Body’s Defenses Against Common Viruses May Mess Up Neurons, Spark Depression

Getting sick is definitely a bummer. But besides feeling icky and being stuck in bed, viral infections may cause us to actually be depressed. While scientists have been clued into this connection for a while, there was little data on how everyday viral infections, like the flu, might mess with our moods.

Source: Body’s defenses against common viruses may mess up neurons, spark depression

Note that sickness behavior might be adaptive, helping sick animals clear their infections faster.  Lethargy and depression is a very effective way to redirect an animal’s energy away away from everyday expenditure and towards its immune system, where it’s most needed.

Might seem obvious, but the best way to fight off many illnesses is to take a day off and stay in bed. Feeling bad could be just Mother Nature’s way of prodding us to do that.

Are Wall Street’s For-Profit Eating Disorder Clinics Fleecing Patients & Providing Shoddy Treatment?

It’s an upsetting question posed by a New York Times piece, which delves into the proliferation of for-profit, specialty eating disorder clinics—posh rehab centers and chains that offer yoga and spa retreat amenities while tackling a health issue that is notoriously difficult to cure. At the crux of the investigation is the question of whether the focus of treatment goes by the wayside when money is a more prominent focus.

Source: Are Wall Street’s For-Profit Eating Disorder Clinics Fleecing Patients & Providing Shoddy Treatment?

In a lot of ways, eating disorder (ED) treatment is where addiction treatment was a generation or two ago. A deep lack of understanding as to both the physiological and psychological causes of the disease, plus the manifold variety of ways in which it manifests in individual cases, makes for incredibly scattershot and ineffective treatment. The only ED treatment facility I’d be okay with sending a loved on to is one that says, “Look, we know fuck-all about this right now because no one can figure out how to design a treatment study that doesn’t break all the rules of medical ethics. But we have, at least, some pretty good basic knowledge about the human psyche, addictive behaviors, and our nutritional requirements. So, we’re going to do our best to find and deal with the root causes of this disease, using the things we do know, always being guided by compassion and the well-being of the whole person. If and when we learn something new that suggests we should change our approach, we’re 100% open to that.” If anyone suggests religion as an answer, or punitive models of behavior modification, run the fuck away.

The Music That You are Listening to is Impacting Your Mental Health

A study conducted at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä, Aalto University in Finland and Aarhus University in Denmark was done to see what is the link between your music listening habits, your mental health and your neural responses to the different types of musics through a combination of behavioural and neuroimaging data.

Source: The Music That You are Listening to is Impacting Your Mental Health

Don’t most people seek out music that reflects their mood, not the other way around?  Years back, I remember a news piece on a setup that would apply electrodes/whatever and based on your brainwaves – construct music for playback.  The subjects enjoyed the result…

Ever wondered if the categorization of the music has less to do with the lyrics and more to do with ambient noise, structure, beat etc?  It is about how a person is using music, not what they are listening to.  Additionally, listening to ‘extreme’ music makes you more positive (study):

…psychologists have found that rather than increasing anger or aggression, listening to loud and chaotic music actually helps listeners feel inspired and calm.

The Surgeon General’s New Prescription for America: Get Off Your Butts and Walk

Every few years, the US Surgeon General issues a recommendation for the country, like encouraging Americans to use sunblock or breastfeed their kids. These are usually public health no-brainers, where the science has determined that Americans would absolutely be better off if they all followed this medical advice. Today the Surgeon General said that simply making the US more conducive for walking would improve the health of half of its citizens.

Source: The Surgeon General’s New Prescription for America: Get Off Your Butts and Walk

Walking is the most accessible means of exercise, which has been covered in the past:

Study: Want to Make Your Commute Feel Shorter? Wait at a Tree-Lined Bus Stop

Trees, what can’t they do? They shelter urban wildlife, improve our mental health, and provide the very air we breathe. And it turns out that just the presence of trees at a public transit stop might be enough to improve riders’ perception of the transit experience—even if the actual service doesn’t improve at all.

Source: Want to Make Your Commute Feel Shorter? Wait at a Tree-Lined Bus Stop

My commute is made shorter by riding a bike.  It takes about the same time to get to work by bike or by car for me, but getting home?  I pass numerous cars stuck waiting for lights, because I ride on a local multi-use trail.  Not everyone is that lucky, and it helps that work provides both a bike lockup and a changeroom with showers.

Inherited Genes Control Your IQ, May Affect Exams

For once, a study with a substantial sample size!

We know that genes play a role in how well children do in school, but there are gaps in our knowledge: is this the same for different topics in school? And can this be explained largely by intelligence, or do other genetic factors contribute?

Source: Your inherited genes control your IQ and may affect how well you do at exams

Just linking genes and behaviours is still an area of furious debate, let alone figuring out the exact mechanisms by which those genes cause the behaviours in question. Hopefully studies like this one, that take us closer to identifying genetically-influenced traits, can also get us closer to figuring out the answer to that question.

Generalizing, look at animal behaviour for some insight.  Take a typical breed to see what attributes it has.  Labs are pretty consistent – loyal, happy, but destructive if you don’t keep them active.  Bernese Mountain dogs for me have been similar to labs, but shorter life spans.  Dachsunds have a lot of personality… I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describe corgi’s as smart 😉

Study: Living Near Trees is Good for Your Health

The large study builds on a body of prior research showing the cognitive and psychological benefits of nature scenery — but also goes farther in actually beginning to quantify just how much an addition of trees in a neighborhood enhances health outcomes. The researchers, led by psychologist Omid Kardan of the University of Chicago, were able to do so because they were working with a vast dataset of public, urban trees kept by the city of Toronto — some 530,000 of them, categorized by species, location, and tree diameter — supplemented by satellite measurements of non-public green space (for instance, trees in a person’s back yard).

Source: Scientists have discovered that living near trees is good for your health

Trees on public ground would generally be closer to bigger streets. One imaginable way they improve the conditions could be that they filter toxic waste from car exhausts.  We know that exhaust can affect the expression of our DNA.  The study is everything but precise, but it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable conclusion.

The benefits being compared to having more wealth is also interesting.  I wonder if a contributing factor could be that having more plants around indicates to humans on some level that resources are more abundant.  Which in turn makes me think about ultra-dense population centers, like the skyscrapers in Hong Kong…

Project Semicolon: Tattoos Offer Sense Of Unity And Hope To Those Affected By Mental Health Problems

Semicolon tattoos are becoming increasingly popular – and while you might initially think it’s some kind of “hipster” fashion statement, in reality it’s something far more important.

A growing number of people are inking the punctuation mark onto their skin as a message of hope and a way of conveying the mental health struggles that they are trying to overcome.

Source: Project Semicolon: Tattoos Offer Sense Of Unity And Hope To Those Affected By Mental Health Problems

  1. Do not assume you know what someone’s tattoo means.
  2. I support the encouragement for discussion surrounding mental health, especially with respect to stigma

You Might Never Love Exercise (But Do it Anyway)

There seems to be a cultural consensus that you have to love fitness. People will tell you that if you don’t like exercising, it’s just because you haven’t found what you like, or you’re not doing it frequently enough to engage a positive feedback loop. As a fitness writer and coach who has been training consistently for over a decade, I can confidently say that I don’t like exercising, and that’s okay.

Source: You Might Never Love Exercise (But Do it Anyway)

I dislike [activity], but I love having done [activity].

For a while, that was me and running.  Running still isn’t my “go to” thing to do, but I don’t have the distaste for it that I used to.  Motivation hasn’t been an issue for me – I can get into a rut very easily, so as long as I make an effort.

The benefits of exercise are real.  It’s worth the effort to make the change.

The Literally Broken Hearts of Divorce

Scientifically, relationships have been shown to affect everything from your cardiovascular health to your mental well-being; anecdotally, it can mess with everything from your brand of toothpaste to control of your DVR. So it should come as no surprise that marriage, divorce, and widowhood come with their own health-related complications.

…Divorce is associated with a greater risk of heart attack, but researchers aren’t sure why.

Source: The Literally Broken Hearts of Divorce

Umm… stress?  Complete upheaval of your life, especially if you are the one who got blindsided…