and danger, but constant worry and nervousness may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder. This common disorder affects about 5% to 6% of Americans at some point in their lives. Women are twice as likely as men to develop generalized anxiety disorder. Some research suggests that prevalence of this disorder increases with age. Generalized anxiety disorder usually first appears from young adulthood through the mid-50s — a later onset than seen with other psychiatric disorders. While other types of anxiety disorders — such as specific phobias or social anxiety disorder — arise from particular situations, generalized anxiety disorder is characterized chiefly by debilitating worry and agitation about nothing in particular or anything at all. The constant and continually changing worries of people with generalized anxiety disorder are mostly about everyday matters. They can't shake the feeling that something bad will happen and they will not be prepared. They may worry to excess about missing an appointment, losing a job, or having an accident. Some people even worry about worrying too much. Physical symptoms — racing heart, dry mouth, upset stomach, muscle tension, sweating, trembling, and irritability — are an integral part of generalized anxiety disorder. Over time, these physical manifestations of anxiety may adversely affect health.  (Locked) More »

Major depression more likely during perimenopause than during premenopause

Perimenopause begins several years before menopause (the end of menstruation) and ends a year after the last menstrual period. During this transition, ovarian hormones are in flux, resulting in irregular periods and sometimes vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats). In a study, approximately one-third of women in perimenopause had at least one episode of major depression. (Locked) More »

Four sob stories

Research on crying focuses on several different areas, including the chemicals in emotional tears and their purpose, and whether or not depressed people cry more. Tears provoked by emotion contain higher levels of proteins and the mineral manganese. In 2011, Israeli researchers reported results in the journal Science that suggested tears are capable of sending chemical signals. They conducted an experiment that involved having men sniff women's tears and a saline solution. Tests showed that the men reacted differently to a whiff of the real tears. Their testosterone levels dipped, and brain scans showed less activity in areas associated with sexual arousal. The researchers' theory: women's tears may counteract men's aggressive tendencies. Others have speculated on the role of tears in evolution and natural selection. Depression makes people sad, so it's presumed that depressed people cry more than those who aren't depressed. There's also an abiding belief that more severe bouts with depression can have just the opposite effect and rob people of their capacity to cry. Researchers found that an inability to cry was associated with severe depression. (Locked) More »

In the journals: Mindfulness meditation practice changes the brain

Mindfulness meditation alters regions of the brain associated with memory, awareness of self, and compassion, according to a brain imaging study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. Other studies have found differences in the brains of experienced meditators compared with non-meditators. This is the first investigation to document brain changes occurring over time in people learning how to meditate mindfully. More »

Treating intermittent explosive disorder

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is characterized by disproportionate rage responses, leading to serious harm through violent words or deeds.  Several studies suggest that the disorder is associated with abnormal activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin in parts of the brain that play a role in regulating, even inhibiting, aggressive behavior. Impulsive aggression in general is associated with low serotonin activity as well as damage to the prefrontal cortex, a center of judgment and self-control. One study found that on some neuropsychological tests, people with IED performed similarly to patients who had suffered damage to the prefrontal cortex. Research on drug treatment has been limited. A number of medications are known to reduce aggression and prevent rage outbursts, including antidepressants (namely selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs), mood stabilizers (lithium and anticonvulsants), and antipsychotic drugs. In one study, impulsively aggressive patients who took the SSRI fluoxetine (Prozac) showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that combines cognitive restructuring, coping skills training, and relaxation training looks promising.  More »

What pushes a person to commit suicide?

Most people who commit suicide are depressed, but what triggers this irrevocable step varies from person to person. Suicide may stem from intense feelings of anger, despair, hopelessness, or panic. Sometimes it's carried out under the sway of a highly distorted or psychotic idea. Many suicides are impulsive. A number of factors can put an individual at a higher risk for suicide in the short term. These include: None of these circumstances necessarily lead to suicide. In fact, the overwhelming majority of people who experience one or more of these circumstances don't commit suicide and it's impossible to predict who will. But any life-upsetting blow can set a vulnerable individual on a self-destructive course. More »