Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

How The Brain Generates The Human Tendency For Optimism

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

A neural network that may generate the human tendency to be optimistic has been identified by researchers at New York University. As humans, we expect to live longer and be more successful than average, and we underestimate our likelihood of getting a divorce or having cancer. The results, reported in Nature, link the optimism bias to the same brain regions that show irregularities in depression.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the laboratory of NYU Professor Elizabeth Phelps. The lead author is Tali Sharot, now a post-doctoral fellow at University College London.

The NYU researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine brain function while participants thought of possible future life events (such as “winning an award” or “the end of a romantic relationship”).

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Optimism Associated With Lowered Risk Of Dying From Heart Disease

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Patients who described themselves as highly optimistic had lower risks of all-cause death, and lower rates of cardiovascular death than those with high levels of pessimism, according to an article in the November issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to the article, major depression is a known risk factor for cardiovascular death. However, the relationship between optimism and death has not received as much attention.

Erik J. Giltay, M.D., Ph.D., of Psychiatric Center GGZ Delfland, Delft, the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed data from the Arnhem Elderly Study to test whether participants who are optimistic live longer than patients who are pessimistic.

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Politicians told to focus on wellbeing

Monday, April 28th, 2008

[...] It is time for politicians to start focusing on the politics of wellbeing rather than the politics of wealth, one of the world’s leading psychologists told an audience in Auckland last night (April 22).Professor Martin Seligman, the pioneer of positive psychology, told an audience of 150 people attending a lecture at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, sponsored by Human Resource consultancy the Foresight Institute, that creating wealth was no longer enough.

Despite countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the United States being wealthier than ever before, they were all experiencing epidemics of depression, he said. New Zealand scored particularly badly in world rankings of wellbeing, usually placed at around 22 or 23, compared with Australia, which was usually placed around 8.

“Why is there so much pessimism and depression and lack of wellbeing?” he asked. “Given the prosperity of your nation, and given what’s happened in the past century, why is there so much depression? Depression is probably 20 times more common than it was 50 years ago.

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Happiness: Good for Creativity, Bad for Single-Minded Focus

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Despite those who romanticize depression as the wellspring of artistic genius, studies find that people are most creative when they are in a good mood, and now researchers may have explained why: For better or worse, happy people have a harder time focusing.

University of Toronto psychologists induced a happy, sad or neutral state in each of 24 participants by playing them specially chosen musical selections. To instill happiness, for example, they played a jazzy version of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. After each musical interlude, the researchers gave subjects two tests to assess their creativity and concentration.

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Staying happier for longer

Monday, March 17th, 2008

From the Buddha to modern gurus of self-help, there have been more than 100 exercises proposed which are alleged to increase lasting happiness, says Professor Martin Seligman a contributor to BBC Two’s The Happiness Formula.

In strange contrast, scientific investigation until recently thought none of these exercises would, as there was an unchangeable and biological “set point” for happiness.

This suggested that our levels of happiness were largely pre-determined by our genes and our upbringing, varying slightly but always returning to our set point of happiness.

It also explained the annoying fact that lottery winners eventually revert to their customarily curmudgeonliness and the rosier finding that paraplegics eventually return to almost the same happiness level they enjoyed before their accident.

I have spent more than 20 years testing the effects of various psychotherapies and drugs on depression.

So when I became a positive psychologist, I first explored many of these exercises and then decided to test rigorously whether any of them really increased happiness…

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Happiness: enough already?

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

We can’t be happy all the time.  Sometimes it’s good to be unhappy. It’s all about maintaining a healthy balance, I suppose.

-Martajuanita

The plural of anecdote is not data, as scientists will tell you, but consider these snapshots of the emerging happiness debate anyway: Lately, Jerome Wakefield’s students have been coming up to him after they break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and not because they want him to recommend a therapist. Wakefield, a professor at New York University, coauthored the 2007 book “The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow Into Depressive Disorder,” which argues that feeling down after your heart is broken—even so down that you meet the criteria for clinical depression— is normal and even salutary. But students tell him that their parents are pressuring them to seek counseling and other medical intervention—”some Zoloft, dear?”—for their sadness, and the kids want no part of it. “Can you talk to them for me?” they ask Wakefield. Rather than “listening to Prozac,” they want to listen to their hearts, not have them chemically silenced.

University of Illinois psychologist Ed Diener, who has studied happiness for a quarter century, was in Scotland recently, explaining to members of Parliament and business leaders the value of augmenting traditional measures of a country’s wealth with a national index of happiness. Such an index would measure policies known to increase people’s sense of well-being, such as democratic freedoms, access to health care and the rule of law. The Scots were all in favor of such things, but not because they make people happier. “They said too much happiness might not be such a good thing,” says Diener. “They like being dour, and didn’t appreciate being told they should be happier.” …

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