Monday, August 26, 2019

Regular Exercise Is Associated With Greater Psychological Well-Being

Most people are aware that regular exercise is a good thing. Health experts recommend regular exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Research has shown that it has many physiological benefits. 
Does regular exercise also have psychological benefits? The answer to this question is not very clear. Some studies have found evidence suggesting that exercise can reduce depression, anxiety, and anger and can improve one's mood. Other studies, however, have shown that exercise does not seem to have any positive psychological consequences. To remedy the inconsistencies among these studies, a group of researchers in Sweden and Finland recently conducted a study on the relation between exercise and psychological well-being.

One of the features that places the present study a step above of the rest is that the researchers documented more than whether or not participants exercised. Instead, they looked at how frequently participants engaged in exercise that lasted at least 20 to 30 minutes and was strenuous enough to make them at least slightly lose their breath and perspire. Unlike other studies, the researchers also did not restrict the focus of their investigation to the relation between exercise and negative emotions. 
They also examined the relation between exercise and positive emotions.

The participants in the present study consisted of 3,403 people in Finland ranging from 25 to 64 years of age. They responded to several questionnaires and received a medical examination at their local health care center.

Exercise was clearly related to psychological well-being. Participants who exercised at least two to three times a week (the minimum amount of exercise that is generally recommended) experienced less depression, anger, hostility, and stress than did those who exercised less than two times a week or not at all. These same participants also felt a stronger sense of confidence in the belief that life in general is comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful and felt more connected to the groups of people with which they associate (e.g., family, associations).

Basically, the message is that people who exercise regularly not only tend to be healthier physically but healthier psychologically as well. It is important to note, however, that the present study did not actually test whether regular exercise causes psychological benefits but merely whether the two tend to be associated with each other.

Source: Hassmén, P., Koivula, N., & Uutela, A. (2000). Physical exercise and psychological well-being: A population study in Finland. Preventive Medicine, 30, 17-25.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The recent APA "Stress Survey" told us what we already know:

-Roughly 75% of people accept stress as a fact of life, it can make you sick, and they are aware of strategies they can incorporate into their lives that will help them manage stress.

-An equal number experienced mental and physical symptoms in the last month as a result of stress.
-Most people attack stress with negative behaviors like smoking,drinking, or eating and sedentary reading or listening to music, although healthier, do not utilize the body's ability to burn off stress.

-The desire to "feel better" is the number one motivator for people to change, yet only 1/3 said they would "probably" change if confronted with a chronic condition as result of stress.

See for summary of the study.
Basically, what we have here is the number one contributor to people's health outcome being totally understood and recognized, but people are not willing to modify behavior, which takes effort and perseverance, to reduce and manage their stress to cure or prevent these inevitable problems from occurring.

Why is this? Probably because behavior change is so hard to do and bad behaviors are so easy, available, and relatively cheap. They help you escape and "feel good" temporarily. Exercising, eating right, and practicing cognitive change and relaxation exercises takes too much time, effort, and has a delayed gratification effect. The "magic pill" does not exist and never will.
IBM just announced they will pay $150 to each of their 128,000 employees who sign up a child to take a 12 week on-line exercise/diet course. This is a "pain avoidance" strategy since they can save hundreds of millions in health insurance claims if these people change their behavior.

The future lies with the people who can make the tough transition to a regular stress management regimen. They will not only feel better, but will look better, and their bodies will last longer and function better.

When do we start? Come see us at

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Visualizing Stress

Mental Simulation can facilitate coping responses to stress

Several studies have demonstrated that putting stressful events into words, by talking about them or writing about them, can help people deal with them and can lead to better health and well-being. 

Building upon these findings, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently explored the role of mental simulation. They predicted that visualizing a stressful event and the emotions surrounding it (i.e., mental simulation) would result in an increase in the use of both problem-focused and emotion-focused coping strategies. Problem-focused coping involves confronting stressful events directly, and emotion-focused coping involves regulating the emotions aroused by stressful events.

The participants in this study identified an ongoing stressful event in their lives and completed a variety of questionnaires at the beginning and end of the study. Compared to participants in other groups in the study, the participants who visualized a stressful event and the emotions surrounding it were happier and used more problem- and emotion-focused coping.

The benefits of mental simulation appear to be limited, however, to ongoing stressful events that people have some control over and traumatic events that take place in the past.

Source: Rivkin, I. D., & Taylor, S. E. (1999). The effects of mental simulation on coping with controllable stressful events. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1451-1462.