Category Archives: Mental Health

How Music Changes Behaviour

Hi-fi manufacturing company Sonos has recently undertaken research into how music changes behaviour. While companies of various types often undertake research which can be used for marketing either a new or existing product, every so often the research can be valid and insightful (and not a fake science con such as the concept of “Blue Monday“).

Sonos teamed up with Apple Music and Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and author of This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession, a major publication into music and the human mind. Together, they ran polls of 30,000 music listeners and also ran various experiments for two weeks through 30 households across the world. For the first week, participants did not listen to music at home. For the second week, they did.

One of the main findings of the experiment was that music brought people together, and not in a metaphorical sense. The study found that with music on, average distances between household members decreased by 12%. 33% were more likely to cook together, and couples’ intimacy increased by 66%.

Music was also reported to have a beneficial effect on mental states. There was a 24% decrease of irritability and a 16% increase of positive feelings with music playing.

Links to the full report and a handy summary can be found below.

Can Music Out Loud Change the Way We Connect at Home? [via Sonos]

How Music Changes Your Behavior At Home [via FastCompany]

Mythbusting: 50 Inaccurate Psychological Terms

Open-access publisher Frontiers in Psychology has recently published a list of 50 inaccurate psychological terms.

This extensive list of “misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases.” is full of commonly used, but not commonly understood terms.

Aimed at students and teachers in order to curb “terminological misinformation and confusion,” the list also provides corrective terms and information.

Breaking down misconceptions into sections such as “Frequently Misused Terms”, Inaccurate or Misleading Terms”, and “Oxymorons”, the list tackles commonly used terms such as “Autism epidemic”, “Bystander Apathy”, and “Closure.”

It’s a comprehensive and highly technical list, but utterly fascinating.

Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid [via Frontiers in Psychology]

Floral Art Installation in Mental Health Centre

In 2003, American artist Anna Schuleit made a floral art installation in a mental health centre to honour patients, staff, and the building itself upon its closure. Entitled BLOOM, the installation was made up of 28,000 flowers and 5,600 square feet of sod, which were placed throughout four floors of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC). Schuleit also used the building’s public announcement system to quietly pipe the sounds of the MMHC recorded during its final weeks.

In an interview with Colossal, Schuleit explained her process and how the installation was inspired by the fact that whilst flowers are common for hospital patients, their absence is noticeable in mental health institutions: “As a visiting artist I had observed an astonishing absence of flowers in psychiatric settings. Here, patients receive few, if any, flowers during their stay. Bloom was created to address this absence, in the spirit of offering and transition.”

The installation ran for four days before the building closed. All the flowers and sod used in the installation were “donated to psychiatric hospitals, general hospitals, halfway houses and homeless shelters throughout New England.”

The flowers may be gone, but the project is preserved online though the official project website, and interviews with the artist.

BLOOM Project [via Bloom]

Anna Schuleit Interview [via Colossal]

One Woman’s Confrontation of Her Own Worst Enemy

Are you your own worst enemy? A common symptom of poor mental health is a stream of negative thoughts, voices which berate and belittle. These thoughts can wear people down over time, to the point where they become normal and believable.

Lotte Lane, a woman who has lived with these thoughts for as long as she can remember, has recently written about how starting therapy helped her confront her internal criticism, and how doing so improved her mental health.

“Those thoughts – the horrible, soul-crushing messages pinging around in my brain – were just thoughts. Not reality. Not truth. Not God-given fact.”

Lotte continued therapy, and one day, decided to “confront the bully in my brain”. She made a list of all the things her “shitty committee” said about her and filmed herself reading the list out. The almost 5-minute video is emotional in ways, and Lotte cites this moment as being a real turning point in her mental health taking a turn for the better: “Confronting my shitty committee was my first wobbly step towards learning to like myself.”

You can read the full article and watch Lotte’s video through the link below.

I’m My Own Worst Enemy [via Blurt]

Further Reading: The Power of Napping

As important as a good night’s sleep is, the power of napping is undeniable when done right. Due to a pervasive 24-hour culture, napping has an unwarranted social stigma and association with laziness, which can lead to guilt and burnout. However, done the right way, a nap can be an essential boost to your day, helping you both mentally and physically. We’ve compiled some of the best tips and interesting facts about napping to help guide you to the land of quick nods.

The power of napping and sleep cycles

Napping has huge benefits to both brain and body, including (but not limited to): memory, mood, learning ability, alertness, productivity, blood pressure and even weight management. However, the timing of naps has to be considered in order to get the best results by working with humans’ natural sleep cycles and therefore avoiding oversleeping and drowsiness.

Link [via io9]

The benefits of a quick nap are generally determined by the length of the nap. Shorter naps are best for staving off tiredness, whilst longer naps can give a longer boost to your day. Knowing sleep cycles is an important way of determining the length of time for a nap.

Link [via The Art of Manliness]

Knowing how and when to nap

Not everybody needs to nap, and if you are needing the type of sleep which naps cannot fulfil, then you may need to examine your sleep patterns and habits in more depth rather than papering over the cracks by napping.

Link [via Time]

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with sleep cycles and whether you need to nap or not, it’s time to settle down and get ready to get the most out of your nap. Whether it’s a one-off or habitual nap, preparing the right environment for a nap is crucial to experience its benefits.

Link [via Lifehacker]

Napping in history and around the world

The most famous type of nap is most likely the siesta. This habit has a long and fascinating history, which stretches far beyond Spain and far into our ancient history.

Link [via Slumberwise]

Busting the Myth of Blue Monday

January the 18th this year is supposedly the “most depressing day of the year, but the myth of Blue Monday seriously needs to be busted.

“Blue Monday” is the name given to a Monday in January, typically the third or fourth Monday of the month. The term has become popular through the years, but the truth is that the supposed science for calculating the most depressing day of the year is completely invalid.

Blue Monday Origin

The modern myth of Blue Monday was started and popularised as part of a marketing campaign for travel company Sky Travel in a 2005 press release.  The company claimed to have taken various factors into consideration to achieve their results. A formula using debt, time since Christmas, weather and other aspects deemed to be “depressing” were put through a pseudoscientific formula to result in the Blue Monday date. Physician and Bad Science expert Ben Goldacre has said that the formula rules: “fail even to make mathematical sense on their own terms.”

Since the first press release, the concept of Blue Monday has been an easy sell to journalists looking for space to fill in newspapers and blogs. Goldacre labels this: “churnalism”, and voices alarm in official organisations such as The Samaritans and the Mental Health Foundation using it to promote mental health issues.

Blue Monday Dangers

The real dangers of “Blue Monday” isn’t the day itself; it’s the idea that one day can be more depressing than others, and that it can affect the general population en masse. Goldacre’s mythbusting research of statistics across the world finds examples of higher suicide rates in summer and antidepressants being prescribed more in the spring.

Anybody who has experienced from depression can testify of its power to descend for a variety of reasons, on any day. Depression can be predictable or take people completely by surprise . Perpetuating the myth of Blue Monday does more harm to understanding mental health issues as it simplifies and distorts them. Understanding and tackling depression is not as easy as creating a completely false formula, created for a travel company’s marketing campaign. If only it was.

“Blue Monday” is churnalism, beware any journalist who puffs it [via Bad Science]

Further Reading: Quitting Bad Habits

Quitting a bad habit can be just as valuable as gaining a good one. We’ve collected information on the latter in our Further Reading: Forming New Habits, so it’s time to look at the former.

Idea collective

There are many different methods to quitting bad habits, and Lifehacker’s top 10 in an excellent place to start for inspiration. Each of the ideas are backed up by an additional article for more reading, and the user comments are very helpful, too.

Link [via Lifehacker]

Habit replacement

Quitting bad habits is an excellent opportunity to replace them with a good one. Habit blogger James Clear has written this excellent article on just that. Full of good observation on factors such as triggers and stress, his blog in general is an excellent resource on habits and their formation.

Link [via James Clear]

Mindfulness and quitting bad habits

In 2015, Psychiatrist Judson Brewer presented this TedMed talk about using mindfulness to help with quitting bad habits. He explains the way the brain works in establishing a bad habit, and then how the very same process can used in conjunction with mindfulness to retrain the brain.

Post Care: Depression Care Packages

Mental health website The Blurt Foundation is offering subscriptions to their “BuddyBox” depression care packages.

When the pace of modern living meets depression, it’s easy to overlook simple things that can benefit mental health. One of the many symptoms of depression is simply not taking care of yourself. From not exercising, eating well or taking time out to mentally relax, the definition of “taking care of yourself” is very far-ranging and varied.

depression care packages - blurtWith this in mind, Blurt’s monthly BuddyBox depression care packages include such things as tea, toiletries, toys and stationery. Signing up to the initiative means that the person receiving the package gets something in the post, which is always a pleasant experience. It also encourages community involvement as recipients post their reactions to the contents to the site or social media.

BuddyBoxes are available via various means of subscription. There’s monthly, quarterly 6-monthly and annual rates, as well as one-off and BuddyBox Lite subscription-free options. You can see the full breakdown of prices here, and the full contents of Blurt’s previous BuddyBoxes here.

Whether you use Blurt’s service for subscription or inspiration, these depression care packages are a thoughtful way to show someone you care or to give yourself a nice surprise to look forward to.

Further Reading: How to Boost Learning Ability

Whether you’ve been inspired by our Top Websites for Online Learning, or are just wanting to boost learning ability in general, here are some articles we’ve found that explore how to improve cognitive performance

Know your learning style

Knowing what type of learner you are is a good first step and can be a real eye-opener, and help you work to your strengths. Most people learn via a mix of auditory, visual and tactile means, and this short quiz can help show which type of learning you lean towards.

Link [via Learning Without Boundaries]

Absorbing information and best practice

Do you find yourself reading information but not absorbing it? One person asked users of the crowdsourcing Personal Productivity platform of the Stack Exchange website for their tips and insight, and it’s useful reading. There are no easy answers, but plenty of good advice.

Link [via Personal Productivity Stack Exchange]

Another site with an excellent breakdown of study solutions, Academic Tips gives advice on how to tackle boredom, improving your note-taking and memory, and even how to set up study areas.

Link [via Academic Tips]

Learning about learning

A recent study into the relationship between aerobic physical activity and cognitive performance has shown that one way to improve memory is to have an active lifestyle.

Link [via Harvard Medical School]

Learning new motor skills can be easier if you play fast-paced video games. A study by the University of Toronto found that playing action games led to people picking up skills such as typing or riding a bike quicker than non-gamers.

Link [via The Telegraph]


Further Reading: The Benefits of Knitting

The benefits of knitting are many and varied. Not only is learning a new skill good for the brain, learning to knit produces practical results. We’ve found some further reading on the benefits of knitting.

Knitting effects on physical and mental health

Following on from World Mental Health Day 2015, the LoveKnitting blog asked its members and followers for examples of the benefits of knitting in regards to mental health. Personal stories range from using knitting to tackle anxiety and depression, to the calming, repetitive action easing the stress and pain of chemotherapy.

Link [via LoveKnitting blog]

More personal experience stories on the mental and physical benefits of knitting are curated in the Craft Yarn Council blog. It’s an excellent resource of personal testimony from people with a range of physical and mental difficulties.

Link [Craft Yarn Council]

If you’re looking for a summary of the psychological science of why knitting is so beneficial to physical and mental health, Psychology Today has a helpful article.

Link [via Psychology Today]

Knitting for art and community

There’s been a recent explosion of what’s known as “yarnbombing” or “guerilla knitting”, where knitted art is installed in public spaces, with or without permission of the local authorities. You can see some of the projects by “Your friendly neighbourhood graffiti knitting art collective” Knit the City.

Link [via Knit the City]

On the subject of yarnbombing, this sweet story of 104-year old Grace Brett becoming the “world’s oldest street artist” as part of a wider arts festival in her home town of Selkirk in the Scottish Borders shows the perennial power of knitting.

Link [via Bored Panda]

On a similar note, this story of Australia’s oldest man knitting sweaters for injured penguins is simply lovely, and full of very cute pictures of the penguins.

Link [Huffington Post]

Learning how to knit

If you don’t know how to knit, or want to point people towards a good video tutorial, then this lessons covering the basics is very good.