The Best Thing for Back Pain is Actually More Movement

Roughly 80 percent of Americans have back pain at some point in their lives. Historically, many of those people were told that, barring a specific, treatable injury, there’s one prescription for back pain: rest. But research today tells us that the answer is actually just the opposite.

“The advice to rest and not stress your back runs counter to what we now understand to be the best course of action,” says Eric Robertson, a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association and an associate professor of clinical physical therapy at University of Utah and University of Southern California. One of the main issues that physical therapists and physicians alike have run into is that we don’t actually know what causes the pain.

Pain in any muscle can come from being too tight or stiff, but it could also be from a weakness or if it’s not moving in the right way, explains Robertson. Like a car, he says, if there’s one weak spot other parts of the vehicle are going to wear down more quickly—and that’s where you can get pain.

Strengthening your core and back muscles, then, can be incredibly helpful in treating and preventing back pain. And the good news is that you don’t need to do serious weight training to see benefits. The more you move generally, the less likely you are to have pain.

“Standing frequently throughout the day, walking or pacing whenever feasible, and stretching the hips, hamstrings, and hip flexors regularly are a good way to be proactive in preventing these issues,” says Lauren Shroyer, Senior Director of Product Development and a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) at the American Council on Exercise. Robertson agrees.

He says walking is one of the best exercises for back pain, since it’s non-load bearing and easy to do—but even just moving more overall is going to be helpful (and research backs him up). Back pain can often be the predictable result of a sedentary lifestyle that more and more Americans have, so it may not take much movement to increase strength in the core and back enough to relieve pain.

Still, lifting may be able to help even more. Studies suggest that even low-levels of strength training can improve back pain. Discomfort in the back can often be the result of weaknesses elsewhere, like the gluteal muscles and adductors, both of which are in your hips and legs. Strengthening those muscles with exercises like squats, leg presses, or any single leg movement, can help with the pain, Robertson says.

If you’re having pain right now, you should consult a physical therapist who can design a program specific to your body and your pain. But if you want a general exercise regimen to help prevent back issues, Shroyer has some recommendations.

For beginners, try these exercises:

Once you’ve mastered those, or if you’re already more experienced, try these:

You may also want to incorporate stretching in with your strength training. Shroyer recommends a basic program for staving off back issues. “In general, when you are not experiencing acute pain and want to be proactive in preventing it, a regular program of stretching the hips and strengthening the legs, abdominals and spine is best.” If you want specifics, check out Williams flexion exercises, the figure-4 piriformis stretch, the cat-cow stretch, and the spinal twist.

You can also determine from your lumbar (or lower) spine position which types of other exercises may be the most helpful, Shroyer says. If you look at yourself from the side in a full-length mirror, check out how much your lower back curves. If it’s fairly straight, hamstring stretches are going to give you the best benefit. If you have a deep curve, hip flexor stretches may be best.

If you’re experiencing minor pain or are simply trying to prevent back problems in the future, the recommendations so far may be all you need. But many people who have chronic back pain find that even doing basic stretches or exercises are overwhelming.

“All pain experiences are a combination of physical and emotional responses,” Robertson says. That might seem tangential to solving your back pain, but the truth is that a large part of overcoming that discomfort is about overcoming the fear of being in pain.

If you’re in pain every time you move, he explains, it’s normal to become afraid of moving—and it’s a physical therapist’s job to enable you to start moving enough that you can move past the fear. Lots of people are told that they simply have a bad back. But the truth is that about 90 percent of back pain isn’t serious, Robertson says, and that means most people can get on track to being pain-free with the right training.

Some folks will get flare-ups, but recurrences don’t mean that you have to live with a bad back for your whole life. (If you have changes in bowel or bladder like trouble peeing, tingling or numbness especially in the groin, or neurologic symptoms like weakness or numbness that may be a sign that you are in the 10 percent of people with a more serious issue—and you should go see a doctor!).

Robertson says that he’s personally experienced back pain intermittently throughout his life, and that it’s still a struggle for him. “Every time, I have this feeling that it’s going to be forever. It’s an okay thing to acknowledge—it’s scary and overwhelming,” he says. We all need to talk about back pain in a more positive light, he says, as something that might be awful now but can be overcome.

By: Sara Chodosh

Source: The Best Thing for Back Pain is Actually More Movement

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The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools

In the midst of the Great Resignation, with employers scrambling for ways to hang on to experienced staff, financial wellness programs might be an attractive addition to the benefits bag.

That was a key finding from PwC’s annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey, which was conducted in January 2021 and released in April. Among those polled, 72 percent of workers who reported facing increased financial setbacks during the pandemic said they would be more attracted to another company that cared more about financial well-being than their current employer. About 57 percent of workers who hadn’t yet faced increased financial stress said the same thing.

Financial stress doesn’t just affect worker retention; it also has an impact on productivity. PwC’s survey showed that 45 percent of workers experiencing financial setbacks have been distracted at work by their money problems. The menu of financial wellness tools employers might elect include educational tools for personal finances, one-on-one financial coaching, and even access to rainy day funds.

It’s a growing business sector, too. HoneyBee, a B2B financial wellness startup, recently closed a round of funding with $5.7 million in equity, TechCrunch reported. The financial technology company grew 225 percent during the pandemic and saw a 175 percent increase in usage for its on-demand financial therapy tools. Origin also recently announced that it raised $56 million in its Series B funding round, which it will use for customer expansion, as it saw increased demand for financial planning services during the pandemic, Business Wire notes.

Although one in five workers waits until they experience a financial setback to seek guidance, when they are offered continual support, employees are more likely to be proactive with their finances. According to the PwC survey, 88 percent of workers who are provided financial wellness services by their employers take advantage of them.

By Rebecca Deczynski, Staff reporter, Inc.@rebecca_decz

Source: The Hottest Perk of the Pandemic? Financial Wellness Tools | Inc.com

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Critics:

Making money is definitely the cornerstone of financial wellness and increasing your income can help you obtain your goals. You do not need to be a millionaire, but it’s important to obtain some level of income stability. Being financially well starts with having a reliable income and knowing at a consistent time, you will expect to be paid a certain amount. Steady and reliable income is one of the cornerstones of financial wellness.

Even if you don’t like budgeting or planning, it’s good to set goals for yourself. You are more likely to stick with it when you have goals to reach and can see progress. By creating a plan, you are visualizing the what, why, and how you will get there. If you don’t already have a household budget, grab your most recent bank statement and look at the total amount of money you have coming into your household each month. Then, factor in fixed, required expenses – things like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and more.

f you do not have an emergency fund, now is the time to start building it. The goal of an emergency fund is to have available funds for when you are dealing with unemployment or you have an unforeseen cost. You won’t stress about the money because you have a nice cash reserve that you can access quickly. Finance experts often say that you should have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. If you have nothing in savings, putting away just $25, $50, or $100 a month is an amazing start. Ultimately, it’s what you feel comfortable with. You can also consider putting it in a high savings investment such as CIT Bank’s Savings Builder, which helps put your savings to work with very little risk.

Once you get a handle on your finances, you can start to map out life events and large purchases, so you can begin saving! Planning ahead is always helpful, and once you get a handle on your current financial plan, set some goals for what comes next. By building a plan, you have a road map to help guide you through the rest of your story. Putting even a small amount into savings on a consistent basis is one of the best ways to get your savings to grow so you can meet your goals, small or large. Set your own personal savings rule to live by and make a plan on how to achieve it. Prepare for life events and large purchases by planning ahead.

Your credit score is another critical part of your financial health. Things like late payments, too much debt or high balances negatively affect your credit score. Keep watch over your credit report and credit score with a free credit report from places like Credit Karma. A higher credit score tells banks and lenders that you’re a reliable and less risky borrower. 

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The Great Millennial Blood Pressure Problem

You know the guy. You work with him, or you’re friends with him, or maybe you even are him. He’s youngish. Fit-ish. Flirting with fasting and CBD. Always tracking his steps, his sleep, his heart rate, his meditation streaks. But these trackers overlook one metric: blood pressure. Those two numbers measure how well your blood vessels handle the 2,000 gallons of blood your heart pumps around your body in a day. And young guys’ vessels aren’t doing the job so well.

In 2019, Blue Cross Blue Shield released data from the claims of 55 million people in its Health of Millennials report. One of the most shocking stats: From 2014 to 2017, the prevalence of high blood pressure in people ages 21 to 36 jumped 16 percent, and compared with Gen Xers when they were the same age, high blood pressure among millennials was 10 percent more prevalent.

So what exactly do we mean by “high”? We mean blood pressure that measures above 130 systolic (the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts) or 80 diastolic (the pressure between beats). And when that happens, explains preventive cardiologist Michael Miedema, M.D., M.P.H., of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, your blood vessels stiffen up, forcing blood pressure even higher. That can create stress on vessel walls, leading to an ugly chain of inflammation, plaque buildup, and higher risk for heart attack and stroke.

For the longest time, most young people didn’t have to worry about this. “Youth has always been a relative Teflon coating,” says Eric Topol, M.D., founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California. Blood-pressure issues were strictly for older people, and the idea that this protection might be eroding is forcing doctors to examine what’s really going on. Here’s what they’re finding.

All That #Wellness Isn’t Making you Healthy

You’d think customized vitamins, kombucha, and cryotherapy would get you to #peakwellness, but when it comes to blood pressure, they’re not doing much. “With millennials, you hear a lot about wellness and not as much about health—and they’re different,” says Christopher Kelly, M.D., a cardiologist at North Carolina Heart and Vascular Hospital, and a millennial himself.

“Wellness trends promise great results with little effort, but few have any proven long-term benefits,” he says. “You won’t see ads on Instagram for the few things that we know promote health, including regular exercise, not smoking, being at a healthy weight, and screening for blood-pressure and cholesterol issues.”

Being Broke Can Break You

Millennials carry more than $1 trillion in debt. A large chunk of that is due to student loans—millennials owe more than four times what Gen Xers do. Add this weight to other pressures and it makes sense that millennials reported the highest average stress level of any generation, at 5.7 out of 10, in the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey. (Gen Xers came in at 5.1, Gen Zers at 5.3, and boomers at a relatively zen 4.1.)

“Most of us overlook that the medical word we use for high blood pressure, hypertension, is really hyper and tension,” says cardiologist Andrew M. Freeman, M.D., of National Jewish Health in Denver. Not only does chronic stress play a role in high blood pressure, but the responses we often have to what’s stressing us out—like binge eating and cutting sleep short—jack it up, too.

Blame Seamless and Postmates

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people who ate home-cooked meals almost every day consumed nearly 1,000 fewer calories a week than those who went with home-cooked once a week or less. And that’s bad news for millennials: The average millennial eats out or buys takeout food five times per week, according to a Bankrate survey, which means they’re devouring all the pressure-boosting sodium and calories that come with it.

(Sodium is particularly sneaky: In one study, 90 percent of people thought their restaurant meal had about 1,000 milligrams—around half a day’s worth—less than it did.) And sodium ends up in your diet via some surprising foods, like bread (see the top sources here).

Then there’s the weight factor. Millennials are on track to be the heaviest generation in history, and extra weight on a young adult can ratchet up blood pressure and thicken the heart muscle early, inviting heart disease later on.

It’s Easy to Avoid Moving

“The heart requires the challenge of moving blood through the body to keep things supple and functioning normally,” says Aaron Baggish, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital. And between more screen time, longer commutes, and more labor-saving devices, Dr. Baggish explains, “many millennials are just not doing enough activity.” See the best exercises to get started with.But There’s Good News About Young Guys’ Blood Pressure

You can head off this whole saga with some pretty simple lifestyle changes. Start with the six basic steps at right, and keep on top of your blood-pressure rates with the three gizmos below. Even minor adjustments can bring down your BP, especially the ones below.

6 Small Changes That Take Blood Pressure Down

1.) Lose two pounds. For every two pounds or so you shed, you could see a one-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number).

2.) Get up every 45 minutes and walk around. This simple move was enough to significantly lower diastolic blood pressure in one study.

3.) Eat for your heart. “Following a heart-healthy diet can drop systolic blood pressure as much as a pill can,” says cardiologist Michael Miedema, M.D., M.P.H. That’s about three to five points.

4.) Fill up on potassium. This mineral can counteract the effects of sodium in your diet. Help it out and counter sodium yourself by nixing key sources like bread, cold cuts, and pizza.

5.) Say yes to pickup basketball. The adrenaline and cortisol that swirl around when you’re stressed can hike up blood pressure. In fact, one recent study found that male med students were 13 times as likely to have elevated numbers as their female counterparts. Friends help buffer stress. Bonus if you combine hanging out with a workout.

6.) Monitor pressure at home. Everyone should check their BP once a month at home, even if they’re healthy, says John Elefteriades, M.D., director of the Aortic Institute at Yale-New Haven Hospital. It can help you ID triggers so you can keep them from messing with your numbers and your life.

By: Cassie Shortsleeve

Cassie Shortsleeve is a skilled freelance writer and editor with almost a decade of experience reporting on all things health, fitness, and travel. A former Shape and Men’s Health editor, her work has also been published in Women’s Health, SELF, Runner’s World, Men’s Journal, CNTraveler.com, and other national print and digital publications. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her drinking coffee or running around her hometown of Boston.

Source: The Great Millennial Blood Pressure Problem

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How To Identify Your Dominant Emotional Style (and Why It’s so Important)

During difficult times, we often find ourselves defaulting to a single, dominant emotion, even when another might be more “logical.” For example, your default emotion may be anxiety, which is what you’ll feel during the stressful times, even if a more appropriate emotional reaction might be anger, sadness, or frustration.

This is your dominant emotional style, said Alice Boyes, Ph.D., author of the book “The Healthy Mind Toolkit,” in a recent article she wrote for Psychology Today. In times of stress, a “dominant emotion” is the emotion we default to and is often linked to how we interpret and react to situations. Going back to the anxiety example, your reaction may be due to a tendency to blame yourself for situations; if your dominant emotion is anger, that might be due to a tendency to assume others are trying to hurt you.

Why being able to feel a range of emotions matters

We default to our dominant emotion because that’s what we know and what is most familiar to us. However, it’s important to be able to experience a range of emotions, as this is often the key to a healthier, happier life.

One way to think about emotions is to think about all of the different emotions as being part of a balanced ecosystem. Within an ecosystem there are many different components, all of which are important for a healthy system. If this balance gets disrupted though, with one emotion becoming heavily dominant, then the overall health of the system gets thrown off balance.

As studies are showing, people who experience a broad range of emotions tend to have better mental and physical health, which includes lower rates of depression. One possible reason is that a mixture of emotions, even if they are negative ones, can help prevent a single emotion from completely taking over.

Two options for reducing your dominant emotion

Feeling too much of one emotion is exhausting and can leave you burnt out. According to Boyes, there are two options that can help you step back from your dominant emotion.

The first option is to think through other possible interpretations of the situation. As Boyes notes, her dominant emotion is anxiety, where she will usually blame herself. However, when she slows down and evaluates the situation, trying to think through other reasons for what is going on, this allows her other emotions to surface.

The second option is to focus on the quieter feelings, the ones that have been drowned out by your dominant emotion. “If I tune into my smaller emotions, they rise to the surface more,” Boyes wrote. These other feelings can help you come up with different solutions to your problem, while also helping you to have a more balanced perspective.

As Boyes points out, these strategies for dialing down your dominant emotion can have a lot of positive benefits. This includes feeling a sense of relief, enhancing your creativity, identifying new ways to problem-solve, as well as motivating you to try alternative approaches that you might not otherwise think of.

As Boyes noted, when it comes to feeling these other emotions, “It’s okay if feeling your non-dominant emotions leaves you feeling unsettled and perhaps a little at sea. You can feel unsettled and still also benefit.”

Source: How to Identify Your ‘Dominant Emotional Style’ (and Why It’s so Important)

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How To Adopt The Japanese Approach To Accepting Life’s Challenges, “Ukeireru”

Life since the coronavirus pandemic has been a lot to swallow. But in terms of how to cope and carry on, the best first step may indeed be accepting the realities we’ve faced, however difficult or grim.

In Japan, the concept of acceptance is fundamental to the traditional culture. There are many Japanese words that translate to “acceptance” – “ukeireru” is just one of the more current choices, but people may refer to the concept using others. Regardless of word choice, psychologists say acceptance is a value that can go far in helping us manage stressors big and small, from coping with a Wi-Fi outage to living through a global pandemic.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to accept who you are, what you do, and what society does to you,” explains Masato Ishida, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Okinawan Studies at University of Hawai`i at Manoa. It’s not the same thing as resignation, he adds. Rather, it’s more so accepting the current situation in order to make peace with it and either make the best of it or move on.

Shigenori Nagatomo, Ph.D., a professor of religion at Temple University specializing in East Asian Buddhism research, uses the English word “harmony” to describe how acceptance or ukeireru is part of Japanese culture. “Human beings are understood to be ‘beings in nature.’ Hence the importance of establishing harmony with it and with everything else in the world,” he says.

A lot of people in Japan have an aim-high, work-hard attitude, which makes it tough to accept anything less than perfect, Ishida explains. So this underlying way of acceptance helps in those times when everything doesn’t go according to plan.

How to embrace “ukeireru” in your own life:

Ukeireru goes beyond self-acceptance. It’s about accepting the realities that surround you, too – your relationships, your roles in the communities you’re a part of, and the situations you face – rather than fighting them, according to Ishida.

What’s more, psychology research tells us being more accepting of our own thoughts and emotions without judging them promotes improved mental health and helps us better cope with the stressors we do face. Scott Haas, Ph.D., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based psychologist, wrote a book on the topic of ukeireru after studying Japanese culture (Why Be Happy? The Japanese Way of Acceptance). He explains that by practicing acceptance, you make space in your life to move on from negative or unpleasant situations. For example: To find motivation to get a new job, you first have to accept you’re ready to move on from your current role — or, to start grieving the loss of a loved one, you have to accept they’ve passed away, Haas explains.

Acceptance is much different from resignation, which is when you submit to something you’re facing and give up in terms of making a change for the better, or getting out of that situation. Its also isn’t necessarily something you block out a half hour in your calendar to practice. Rather, it’s a mindset to guide your thinking day after day. Ishida describes it as a “slow-cook philosophy,” meaning the more you bake it into how you interact with people and the world, the more naturally you’ll find yourself using it in response to stressful and negative situations.

So how do you get started? Here are some tips:

Make time to connect with nature.

When it comes to accepting reality, the very ground we stand on is a good place to start, Haas says. Get a houseplant. Go for a walk. Spend more time outdoors! It will help you establish that harmony with nature that Nagatomo is talking about, which is fundamental to acceptance.

Recognize what’s actually stressing you out when you’re feeling wound up.

It’s going to be tough to accept situations if you’re misinterpreting what’s upsetting you, or what stressors you’re actually facing, Haas says. Are you arguing more with someone in your household because they’re behaving differently – or because you’re both stressed about the hardships brought on by the pandemic, for example? Are you really stressed about your dry cleaning not being ready – or because you have a big work deadline that week that’s putting you on edge outside of working hours, too?

“It doesn’t always feel obvious when you’re experiencing it,” Haas says. But oftentimes the problem isn’t you or the other person (in whatever situation you’re stressed about), it’s some underlying problem that’s ramping up tension. Try to practice connecting more with the root issue and not burying it with timely stressors.

Remind yourself that every situation is temporary.

We tend to feel stressed when we feel trapped, Haas says. And one way to make any situation immediately less stressful is to remind yourself that it’s temporary – and whatever unpleasantness or burden you’re feeling won’t last forever, he explains.

Practice mindfulness or meditation.

Take time to do things that help ground you in the present moment. Take time to do things that help you tune into your thoughts and feelings over the noise of whatever outside stressors you’re facing. Mindfulness and meditation practices can help you do this, Haas says – so can journaling, going for a walk by yourself, or listening to music. “Anything that helps you remove yourself from a situation to create space away from the stress can help enormously,” Haas says.

Make incremental changes.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t expect it to. Whatever new situation you find yourself in that you’re trying to accept and adapt to, do so by making small, incremental changes to your routine, Haas says.

For example, don’t compare a new significant other to your past relationships; but instead work to appreciate each trait that makes this person who they are. This kind of mindset can be applied elsewhere, too: Focus on making one new friendship at a time after moving to a new place, familiarize yourself with each process at a new job gradually, or learn to move with your body after a major injury (you won’t wake up on day one feeling back to normal!). It takes time for something new to become familiar, feel routine and truly meaningful to you.

Don’t be afraid to abandon routines that aren’t working for you.

And when it comes to adopting those new routines, be flexible. If something isn’t working, figure out something else to do, Haas says. For example, a lot of people picked up new hobbies (like baking bread, doing needle point, or birding) or habits to help them get through 2020 and the pandemic. If those routines are no longer making you happy, helping you find joy in the present moment, or no longer feel worthwhile in 2021 and beyond, move on and try something else, Haas says.

Be kind — to others and to yourself.

Remember, it’s okay to feel fear, sadness, or anxiety about all the uncertainty we’re experiencing right now. Rather than beat yourself up for those feelings or try to fight them, be kind and compassionate toward yourself. It’s part of acceptance, Haas says. You have to be okay with feeling the way you do. And then you can go ahead and figure out how you can make yourself feel better.

If your feelings of anxiety or sadness have become unmanageable, it’s important to seek out help immediately. Professionals at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a national nonprofit with local chapters in each state, can assist you in finding the appropriate resources to manage your anxiety at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.

By: Sarah DiGiulio

Sarah DiGiulio is a New York City-based writer and editor who covers psychology, mental health, fitness, sleep, and other health and wellness topics.

Source: How to Adopt the Japanese Approach to Accepting Life’s Challenges, “Ukeireru”

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The Neuroscience of Breaking Out of Negative Thinking (and How to Do It in Under 30 Seconds)

You just got off the phone with one of your most important clients. The game-changing deal you were trying to close is off. They’re not interested. You’ve just pitched 10 potential investors. They all say they’re “interested” but it’s been two weeks. You refresh your inbox hourly, and yet still no word.

How do you react in these situations?

If you’re like most people, your mind floods with negativity. “Maybe our product sucks,” “Why can’t I just get a break?” or “Maybe there’s something wrong with me.”

Neuroscientists have a name for this automatic habit of the brain: “negativity bias.” It’s an adaptive trait of human psychology that served us well when we were hunting with spears on the savanna 120,000 years ago.

In modern times, however, this habit of the brain leaves us reacting to a harsh email or difficult conversation as if our life were in danger. It activates a cascade of stress hormones and leaves us fixated on potential threats, unable to see the bigger picture.

Neuroscientist Rick Hanson has a great analogy for this strange quality of the mind. “Your brain,” he writes in his book Buddha’s Brain, “is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” When you lose a client, when the investors don’t come calling, or when you face the hundreds of other daily disappointments of life, you’re wired to forget all the good things and to instead obsess over the negative.

The Ultra-Efficient Transformation of Notice-Shift-Rewire

How can we reverse this hard-wired habit of the mind?

Three words: Notice-Shift-Rewire. This simple strategy puts into into practice the core insight coming out of the neuroscience revolution of the past 30 years–the insight that, in the words of early neuroscientist Donald Hebb, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” It’s the insight that reminds us the brain isn’t fixed. Its habits aren’t like plaster. They’re more like plastic, strong enough to resist the occasional push but pliable enough to change in response to repeated effort.

That’s the magic of Notice-Shift-Rewire. By taking a moment each day to bring our attention to this practice, we build the habit of shifting out of negativity bias to more useful mind states: remembering our past wins, celebrating our strengths, and seeing life as a series of opportunities rather than a relentless slog through setbacks and heartbreak.

How do you integrate the practice of Notice-Shift-Rewire into the midst of everyday life?

1. Notice your negativity bias.

The first step is to bring awareness to this ordinary habit of the mind. Catch yourself when you slip into self-doubt, rumination, anxiety, and fear. Notice when your mind starts spinning out worst-case scenarios about how it’s all going to come crashing apart.

2. Shift to a moment of gratitude.

Noticing opens the space for carving new neural pathways. Shifting allows you to flood this space with a more productive focus of attention. A few seconds of gratitude is the most efficient way to do this. Think of one thing you’re grateful for right now. Your home. Your job. Your health. Your family. Your talents and strengths. Your drive.

3. Rewire your brain.

Here’s where the real work of begins. Hanson calls this the simple act of savoring. It’s taking 15 seconds to stay with this new mindset — to encode it deep into the fabric of your mind.

This last step is where we transform our ordinary habit of overlooking the positive. It’s where we shift the brain’s response to all the good in life from Teflon to Velcro. We’re flipping our evolved wiring on its head — taking just a few seconds to build stronger memories around all the good things happening in life.

The best thing about this practice is that it’s time efficient, portable, and powerful. It takes less than 30 seconds, you can do it anytime and anywhere, and you will begin to experience an immediate shift in your mindset.

The moment you make this shift, everything changes. You remember your purpose, look forward to new challenges, and face life with renewed optimism.

By: Nate Klemp

Source: The Neuroscience of Breaking Out of Negative Thinking (and How to Do It in Under 30 Seconds)

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Related Contents:

How to silence negative thinking

How to Stop Negative Thinking with 3 Simple Steps

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

The positive-negative asymmetry: On cognitive consistency and positivity bias

Asymmetrical effects of positive and negative events: The mobilization-minimization hypothesis

Linguistic bases of social perception

Averaging versus adding as a stimulus-combination rule in impression formation

Differential weighting of favorable and unfavorable attributes in impressions of personality

How Much Do I Need To Sleep? It Depends on Your Age

Do you find yourself dozing off at your desk, even after what you thought was a good night’s rest? Then you probably have the same question as so many others: How much do I need to sleep? The answer of how many hours you need is not so straightforward, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine in the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.Sleep needs are very individualized, he said, but the general recommendation — the “sweet spot” — is to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Recommendations really change as people age, however.”Sleep needs vary over the lifespan,” said Christina Chick, a postdoctoral scholar in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

CDC’s sleep guideline

Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep a night, but 1 in 3 of them don’t, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poor sleep has been associated with long-term health consequences, such as higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia. In the short term, even one day of sleep loss can harm your well-being, according to a recent study. People who get poor sleep might also be predisposed to conditions such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, Dasgupta said.”There are chronic consequences, and there are acute consequences, which is why sleep is more than just saying, ‘The early bird gets the worm,'” he said. “It’s much more than that.”

Sleep for kids and teens

If it feels like babies are sleeping all day, they pretty much are. In the first year of life, babies can sleep 17 to 20 hours a day, Dasgupta said. Infants 4 months to 12 months need their 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps, according to Chick. Toddlers, who are between the ages of 1 and 3, should get 11 to 14 hours of sleep, according to Dr. Bhanu Kolla, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic with a special interest in sleep. Children ages 3 to 5 should sleep for 10 to 13 hours, he added, and from ages 6 to 12, they should sleep nine to 12 hours. For kids up to age 5, these sleep recommendations include naps, Chick said. Teenagers should get eight to 10 hours of sleep, Kolla said. This recommendation has sparked a debate in recent years about start times for school.

“As children move toward adolescence, they naturally prefer to go to sleep later and wake up later,” Chick said. “This is why school start times are such an important focus of debate: If you can’t fall asleep until later, but your school start time remains the same, you’re going to get less sleep.” The quantity of sleep is important, but so is the quality of it, Dasgupta added. Getting deeper sleep and hitting the rapid eye movement (REM) stage helps with cognition, memory and productivity throughout the day. REM is the sleep stage where memories are consolidated and stored. It also allows us to dream vividly. People can sometimes get the right quantity of sleep but still feel fatigued, and this might mean they aren’t reaching these sleep stages.

Sleep for college students and adults

The stereotypical image of the college student usually includes messy hair, undereye bags, and a coffee or energy drink in hand. It doesn’t matter if they stay up all night partying or cramming for an exam — both result in sleep deprivation. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s almost like a rite of passage in a college student to pull the perennial all-nighter even though we know that’s not what you’re supposed to do,” Dasgupta said. He and Kolla concur that seven to nine hours of sleep is best for adults, though Kolla added that older adults may be better at coping with some sleep deprivation.

As an exception, young adults may need nine or more hours on a regular basis because their brains are still developing, Chick said, and adults of any age may also need nine or more hours when recovering from an injury, illness or sleep debt. There are also “natural variants,” Kolla said, referring to some people who require more than 10 hours of sleep and others who get less than four and function normally. If you’re wondering whether it matters if you’re an early bird or night owl, Chick said it depends on “whether your lifestyle is compatible” with your preference. “If you are a night owl, but your job requires you to be in the office at 7 am, this misalignment is less than ideal for your physical and mental health,” she wrote in an email. “But it would be equally problematic for a morning person who works the night shift.”

How to improve your sleep

Are you not getting enough sleep? Here are a few ways to solve that:

1. Stick to a bedtime routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You can even keep a journal to log these sleep times and how often you wake up at night, Dasgupta said, so you can have an idea of what works for you. You should also make sure your room is dark, cool and comfortable when you go to sleep.

2. Turn off the electronic devices. Do this as early as possible before bed, Chick added, as light exposure can affect your body’s sleep-wake cycle. “Particularly if you are aiming to fall asleep earlier, it’s important to expose yourself to bright natural light as early as possible in the day, and to limit exposure to light in the hours before bedtime,” she said. “Electronic devices mimic many of the wavelengths in sunlight that cue your body to stay awake.”

3. Try mindfulness techniques. Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga can also support sleep, Chick added. Her recent study showed that mindfulness training helped children sleep over an hour more per night.

4. Set good food and exercise habits. Finally, eating healthy and keeping a daily fitness regimen can support better sleep at night, Dasgupta said. “Always try to be consistent with exercise during the day,” he said. “Exercise relieves stress, it helps build up your drive to sleep at night, so there’s many good things there.”

Source: How much do I need to sleep? It depends on your age – CNN

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More Contents:

COVID-19 Did Not Affect Mental Health the Way You Think

You’ve probably heard that the coronavirus pandemic triggered a worldwide mental-health crisis. This narrative took hold almost as quickly as the virus itself. In the spring of 2020, article after article—even an op-ed by one of us—warned of a looming psychological epidemic.

As clinical scientists and research psychologists have pointed out, the coronavirus pandemic has created many conditions that might lead to psychological distress: sudden, widespread disruptions to people’s livelihoods and social connections; millions bereaved; and the most vulnerable subjected to long-lasting hardship. A global collapse in well-being has seemed inevitable.

We joined a mental-health task force, commissioned by The Lancet, in order to quantify the pandemic’s psychological effects. When we reviewed the best available data, we saw that some groups—including people facing financial stress—have experienced substantial, life-changing suffering. However, looking at the global population on the whole, we were surprised not to find the prolonged misery we had expected.

We combed through close to 1,000 studies that examined hundreds of thousands of people from nearly 100 countries. This research measured many variables related to mental health—including anxiety, depression, and deaths by suicide—as well as life satisfaction. We focused on two complementary types of evidence:

Surveys that examined comparable groups of people before and during the pandemic and studies tracking the same individuals over time. Neither type of study is perfect, but when the same conclusions emerged from both sets of evidence, we gained confidence that we were seeing something real.

Early in the pandemic, our team observed in these studies what the media was reporting: Average levels of anxiety and depression—as well as broader psychological distress—climbed dramatically, as did the number of people experiencing clinically significant forms of these conditions.

For example, in both the U.S. and Norway, reports of depression rose three-fold during March and April of 2020 compared with averages collected in previous years. And in a study of more than 50,000 people across the United Kingdom, 27 percent showed clinically significant levels of distress early in the pandemic, compared with 19 percent before the pandemic.

But as spring turned to summer, something remarkable happened: Average levels of depression, anxiety, and distress began to fall. Some data sets even suggested that overall psychological distress returned to near-pre-pandemic levels by early summer 2020. We share what we learned in a paper that is forthcoming in Perspective on Psychological Science.

We kept digging into the data to account for any anomalies. For example, some of the data sets came disproportionately from wealthy countries, so we expanded our geographic lens. We also considered that even if the pandemic didn’t produce intense, long-term distress, it might have undercut people’s overall life satisfaction. So, members from our team examined the largest data set available on that topic, from the Gallup World Poll.

This survey asks people to evaluate their life on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best possible life and zero being the worst. Representative samples of people from most of the world’s countries answer this question every year, allowing us to compare results from 2020 with preceding years. Looking at the world as a whole, we saw no trace of a decline in life satisfaction: People in 2020 rated their lives at 5.75 on average, identical to the average in previous years.

We also wondered if the surveys weren’t reaching the people who were struggling the most. If you’re barely holding things together, you might not answer calls from a researcher. However, real-time data from official government sources in 21 countries showed no detectable increase in instances of suicide from April to July 2020, relative to previous years; in fact, suicide rates actually declined slightly within some countries, including the U.S. For example, California expected to see 1,429 deaths by suicide during this period, based on data from prior years; instead, 1,280 occurred.

We were surprised by how well many people weathered the pandemic’s psychological challenges. In order to make sense of these patterns, we looked back to a classic psychology finding: People are more resilient than they themselves realize. We imagine that negative life events—losing a job or a romantic partner—will be devastating for months or years. When people actually experience these losses, however, their misery tends to fade far faster than they imagined it would.

The capacity to withstand difficult events also applies to traumas such as living through war or sustaining serious injury. These incidents can produce considerable anguish, and we don’t want to minimize the pain that so many suffer. But study after study demonstrates that a majority of survivors either bounce back quickly or never show a substantial decline in mental health.

Human beings possess what some researchers call a psychological immune system, a host of cognitive abilities that enable us to make the best of even the worst situation. For example, after breaking up with a romantic partner, people may focus on the ex’s annoying habits or relish their newfound free time.

The pandemic has been a test of the global psychological immune system, which appears more robust than we would have guessed. When familiar sources of enjoyment evaporated in the spring of 2020, people got creative. They participated in drive-by birthday parties, mutual-assistance groups, virtual cocktail evenings with old friends, and nightly cheers for health-care workers.

Some people got really good at baking. Many found a way to reweave their social tapestry. Indeed, across multiple large data sets, levels of loneliness showed only a modest increase, with 13.8 percent of adults in the U.S. reporting always or often feeling lonely in April 2020, compared with 11 percent in spring 2018.

But these broad trends and averages shouldn’t erase the real struggles—immense pain, overwhelming loss, financial hardships—that so many people have faced over the past 17 months. For example, that 2.8 percent increase in the number of Americans reporting loneliness last spring represents 7 million people. Like so many aspects of the pandemic, the coronavirus’s mental-health toll was not distributed evenly.

Early on, some segments of the population—including women and parents of young children—exhibited an especially pronounced increase in overall psychological distress. As the pandemic progressed, lasting mental-health challenges disproportionately affected people who were facing financial issues, individuals who got sick with COVID-19, and those who had been struggling with physical and mental-health disorders prior to the pandemic.

The resilience of the population as a whole does not relieve leaders of their responsibility to provide tangible support and access to mental-health services to those people who have endured the most intense distress and who are at the greatest ongoing risk.

But the astonishing resilience that most people have exhibited in the face of the sudden changes brought on by the pandemic holds its own lessons. We learned that people can handle temporary changes to their lifestyle—such as working from home, giving up travel, or even going into isolation—better than some policy makers seemed to assume.

As we look ahead to the world’s next great challenges—including a future pandemic—we need to remember this hard-won lesson: Human beings are not passive victims of change but active stewards of our own well-being. This knowledge should empower us to make the disruptive changes our societies may require, even as we support the individuals and communities that have been hit hardest.

By: Lara Aknin, Jamil Zaki, and Elizabeth Dunn

Lara Aknin is a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University and the chair of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Task Force for The Lancet’s COVID-19 Commission. Jamil Zaki is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory. He is the author of The War For Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World. Elizabeth Dunn is a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia and a co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending.

Source: COVID-19 Did Not Affect Mental Health the Way You Think – The Atlantic

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Critics:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of people around the world. Similar to the past respiratory viral epidemics, such as the SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and the influenza epidemics, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in different population groups, including the healthcare workers, general public, and the patients and quarantined individuals.

The Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of the United Nations recommends that the core principles of mental health support during an emergency are “do no harm, promote human rights and equality, use participatory approaches, build on existing resources and capacities, adopt multi-layered interventions and work with integrated support systems.”COVID-19 is affecting people’s social connectedness, their trust in people and institutions, their jobs and incomes, as well as imposing a huge toll in terms of anxiety and worry.

COVID-19 also adds to the complexity of substance use disorders (SUDs) as it disproportionately affects people with SUD due to accumulated social, economic, and health inequities. The health consequences of SUDs (for example, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, type 2 diabetes, immunosuppression and central nervous system depression, and psychiatric disorders) and the associated environmental challenges (e.g., housing instability, unemployment, and criminal justice involvement) increase risk for COVID-19.

References

9 Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth

Empathy can be best defined as the trait or skill of understanding, sharing, recognizing, and even feeling the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of those around you or those who you see. It is often a crucial skill in developing healthy relationships, moral or ethical decision-making, prosocial behavior, and compassionate attitudes.

Simply put, empathy denotes an ability to walk in the shoes of another person. It can be a complex trait to develop, and some people may believe that empathy is harmful. After all, feeling the pain of others can become tiring. But in moderation, this skill is a fantastic way to improve yourself while helping others. Here are nine ways empathy helps with inner growth.

1.    Empathy Reduces Stress

You may have noticed people who are empathetic seem to experience less stress. Considering how research has shown that stress accuses all sorts of diseases, it raises the question – how does empathy help?

  • It teaches emotional regulation skills.
  • Relating to others in positive ways teaches
  • It engages in our ability to control and handle our emotions in a healthy manner.
  • It helps us recognize where and when we may be feeling stressed or emotional, thanks to observing and empathizing with our loved ones.

Empathy can be best defined as the trait or skill of understanding, sharing, recognizing, and even feeling the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of those around you or those who you see. It is often a crucial skill in developing healthy relationships, moral or ethical decision-making, prosocial behavior, and compassionate attitudes.

Simply put, empathy denotes an ability to walk in the shoes of another person. It can be a complex trait to develop, and some people may believe that empathy is harmful. After all, feeling the pain of others can become tiring. But in moderation, this skill is a fantastic way to improve yourself while helping others. Here are nine ways empathy helps with inner growth.

As you can imagine, this helps you become an emotionally more stable person in the long run – indeed a fundamental thing to any future growth and maturation you wish to experience!

2.    It Improves Your Ability To Communicate

Communication isn’t as simple as an exchange of words. After all, think about the many times you find yourself constantly misunderstood, no matter how hard you try. As it turns out, empathy can teach you how to express yourself better! This outcome is because:

  • You learn how to see, feel, and think from the other person’s perspective.
  • You’ll better understand how your words and thoughts may be interpreted by others.
  • You can tailor your expression of your thoughts and emotions to the individual you’re communicating with, so they can understand you better.
  • You can limit misunderstandings and miscommunications by seeing how the other person would process information from their point of view.

Indeed, you may notice that all of these positive benefits first require you to listen better and understand the other person before you can explain yourself in a way that truly resonates with them. This is why empathy is so important!

3.    It’s Good For General Survival

Historically speaking, being social creatures is the critical reason for our species’ continued survival – and despite how much has changed socially, this hasn’t changed on a fundamental level! Empathy allows us to:

  • Pick up on nonverbal cues that indicate something is amiss
  • Tune in immediately to a situation the second someone starts acting strangely
  • React appropriately to a life-threatening situation you haven’t seen yet, just from the behavior of others in the area
  • Pay attention to abnormal atmospheres or facial features that suggest something is wrong

These examples may sound dramatic, but they can be applicable in all sorts of places – from recognizing when a bar fight is about to erupt to paying attention to a loved one who seems to be quieter than usual.

No matter which way you slice it, empathy may be the critical thing that saves you or your loved one’s life.

4.    It’s Good For Your Health

How are empathy and your physical health related to each other? They’re more intimately intertwined than you might think. Various studies have shown a positive correlation between the ability to handle stress – a source of many health issues – and high levels of empathy.

This is because of empathy:

  • It encourages us to form close bonds that form the basis of our support network.
  • Teaches us how to form healthy coping mechanisms when trying to manage stress.
  • It assists us in paying attention to our bodies as an extension of learning how to observe those around us.
  • Reduces depression and anxiety levels as we communicate and empathize with our loved ones.
  • It helps us create healthy boundaries so we can avoid picking up second-hand stress and negative emotions.
  • Encourages positive thinking and mindsets via reconnecting to the world around us.

This ultimately leads to a better psychological and physiological state, resulting in a much better health and immune system. Not to mention, it’s easier to take care of yourself when you’re mentally and emotionally more stable and healthy!

5.    It Can Guide Your Moral Compass

Normally, we learn empathy and emotional regulation in childhood – something that research has shown is important for our development. But that doesn’t mean our journey stops there!

As we grow older and meet new people, we must continue to learn and adapt to the changing world around us – and in this aspect, empathy is an essential tool. For example, it:

  • It helps us re-evaluate our core values and morals
  • Shapes and guides how we care for others and how we expect to be cared for
  • It shows us how to take care of those around us
  • Encourages us to strive for a better understanding of those we love

In other words, empathy can actually help us reshape our foundational understanding of the world and our relationship with it. This is important, as it can lead to us growing both mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as we strive to meet the needs of our loved ones!

6.    It Connects You To Others

Ever found yourself just sitting there, unsure as to how to respond to someone else? Empathy is actually a vital and helpful tool in this regard!

How so? Research has shown that empathy is responsible for helping us better understand and respond to a loved one’s actions – both in the present and for potential future actions. Here are a few ways how it mentally preps you and encourages you to form positive relationships:

  • It helps us feel and better understand what the other person is experiencing.
  • Teaches us how to reciprocate and make the other person feel seen and heard.
  • It assists us in forming and nurturing intimate bonds where both sides can feel safe and vulnerable.
  • It encourages us to listen to those around us truly and really take the time to be there for them.

The final result? We end up learning not just about experiences we couldn’t otherwise have possibly gotten on our own, but also will likely end up with a close and personal relationship with the other person!

Over time, you will likely find that this sort of behavior cultivates deep, intimate connections that can bring you a sense of peace and stability – an incredibly vital foundation for any further inner growth you wish to achieve.

7.    It Helps Prosocial Behavior

We are only human, so it’s natural to want close, intimate, and meaningful bonds. In fact, it is hardwired into our very DNA – we wouldn’t have gotten this far without that desire to bond with those around us, after all. As you can imagine, this means that the ability to empathize is crucial. This is because it:

  • It teaches us how to become more compassionate and caring
  • It’s crucial to our ability to communicate and connect with others
  • It encourages us to care for and help each other
  • Assists us in being kind and understanding to others around us
  • It tries to make us see things from a different point of view

From there, we then learn how to adjust our behavior and actions to ensure we are doing our best to love and care for those around us. This can then ultimately lead us to create the relationships so fundamental to our emotional and mental wellbeing!

8.    It Fights Burnout

There is some irony in how, in an increasingly connected world, we feel even more lonely. And with that loneliness comes all sorts of mental health struggles and burnout as we struggle with work on our own. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A study has shown that those workers who are empathetic actually deal with less burnout – something you might find interesting! Here’s how empathy can help you achieve these outcomes:

  • It guides us in how we can communicate with those around us.
  • Assists in the development of soft skills that are crucial to handling conflicts with others.
  • It teaches us how to ensure both sides feel seen and heard.
  • It helps us connect and form meaningful relationships with others.
  • Encourages us to create social networks that can inversely support us in our times of need.
  • Promotes positive thinking as we pull from the experiences of others around us.

With the development of better communication and conflict-management skills, you may find yourself becoming a more emotionally mature and understanding person as you rise against the challenges life throws at you. And it’s all thanks to empathy!

9.    It Improves Your Work

With just how helpful it is when you’re trying to both listen and to be heard, it’s no wonder that empathy forms a core aspect of communication – a vital skill in any team-based work. But there’s more to this than just better communication. Empathy also helps:

  • Negotiating with others to create a solution that meets everyone’s needs and desires
  • Encourages teamwork when trouble-shooting issues
  • Creates an environment of respect and trust
  • It makes people feel valued and involved in any project
  • It makes for a smoother transition and workflow, as you are already paying attention and anticipating the quirks and workstyles of those around you

As you can imagine, these aspects are all super helpful when you’re working on any team-based project. And these skills are transferable too! You can just as easily apply these positive benefits to both your work and your personal life and watch your relationships become better for it! Final Thoughts On Some Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth

Empathy is a valuable trait, yet it may seem like it is rapidly declining in today’s world. This can seem discouraging, and some may even worry that being empathetic may open them up to feelings of pain and discomfort.

The lucky truth is that this is not the case. Empathy is crucial for your inner growth and can actually make you stronger, healthier, and more resilient. If you struggle with developing empathy for others, you can speak to a mental health professional for help.

By:

Source: 9 Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth | Power of Positivity

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Critics:

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional (or affective) empathy, somatic, and spiritual empathy.

Empathy is generally divided into two major components:

Affective empathy

Affective empathy, also called emotional empathy: the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental states. Our ability to empathize emotionally is based on emotional contagion: being affected by another’s emotional or arousal state.

Cognitive empathy

Cognitive empathy: the capacity to understand another’s perspective or mental state. The terms social cognition, perspective-taking, theory of mind, and mentalizing are often used synonymously, but due to a lack of studies comparing theory of mind with types of empathy, it is unclear whether these are equivalent.

Although measures of cognitive empathy include self-report questionnaires and behavioral measures, a 2019 meta analysis found only a negligible association between self report and behavioral measures, suggesting that people are generally not able to accurately assess their own cognitive empathy abilities.

Somatic empathy

The Symptoms of The Delta Variant Appear To Differ From Traditional COVID Symptoms. Here’s What To Look Out For

We’ve been living in a COVID world for more than 18 months now. At the outset of the pandemic, government agencies and health authorities scrambled to inform people on how to identify symptoms of the virus.

But as the virus has evolved, it seems the most common symptoms have changed too.

Emerging data suggest people infected with the Delta variant — the variant behind most of Australia’s current cases and highly prevalent around the world — are experiencing symptoms different to those we commonly associated with COVID earlier in the pandemic.


Read more: What’s the Delta COVID variant found in Melbourne? Is it more infectious and does it spread more in kids? A virologist explains

Clear explanations about the pandemic from a network of research experts

We’re all different

Humans are dynamic. With our differences come different immune systems. This means the same virus can produce different signs and symptoms in different ways.

A sign is something that’s seen, such as a rash. A symptom is something that’s felt, like a sore throat.

The way a virus causes illness is dependent on two key factors:

  • viral factors include things like speed of replication, modes of transmission, and so on. Viral factors change as the virus evolves.
  • host factors are specific to the individual. Age, gender, medications, diet, exercise, health and stress can all affect host factors.

So when we talk about the signs and symptoms of a virus, we’re referring to what is most common. To ascertain this, we have to collect information from individual cases.

It’s important to note this data is not always easy to collect or analyse to ensure there’s no bias. For example, older people may have different symptoms to younger people, and collecting data from patients in a hospital may be different to patients at a GP clinic.

So what are the common signs and symptoms of the Delta variant?

Using a self-reporting system through a mobile app, data from the United Kingdom suggest the most common COVID symptoms may have changed from those we traditionally associated with the virus.

The reports don’t take into account which COVID variant participants are infected with. But given Delta is predominating in the UK at present, it’s a safe bet the symptoms we see here reflect the Delta variant.


The Conversation, CC BY-ND

While fever and cough have always been common COVID symptoms, and headache and sore throat have traditionally presented for some people, a runny nose was rarely reported in earlier data. Meanwhile, loss of smell, which was originally quite common, now ranks ninth.

There are a few reasons we could be seeing the symptoms evolving in this way. It may be because data were originally coming mainly from patients presenting to hospital who were therefore likely to be sicker. And given the higher rates of vaccination coverage in older age groups, younger people are now accounting for a greater proportion of COVID cases, and they tend to experience milder symptoms.

It could also be because of the evolution of the virus, and the different characteristics (viral factors) of the Delta variant. But why exactly symptoms could be changing remains uncertain.


Read more: Coronavirus: how long does it take to get sick? How infectious is it? Will you always have a fever? COVID-19 basics explained


While we still have more to learn about the Delta variant, this emerging data is important because it shows us that what we might think of as just a mild winter cold — a runny nose and a sore throat — could be a case of COVID-19.

This data highlight the power of public science. At the same time, we need to remember the results haven’t yet been fully analysed or stratified. That is, “host factors” such as age, gender, other illnesses, medications and so on haven’t been accounted for, as they would in a rigorous clinical trial.

And as is the case with all self-reported data, we have to acknowledge there may be some flaws in the results.

Does vaccination affect the symptoms?

Although new viral variants can compromise the effectiveness of vaccines, for Delta, the vaccines available in Australia (Pfizer and AstraZeneca) still appear to offer good protection against symptomatic COVID-19 after two doses.



Importantly, both vaccines have been shown to offer greater than 90% protection from severe disease requiring hospital treatment.

A recent “superspreader” event in New South Wales highlighted the importance of vaccination. Of 30 people who attended this birthday party, reports indicated none of the 24 people who became infected with the Delta variant had been vaccinated. The six vaccinated people at the party did not contract COVID-19.

In some cases infection may still possible after vaccination, but it’s highly likely the viral load will be lower and symptoms much milder than they would without vaccination.

We all have a role to play

Evidence indicating Delta is more infectious compared to the original SARS-CoV-2 and other variants of the virus is building.

It’s important to understand the environment is also changing. People have become more complacent with social distancing, seasons change, vaccination rates vary — all these factors affect the data.

But scientists are becoming more confident the Delta variant represents a more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 strain.


Read more: What’s the difference between mutations, variants and strains? A guide to COVID terminology


As we face another COVID battle in Australia we’re reminded the war against COVID is not over and we all have a role to play. Get tested if you have any symptoms, even if it’s “just a sniffle”. Get vaccinated as soon as you can and follow public health advice.

By: Research Leader in Virology and Infectious Disease, Griffith University

Source: The symptoms of the Delta variant appear to differ from traditional COVID symptoms. Here’s what to look out for

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Critics:

Deltacoronavirus (Delta-CoV) is one of the four genera (Alpha-, Beta-, Gamma-, and Delta-) of coronaviruses. It is in the subfamily Orthocoronavirinae of the family Coronaviridae. They are enveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses. Deltacoronaviruses infect mostly birds and some mammals.

genesis

While the alpha and beta genera are derived from the bat viral gene pool, the gamma and delta genera are derived from the avian and pig viral gene pools.

Recombination appears to be common among deltacoronaviruses.Recombination occurs frequently in the viral genome region that encodes the host receptor binding protein. Recombination between different viral lineages contributes to the emergence of new viruses capable of interspecies transmission and adaptation to new animal hosts.

References

  1. Lau SKP, Wong EYM, Tsang CC, Ahmed SS, Au-Yeung RKH, Yuen KY, Wernery U, Woo PCY. Discovery and Sequence Analysis of Four Deltacoronaviruses from Birds in the Middle East Reveal Interspecies Jumping with Recombination as a Potential Mechanism for Avian-to-Avian and Avian-to-Mammalian Transmission. J Virol. 2018 Jul 17;92(15):e00265-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00265-18. Print 2018 Aug 1. PMID: 29769348

External links

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