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Reddit Has a Really Surprising Effect on Users' Mental Health, Study Shows

Using three other subreddits - r/happy, r/bodybuilding, and r/loseit - as their control group, the researchers determined that contributors to the mental health subreddits appeared to have trouble clearly communicating initially. However, over time, those users showed "statistically significant improvement" in both their lexical diversity and readability. "I started to notice that as they come in more, and they participate more, they're more calmed down, and they're articulating a little bit better," study author Albert Park told Healthcare Analytics News.

How social isolation transforms the brain: A particular neural chemical is overproduced during long-term social isolation, causing increased aggression and fear -- ScienceDaily

Confirming and extending previous observations, the researchers showed that prolonged social isolation leads to a broad array of behavioral changes in mice. These include increased aggressiveness towards unfamiliar mice, persistent fear, and hypersensitivity to threatening stimuli. For example, when encountering a threatening stimulus, mice that have been socially isolated remain frozen in place long after the threat has passed, whereas normal mice stop freezing soon after the threat is removed. These effects are seen when mice are subjected to two weeks of social isolation, but not to short-term social isolation -- 24 hours -- suggesting that the observed changes in aggression and fear responses require chronic isolation.

CivicScience | U.S. Adults Who Exercise are Sweating it Out Solo

Turns out, adults of every generation are interested in solo exercise. Though, when it comes to working out with a friend, 50% of responders are Millennials, while 48% of those who prefer group fitness classes are from Generation X. As for those who rarely or never work out, 45% are Baby Boomers. So although most adults agree that exercising should be an individual affair, there are clear preferences in the other categories that strongly correspond to age. That said, across generations, we found that those who work out alone also tend to work out the most, indicating that they get moving several times a week. This makes sense since 21st-century adults have busy schedules that may not align with meeting up with friends, a personal trainer, or making it to a class. For many, exercising alone may just be the most practical choice.

Seniors stick to fitness routines when they work out together -- ScienceDaily

Over the 24-week period, participants who worked out with people their own age attended an average of 9.5 more classes than counterparts in the mixed-age group. Participants in the mixed-age group averaged 24.3 classes. Participants in the same-age, mixed-gender group averaged 33.8 classes, and participants in the same-age, same-gender group averaged 30.7 classes.

When there's an audience, people's performance improves -- ScienceDaily

When participants knew an audience was watching, a part of the prefrontal cortex associated with social cognition, particularly the thoughts and intentions of others, activated along with another part of the cortex associated with reward. Together these signals triggered activity in the ventral striatum, an area of the brain that motivates action and motor skills. In essence, the presence of an audience, at least a small one, increased people's incentive to perform well, Chib said, and the brain scans validated this by showing the neural mechanism for how it happens. While people were watching, participants were an average of 5 percent better at the video game -- and as much as 20 percent better. Only two participants didn't perform better in front of others.

To Find Meaning in Your Work, Change How You Think About It

Who we work with is as important as what we do. Psychologist Martin Seligman (among others) has written extensively on the importance of relationships to happiness and fulfillment (it’s a core element of his “PERMA” model for flourishing); and the now famous Harvard Grant Study found that happiness and even financial success are tied to the warmth of one’s relationships, with the study’s chief architect famously concluding, “Happiness is love. Full stop.”

Similar neural responses predict friendship | Nature Communications

Two of the “Big Five” personality traits—extraversion11,12 and openness to experience12—appear to be more similar among friends than among individuals who are not friends with one another. However, the remaining Big Five traits do not predict friendship formation well13. Similarities in conscientiousness and neuroticism are not associated with friendship formation12, and evidence for more similar levels of trait agreeableness among friends has been found in some studies12, but not in others11.

How singing your heart out could make you happier -- ScienceDaily

Prof Shakespeare said: "We found that singing as part of a group contributes to people's recovery from mental health problems. "The main way that Sing Your Heart Out differs from a choir is that anyone can join in regardless of ability. There's also very little pressure because the participants are not rehearsing towards a performance. It's very inclusive and it's just for fun. "The format is also different to a therapy group because there's no pressure for anyone to discuss their condition. "We heard the participants calling the initiative a 'life saver' and that it 'saved their sanity'. Others said they simply wouldn't be here without it, they wouldn't have managed -- so we quickly began to see the massive impact it was having. "All of the participants we spoke to reported positive effects on their mental health as a direct result of taking part in the singing workshops. "For some it represented one component of a wider progamme of support. For others it stood out as key to their recovery or maintenance of health. "But the key thing for everyone was that the Sing Your Heart Out model induced fun and happiness."

Teens who help strangers have more confidence: Get your kids involved in service to strangers in this season of giving, researchers suggest -- ScienceDaily

In the study, researchers looked at 681 adolescents, 11-14 years old, in two U.S. cities. They tracked them for four different time points, starting in 2008 through 2011. The participants responded to 10 statements such as "I feel useless at times" or "I am satisfied with myself" to assess self-esteem. Prosocial behavior was measured by self-reports, looking at various aspects of kindness and generosity, such as "I help people I don't know, even if it's not easy for me" or "I go out of my way to cheer up my friends" or "I really enjoy doing small favors for my family." "A unique feature of this study is that it explores helping behaviors toward multiple different targets," Padilla-Walker said. "Not all helping is created equal, and we're finding that prosocial behavior toward strangers is protective in a variety of ways that is unique from other types of helping. Another important finding is that the link between prosocial behavior and self-esteem is over a one-year time period and present across all three age lags in our study. Though not an overly large effect, this suggests a stable link between helping and feeling better about oneself across the early adolescent years."

Group exercise improves quality of life, reduces stress far more than individual work outs -- ScienceDaily

At the end of the twelve weeks, their mean monthly survey scores showed significant improvements in all three quality of life measures: mental (12.6 percent), physical (24.8 percent) and emotional (26 percent). They also reported a 26.2 percent reduction in perceived stress levels.

A Face-to-Face Request Is 34 Times More Successful than an Email

Despite the reach of email, asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast. Still, most people tend to think the email ask will be more effective. In research Mahdi Roghanizad of Western University and I conducted, recently published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, we have found that people tend to overestimate the power of their persuasiveness via text-based communication, and underestimate the power of their persuasiveness via face-to-face communication.

We’re more than confirmation numbers: What I learned selling books to strangers -

There are people who really need bookstores, people who I have come to know well. There’s the elderly woman who comes to every reading and sits in the front row. A professor visits in the afternoon to tell dirty jokes and he often brings challah to share. There is a therapist who works next door, and he buys and reads more novels than I would think is humanly possible or financially responsible. When one of our booksellers was snowed in overnight at work, the therapist let her sleep on his couch. There is a man who wears a leather cowboy hat, and he told me he almost never leaves his apartment except to come into the store. He always tips his hat to me before he leaves (really). And every Saturday, a father and his young son come in to buy a new Geronimo Stilton book, which is a series about an adventurous mouse. I eventually learned that the father was going through a divorce, and the bookstore was one of the things that both he and the little boy really looked forward to.

What Ultrarunners Think About When They Run | Outside Online

Christensen says runners who appreciated the social nature of the endeavor and those who were able to sit with—and not fight—their pain had the best days. “Thoughts of gratitude—realizing you’re a part of this broader ultrarunning community, that everyone is in it together—proved to be really common and important,” she says. “Also, this notion of radical acceptance: when a runner accepts their pain, it’s very freeing. You can be in pain without suffering. Pain is an objective sensation. The runners who are able to say ‘this dark spot won’t last forever’ do really well.”

More trust = giving more, expecting kharma

To measure trust and its reciprocation (trustworthiness) objectively, my team used a strategic decision task developed by researchers in the lab of Vernon Smith, a Nobel laureate in economics. In our experiment, a participant chooses an amount of money to send to a stranger via computer, knowing that the money will triple in amount and understanding that the recipient may or may not share the spoils. Therein lies the conflict: The recipient can either keep all the cash or be trustworthy and share it with the sender. To measure oxytocin levels during the exchange, my colleagues and I developed a protocol to draw blood from people’s arms before and immediately after they made decisions to trust others (if they were senders) or to be trustworthy (if they were receivers). Because we didn’t want to influence their behavior, we didn’t tell participants what the study was about, even though there was no way they could consciously control how much oxytocin they produced. We found that the more money people received (denoting greater trust on the part of senders), the more oxytocin their brains produced. And the amount of oxytocin recipients produced predicted how trustworthy—that is, how likely to share the money—they would be. Since the brain generates messaging chemicals all the time, it was possible we had simply observed random changes in oxytocin. To prove that it causes trust, we safely administered doses of synthetic oxytocin into living human brains (through a nasal spray). Comparing participants who received a real dose with those who received a placebo, we found that giving people 24 IU of synthetic oxytocin more than doubled the amount of money they sent to a stranger.

Power of shared pain triggers extreme self-sacrifice -- ScienceDaily

There were five hypotheses: shared experience promotes willingness to perform extreme pro-group action; shared negative experiences make individuals contribute more than euphoric experiences; the more intense the experience the stronger the pro-social effects; the effect of shared negative experiences on pro-social behavior is much stronger where groups compete directly against other groups rather than if they cooperate against nature; and the effects of shared negative experience can be stronger than those of kinship. The hypotheses were then tested empirically in a variety of different study populations, including U.S. military veterans of the Vietnam war, college fraternity and sorority members who had undergone hazing, English Premier League football fans, martial arts practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who sometimes use painful belt-whipping, and twins to examine the level of fusion. From both the theoretical and empirical research, the study concluded that overall shared negative experiences are a powerful mechanism for promoting pro-social behaviors, which under certain conditions can be extremely costly to the individuals concerned.

Happy spouse, happy house: New study finds focus on spouse an indicator of strong, healthy relationship -- ScienceDaily

"It may seem like an insignificant thing, but our research shows words can reflect important differences among romantic relationships," Robbins said. "Spouses' use of first-person singular pronouns, and patients' use of second-person pronouns, was positively related to better marital quality for both partners as the focus wasn't always on the patient. So, it reflects balance and interdependency between partners. "Personal pronoun use can tell us who the individual is focusing on, and how he or she construes themselves within the relationship," Robbins said. "It seems like a small word, but it says a lot about the relationship during a trying time. We found that focus on the spouse, rather than on the patient, lent to better marital quality for both partners. It was an indicator for us that the couple thought of themselves as a team, or a unit -- not exclusively focusing on the patient."

Physical Exercise and Psychological Well-Being: A Population Study in Finland - ScienceDirect

The results of this cross-sectional study suggest that individuals who exercised at least two to three times a week experienced significantly less depression, anger, cynical distrust, and stress than those exercising less frequently or not at all. Furthermore, regular exercisers perceived their health and fitness to be better than less frequent exercisers did. Finally, those who exercised at least twice a week reported higher levels of sense of coherence and a stronger feeling of social integration than their less frequently exercising counterparts.

Enemies as a mental health intervention

Indeed, researchers have found that just thinking about your social groups can make you less likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, less apt to lash out at those who have wronged you and more tolerant of physical pain. Groups provide a sense of belonging. They also can give life meaning—something that is lost in depression—in part because we are better able to achieve goals when we work with others. Rates of depression and suicide drop markedly in wartime, for example, because people find meaning in working together to defeat an enemy. And of course, other members of your in-group can supply both emotional support

Belonging counters depression

Though just attending group meetings—to play soccer, make art, sew or do yoga—did not significantly lower depression scores, identifying with the group was associated with a marked decline in symptoms. Similarly, when we studied 92 people diagnosed with depression or anxiety who joined a therapy group in a psychiatric hospital clinic, we found that those who strongly identified with the therapy group were more than twice as likely to recover as those who felt only weakly connected to it.

Depression risks plummet with group affiliation

We found that group membership not only enabled nondepressed people to avoid the disorder but also powerfully aided recovery over time for people who had been depressed. Depressed respondents with no group memberships who joined a single group reduced their risk of relapse from 41 to 31 percent; among those who joined three groups, the risk of relapse dropped to 15 percent.

Belonging counters depression

The more we learn about depression, the more social isolation seems to be a key factor in its expression. Interactions with others, then, might logically guard against the illness. Such contact works only when a person develops a sense of belonging, however. In another study from 2012 social psychologist Fabio Sani of the University of Dundee in Scotland and his colleagues surveyed 194 adults about how much they saw and spoke to members of their immediate family. They also asked these people how much they thought of their family as an important part of who they are. The amount of contact with family was only weakly related to whether people evinced symptoms of depression, but identifying with their family was highly protective. The same result held for a different type of “family.” Among 150 members of an army unit from an Eastern European country, feeling closely associated with their unit seemed to stave off depression far better than simply spending time with other soldiers.

Social roots of depression

The American Psychiatric Association recommends two kinds of first-line treatments for most cases of depression: antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. Both therapies can work quite effectively, either by changing brain chemistry or by altering one's perspective on life events. Both rest on the assumption that depression is a problem within an individual. Yet evidence suggests that the disorder has potent external triggers. In particular, 60 to 90 percent of people who become depressed have recently suffered some kind of loss—of a job, friendship or romance, for example. In addition, depression preferentially strikes those who live alone. And in recent years researchers have discovered that a sense of social isolation, often arising when you stop participating in activities you used to enjoy, augurs depression within a year. In a study of 229 middle-aged and older adults published in 2010, social neuroscientist John T. Cacioppo of the University of Chicago and his colleagues found that individuals who reported being lonely at some point over a five-year period were far more likely to develop depression symptoms a year later than were those who scored low on a measure of loneliness, independent of age, gender and initial depression severity.

autonomy, competence and connection

Kennon Sheldon, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri and author of Optimal Human Being, says we’ll be happiest if they meet our primary psychological needs: autonomy, or, as Sheldon says, “doing what you want to be doing and believe in doing”; competence, or “doing something well and/or seeing improvement”; and relatedness, like “connecting to others, immersing in a community, or contributing something to the world.”

Loneliness actually hurts us on a cellular level - Vox

In 2007, Cole and a team of researchers at UCLA make a breakthrough in a small 14-participant study. The very cells of people who lived through periods of chronic loneliness looked different. More specifically, the white blood cells of people who suffered through chronic loneliness appeared to be stuck in a state of fear. Cole and his colleagues observed two main genetic differences between lonely and non-lonely people. 1) Genes that code for the body’s inflammation response are turned on to a degree not seen in non-lonely participants. “There is a huge hidden epidemic of loneliness, and disenfranchisement from the human race” Which isn’t good. “Inflammation is great at responding to acute injury, but if you have inflammation going chronically, it serves as a fertilizer for chronic diseases like atherosclerosis and cardio vascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and metastatic cancer,” he says. “That provides one reasonable biological explanation for why they might be at an increased risk for these diseases.” 2) “At the same time, in almost like a teeter-totter regulatory dynamic, we see down-regulated, or suppressed activity, in a block of genes involved in fending off against viral infections.” Those genes code for proteins known as type-1 interferons, which direct the immune system to kill viruses. This is a bit of a head-scratcher. Increasing the body’s inflammation response in the face of stress makes sense. It’s protective in the short term. But why would our bodies become less willing to attack viruses?

Online Friendships Can't Replace In-Person Connection -- Science of Us

In researching his book Tribe, Sebastian Junger found that “lack of social support is twice as reliable at predicting PTSD [posttraumatic stress disorder] as the severity of the trauma [one experiences] itself.”

Fragmented discourse, in commercial speech too.

While his team at Giles-Parscale designed the ads, Parscale invited a variety of companies to set up shop in San Antonio to help determine which social media ads were most effective. Those companies test ad variations against one another—the campaign has ultimately generated 100,000 distinct pieces of creative content—and then roll out the strongest performers to broader audiences. At the same time, Parscale made the vendors, tech companies with names such as Sprinklr and Kenshoo, compete Apprentice-style; those whose algorithms fared worst in drumming up donors lost their contracts. Each time Parscale returned to San Antonio from Trump Tower, he would find that some vendors had been booted from their offices.