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April 2021 Newsletter
In our modern way of life we are all under stress, which can take a toll on brain and body. It is particularly true in this period of Covid-19 pandemic when many of us, including children, are facing overwhelming challenges that have caused strong negative emotions. Actually, social distancing regulations have generated behaviors typical of depression. Isolation from loved ones, staying indoors, limited centers of interest are typical negative mental symptoms which have been imposed on us for a long period of time.
In such circumstances it pays to learn how to improve mood and sadness. Mental health affects every aspect of our life, from how we feel about ourselves, how we cope with life challenges to how we relate to others. Many factors impact one’s sense of ability and positivity, and this month we will focus on some tips which are relatively easy to follow and are regarded as efficient from a scientific viewpoint.
GET SUN LIGHT in the morning: the main way to set our central clock is through light. The consistency of setting the circadian rhythm provides quality sleep for the nights to come. The most efficient daily habit is to go out at least 10 minutes soon after waking up. Later on during the day being exposed to sunshine is positive too because it treats the body to vitamin D, a nutrient that is linked to good mood and less depression.
AVOID BRIGHT LIGHT between 11.00 pm and 4.00 am. Light that comes to the eyes during this time slot activates the habenula, a tiny area of the brain whose function tends to have links to reward processing, positive or negative. Getting light in this time for instance through a smartphone can activate that part of the brain which then suppresses dopamine. Loss of dopamine, frequently associated with positive emotions, may then lead to mood disorders.
REDUCE STRESS. Continued strain on the body from stress may contribute to serious mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as physical problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses. Some stress factors can be eliminated or at least mitigated. Others cannot such as traffic jam to work or participation in professional meetings. Stress should always be balanced with personal rewards generating positive hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins. Advisable personal treat could be for instance mindfulness, yoga, massage or a good book.
BE THANKFUL. Staying positive can be tough even in the best of times, so it is definitely challenging in this time of pandemic when bad news seems to be everywhere. This period has also encouraged a lot of us to reevaluate or simply realize what truly makes us happy as well as what is most important to us. You can try to remind yourself regularly of all you have to be thankful for. You can also think back to the best experiences of your life This may sound trivial but the overall outlook on life is different when we look at it from a perspective of gratitude.
LISTEN TO MUSIC. Correlation between music, quality of life and even happiness has been proven by scientific research. There are nowadays music therapy programs helping to manage mental stress, boost memory and even eliminate pain.
GET IN TOUCH WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY. There are countless scientific publications on the importance social support plays in our life. The pandemic may have damage these interactions for a while, but fortunately technology makes it possible to maintain our network.
There are other suggestions and tools we could include in the list. However, we have decided to share with you the tips which we regard as most important, particularly during this period. Some are common knowledge, some are actually easy to follow. Remember that regularity and perseverance are essential for a change of habits and mindset. We have not insisted on two topics we regularly cover and which have an impact too on the mood, exercise and diet. Indeed, as you know there is 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 many health disorders, among others trouble sleeping, lack of energy, heart disease. So please stay safe, and try to include some of these tips in your daily routine if it is not the case already.
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