Saybrook University

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Forget grades: Bad schools are hazardous to kids' mental health

03/22/2011

800px-Granger_Classroom_Old What schools need to succeed is a hot debate – but we all know that a school that doesn’t have what it needs will fail.  

What we don’t know, what we’re just beginning to ask, is:  what impact does a failing school have on a child’s mental health? 

A recent study published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, looked at how lack of resources in the classroom impacts mental health. Researches found that children who attended schools that did not have the resources for supplies or for their teachers to focus on teaching, were more likely to have mental health problems.

The study used a representative sample of 10,700 first graders. Their teachers and parents were interviewed as a part of the study.

They found five aspects of the classroom that they believe impacts a child’s learning and sense of safety in a classroom.  They are:

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Sleeping is an essential life skill: here's how you can improve

03/21/2011

800px-Sleeping_while_studying Likely you are one of millions of Americans who dread the sound of your morning alarm clock. The electronic rooster goes off early for too many – who fell asleep too late – and did not stay asleep for too long. As a result we fill our abdomens with espresso and Red Bull, and the circles under eyes become ever-darker.

Even our metaphors for sleep aren’t working:  “sleep like a baby”?  Come on:  how many babies are known for getting a good night’s sleep?

Recently a published study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine dispelled the age old myth of one-size-fits all sleep patterns, while emphasizing the importance of sleeping well. While more research to validate the findings is needed, the research suggests that shorter than 6.5 hours and or longer than 7.5 hours of sleep leaves people at risk for early or increased risk of mortality.

Most of us need better rest, and it is within our power to get it.   A recent article in Prevention Magazine gives us a sneak peak of how to improve this important facet of our busy lives...

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Savoring food can reduce stress eating - and lead to weight loss

03/18/2011

Thicht Nhat Hanh Chances are you are like millions of American-- eat more, not less-- when stressed. Stress increases cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite. And we all know:  the cookie jar, noisy chip bags, and drive thrus seem to be inevitable consequences once the cortisol levels start raging in your body.

Or are they so inevitable? 

Stress eaters, meet Cognitive Behavioral Mindfulness. It takes best of humanism and the best of cognitive behavioral psychology and applies them to your eating habits, today, in the midst of the immense stress and frenzy of life.

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2000 year old wisdom wins again: Tai Chi for seniors is great elder-care

03/17/2011

399px-Elderly_Shanghai_woman_practices_tai_chi Tai Chi has finally caught on in the field of geriatric care and research – and this is great news for the estimated 2 million people over the age of 65 who suffer from depression.  

Tai chi chin is a westernized version of the Tai chi chuan, which is an internal Chinese martial art that has been practiced for centuries. Tai chi chin is a series of 19 moves with one pose that focuses on developing and balancing internal energy – chi. It is believed that this practice increases overall well-being, physical energy and stamina.

Recently Tai chi chin has received tentative acceptance as being beneficial for overall psychological health. A review published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Tai Chi is effective at reducing stress, anxiety, depression and increasing self-esteem.

But the impact on seniors was particularly noteworthy … and important during a time when we face a crisis of affordable humane and empowering nursing home care.

Two studies published in 2009 found that Tai chi chin reduced osteoarthritis pain. Tai chi chin incorporates a range of motions that increases muscle conditioning and flexibility. Increasing physical strength and flexibility helped to improve overall movement and reduced pain in 20 of the participants of this study.

The practice that builds strength also aids in improving balance. The Oregon Department of Human Services incorporated Tai chi chin programs in an effort to promote physical activity as a way to prevent injuring and sometimes life threatening falls in older adults. All of the adult community centers that provided Tai chi chin to their residents saw a significant reduction in falls and an increase in physical independence.

Another study published in 2007 showed that practicing Tai chi chin boosted the immune systems of older adults.

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Having meaningful work matters to your mental health: here's how you get it

03/16/2011

Cubicle_land A recent study showed that having a job you hate is one of the worst things you can do to your mental health – so bad that being unemployed is actually better for your psyche. 

Having work that you find meaningful, on the other hand, makes a great difference. 

How can we find work that is meaningful? Or perhaps another question would be:  how do we make our work more meaningful?

The answer to both of these questions is dependent a couple things and researchers have long been looking at what makes work meaningful.

Brent D. Rosso, University of Michigan, Kathryn H. Dekas from Google Inc. and Amy Wrzesniewski of Yale University reviewed literature on meaning in work and found seven mechanisms that make this happen.

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We are the first people in history to watch disaster footage on-demand. What impact does that have?

03/15/2011

Earthquake aftermath We’re witnessing another devastating natural disaster. We’ve been through this at lot recently, New Zealand, Haiti, now Japan … one of the things they have in common, aside from human suffering, is our inability as bystanders to turn away. 

There are endless news stories about the devastation, loss and pain that millions are experiencing right now.  There are 20,800 YouTube videos of Japanese buildings falling down; a Google image search produced millions of images of the devastation including any and all news related to the event.

While people have always be aware of the dangers in the world, the hyper connectivity and broadcasting of disasters such as these can make us feel even more vulnerable. What is the impact of being a witness, even a distant witness, on our own psyche, on our desire to help?

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Subliminal advertising has gotten more powerful: it's time for the FCC to keep up

03/14/2011

Apple_Inc._Mosaic Turns out, you are choosing things based on subliminal messages.

The way you vote, the food you buy, the brands you dig—they are all being deeply affected by subliminal advertising. It’s totally legal – and totally unethical.

In recent years, an abundance of literature has surfaced proving that subliminal messaging can indeed affect our thoughts and behaviors—even without conscious awareness. As consumers, we all have an invested interest in understanding the research – how it’s being used against us – and what we can do to uphold our rights.

Here’s a peak at the research:

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Hospice care is better care -- by any measure

03/11/2011

WoodsideHospice Palliative care has proven more cost effective and more care-oriented for seriously ill Medicaid patients.

The Wall Street Journal reports that palliative care saves Medicaid an average of 6,900 per seriously ill patient; research proves that that care is better for mood, affect, and survival. More, research is proving that humanistic methods of care are the source of success;  humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is being used as the foundation patient care and treatment.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study on palliative care looks at 151 patients with Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, and early palliative care intervention. The patients chosen for the study were randomly assigned to one of two groups; palliative care with standard oncologic care or standard oncologic care alone. At the twelve week mark, the quality of life and mood were assessed in the study participants through a variety of scales and instruments. Based on the data, researchers concluded that quality of life, mood, and affect were significantly greater among patients receiving palliative and standard oncologic care concurrently.

Complimenting this, researchers Zalenski and Raspa from the Department of Emergency Medicine and Palliative Care in Michigan, found statistically significantly results for palliative and hospice care environments when implementing the motivation and needs theories of Abraham Maslow. Researchers clearly adapted the five levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to palliative care environments – including:

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International Women's Day has come and gone - what do we know about women around the world?

03/10/2011

Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton_and_Susan_B_Anthony March 8th marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and March is Women’s history month here in the United States.

What better time to briefly look at the life of a woman.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1000 women die every day due to complications in childbirth, 13% of women world wide die of HIV/AIDS related conditions and suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for women aged 20 – 44 years. They estimate 73 million women suffer from mild to severe depression.

Of these women 86% of them that live low income countries do not have access to mental health services.

These are numbers we do know. There are most likely countless numbers of women who go unseen and unheard that are not included in this data.

Before we send armies of therapists all over the world, there is one thing to consider, that mental health is intrinsically tied to physical health. Systemic responses to the social, cultural and economic crises of women will ease they psychological and spiritual suffering of women.

The WHO recommended the following actions that can be taken to help women around the world no matter their socioeconomic status.

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Studies suggest it is possible to rehabilitate sex offenders - by acknowledging their humanity

03/09/2011

It’s been a big week for sex abuse scandals:  the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has suspended 21 priests – the largest mass suspension in church history – as a result of accusations involving inappropriate contact with minors. 

Meanwhile victims groups have begun to say publicly that the Catholic Church should monitor accused priests the way the police track convicted sex offenders ... and create special housing for them. 

Sexual violence is never permissible, yet lost in the discussion of these horrifying crimes is the question of rehabilitation.  For the most part, the public assumption is that once a sex offender always a sex offender:  rehabilitation is not possible.

It’s an understandable assumption –  rehabilitation requires taking an offender seriously as a person:  how can we do this with sex offenders, especially child abusers?  How can we reach out to them to address their humanity, and human needs? 

But there are horrifying consequences if this assumption is wrong.  If sex offenders can be rehabilitated, then failure to do so not only is cruel to the offender, it puts more people at risk precisely because sex offenders remain untreated.    

In fact, it is humanistic and existential therapy that has proven most effective in rehabilitating adult sex offenders – and it achieves this success precisely by relating to offenders as human beings. 

In preliminary research (PDF) humanistic and existential psychology, utilized in the group therapy context, has proven successful in rehabilitating sex offenders.

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