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Friday Roundup – Workplace Thriving, Your Brain on Meditation, Freshman Blues, and More!

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Attention lovely readers! We at Healthshire will be providing you with a weekly Friday roundup of the latest in mental health news. Let us do all the work and be your one-stop-shop for all things current!

Friday Roundup – The Latest in Mental Health News

(and other stuff)

Thriving at Work

Having a job is a blessing, but it can also be a curse. The overwhelming demands of a job, co-workers, and stress make up a bad combination that can easily lead to burnout. U.S. News reports on strategies to avoid burnout and to reincorporate meaning and optimism into your work and other aspects of your life by not just showing up for your job, but being a thriving employee. U.S. News states that employees who thrive are valuable assets to any organization. Less burnout is reported by thriving employees because they are able to create resources, sustain energy, and miss fewer days at work. Below are four strategies to help you thrive.

1. Craft Your Job

“Job crafting involves actively changing the content or design of your job by choosing tasks, negotiating different job content and assigning meaning to different components of your job.” Research finds that crafting your job is a predictor of work engagement. To the extent that employees can proactively change their work environment, they can remain engaged and perform to the best of their abilities.  Job-crafting encourages people to find meaning and more fulfillment and a greater capacity to handle difficult situations at work.

2. Look for Learning Opportunities

“Thriving employees want to continually get better at what they do.” Ask for feedback from managers and supervisors so that you can determine which opportunities may be available to acquire new skills and help you grow.

3. Invest in Energizing Relationships

“There’s nothing worse than having to spend eight to 10 hours a day surrounded by people who drain your energy. Relationships that drain your energy have four times the negative effect as energizing relationships.” Try to make connections that are high in quality and act as a source of energy for you.

4. Focus on Energy, Not Time

“According to Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of “The Power of Full Engagement,” there are four sources of energy you need to build and maintain: mental, physical, spiritual and emotional.” When you are feeling low on energy, focus on which area needs the most help and work on getting it back to thriving levels.

Meditation and the Brain

Meditation has been in recorded history for thousands of years, dating back to ancient practice. Its benefits include reducing stress, increasing self-awareness, focusing on the present, and gaining a new perspective on situations. Meditation can also improve cognitive functioning, increasing attention and focus to improvements in controlling cognitive processes and executive functioning. The Huffington Post reports on a new study from the UCLA Brain Mapping Center that finds among its proven benefits, meditation can also help prevent the brain from aging as quickly.

Previous research has shown that individuals who meditate show less atrophy related to age in white matter, the material in the brain composed of nerve fibers used to communicate.

This new study, conducted by researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles and Australian National University, the association between the preservation of gray matter and meditation was evaluated. Brain scans, using fMRI technology, of 100 participants (50 who have been meditating for 20 years and 50 who do not meditate) were analyzed.

The findings show that the brains of individuals who meditate for longer periods of time were less affected by aging than counterparts who do not meditate.

Longtime meditators exhibited less reduction in gray matter volume.

Co-author Dr. Florian Kuth tells Huffington Post, “In meditators, this relation between gray matter loss and age was not as pronounced. Surprisingly, it was not as pronounced in many regions throughout the brain. What we expected was to see this in just a few small regions … but what we saw was almost the entire brain. That was a big surprise.”

Emotional Struggles of College Freshmen

Starting college comes with a host of emotions: fear, excitement, and anxiety just to name a few. Over the years, however, it seems that freshmen classes are beginning their college careers with more of an emotional burden. CBS News reports on a UCLA study that polls the mental health of incoming freshmen.

For the past 50 years, UCLA has polled freshmen classes all over the country to determine the mental wellbeing of America’s college students. UCLA’s 2014 study shows that 10% of students frequently felt depressed. The students’ self-evaluation of their mental health overall was at the lowest level since the survey was first introduced.

Over 150,000 freshmen from over 220 colleges and universities were asked to rate their psychological health compared to their peers. The result was a score of almost 50%, an all-time survey low. Prior research from UCLA shows a correlation between the struggling mental health of students and a decline in student success. A different study, conducted by the American College Health Association, finds that over 50% of college-aged students have felt “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous twelve months.

The UCLA study also finds that students are spending less time in person with friends and significantly more time spent on social media sites. The study highlights that students also are cognizant of needing help with interpersonal skills, with only half of the student polled reporting that interpersonal skills were either somewhat strong or a major strength.

Fear and Memory

Memory, particularly in intensely fearful situations, has always been a topic for researchers and especially in recent weeks (Looking at you, Brian Williams). BBC News reports on the association between fear and memory, particularly the conflicting data that comes out research. Some studies find that the process of recalling events during trauma is enhanced, while other research finds that the same process can be muddled and fragmented.

Margaret McKinnon, a clinical psychologist, and a passenger on a flight that barely landed safely in 2001 on the way to Portugal for her honeymoon. Now interested in how trauma affects the brain and memory, McKinnon conducted a study with 15 of the passengers that were on the same flight to determine how a traumatic event can impact how people remember. Passengers were asked about that particularly fearful flight, an emotionally neutral event from the same year, and their experience of September 11th, which occurred the month after the flight.

The researchers determined that all passengers, regardless of a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), had enhanced and vivid memories of the traumatic flight. McKinnon and her team say that this supports the idea that the experience of dear can influence how the brain stores memories. For the individuals who developed PTSD, McKinnon notes “they showed a lot of recollection of extraneous details, not only of the traumatic event, but also for the events of September 11, as well as from the neutral memory from the same time period. It suggests that these individuals have difficulty editing what they recollect, or fading the contents of memory.”


 

This week’s roundup is dedicated to love. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

VDay

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