Category Archives: Mental Wellness

Go Ahead And Sigh, New Research Says

For a long time, sighs were associated with feelings of sadness, frustration, or despair. However, a recent study suggests that instead of viewing sighs negatively, we should recognize them for their stress-relieving benefits.

Breathing is a fundamental activity that we often take for granted, but researchers are interested in how we can optimize it to improve our health. A recent study published in Cell Reports Medicine investigated the effectiveness of different deep breathing techniques compared to mindfulness meditation in reducing stress.

The study sorted 114 participants into four groups and asked them to practice mindfulness meditation or one of three breathing exercises (box breathing, cyclic hyperventilation, or cyclic sighing) for five minutes each day over 28 days. Box breathing involves breathing in, holding, breathing out, and pausing equally to the count of four. Cyclic hyperventilation requires taking deep breaths in and quick breaths out, with inhalation lasting longer than exhalation. Cyclic sighing involves breathing in through the nose until the lungs are halfway full, pausing briefly, taking another breath to fill the lungs completely, and then slowly exhaling out the mouth.

After each session, researchers assessed the participants’ mood, anxiety levels, sleep behavior, respiratory rate, and heart rate variability. They found that all forms of breathing and meditation increased positive mood and reduced anxiety levels. Breathing techniques were found to be more effective than meditation, with cyclic sighing being the most effective of the three breathing exercises.

Breathing exercises such as cyclic sighing activate the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for controlling how the body rests and digests. In contrast, sharp inhales of breath activate the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for preparing the body to fight or flee.

In conclusion, while sighs were once viewed negatively, research now suggests that they can be beneficial for stress relief. Breathing exercises, especially cyclic sighing, can be a useful tool for reducing anxiety and promoting positive mood.

Screen Time May Be More Damaging to Infants Than We Thought

According to a new study, letting infants watch TV and tablets may affect their academic achievement later on.

The study found that increased use of screen time during infancy was associated with poorer executive functioning when the child was 9 years old.

Executive functioning skills allow us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully, according to the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child. They influence our success socially, academically, professionally and in how we care for ourselves. Joyce Harrison is an associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University School of Medicine. Harrison was not involved in the research.

The study looked at the data from Growing Up in Singapore towards healthy outcomes, a survey of women during their first trimester of pregnancy. The sample was made up of 437 children who underwentEEG scans, which are used to look at the neural pathways of cognitive functions in the brain at a young age.

Young children have a hard time learning from tablets and TVs. Chiappini is a faculty member at the University School of Medicine.

According to the study, there was an association between screen time in infancy and attention and executive function at 9 years old.

To determine if the screen time caused the impairments in executive function or if there are other factors in the child’s environment that predispose them to both more screen time and poorer executive functioning, further research needs to be done.

Multitasking Media May Be Harmful to Children, New Study Finds

Studies researching the effects of electronic media on both adults and children have yielded mixed results. Despite this children still face a world of screens all vying for their attention.

Two Swiss universities teamed up to study 118 Swiss children from 8 to 12 years in age. They asked them to complete a survey that included questions that examined both their use of electronic media as well as their attention spans, sleep, grades and mental health. Similar surveys were also distributed to their teachers and parents but these focused more on the subject’s perceptions of how electronic media influenced the children.

This study was different in that this study set controls for different kinds of media consumption. While other studies that did not employ such controls found a negative outcome when looking at total time spent on media in relation to mental health, the new study found total time spent on media did not contribute to mental health issues but simultaneous interaction with multiple types of media induced more stress, as well as emotional and behavioral issues.

The study noted that when compared with total media time multitasking was linked with ADHD type behaviors as observed by their teachers when controlling for total time, age and gender.


Who Benefits From Pets and Owners Sleeping in the Same Room?

Who benefits from pets and their owners sleeping in the same bed or in the same room? Humans? Animals? Everybody? Nobody? Research in previous decades has demonstrated the importance of sleep so how does snoozing with your best animal friend affect both parties’ sleep?

For animals, those that sleep with their owners tend to have a stronger bond with the owner and a higher level of trust. Sleeping near another animal or human demonstrates a high level of trust from a dog or cat.

Dogs and cats who sleep with their owners experience higher levels of dopamine and oxytocin, the same “feel good” chemicals active in our own brains.

Unfortunately, when we ask if it is good for the owner’s some signs point to no.

Animals can easily disrupt their owner’s sleep. Animal’s sleep cycles are different. Their getting up, moving around, stepping on you, or noises they might make can lead to the fragmentation of the human sleep cycle. Even if they aren’t outright waking up their owners, the owner’s quality of sleep often suffers. These constant disruptions will pull the owner out of that deep sleep we all need even if the owner isn’t aware of it.

However, owners with anxiety or depression may receive some benefit to relieving the symptoms of those mental illnesses by sleeping with a trusted and loved pet.

A handful of studies using sleep monitors on pets and owners suggest that it might all depend on the particular human and animal. If neither party is disrupting the other’s sleep at worst there would be a neutral outcome.


New Study Finds Most Parents Believe Children Today Aren’t Grateful Enough

A surprising new poll conducted by the University of Michigan Health found that four out of five parents that responded didn’t think children today are grateful enough.

Those participants responding to the poll claim the are teaching their children to say “please” and “thank you.”  Researchers conducting the poll think that when it comes to actions rather than words both children and parents could be falling short.

Nearly all polled parents said it is possible to teach children to be grateful. 75% of parents responded that they consider teaching children gratitude is a priority. The most common gratitude teaching tools are teaching children to say “please” and “thank you,” followed closely by enforcing children to do chores. About 33% of parents used strategies like having their children donate toys and clothes or saying a thankfulness prayer.

The study authors said their goal was to inspire some self-analysis among parents and ask themselves how purposeful they were being in teaching gratitude.

The nation-wide study surveyed parents with children 4-10 years old. The poll was conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan. The hospital conducts such studies monthly. This particular study chose not to define “gratitude” for participants, instead it let parents bring their own interpretation of the concept.

The final results of the poll also suggested five gratitude teaching strategies that can be summarized as saying “please/thank you,” discussing gratitude, volunteering, donating and helping with household chores.