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Quick Way To Lessen Stress

Helping someone else - even if that help is as simple as holding a door open or giving directions - can boost your mood and lower stress. A study from Yale University School of Medicine examined how helpful behavior affected daily stress at work or at home. Researchers recruited 77 adults, ages 18 to 44 for the 14-day study. The participants were asked to report daily in response to an automated phone reminder on the stressful events that had occurred that day and whether they had helped someone out. They also rated their mental health daily using a sliding scale ranging from 0 (poor) to 100 (excellent). The results suggested that helping others improved the participants’ daily well being – the more helpful they were, the better they felt about themselves. The researchers noted that laboratory based experiments have shown that providing support to others can help individuals cope with stress and increase positive emotion. This study was aimed at determining whether helping behaviors yield these benefits in the real world. The researchers also suggested that you may be able to diffuse holiday stress in small ways by helping someone out.

Why Interrupted Sleep Makes You Grumpy

New parents and on-call health workers know what its like to be awakened multiple times per night. They’re likely to be in a bad mood the next day even when the overall amount of sleep they get equals that of people who go to bed late but sleep through the night. Researchers at Johns Hopkins enrolled 62 healthy men and women for a sleep study that measured their moods after 3 consecutive nights of either forced awakenings, delayed bedtimes or uninterrupted sleep. After the first sleep period, the participants who were awakened eight times during the night and those whose bedtimes were delayed were in bad moods. But after the second night those whose bedtimes were delayed had a 12 percent reduction in positive mood, while those who were awakened had a 31 percent reduction. Tests showed that the participants who were awakened had shorter periods of deep-slow wave sleep compared to those in the delayed bedtime group. This difference had a statistically significant association with the participants’ bad mood. The researchers also reported that interrupted sleep reduced feelings of sympathy and friendliness toward others, as well as energy levels. In addition to new parents and health care workers, insomnia itself often involves interrupted sleep, and an estimated 10 percent of the U.S. adult population is affected. If you can’t blame interrupted sleep on a crying baby or a medical emergency, consider whether heat, light or noise is a factor and take corrective measures. And take a nap the next day if you can.

Change Your Walk, Change Your Mood?

Did you know that your walk reflects your mood? Trudge along slump-shouldered and you appear depressed. Put a little pep in your step and you look happy. Interestingly, it appears the reverse may be true as well. Changing your walking style can affect your mood for better or worse, according to new research from Canada's Queen's University. Building on the knowledge that how we feel affects the way we walk, the investigators wanted to find out if changing the way we walk can affect mood. They put volunteers on treadmills and prompted some of them to walk in a depressed style and others to walk as if they were happy. To begin, the study participants were shown a list of positive and negative words such as "pretty," "afraid" and "anxious." While the volunteers were on the treadmill their gait and posture were tracked. After the treadmill test, the volunteers were asked to write down as many words as they remembered from the list they were shown earlier. The responses revealed that those whose walking style was depressed remembered more negative words, and that a depressed walking style did create a more depressed mood. Breaking this cycle might help with treatment of depressed patients, the researchers suggested.