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14 Ways to Improve Mental Health During the World’s Biggest Psychological Experiment

Try to stay mindful, fully present in the here-and-now, and enjoy the silence. For this, too, will pass.

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What we were warned about but turned a blind eye to and did not expect in the Western world to this extent, happened: we found ourselves in the midst of a pandemic.

Social distancing, quarantine and hygienic practices are essential behavioural methods in such times to reduce spreading of the new virus and mortality. But these precautionary measures, whether imposed or consciously chosen to protect ourselves and the persons at risk against the coronavirus, could be challenging for us humans as we are social beings. They can be particularly tough to those who are prone to anxiety and depression. 

Still, solitude should not mean loneliness and has also its positive sides. Here is some practical advice on how to cope with the challenges we may face during quarantine or a lockdown and what we can proactively do for our mental health. In the present distress, some of these things we used to take for granted might sink into oblivion. 

  • Follow recommendations for protecting yourself.
  • Stop following every news on the virus. Read only serious, respected media, arrange a limited time for that and stick to it.
  • Stay in touch with your loved ones and friends via telephone and virtual forms of communication. 
  • Avoid making major life decisions as far as possible. This is not the right time for that: too much unpredictability and uncertainty for the long-term future, too many emotions might mislead you and cause problems in the future.
  • Clean up your home place: cleaning up your living space has an effect of cleaning up and sorting out your mind and soul. You could certainly find a wardrobe, a box or a bookshelf you’ve always wanted to sort out or rearrange but never got around to it. Now it’s a good time to do that.
  • Exercise every day. Physical health plays a major role in maintaining good mental health. Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood and reduce stress and the symptoms of anxiety and depression. You may try yoga (five simple but very effective exercises that activate your whole body – and mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71jaJu0dc98) or put on some rhythmic music and dance (simple movements that are fun and very effective, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p1ubjp_VtA. For the fans of Latin music and dance among us, there is a wonderful way to dance alone, too: try salsa suelta, a solo form of Cuban salsa. It will not only bring in motion your whole body, but boost your energy, mood and zest for life. More on salsa suelta with a great video: http://www.mivida.com.au/portfolio/salsa-suelta/. As my research shows, dance improves health and wellbeing and is an effective stress coping mechanism.
  • Try some further forms of creative arts, they are powerful in stress reduction. There is lots of evidence that making art significantly lowers stress-related hormone cortisol. Art-making is being experienced as relaxing, enjoyable, helpful for learning about new aspects of self, and freeing from constraints. As Picasso said: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Besides dancing, it could be painting, drawing, playing piano or some other instrument. But also pottery, baking and knitting are very creative and relaxing activities that additionally involve tactile sensations, important in countering loneliness. 
  • If you have indoor plants, a balcony or a terrace, you might engage into some kind of gardening and reconcile with nature. Gardening has a positive effect on our mental health, which includes relaxation, positive feelings, staying in the present moment, coping with difficult emotions, and feeling in control. Spending some time in the sun boosts your vitamin D balance which is important for maintaining healthy bones.
  • Keep a diary. Writing down your feelings and thoughts may help sort them out and calm down. You may even want to try poetry writing – you never know what hidden talents you may have.
  • Try relaxation techniques like meditation, diaphragmatic breathing or progressive muscle relaxation: tightening an individual muscle group, holding it for a while and then relaxing it.
  • As our mind and body are deeply interconnected, eat healthy: choose nutrition rich foods, especially those that strengthen your immune system. Food supplements like L-arginine and reishi mushroom would additionally boost your immune system. 
  • Get enough sleep. Good sleep is crucial for countering anxious and depressive mood and overall for good mental and physical health. Try to wake up and go to bed at more or less the same time and get at least 8 hours of sleep. Don’t look at your phone or tablet (which you are hopefully disinfecting regularly) at least an hour before going to bed, don’t read, listen or watch any news. Read a good, relaxing book instead. Make power naps in the afternoons. 
  • All that being said, maintain daily routine. Make a schedule and try to stick to it.
  • But first and foremost – try to live in the moment and enjoy whatever you do, also if it’s just doing nothing. You don’t have to achieve anything nor prove yourself. You are ok as you are. 

We are living in trying times, which to a considerable degree are brought about by ourselves. A number of researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19 to arise. Nobody knows when we’ll return to “normality” and what kind of “normality” it will be. But all things pass and this pandemic will pass, too, even if in the long term we most probably will often deal with the outbreaks of infectious diseases. Let’s take it as an opportunity to learn out of it and reflect. We took lots of things for granted and learn to appreciate and cherish them now. In our rush for achievement, we forgot to pay attention – to these small but important things, to our environment, to those around us, to ourselves.

Try to stay mindful, fully present in the here-and-now, and enjoy the silence. For this, too, will pass. 

Natalia Braun, MSc Psych

[email protected]

www.y-coaching.org 


Natalia Braun, MSc in Psychology from the University of Derby, UK, member of The British Psychological Society (BPS, MBPsS), Certified Assessor BPS TUOA & TUOP, Certified Professional Coach, Certified Gestalt Coach. Member of the American Psychological Association (APA, International Affiliate), APA’s Society for Qualitative Inquiry in Psychology (SQIP) and International Society of Critical Health Psychology (ISCHP). Natalia spent over two decades in journalism, human resources and change & communications management in international companies before transitioning into professional psychology. She lives in Switzerland and provides applied psychological services in her private practice along with continuing engagement in research, dance and embodiment. 

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Health

Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People

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The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.

Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.

Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.

Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.

Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.

“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”

However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.

In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”

“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”

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Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say

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With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.

According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.

The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.

The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.

While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.

Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.

“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.

“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.

Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced

However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.

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Health

Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact

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Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.

And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.

Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.

Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.

Death Toll, by Percent of Population

In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.

Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.

The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.

Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.

History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning

While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.

In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.

What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?

Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics

Republished from ZH with permission.

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