We all know that probiotics are great for our digestive health, but a new study has found that they may be doing more good than we thought! As reported in Science Daily, a study recently published in the journal, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, determined that taking probiotics every day for four weeks can significantly alter ones mood and thinking to be more positive and less focused on negative feelings and worries. The study consisted of 40 participants, of which 20 were given a placebo powder and 20 were given multi-species probiotics to take on a daily basis. The probiotic group demonstrated a significantly reduced incidence of ruminative thoughts involving their mood, as demonstrated by the completion of a questionnaire assessing their sensitivity to depression both at the beginning and at the end of the study. Although the group who took the placebo powder did not demonstrate a shift in their thought pattern/mood, the group who took the probiotics demonstrated a reduced level of negative thinking. This study can have huge implications in the field of mental health.
First and foremost, probiotics are known for being great for your health. However, if they come with the added benefit of improving your mood and thought pattern, then I see this as a win-win! During a consultation that I had with licensed acupuncturist, Kristine Parikian, I learned that the health of one’s gut is very important in the general health of one’s body. When the gut is balanced with healthy bacteria, it naturally improves the body’s immunity to various ailments. Knowing this, it makes perfect sense that the balance probiotics provide in the body would translate to improved mental health as well. When all parts of the body are functioning as intended and are well geared to fight the daily germs/viruses that exist, the brain is also able to function at it’s best and is not stressed with the need to manage pain and illness. This, in turn, leads to greater mental clarity and improved mood.
My hope for the implication of this study is that it will encourage clinicians and doctors to explore one additional avenue of treatment for patients who enter their office with mild symptoms of mood disorders. Probiotics may not be the solution for all cases of mood disorders, but they’re a good place to start. For individuals with major depression or other significant diagnoses, this option is not likely to be enough, but individual therapy along with medication management is the most validated approach. However, for the majority of people who are struggling with daily stress and feel like it’s hard to keep mental balance in light of all this stress, it may be worth giving probiotics a try!
As I was driving home last night, I noticed several houses that had already been decorated for the holidays with the festive twinkling lights outside and the beautiful Christmas trees showing through the windows. Given that I am a sucker for the holiday season, these sights filled me with a sense of happiness and warmth. Soon after these positive feelings, a sense of urgency set in. Was I late in getting started with holiday prep? Should I have spent the weekend getting decorations down and moving furniture around to accommodate the Christmas tree? As I started going through my mental calendar of things that need to get done, I realized that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! My family’s usual tradition is to set up Christmas decorations on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. This has always been the case for us, but until just recently, I have never felt the pressure to start decorating before that point. This got me thinking about why our society is in such a hurry to start celebrating the holidays.
Of course, there is the business related argument that it’s all retail based and that companies have started cultivating the holiday spirit earlier to increase sales. I have no doubt that this is true because, after all, who doesn’t want to drink a Chestnut Praline Latte in the red Starbucks cup as soon as possible??? But I can’t accept the fact that this is the only reason the holidays keep getting pushed earlier and earlier every single year. Yes, companies are pushing the holiday season upon us as early as possible, but the interesting part of it, in my perspective, is that we, as a society, are eager and ready to receive it! About 5 years ago, I remember that several department stores began decorating before Thanksgiving and many people thought this was ridiculous. Today, many retailers set up their holiday decorations after Halloween! The premature celebration of the holidays has become pushed upon us in such an inadvertent manner that not only are retailers setting up early for the purpose of increasing sales, but we have gotten into the habit of decorating our homes and businesses for the holidays before Thanksgiving has even arrived! Back to my real question though… WHY? Why are we so eager to celebrate the holidays that we have decided to start doing so a month or two earlier than they are meant to be celebrated?
Here is where it gets interesting for me! The psychology behind our readiness to welcome the holiday season… First off, I began thinking about what it is that the holidays represent. A few terms automatically entered my mind… love, acceptance, unity, tolerance, family, support, and warmth. Even in terms of gift giving, the holidays are one of the few times of the year when we actively think about who we appreciate and what we can give to those individuals to make them feel special. We are encouraged to think about the well-being and happiness of others as opposed to the rest of the year when we are primarily focused on thinking about our own needs. The holidays give us the opportunity to let go of the individualistic nature of our daily lives and to embrace the collectivist nature that many of us seek deep down inside. The holidays make it okay for us to look one another in the eyes at the store and to smile, they make it okay for us to let the person with one item ahead of us in line, they make it appropriate for us to give money to the homeless man by the exit on the freeway off-ramp without questioning what he will do with that money… The holidays make it okay for us to connect with one another without second guessing ourselves and feeling taken advantage of. They make it okay for us to be good human beings, the kind of human being that we were before we were jaded by the negative experiences that have rewired our internal programming to be cautious, not trust others, and put our own needs before those of others. I believe that this is the main reason we are so ready to welcome the holidays into our lives, even if it is in early November!
As we enter the new year and make our resolutions, it may be beneficial to make a few resolutions that will help us carry the warmth of the holidays into the rest of the upcoming year. Consider spending more time with family, or holding the door for a stranger, or giving some grace to those around us with the realization that they might be going through struggles of their own. After all, we are in this together… We share this point in time with one another and what we do/how we treat each other today effects the norms of our society for generations to come.
Did you know that when adolescents enter puberty, their circadian rhythm naturally shifts by 2-3 hours? This means that their bodies don’t feel the need to fall asleep until later in the night and are not ready to wake up until later in the morning. How do you think this effects them when we expect them to be awake, alert, and focused in class at 8 am? Some middle schools and high schools have shifted their school hours to start and end later due to this fact and results show that attendance has increased, tardiness has decreased, and the students and generally performing better in their classes. Food for thought…
Instead of being hard on your teenager about their morning routine, try educating them about this fact and work on coming up with a game-plan together about what they can do to make the best of their night and morning. For example, trying to get to bed a few minutes earlier every day, trying to relax before bedtime, etc. If you are having trouble parenting your adolescent or are unable to communicate in a healthy manner with him/her, consider seeking the help of a psychologist.
Although many women have certain plans regarding when and after which achievements they would like to establish a family, some are unfortunately faced with the realization that just because they are now ready to conceive, that doesn’t mean that their body will follow suit. Difficulty conceiving and/or having a viable pregnancy can be an extremely stressful experience for many women and couples. A new study published in the journal of Human Reproduction focuses on this issue by studying the various stress points that challenge women as they struggle to become pregnant.
The study examined 445 women, between ages 18 and 44 years, who were experiencing difficulties in conceiving. One third of these women stated that they felt some level of worry from the moment that they started trying to become pregnant. In addition, nearly half on this group reported that they felt ashamed and that they were a failure as a woman. Infertility often has many psychological side-effects on women including depression, anxiety, anger, and low self-esteem. These feelings are extremely difficult for a woman to process, especially if she tries to keep them to herself and does not have a strong support system. In these circumstances, it is imperative that she work with a psychologist on a regular basis to process the feelings associated to infertility and to better her coping mechanism to get through this difficult time in the best possible way.
In addition, it is important to note that dealing with infertility can be extremely taxing on the relationship between husband and wife. Many times, the individual who is the primary source of the difficulties feels that they are at fault and the other individual may not know the best way to show support. In addition, they may have different perspectives regarding the lengths that they are willing to go through to become pregnant and may not know how to address this issue with one another. It is very important for a couple going through this difficult time to communicate honestly and sensitively with one another. For many, couples therapy is an ideal way of doing this because they feel safe and comfortable knowing that they are in the presence of an unbiased individual who can facilitate the conversation. The decision of whether to begin fertility treatment can be very difficult one, but this study found that when women began fertility treatment, the majority (63%) reported feeling that they got closer to their partner and that their partner was supportive throughout the process.
As with any stressful time in one’s life, it is extremely important to acknowledge and express the feelings that the experience has caused for the woman and for the couple. Stresses such as infertility can be difficult and detrimental to an individual and a marriage if they are not addressed correctly; however, if one chooses to get help from a psychologist regarding their emotional struggles, they can use this difficult time in their life to become a stronger individual and a healthier couple.