Community Bonding Protects Your Happiness in Times of Stress
Emerging research suggests that social cohesion across communities can help others cope better with crises, and improve happiness among individuals.
Economist Dr. John Helliwell and colleagues from the University of British Columbia in Canada believe this shows that part of the reason for this greater resilience is the fact that humans are more than simply social beings, they are so-called “pro-social” beings. In other words, they get happiness not just from doing things with others, but from doing things both with and for others.
image via flickr:CC | RodrigoFavera
Acute Stress Primes Brain for Better Cognitive and Mental Performance
“You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it’s not,” said Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.
New research by Kaufer and UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby has uncovered exactly how acute stress — short-lived, not chronic — primes the brain for improved performance.
photo via flickr:CC | ian boyd
Even Brief Meditation Can Improve Student Performance
New research, published in the journal Mindfulness, suggests practicing meditation before class can help students focus and lead to better grades.
Researchers randomly selected students for basic meditation instructions before a lecture and discovered that the students who meditated before the lecture scored better on a subsequent quiz than students who did not meditate.
photo via flickr:CC | nikoschwarz
Testing helps maintain attention, reduce stress in online learning
Now researchers (Szpunar, Khan, & Schacter, 2013) have reported testing as a potentially powerful ally in online learning. College students frequently report difficulty in maintaining attention during lectures, and that problem seems to be exacerbated when the lecture occurs on video.
Data shows students’ minds wandered less with just the thought that they might be tested. Interesting…
photo via flickr:CC | konch
Family Dinners Can Bolster Teens’ Mental Health
Family dinners do more than just bring parents and kids up to date; a new study suggests the fellowship inherent in such gatherings contributes to good mental health in adolescents.
Frank Elgar, Ph.D., a professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, discovered family meal times are a measurable signature of social exchanges in the home that benefit adolescents’ well-being – regardless of whether or not they feel they can easily talk to their parents.
“More frequent family dinners related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviors towards others and higher life satisfaction,” said Elgar, whose research centers on social inequalities in health and family influences on child mental health.
photo via flickr:CC | sashamd
Program to Reduce Teen Stress
Researchers from the University of Montreal have developed a program to significantly reduce the stress associated with the transition from elementary school to middle school.
The DeStress for Success Program is based on an earlier study that showed the transition from elementary to secondary school is associated with the production of stress hormones for many youth.
“The educational program is based on the belief that intervention can decrease the level of stress hormones and depressive symptoms in teenagers and help facilitate this transition,” said Sonia Lupien, lead author of the study.
photo via flickr:CC | Riley Alexandra
Exercise Helps Kids Cope with Stress
Researchers discovered sedentary children have surges of cortisol — a hormone linked to stress — when they are exposed to everyday stressors.
However, the most active children had little or no increase in their cortisol levels in similar situations.
“The findings suggest physical activity plays a role in mental health by buffering children from the effects of daily stressors, such as public speaking,” said the study’s lead author, Silja Martikainen, M.A., of the University of Helsinki, Finland.
photo via flickr:CC | Neighborhood Centers
I’ve been thinking about taking a tech break.
Since I work with and support technology, I can’t completely break away, but social media
can be is a stressor. Tumblr is a self-imposed stressor.
Watching ikenbot’s decision to take a sabbatical, and sticking to it, was incredibly inspiring. His reflections were insightful, and they helped me understand a big part of going through with it is goal-setting, awareness, and reflection.
I’m not in that space now but I’m going to start planning for it.
‘Helicopter Parenting’ Can Undermine Students’ Self-Image
But too much involvement can be detrimental as a new study shows that college students with overcontrolling parents are more likely to be depressed and less satisfied with their lives.
The researchers discovered parental overinvolvement can lead to negative outcomes in children, including higher levels of depression and anxiety.
Studies also suggest that children of overinvolved or overcontrolling parents may feel less competent and less able to manage life and its stressors.
photo via flickr:CC | WilliamsProjects
Adolescent Stress Linked to Severe Adult Mental Illness, Mouse Study Suggests
Working with mice, Johns Hopkins researchers have established a link between elevated levels of a stress hormone in adolescence — a critical time for brain development — and genetic changes that, in young adulthood, cause severe mental illness in those predisposed to it.
“We have discovered a mechanism for how environmental factors, such as stress hormones, can affect the brain’s physiology and bring about mental illness,” says study leader Akira Sawa, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We’ve shown in mice that stress in adolescence can affect the expression of a gene that codes for a key neurotransmitter related to mental function and psychiatric illness. While many genes are believed to be involved in the development of mental illness, my gut feeling is environmental factors are critically important to the process.”
photo via flickr:CC | Alan Cleaver
Studies Link Students’ Boredom to Stress
While boredom is a perennial student complaint, emerging research shows it is more than students’ not feeling entertained, but rather a “flavor of stress” that can interfere with their ability to learn and even their health.
Boredom is one of the most consistent experiences of school and one that can be frustrating and disheartening for teachers. According to findings in the High School Survey of Student Engagement, conducted by the Indiana University Bloomington, boredom is nearly universal among American students.
“I think teachers should always try to be relevant and interesting, but beyond that, there are other places to look,” said John D. Eastwood, an associate professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, Canada, and the lead author of the study. “By definition, to be in the state of boredom is to say the world sucks out there in some way. But often that’s not the case; often it’s an interior problem, and [students] are looking in the wrong place to solve the problem.”
photo via flickr:CC | simaje