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By ianfielder, Jul 11 2018 02:30PM

Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

After participating in a single, 15-minute session of one of these mind-body therapies, patients re

ported an immediate decrease in pain levels similar to what one might expect from an opioid painkiller. This study is the first to compare the effects of mindfulness and hypnosis on acute pain in the hospital setting.

The yearlong study's 244 participants were patients at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City who reported experiencing unmanageable pain as the result of illness, disease or surgical procedures. Willing patients were randomly assigned to receive a brief, scripted session in one of three interventions: mindfulness, hypnotic suggestion or pain coping education. Hospital social workers who completed basic training in each scripted method provided the interventions to patients.

While all three types of intervention reduced patients' anxiety and increased their feelings of relaxation, patients who participated in the hypnotic suggestion intervention experienced a 29 percent reduction in pain, and patients who participated in the mindfulness intervention experienced a 23 percent reduction in pain. By comparison, those who participated in the pain coping intervention experienced a 9 percent reduction. Patients receiving the two mind-body therapies also reported a significant decrease in their perceived need for opioid medication. "About a third of the study participants receiving one of the two mind-body therapies achieved close to a 30 percent reduction in pain intensity," said Eric Garland, lead author of the study and director of the U's Centre on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development. "This clinically significant level of pain relief is roughly equivalent to the pain relief produced by 5 milligrams of oxycodone."

Garland's previous research has indicated that multi-week mindfulness training programs can be an effective way to reduce chronic pain symptoms and decrease prescription opioid misuse. This new study added a novel dimension to Garland's work by revealing the promise of brief mind-body therapies for people suffering from acute pain. "It was really exciting and quite amazing to see such dramatic results from a single mind-body session," said Garland. "Given our nation's current opioid epidemic, the implications of this study are potentially huge. These brief mind-body therapies could be cost-effectively and feasibly integrated into standard medical care as useful adjuncts to pain management."

Garland and his interdisciplinary research team aim to continue studying mind-body therapies as non-opioid means of alleviating pain by conducting a national replication study in a sample of thousands of patients in multiple hospitals around the country.

By ianfielder, Jun 4 2018 04:39PM

There’s no use beating up on yourself after the fact. Just because you’ve slipped up during your recovery from drug and alcohol addiction does not mean that all of your efforts have been for nought. So what now? It’s time to regroup, examine why you’ve slipped and take the necessary efforts to get back on track. After all, having made so much progress, you’re not going back to your old lifestyle. Start with these moves.

Forgive Yourself

This is necessary to free you from the bitterness and anger that could be disastrous to your physical health and hold you back in anything positive that you are trying to achieve, according to an article in Psychology Today. They add that forgiving ourselves is often even more difficult than forgiving other people.

For one thing, you need to unpack any limiting beliefs or negative emotions that you’ve attached to your slip-up, otherwise your forgiveness will seem insincere to yourself. In order to do that, you’ll have to let go of the past and recognize you are not perfect and everybody makes mistakes. Re-reading positive affirmations is one way over this hurdle.

Talk to Loved Ones

Your friends and family can help you cope, and you need all the emotional support you can get as you’re in the throes of a serious mental illness. Besides, relationships are the very foundation of mental health, says an MSN expert, and your well-being will only be harmed by isolation whereas a kind word and understanding can do wonders in boosting your self-esteem and empowerment.

Remember to choose wisely when you open up. It must be someone who you feel comfortable with and who you trust. This will make it easier to be absolutely honest about your situation, which is vital to effective communication. The process can be cathartic as it releases a lot of the tension that you’ve been feeling since the relapse. You’ll also gain the benefit of perspective from someone who can look at the problem from the outside.

Adjust Sobriety Strategy

This means that you have to re-examine where you go, what you do and who you spend time with as all of these can provoke future relapse. Though most of these tips are related to the holidays, they actually work year-round. You’ll notice how important it is to avoid old friends from the days when you partied too much or people that cause you stress.

About that last word. The reason for your relapse may have been jumping back to work too quickly or taking on more than you can handle in other aspects of your life. If that’s the case, then it may be time to step back and enjoy a little peace and quiet. This could mean a weekend to yourself to visit the sea or a session of mindful meditation.

Sweat it Out

A jog in the park or swim at the pool may help you return to form. Besides the buzz you get from the rush of endorphins, adrenaline and dopamine, you’ll feel a sense of achievement by continuing to strive toward your fitness goals. Working all that tension out of your body also makes you more relaxed and stabilizes your sleeping patterns, putting you in a better mental state from which to move further on your recovery plan.

Do not forget to match the exercise with healthy eating, which will also give you a much-needed mood boost. According to a doctor writing in Mind Body Green, a nutritious diet relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety by reducing inflammation and increasing production of hormones like serotonin.

Seek Professional Help

There are therapists who deal with this problem for a living and they can provide coping strategies as you struggle to regain sobriety. You’ll also find support groups in the real world as well as online in addition to helplines specifically for people in your position. Don’t hesitate to use these resources rather than fall into old habits of crippling depression and self-doubt.

Whatever you do, remember that you are not alone in the fight to stay sober, so keep moving forward.

Image via Pixabay.

Original piece by Constance Ray

By ianfielder, Jun 4 2018 01:14PM

We all know that getting enough sleep is one of the key ingredients for good health. Now, a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research has found that having a lie-in on the weekend could counter the life-limiting effect of under-sleeping during the week.

Researchers found that those who were getting under five hours of sleep each night had a 65% higher mortality rate than those who were getting six or seven hours of sleep. But the study revealed that there was no increased risk of death for those who slept five hours or fewer during the week, when they managed eight or more hours on the weekend.

So, next time you find yourself having a lazy Sunday lie-in, there’s no need to feel guilty; you’re simply having what Torbjörn Åkerstedt – author of the study at Stockholm University – calls a “catch-up sleep”, and it could be the key to living a longer, healthier life.

By ianfielder, May 15 2018 07:55AM

Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have for the first time found direct causal links between the neurotransmitter dopamine and avoidance -- behaviour related to pain and fear.

Researchers have long known that dopamine plays a key role in driving behaviour related to pleasurable goals, such as food, sex and social interaction. In general, increasing dopamine boosts the drive toward these stimuli. But dopamine's role in allowing organisms to avoid negative events has remained mysterious.

The new study establishes for the first time that dopamine is central in causing behaviour related to the avoidance of specific threats. The work was published today in the journal Current Biology.

"This study really advances what we know about how dopamine affects aversively motivated behaviours," said Joseph F. Cheer PhD, a professor in the UMSOM Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology and the study's corresponding author. "In the past, we thought of dopamine as a neurotransmitter involved in actions associated with the pursuit of rewards. With this new information we can delve into how dopamine affects so many more kinds of motivated behaviour."

To better understand the role that dopamine plays in this process, Dr. Cheer and his colleagues, including principal author Jennifer Wenzel, PhD, a fellow in Dr. Cheer's laboratory, studied rats, focusing on a particular brain area, the nucleus accumbens. This brain region plays a crucial role in linking the need or desire for a given reward -- food, sex, etc. -- with the motor response to actually obtain that reward. To study the animals under natural conditions, they used optogenetics, a relatively new technique in which specific groups of neurons can be controlled by exposure to light. In this case, Dr. Cheer's group used a blue laser to stimulate genetically modified rats whose dopamine neurons could be controlled to send out more or less dopamine. In this way, they were able to see how dopamine levels affected the animals' behaviour. The principal advantage of this approach: he could control dopamine levels even as the animals moved freely in their environment.

The researchers subjected the animals to small electric shocks, but also taught the animals how to escape the shocks by pressing a small lever. Using optogenetics, they controlled the amount of dopamine released by neurons in the nucleus accumbens. Animals with high levels of dopamine in this brain region learned to avoid a shock more quickly and more often than animals that had a lower level of dopamine in this region. Dr. Cheer says that this indicates that dopamine causally drives animals to avoid unpleasant or painful situations and stimuli. The results greatly expand the role that dopamine plays in driving behaviour.

The researchers also examined the role that endocannabinoids play in this process. Endocannabinoids, brain chemicals that resemble the active ingredients in marijuana, play key roles in many brain processes. Here, Dr. Cheer and his colleagues found that endocannabinoids essentially open the gate that allows the dopamine neurons to fire. When the researchers reduced the level of endocannabinoids, the animals were much less likely to move to avoid shocks. Dr. Cheer argues that the research sheds light on brain disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. In depression, patients feel unable to avoid a sense of helplessness in the face of problems, and tend to ruminate rather than act to improve their situation. In PTSD, patients are unable to avoid an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety in the face of seemingly low-stress situations. Both disorders, he says, may involve abnormally low levels of dopamine, and may be seen on some level as a failure of the avoidance system.

In both depression and PTSD, doctors already sometimes treat patients with medicine to increase dopamine and there are now clinical trials testing use of endocannabinoid drugs to treat these conditions. Dr. Cheer suggests that this approach may need to be used more often, and should certainly be studied in more detail.

Article copied from National Hypnotherapy May newsletter

By ianfielder, Nov 9 2017 11:16AM

A majority (80 percent) of employees perceive the level of wellbeing within their organisation to be moderate or low and a quarter are struggling to manage the pressures of the workplace, a new survey claims. Although 64 percent believe their overall happiness as happy or very happy two thirds of UK workers admit to coasting or struggling at work, with just 18 percent reporting they’re flourishing, finds the survey published by Barnett Waddingham. Why BWell 2017 also found a third of UK workers admit their job has a negative impact on their mental health, with the same number believing their overall wellbeing is not important to their employer. Moreover, 22 percent say negative attitudes from their managers at work hinder their ability to balance work and family commitments. The survey also looked at employee retention alongside employers’ understanding of staff engagement in the company objectives. Overall 25 percent admitted they couldn’t see themselves working for the same company in five years’ time and 36 percent feel they either didn’t understand their company’s overall strategy or didn’t know if they understood it or not.

Within the report, Barnett Waddingham compare the responses to The UK Wellbeing Index 2017, which contains employer views on wellbeing. There appears to be a disconnect between what organisations say they feel about wellbeing and what employees experience from their employers, with just 21 percent of employees who believe wellbeing is very important to their organisation in comparison to 71 percent of organisations who state this.

Further report highlights:

• Nine in 10 agree that a happier workplace is more productive

• 89 percent see the importance of a healthy work life balance

• 55 percent are unsure or have no certain outlook for retirement

• There is a notable correlation between older respondents to the survey and those in the higher earning brackets reporting better wellbeing overall

Laura Matthews, workplace wellbeing consultant at Barnett Waddingham, said; ““The term wellbeing continues to be an industry buzzword with many organisations starting to realise the true importance of this. Strategies are often focused exclusively on health, whereas there are many other factors to be considered such as the culture of a firm, support from line management or even down to where employees are on their financial journey”

Damian Stancombe, partner at Barnett Waddingham, added; “Work should and will become more a symbiotic relationship between employer and employee, with the pursuit of Eudaimonia – happiness and flourishing – within the workplace as key. Sadly, the results from this survey tell me there is a very long way to go before UK workers will feel happy, and as a consequence, productive in the workplace.

“By considering employees’ happiness and workplace wellbeing, employers would reap the benefits of reduced absence and increased productivity. Not by following fad or fashion but by understanding the real issues impacting the workforce, and where possible, actually doing something about them.

“Given the uncertain position the UK now finds itself in, improving productivity I believe becomes ever more fundamental. Indeed, the success of UK public limited companies are dependent on it.”

Over three quarters (77 percent) of British workers admit that having a bad night’s sleep negatively impacts their working day, with 27 percent claiming that they feel exhausted on a daily basis, according to a new study from jobsite CV Library. The study explored the attitudes of 1,300 workers around the topic of sleep and the workplace and was conducted with input from Neuroscientist Professor Jim Horne. The research claims that three quarters of Brits (74.5 percent) cite workplace stress as a key cause of their disrupted rest, with a further 92.5 percent admitting that a stress-related disrupted sleep negatively affects their emotions. What’s more, while the majority of workers (58.9 percent) would like to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, only 26.1 percent currently achieve this, with most people (56.8 percent) actually receiving 5-7 hours. The research claims that sleep deprivation is most likely to affect an employee’s ability to stay focused (72.7 percent) as well as their ability to deal with challenging situations (46.5 percent) and make important decisions (34.2 percent).

Professor Jim Horne comments: “Most work situations require individuals to make critical decisions, remain focussed and complete tasks within a timely and efficient manner. However, it’s clear from these findings that sleep loss can impair attention to detail amongst workers. The longer a person is awake, the more likely their mood is to be negatively affected, as well as their willingness to take risks in the workplace. Again, this could be cause for concern.”

The study also explored the topic of night workers, and found that one third (33.5 percent) of individuals who work night shifts suffer from excessive sleepiness during their working hours, with one in five (20.8 percent) then driving between 5 and 10 miles home afterwards. Worryingly, nearly two thirds (63 percent) admit that their employer has not provided any advice on how to cope with night shifts.

Professor Jim Horne adds: “By the end of the first night on a 12 hour night-shift, an individual may have been awake for up to 24 hours, potentially leading to impairments when it comes to dealing with unexpected challenging situations. If you do work night shifts, try and get into a routine when it comes to sleep: at the end of your shift, drink a couple of cups of coffee and aim to get your longest sleep during the afternoon, rather than when you get home in the morning. It is difficult to sleep in the morning as the body clock wants you to wake up, whereas in the afternoon it has a natural dip and allows for better sleep, and a less sleepy night shift.

“Similarly, people that work jobs which require driving during the night should take precautions. During breaks, have a couple of cups of coffee (or another caffeinated drink), then immediately find a quiet place for a short 15 minute nap as it will take 20 minutes before the caffeine will kick in. Then take a brief walk to freshen up. This combination has been tried and tested by us, confirmed by others, and is now included in the UK Highway Code.”

Individuals that work outdoors receive the longest amount of sleep each night (33.7 percent received 7-8 hours) and were the most likely to sleep well. Managers on the other hand were the most likely to rarely sleep well at night, as well as being the most likely to reference workplace stress as their main cause for sleep deprivation.

Employees who experience sexual harassment by supervisors, colleagues or subordinates in the workplace may develop more severe symptoms of depression than employees who experience harassment by clients or customers, according to a study involving 7603 employees from across 1041 organisations in Denmark. The research is published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Dr. Ida Elisabeth Huitfeldt Madsen, National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Denmark, the corresponding author said: “We were surprised to see the differences between the effects of harassment by clients or customers compared to harassment by other employees. This is not something that has been shown before. Previous research showed an increased risk of long term sickness absence for employees exposed to sexual harassment by a colleague, supervisor or subordinate but an increased risk was not always found in association with sexual harassment by clients or customers.”

Dr. Madsen added: “Our findings suggest that sexual harassment from clients or customers has adverse consequences and should not be normalised or ignored. In this study we found that sexual harassment from clients or customers, which is more prevalent than harassment from other employees, is associated with an increased level of depressive symptoms. This is important as some workplaces, for example in person-related work like care work or social work, may have an attitude that dealing with sexual harassment by clients or customers is ‘part of the job’.”

The researchers found that compared to employees not exposed to sexual harassment, employees harassed by clients or customers scored 2.05 points higher on the Major Depression Inventory (MDI) – a self-report mood questionnaire that generates a diagnosis of depression together with an estimate of symptom severity. Scores on the MDI range from 20 for minor depression to 30 or more for major depression. Employees harassed by a colleague, supervisor or subordinate scored 2.45 points higher compared to employees who had experienced sexual harassment by clients or customers.

When looking at clinical depression only, the researchers found no increased risk among those harassed by clients or customers compared to those not exposed to harassment, whereas those harassed by colleagues, supervisors or subordinates had a significantly higher risk of clinical depression.

Out of the 7603 employees who participated in this study, 2.4% (180) were exposed to sexual harassment by clients or customers, while 1.0% (79) were exposed to harassment by colleagues. Women were more likely to be exposed than men, with 169 out of 4116 women reporting sexual harassment by clients or customers compared to 11 out of 3487 men, and 48 women reporting sexual harassment by colleagues compared to 31 men. Participants employed in care work were more often exposed to sexual harassment by clients or customers – 152 out of 2191 (6.9%) – than participants employed in other occupational groups such as education, service or industrial work.

The authors note that as the number of exposed individuals in this study was relatively low, this increases the uncertainty of the reported estimates, especially for men. The observed associations may thus largely be reflective of women’s experiences. The cross-sectional observational design of this study does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect. Also, the use of self-reported data that relied on participant recall may have led to sexual harassment being under- or over-reported.

Despite these limitations, the authors suggest that it is important to investigate sexual harassment from clients or customers and sexual harassment by colleagues, supervisors or subordinates as distinct types of harassment and to identify methods to prevent sexual harassment and the development of depressive symptoms

Reported by Sarah Bean

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