The Bright Side of Death: Awareness of Mortality Can Result in Positive Behaviors

Mortality Awareness Brings Positive BehaviorsContemplating death doesn’t necessarily lead to morose despondency, fear, aggression or other negative behaviors, as previous research has suggested. Following a review of dozens of studies, University of Missouri researchers found that thoughts of mortality can lead to decreased militaristic attitudes, better health decisions, increased altruism and helpfulness, and reduced divorce rates.

"According to terror management theory, people deal with their awareness of mortality by upholding cultural beliefs and seeking to become part of something larger and more enduring than themselves, such as nations or religions," said Jamie Arndt, study co-author and professor of psychological sciences. "Depending on how that manifests itself, positive outcomes can be the result."

For example, in one study American test subjects were reminded of death or a control topic and then either imagined a local catastrophe or were reminded of the global threat of climate change. Their militaristic attitudes toward Iran were then evaluated. After being reminded of death, people who were reminded of climate change were more likely to express lower levels of militarism than those who imagined a local disaster.

Full story of positive behaviors at Science Daily

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Mental Stress May Be Harder On Women’s Hearts

Mental Stress Harder on Women's HeartsCoronary artery disease continues to be a major cause of death in the U.S., killing hundreds of thousands of people per year. However, this disease burden isn’t evenly divided between the sexes; significantly more men than women are diagnosed with coronary artery disease each year. The reasons behind this difference aren’t well defined. Though some studies have shown that men’s hearts become more constricted than women’s during exercise, letting less blood flow through, women are more likely than men to have symptoms of heart trouble after emotional upsets.

Searching for the reasons behind these disparities, Charity L. Sauder, Alison E. Thompson, Terrell Myers, and Chester A. Ray, all of Penn State College of Medicine, investigated the effects of mental stress on blood flow through the heart. Their findings show that coronary blood flow actually increases in men during mental stress, but shows no change in women. These results may explain why women could be more susceptible to adverse cardiac events when under stress.

An abstract of their study entitled, "Effect of Mental Stress on Coronary Blood Flow in Humans," was discussed at the meeting Experimental Biology 2012, held April 21-25 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Full story of stress harder on women’s hearts at Science Daily

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Report says that wait time for mental health care often exceeds VA’s goals and projections

Wait Time For Mental Health Care Too LongWASHINGTON — Federal investigators reported Monday that nearly half of the veterans who seek mental health care for the first time waited about 50 days before receiving a full evaluation, a much longer lag-time than cited by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA has been saying that 95 percent of new patients seeking mental health treatment get a full evaluation within the department’s goal of 14 days. But an inspector general’s report said that the department’s tracking is flawed and that the VA was overstating its success when it comes to how quickly veterans get care.

The department has greatly beefed up staffing in recent years, but the report also confirmed that many of the VA’s doctors and other medical officials don’t believe they have the manpower necessary to handle the ever-growing veteran caseload.

Full story of mental health care at The Washington Post

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It Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy – Talking to Yourself Has Cognitive Benefits, Study Finds

Talking to Yourself Has Cognitive BenefitsMost people talk to themselves at least every few days, and many report talking to themselves on an hourly basis. What purpose is served by this seemingly irrational behavior? Previous research has suggested that such self-directed speech in children can help guide their behavior. For example, children often talk themselves step-by-step through tying their shoelaces, as if reminding themselves to focus on the job in hand.

"One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody’s listening." Franklin P. Jones once said.

Can talking to oneself also help adults?

In a recent study published in Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, psychologists Gary Lupyan (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Daniel Swingley (University of Pennsylvania) conducted a series of experiments to discover whether talking to oneself can help when searching for particular objects. The studies were inspired by observations that people often audibly mutter to themselves when trying to find, for example, a jar of Peanut Butter on a supermarket shelf, or the stick of butter in their fridge.

Full story of talking to yourself at Science Daily

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Take the Vow 2012: The Stress Stops Here

Stop Stress 2012Last year, for National Stress Awareness Month, I published a series of articles here about how contagious stress can be. With the support of the HuffPost editors, I asked readers to vow not to pass their stress on to others for one day.

This year, for National Stress Awareness Day (April 16), I want to raise the stakes.

I want you to take that vow formally and publicly. I want you to invite your family and friends and coworkers to take the vow, too. I want to see if we can create one day in the world that is noticeably less stressful… by taking responsibility for our stress and vowing not to pass it on.

It’s really very simple.

When you are suffering from long-term chronic stress, or just the repeated hassles and incivilities of modern life, you are more likely to make a mistake, drop the ball, kick the dog, blow a fuse. You are also more likely to be sleep-deprived, which makes the other effects of stress — already bad — much worse.

Full story of stopping stress at Huffington Post