Mind Your Body: Move Freely

By Virginia VanZanten


The Feldenkrais method may not have yoga’s ubiquity or Tai Chi’s foreign flair, but a loyal group of about 6,000 practitioners worldwide credit this system of somatic education with everything from increasing range of motion to easing stress.

Feldenkrais is a series of simple kinetic lessons and verbal directives that help students pay attention to their movements and, if necessary, modify them for maximum efficiency. Developed by Israeli physicist Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1950s, the approach has long been in the canon of mind-body medicine.

The goal of Feldenkrais is to retrain the muscles that slip into detrimental patterns, like tensing your shoulders when you’re frazzled, says Erin Ferguson, a practitioner in Boulder, Colorado. When you break the physical cycle, the theory goes, often the underlying emotional cycle—in this case, of stress—lessens, too.

Ferguson believes the method has remained relatively under-the-radar because of our society’s penchant for results rather than process. “People don’t want to slow down and become aware of what they’re doing,” she says. “They want quick fixes, which Feldenkrais is not.”

During a session, a practitioner asks patients to make a simple movement: walking, or raising an arm, while tuning in to the mechanics. The practitioner then suggests subtle shifts to make the motion easier on the body, calling attention to, say, the way the heel hits the ground or how the ribs flex. By recognizing how their muscles and skeletons interact, Feldenkrais students can choose the most comfortable way to move.

In an American Journal of Pain Management study, patients with chronic pain reported huge gains in mobility and decreased pain after a six-week Feldenkrais course, with continued benefits one year later. Other research suggests the method boosts mobility and improves function in patients with brain trauma, autism, stroke, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Athletes, dancers, and musicians often turn to Feldenkrais to hone their movement.

“People are hooked by how much change they can create via paying attention to their movement,” Ferguson says. “The intelligence is indisputably affecting.”

Gaze Anatomy

There are more than 1,000 lessons in the Feldenkrais portfolio. This short series alters the relationship between the eye muscles and the neck and back muscles, relieving tension and improving range of motion.

  1. While sitting, slowly turn your head and eyes together to the right, keeping your shoulders forward. Stop when you feel any strain and note that point. Return to center. Turn your head and eyes to the same spot and then, keeping your head still, let only the eyes move to the left and then back to the right again. Repeat ten times, gently sliding your gaze to the left and back.
  2. Move your head and eyes back to center, and repeat all steps on the left side.
  3. Now test how far you can move on either side.

Source Psychology Today

Employment, Job Happiness Influences Quality of Sleep

By RICK NAUERT PHD


A new longitudinal study by UK researchers discovers that being unemployed isn’t just a strain in the harsh light of day — it negatively affects how well one sleeps.

For the employed, job satisfaction also affects the quality of sleep, with 33 percent of the most dissatisfied employees reporting poor sleep quality compared to only 18 percent of the most satisfied.

Researchers discovered those who are unemployed are more than 40 percent more likely to report difficulty staying asleep than those in a job (having controlled for age and gender differences).

Analysis of the early data from the Understanding Society survey found that overall, the best sleep was reported by people with higher levels of education and by married people. The type of work a person does also impacts on sleep, with those in routine occupations reporting worse sleep than those in professional occupations.

According to Sara Arber, Ph.D., of the University of Surrey, who analyzed the findings: “Given the links between sleep, social and economic circumstances and poor health found in this and other surveys, health promotion campaigns should be open to the possibility that the increased incidence of sleep problems among the disadvantaged in society may be one factor leading to their poorer health.”

Understanding Society is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and managed by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex. It follows 40,000 UK households over many years, and sleep data will be collected annually.

Initial analysis of the sleep data collected in the first survey also found that women are more likely to report problems getting to sleep within 30 minutes, 24 percent on three or more nights a week, compared to 18 per cent of men.

The researchers discovered that problems getting to sleep on three or more nights per week are particularly high under age 25, then decline slightly for men with age, but increase with age for women.

Half of men and women over age 65 report sleep maintenance problems on three or more nights a week, compared to under a fifth of men and a third of women under 25.

The study uncovered that more men than women report that snoring or coughing disturbs their sleep, 30 per cent of men and 20 percent of women more than once a week. Women were also found to be more likely to negatively rate their sleep quality, 26 percent compared to 20 percent of men.

Sleep medication

  • One in 10 people report taking sleeping medication on three or more nights a week (9 percent of men and 10 percent of women);
  • 25 percent of women and 15 per cent of men over 85 report taking sleeping medication on three or more nights a week.

Researchers working on Understanding Society have also examined the data from the perspective of work and sleep. Some 15,000 employees were asked questions about their work and sleep patterns.

Work and length of sleep

  • 14 percent of men and women working part-time sleep for more than eight hours per night, declining to about 6 per cent of men and 10 percent of women for those working more than 30 hours per week, and remaining at this level even for people working very long hours (more than 48 hours per week);
  • However, for people of both genders working long hours brings an increase in shorter sleep periods: 14 per cent of women and 11 percent of men working more than 48 hours sleep less than six hours per night;
  • Poor sleep quality is more frequently reported by long-hours workers and especially among women: 31 percent of long-hours women report poor sleep quality compared to only 23 percent of those who work 31–48 hours per week;
  • Looking at these findings altogether suggests that the increase in shorter sleep periods for those working long hours is not only due to time constraints but other pressures such as stress.

Managerial duties

Only 6 percent of managers report more than eight hours sleep per night compared to 11 per cent of those without managerial responsibilities.

Job satisfaction and sleep

14 per cent of respondents least satisfied with their jobs reported regularly sleeping for less than six hours per night, compared with only 8 percent of those most satisfied with work.

Source PsychCentral

Marijuana Use And Cravings Decline With Exercise

By Christopher Fisher, PhD


Vanderbilt researchers are studying heavy users of marijuana to help understand what exercise does for the brain, contributing to a field of research that uses exercise as a modality for prevention and treatment. Participants saw a significant decrease in their cravings and daily use after just a few sessions of running on the treadmill, according to a Vanderbilt study published in the journal PLoS ONE. It is the first study to demonstrate that exercise can reduce cannabis use in persons who do not want to stop.

Twelve study participants – eight female and four male – were selected because they met the criteria for being ‘cannabis-dependent’ and did not want treatment to help them stop smoking pot. During the study their craving for and use of cannabis was cut by more than 50 percent after exercising on a treadmill for 10 30-minute sessions over a two-week period.

“This is 10 sessions, but it actually went down after the first five. The maximum reduction was already there within the first week,” said co-author Peter Martin, M.D., director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center.

“There is no way currently to treat cannabis dependence with medication so this is big considering the magnitude of the cannabis problem in the U.S. And this is the first time it has ever been demonstrated that exercise can reduce cannabis use in people who don’t want to stop.”

Cannabis abuse or dependence and complications have increased in all age groups in the past decade in the United States. In 2009, approximately 16.7 million Americans age 12 or older reported cannabis use in the previous month and 6.1 million used the drug on 20 or more days per month, the authors wrote. Treatment admissions for cannabis dependence have risen from 7 percent of total addiction treatment admissions in 1998 to 16 percent by 2009.

Co-author Mac Buchowski, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Energy Balance Laboratory, said the importance of this study and future studies will only continue to grow with the new knowledge of the role of physical activity in health and disease.

“It opens up exercise as a modality in prevention and treatment of, at least, marijuana abuse. And it becomes a huge issue with medical marijuana now available in some states,” he said. “What looks like an innocent, recreational habit could become a disease that has to be treated.”

Martin sees the study results as the beginning of an important area of research to better understand brain mechanisms of exercise in addiction.

“It shows that exercise can really change the way the brain works and the way the brain responds to the world around us,” he said. “And this is vital to health and has implications for all of medicine.”

Study participants, who reported they smoke on average 5.9 joints per day, came to Vanderbilt five times a week for two weeks to run on the treadmill. Buchowski and his co-workers measured the amount of exercise needed for each individual to achieve 60-70 percent of maximum heart rate, creating a personalized exercise treadmill program for each participant.

Participants were shown pictures of a cannabis-use related stimuli before and after each exercise session and then asked to rank their cravings according to the cannabis craving scale. They also documented cannabis use, which reduced to an average of 2.8 joints per day during the exercise portion of the study.

Martin said it is important to repeat the findings in a much larger study in a randomized and controlled manner. The study results also should prompt further research into understanding what exercise does for the brain, he added.

“Mental and physical health in general could be improved. Unfortunately, young people who smoke cannabis often develop panic attacks, and may develop to psychosis or mood disorders,” Martin said.

“Back in the 1960s and 70s people used to say that cannabis is not particularly unhealthy. Well, there have been data coming out over the last five years that have demonstrated pretty conclusively that cannabis smoking may be a predisposing factor for developing psychosis.”

Vanderbilt co-investigators for this study are Evonne Charboneau, M.D., research assistant professor of Psychiatry; Sohee Park, Ph.D., professor of Psychology; Mary Dietrich, Ph.D., research associate professor of Psychiatry and Nursing; Ronald Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry; and Natalie Meade, study coordinator.

Source The Behavioral Medicine Report

The Religion of Nutrition

By Jack Challem


I’ve been writing about nutrition for 30-some years. As I listen to people, I often hear less science and more of what could best be described as a variety of belief systems.

There are the vegetarian, vegan, and macrobiotic sects. There’s the church of low-fat eating. And there’s the pervasive belief that everything boils down to calories in and calories out, with exercise being the penance for overeating.

But the fact is, there’s very little science to support many common nutrition beliefs. They’re just beliefs. And having millions of adherents or thousands of experts repeat the same mantras doesn’t make these beliefs truer.

I know this sounds like heresy to many of you. And I’m not trying to offend anyone’s nutritional or religious sensibilities. But the only food we definitely know we were meant to consume is breast milk, in infancy.

In anthropology, the term “belief system” is usually used to describe a religion. And when it comes to nutrition, many scientists and consumers are so wedded to their beliefs that they’re not interested in adjusting their beliefs in response to new scientific findings.

I’ll give you three examples.

Saturated Fat. Millions of people believe that low-saturated fat diets will prevent heart disease. But the research now shows the opposite to be true. Saturated fat is either neutral or protective, according to an impressive body of research. It’s the refined carbs and sugars and the trans fats that seem to be the real problem in cardiovascular risk.

Why do so many people still believe that saturated fat is bad? It’s a matter of belief – shaped by studies that failed to factor in the effects of carbs, sugars, and trans fats, as well as publication bias favoring the sat-fat-is-bad belief.

Calories. Nearly everyone believes that, to lose weight, you have to either eat less or exercise more. But different types of calories prompt different biological responses. Nutrients that trigger insulin – think carbs and sugars – are more likely to result in weight gain, compared with protein. Protein has little effect on insulin.

The calorie idea was based on energy transfer in steam engines and the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. Biological systems – you are a biological system – are far less efficient and are governed by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

Vegetarian Diets. If you look at the history of human cultures, as anthropologists and other scientists have done, you’ll realize that there have been no completely vegetarian cultures. People simply didn’t have the luxury to be so picky about food until relatively recently. Yes, veggies are good for health, but so is unadulterated animal protein. Biologically, we’re designed as omnivores.

Vegetarianisms and its many forms are a belief system. Understand that I have no issue with any sensible vegetarian. However, I’ve met many vegetarians who don’t eat vegetables and prefer sugary soft drinks, bagels, and muffins. Should any of us be surprised that they are often overweight and have a lot of health problems?

Again, I’m not trying to offend anyone or their beliefs. Rather, I’d like to encourage people to gain a better understanding of what shapes their nutritional beliefs and to remain open to where the scientific evidence leads.

Source Psychology Today

Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Offer Many Mental Health Benefits

By Roger Walsh, PhD, M.D.


Lifestyle changes – such as getting more exercise, time in nature, or helping others – can be as effective as drugs or counseling to treat an array of mental illnesses, according to a new paper published by the American Psychological Association.

Multiple mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, can be treated with certain lifestyle changes as successfully as diseases such as diabetes and obesity, according to Roger Walsh, M.D., PhD. of the University of California, Irvine’s College of Medicine. Walsh reviewed research on the effects of what he calls “therapeutic lifestyle changes,” or TLCs, including exercise, nutrition and diet, relationships, recreation, relaxation and stress management, religious or spiritual involvement, spending time in nature, and service to others. His paper was published in American Psychologist, APA’s flagship journal.

Walsh reviewed research on TLCs’ effectiveness and advantages, as well as the psychological costs of spending too much time in front of the TV or computer screen, not getting outdoors enough, and becoming socially isolated. He concludes that “Lifestyle changes can offer significant therapeutic advantages for patients, therapists, and societies, yet are insufficiently appreciated, taught or utilized,” The paper describes TLCs as effective, inexpensive and often enjoyable, with fewer side effects and complications than medications. “In the 21st century, therapeutic lifestyles may need to be a central focus of mental, medical and public health,” Walsh said.

According to research reviewed in the paper, the many often unrecognized TLC benefits include:

  • Exercise not only helps people feel better by reducing anxiety and depression. It can help children do better in school, improve cognitive performance in adults, reduce age-related memory loss in the elderly, and increase new neuron formation in the brain.
  • Diets rich in vegetables, fruits and fish may help school performance in children, maintain cognitive functions in adults, as well as reduce symptoms in affective and schizophrenic disorders.
  • Spending time in nature can promote cognitive functions and overall well-being.
  • Good relationships can reduce health risks ranging from the common cold to strokes as well as multiple mental illnesses, and can enhance psychological well-being dramatically.
  • Recreation and fun can reduce defensiveness and foster social skills.
  • Relaxation and stress management can treat a variety of anxiety, insomnia, and panic disorders.
  • Meditation has many benefits. It can improve empathy, sensitivity and emotional stability, reduce stress and burnout, and enhance cognitive function and even brain size.
  • Religious and spiritual involvement that focuses on love and forgiveness can reduce anxiety, depression and substance abuse, and foster well-being.
  • Contribution and service, or altruism, can enhance joy and generosity by producing a “helper’s high.” Altruism also benefits both physical and mental health, and perhaps even extends lifespan. A major exception the paper notes is “caretaker burnout experienced by overwhelmed family members caring for a demented spouse or parent.”

Difficulties associated with using TLCs are the sustained effort they require, and “a passive expectation that healing comes from an outside authority or a pill,” according to Walsh. He also noted that people today must contend with a daily barrage of psychologically sophisticated advertisements promoting unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating fast food. “You can never get enough of what you don’t really want, but you can certainly ruin your life and health trying” lamented Walsh.

For therapists, the study recommends learning more about the benefits of TLCs, and devoting more time to foster patients’ TLCs.

The paper recognizes that encouraging widespread adoption of therapeutic lifestyles by the public is likely to require wide-scale measures encompassing educational, mental, and public health systems, as well as political leadership.

Source Medical News Today