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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Mainz researchers develop new theoretical framework for future studies of resilience

From the 27 January 2015 article at Johannes Gutenberg University

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

New approach focuses on the appraisal of stressful or threatening situations by the brain

Researchers at the Research Center Translational Neurosciences of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany have advanced a generalized concept as the basis for future studies of mental resilience. Their new approach is based on a mechanistic theory which takes as its starting point the appraisals made by the brain in response to exposure to stressful or threatening situations. Previously social, psychological, and genetic factors were in the foreground of resilience research. The Mainz-based team has published its conclusions in the renowned journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Stress, traumatic events, and difficult life situations play a significant role in the development of many mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, addiction. However, not everyone exposed to such circumstances develops a psychological disorder as a result. Every person has a greater or lesser mental stabilizing capacity and this inherent potential is called ‘resilience’ by psychologists. Resilience helps to effectively master challenges, stress, and difficult situations, thus maintaining mental health. The fact that some individuals either develop only short -term problems or do not become ill at all on experiencing major psychological or physical pressures suggests that there are certain protective mechanisms – in other words, defensive, self-healing processes – which can prevent the development of stress-related illnesses.

The core concern of the Mainz team of researchers is to identify these mechanisms. By means of a thorough review and analysis of the results of previous studies of and investigations into the subject of resilience, they were able to identify a common principle that can be used as a general basis for future studies of resilience. In order to achieve this, the researchers combined various parameters and research concepts – from psychological and social approaches to the results of genetic and even neurobiological investigations. “To date, research into resilience has tended to take into account a very extensive range of social, psychological, and even genetic factors that positively influence mental flexibility, such as social support, certain personality traits, and typical behavior patterns,” explained Professor Raffael Kalisch, one of the authors of the current publication and the director of the Neuroimaging Center, a central research platform of the Mainz University Medical Center and the Research Center on Translational Neurosciences. “We wondered whether there might be a common denominator behind all of these individual approaches and so we systematically examined various examples. As a result, in our new hypothesis we focus less on the already well-known social, psychological, or genetic factors and much more on cognitive processes happening in the brain. We thus consider that the appropriate way forward is to determine how the brain assesses each situation or stimulus. It is quite possibly the positive evaluation of potentially aversive stimuli that is the central mechanism which ultimately determines an individual’s level of resilience. The many already identified factors only impact on resilience indirectly by influencing the way the brain assesses a certain situation.” Assuming this theory is correct and it is the mental processes of evaluation that are of central relevance, this would mean that it is not necessarily the threatening situations or stimuli that decide whether stress develops but rather the manner in which the individual appraises the situation. A person who tends to more positively evaluate such factors would be protected against stress-related illnesses over the long term because the frequency and degree of stress reactions in that person would be reduced. The Mainz-based researchers call their new mechanistic hypothesis ‘Positive Appraisal Style Theory of Resilience’ (PASTOR).

 

 

February 9, 2015 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Anger or gratefulness it’s up to you

From the 15 August 2012 article at Health Services Authors

Gratefulness could be the best way to happiness and to avoid child’s mental health problems in case of a pathogenic infancy. In France our psychologists developed the concept of resilience. Anglo-Saxon world put the accent on gratefulness as a tool for resilience, paving the way for the happening of a state of mind conducive to happiness. Listen to how Nancy Floy, an acupuncturist from Chicago, got through a very difficult childhood thank to her grand mother’s teaching of gratefulness for yet being still alive after a night of alcoholic chaos perpetrated by her own genitors.
Gratefulness is a very good way of conducting once life, don’t you think? Anyway my three dogs already behave according to this precept: they manifest energetically their joy, eyes full of gratefulness whatever the littlest good I do for them (like for example just giving them a little cup of water when they are thirsty, or appearing in the evening after a full day of absence, nothing more than that makes them very happy ;-)

Thanks to the media HUMANKIND for broadcasting such interesting programs.

The interview of Nancy Floy

The public radio HUMANKIND.

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August 22, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Economic Realism and Resilience

From the 3 February 2012 blog post at Science is Everyone’s Story: An Urban Environmental Blog

……

f our instincts can lead us toward physical safety, maybe they can also lead us toward happiness and survival. Selective perceptioncan help us succeed; if we wake up in the morning determined to seek out positive outcomes and be flexible in that process, that decision may lead us toward better choices.

Being Resilient in an Altered Economy

The recession and the fast pace of technological change can be very stressful for workers seeking to adapt to the altered economy. In my field, working with social media and multimedia requires perpetual self-education.

But in this environment of rapid change, we can still work from core values. Rather than making outside economic forces responsible for our happiness, we can choose how we respond to the recession.

Wikipedia’s entry on resilience says:

The American Psychological Association suggests “10 Ways to Build Resilience”, which are:

(1) maintaining good relationships with close family members, friends and others;

(2) to avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems;

(3) to accept circumstances that cannot be changed;

(4) to develop realistic goals and move towards them;

(5) to take decisive actions in adverse situations;

(6) to look for opportunities of self-discovery after a struggle with loss;

(7) developing self-confidence;

(8) to keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context;

(9) to maintain a hopeful outlook, expecting good things and visualizing what is wished;

(10) to take care of one’s mind and body, exercising regularly, paying attention to one’s own needs and feelings and engaging in relaxing activities that one enjoys. Learning from the past and maintaining flexibility and balance in life are also cited.

That’s where I disagree with Ehrenreich’s conclusion. In adverse environmental and economic situations, we can still take responsibility for improving our lives, given the tools we have at hand. We don’t have to wait for larger social movements to solve our problems. On a local and personal scale, we can help the people around us be resilient.

 

On a personal note, I have found my religion to be a good foundation for resilience building. It isn’t perfect by any means, but aspects as seeing a bigger picture and being with people rooted similarly (but with different gifts and insights) are inspiring.
I do hope all who read this have found ways to ground themselves and grow through being in community or communities which foster thriving.

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

   

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