A Pen and PTSD

A recent JAMA Psychiatry-published study is revisiting the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Written exposure therapy, a new treatment for PTSD, has been discovered to be remarkably effective. The treatment consists of five supervised half-hour sessions, in which the patient writes down his/her thoughts and feelings that took place during a trauma. The patient then speaks about the writing process with a therapist and, in later sessions, writes about how the trauma affected their lives.

The effectiveness of this treatment is based in the writing process, according to Dr. Denise Sloan, a psychologist who worked on developing the treatment and is one of the authors of the JAMA Psychiatry study. Sloan explains that writing removes the client from the shame or embarrassment that may accompany talking about an event aloud. Writing also slows down the process, enabling patients to have greater engagement with memory and thinking through the episode.

This form of therapy was inspired by a 1980s study conducted by a psychologist in Texas, James Pennebaker. He found that people who used “expressive writing,” or routine journaling of difficult life experiences had stronger immune systems and visited their doctor less frequently.  

Pennebaker’s findings reveal that writing can help cope with a myriad of emotions, and is not just for someone suffering from PTSD. In all circumstances, both severe and mild, penning a thousand words may have both mental and physical health benefits!   

First Treatment for Alopecia to Hit the Market Soon

Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that causes mild to extreme hair loss. Individuals suffering from alopecia finally have reason to celebrate, as the United Stated Food and Drug Administration has recently approved the very first alopecia treatment drug.

Ritlecitinib, also known as Litfulo, is approved for people aged 12 and above. In a clinical trial run by Yale University, approximately 30% of participants taking Litfulo saw significant hair regrowth. Associate professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Brett King, called the development of Litfulo a “huge advancement” and “nothing short of transformative.”

As the treatment becomes available to the public, patients will certainly notice the high cost of this new drug. Manufactured by Pfizer, the list price of a one-year supply of Litfulo is close to $50,000, but the actual cost will depend of the insurance held by individual patients. A spokesperson from the pharmaceutical company said, “We are committed to helping patients access the treatments they need… There will be copay savings for commercially insured patients and a patient assistance program for eligible patients to help achieve this”.

This Summer, Consider a “Walk and Talk”

As we head into summer, consider scheduling a “walk and talk” to connect with a partner or close friend. Research shows that talking to someone while walking side-by-side lends itself to less eye contact. This reduces the stress in a conversation. According to couple’s therapist, Esther Perel, “When walking next to someone, a conversation becomes parallel play.” The dynamic is that both people are, “looking ahead yet connected by the exchange.”

Furthermore, walking makes it nearly impossible to persistently check our phones. Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters,” says that walks lend themselves to more natural silence. Some of the greatest conversations follow a period of silence. She adds that silence can be its own form of intimacy for a couple.

While these walks should feel pressure-free, they can be maximized by considering a topic ahead of time. Some ideas include raising a struggle or discussing a memory. Another option that Perel offers to make walks more fun is to think of a prompt, for example:

  • If my younger self could see me today, they would say…
  • A trip that changed my life was…
  • What’s a promise you wish you hadn’t broken?

A creative alternative posited by Parker is choosing a previously-unexplored area for a “wander walk.” The unfamiliarity of the surroundings encourages conversation topics that would not arise during a regular routine.

Embrace these positives and the beautiful weather, and schedule your walk and talk!

An Opera a Day Keeps the Blues Away

In case you ever needed an excuse to go to that concert, play or art installation – you’ve now got it! Dr. Dacher Keltner, the co-founder and director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center explains that the power of awe has long-lasting and far-reaching consequences. Whether music, drama, nature, religion or art gives you that feeling of awe – the awe itself can be transformative.

How does awe help us? Research has shown that having a sense of awe can improve positive social behavior because it makes people feel that they are part of something larger than themselves. Awe can help us to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also be associated with creativity and curiosity.

The good news, for those who can’t afford to go to expensive venues to pursue wonder and awe, is that Keltner explains that awe can be cultivated in many ways. As he explains, “I think one of the promises of our digital lives is (having access to) more aesthetic awe, and getting you to artists that you wouldn’t ordinarily find in a museum.” Slowing down, taking a walk outside, putting your phone down and relaxing are all ways to try to bring more awe into your life.

What’s Your Bread of Choice?

The general consensus in diet culture is that bread is bad. There are programs which are premised around completely eliminating bread and carbohydrates. According to many dieticians, though, there are certain breads which provide significant nutritional value.

Not only can bread serve as a good source of whole grains, but carbs are essential to a balanced diet. According to dietician Natalie Mokari, “We need carbohydrates to function. Carbs are brain food. If you notice, whenever you don’t have carbohydrates, you feel really sluggish, you might have brain fog, you just don’t have as much energy.”

So, which breads should we be eating?

Wheat breads contain whole grains, vitamins, and fiber. But many people prefer the taste of white bread. Mokari explains that if you compare the labels of each, the truth is that they are not so different so you may as well choose the one you enjoy more.

If you crave the taste of white bread but want something a little less refined, consider sourdough. Sourdough is fermented and can be beneficial to gut health. The slower the fermentation, the easier the digestion process of the gluten.

Some other general tips offered by Moraki include:

  1. Checking the ingredient list rather than the label – for real whole grain bread, be sure the first word is “whole.”
  2. For extra fiber, choose a loaf with seeded crust.
  3. Buy from bakeries rather than packaged
  4. Avoid diet or low-card breads, which often have unhealthy ingredients to improve the taste

Most importantly, bon appétit!

Women’s Health Goals for 2023: Consider Consistency and CrossFit

The new year is often accompanied by health-related resolutions. When it comes to your health goals, whatever they may be, professional trainers encourage consistency.

Ben Smith, winner of the Fittest Man on Earth title in 2015, advocates for consistency as a mainstay of physical health: “Consistency is the most important thing. It’s hard because you don’t see the results of that consistency right away. If you can consistently do something for even 15 minutes in the morning, it can add up over time.”

https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a42189977/ben-smith-crossfit-workout-tips/

Smith also sings the praises of CrossFit, which is predicted to see a resurgence in the coming year of 2023. Their website explains that CrossFit is, “constantly varied functional movement at high intensity,” or, in broader terms, a high intensity workout using cardio, weight training and mobility work. CrossFit affiliates claim that their workouts, coupled with a healthy diet, can stave off the global rise of chronic disease, such as Type 2 diabetes.

More women are opting for CrossFit as their workout plan, as it promises both effective strength-building and, as 94% of 500 surveyed women report, a boost in confidence and empowerment. Building muscle does not only yield aesthetically-pleasing results, such as a “toned look,” but it also improves both cardiac and bone health. Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, and strength training is proven to both slow bone loss and significantly increase bone density and strength.

Even if you have not yet started on your health plan for 2023, it is not too late. While it is clear that strength training yields optimal results, the best workout plan is the one that you will do consistently.