Depressed by Politics? Just Let Go

Excerpt from this article:

The unhappiness results speak for themselves. A friend of mine — a well-known journalist with a large social media following — once confided in me that there is little that brings him more anxiety than checking his Twitter feed. As he clicks on his notifications, he can feel his chest tighten. Maybe you can relate to this.

So what is the solution? First, find a way to bring politics more into your sphere of influence so it no longer qualifies as an external locus of control. Simply clicking through angry political Facebook posts by people with whom you already agree will most likely worsen your mood and help no one. Instead, get involved in a tangible way — volunteering, donating money or even running for office. This transforms you from victim of political circumstance to problem solver.

Second, pay less attention to politics as entertainment. Read the news once a day, as opposed to hitting your Twitter feed 50 times a day like a chimp in a 1950s experiment on the self-administration of cocaine. Will you get the very latest goings on in Washington in real time? No. Will that make you a more boring person? No. Trust me here — you will be less boring to others. But more important, you will become happier.

So go ahead, let go of the tree.

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Your iPhone Is Ruining Your Posture — and Your Mood

Illustration by Tim Lahan

Excerpt from this article:

If you’re in a public place, look around: How many people are hunching over a phone? Technology is transforming how we hold ourselves, contorting our bodies into what the New Zealand physiotherapist Steve August calls the iHunch. I’ve also heard people call it text neck, and in my work I sometimes refer to it as iPosture.

Posture doesn’t just reflect our emotional states; it can also cause them. In a study… compared with upright sitters, the slouchers reported significantly lower self-esteem and mood, and much greater fear.

Fortunately, there are ways to fight the iHunch. Keep your head up and shoulders back when looking at your phone, even if that means holding it at eye level. You can also try stretching and massaging the two muscle groups that are involved in the iHunch — those between the shoulder blades and the ones along the sides of the neck. This helps reduce scarring and restores elasticity.

 

Study Finds Londoners Take the Most Miserable Selfies

Excerpt from this article:

The Big Bang Data Exhibition, a new project from selfiecity, collected selfies from Bangkok, London, Berlin, Moscow, New York and Sao Paulo. A team of media researchers, data scientists and information designers then used the images in order to compare and contrast a bunch of interesting things, like emotional expression, physical poses, gender and different age ranges.

The findings show that… London has an average of 0.55 on the happiness emotion scale (with 1 being the most happy) in comparison to the 0.62 average of other cities in the study.

 

 

Creepy or Cool? Your Phone Knows When You’re Depressed

Your Smartphone Knows You're Depressed

Excerpt from this article:

Smartphones can feel your pain—literally.

A new study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine set out to explore whether an individual’s smartphone habits could be used to predict whether or not they were depressed. The results, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Wednesday, were staggering.

Measuring behavioral markers for depression through GPS and usage sensors, researchers were able to predict with 86 percent accuracy whether or not the individual was depressed.

The same study, however, showed that those who used their phones the most often might have been trying to improve their own mood. “Incessant checking of emails, sending texts, tweeting, and surfing the web may act as pacifiers for the unstable individual distracting him or herself from the worries of the day,” said the researchers. If unhappy people are already intimately connected to their phones—and trying to find a solution—then they may be the most likely to be open to using it as a diagnostic tool.

How To Turn Your Smartphone Into Your Personal Therapist

Excerpt from this article; and I just listened to the Reply All podcast on this topic this morning, it’s good, you can listen here:

Last spring, Paul Ford was sick of the self-sabotaging, disparaging voice in his head, so he decided to do something about it. He’d been living with anxiety all his life, but it was getting in the way of his professional career. So Ford, a longtime tech tinkerer, decided to turn his anxiety into a bot that he named AnxietyBox.

Ten times a day, at random he’d receive an email from his Anxiety with subject lines like: “Ask yourself, do you always want to be exhausting to know and undesirable?” The messages were nasty and uncannily channeled that negative voice in his head. “Dear Paul,” one email read. “I heard you when you talked about how you wanted to exercise. Where would you put your chances for success? Zero percent? Greater?”

Psychologists call these negative voices “cognitive distortions”—moments when your thinking goes awry and your anxiety gets the best of you.

Ford was just trying out a silly experiment, yet with a little distance between that negative voice and himself (about as much space as you give yourself from your email inbox), he could see just how disparaging and mean so many of his anxious thoughts were. Suddenly they didn’t have as much power over him. “My thing sends you emails that tell you you’re garbage,” he says. “You start to laugh at how bad your anxiety is.”

Can social media cause PTSD?

Soldiers

Excerpt from this article:

“On television or even on the radio, you get a warning: ‘The following story could be disturbing’. You don’t get that kind of warning on social media,” she says. “Now everything is on YouTube, and things that we don’t necessarily even pick up on are being viewed millions of times – car accidents, all kinds of disturbing things.”

“We really can’t censor those things, and I’m not for censorship. What I’m saying is that people need to be aware that those images can cause disturbances or add to life stress,” she says. “In the same way that if you eat fast food all the time, it’s going to be bad for your health. In the same way, if we’re viewing violent images all the time, I believe it can have a significant impact on our mental health.”

One key risk factor which might trigger PTSD symptoms is repeated viewing – in other words, people who unwittingly stumble upon violent content are highly unlikely to develop long-term problems. And there are very good therapies to treat PTSD even long after the traumatic events have occurred, according to Busuttil. The bottom line, experts say, is that if you have or think you have PTSD symptoms, it’s important to seek help from your doctor.

This app helps you find and cheer up the saddest people on Twitter

Excerpt from this article:

A lot of people are probably having a crappy day and are tweeting about just how horrible they are feeling… Using Twitter’s API and MetaMind’s sentiment analysis API, [CheerUpper] culls the social media platform for downer tweets. When you click on the “Cheer someone up!” button, you are given a random, sad tweet to respond to.

And here’s a radio excerpt (audio) about this phenomenon, which is where I first heard about this app.

Editorial note: We will be taking a short break from posting while your digital insights blogger takes some vacation days (so no CheerUppering needed here!). Back after the UK bank holiday weekend with more fun, fascinating content.