TIME health

8 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

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When your mood is falling as fast as the thermometer, these small lifestyle changes may help boost your spirits

If you’re starting to feel like nothing but a very full, very strong pot of coffee will get you out of bed, join the club. Holiday bills are high, temperatures are low, and the days are way too short. Here, scientifically proven ways to lift your spirits and ease the mid-winter doldrums.

1. Make your environment brighter. When your body is craving more daylight, sitting next to an artificial light—also called a light box—for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Opening blinds and curtains, trimming back tree branches, and sitting closer to windows can also help provide an extra dose of sunshine.

2. Eat smarter. Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Other foods, like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression.

3. Simulate dawn. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that usually begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves, may feel depressed, irritable, lethargic, and have trouble waking up in the morning—especially when it’s still dark out. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.

4. Exercise. A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: A preliminary study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only. Try these mood boosting workouts.

5. Turn on the tunes. In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term.

6. Plan a vacation. Longing for sunnier days at the beach? Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness.

7. Help others. Ladling out soup at the local shelter or volunteering your time can improve mental health and life satisfaction.

8. Get outside. Talking yourself into taking a walk when the temperatures plummet isn’t easy, but the benefits are big: Spending time outside (even when it’s chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME Mental Health/Psychology

17 Ways to Age-Proof Your Brain

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Sharpen your memory with these surprising anti-aging tricks

What’s good for your body is good for your brain. That means eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and veggies and not much sugar, saturated fat, or alcohol, as well as getting enough exercise and sleeping about eight hours a night. But evidence is accumulating that a whole host of other activities can help keep our brains young even as we advance in chronological age. There is no one magic activity that you need to take on, but trying a handful of the following will help.

Take dance lessons

Seniors who danced three to four times a week—especially those who ballroom danced—had a 75% lower risk of dementia compared with people who did not dance at all, found a 2003 landmark study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Why? “Dancing is a complex activity,” says study lead author Joe Verghese, MD, chief of geriatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “It’s aerobic so it improves blood flow to the brain which has been shown to improve brain connections. It also provides mental challenges.” While it can be hard to prove cause and effect (people with dementia may cut back on activities), the study enrolled people without dementia and followed them over time.

Play an instrument

Whether it’s the saxophone, the piano, or a ukulele, researchers found that playing an instrument for 10 or more years was correlated with better memory in advanced age compared to those who played music for less than 10 years (or not at all). Other research shows that even listening to music can help boost your brainpower. A study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that listening to baroque music (Vivaldi, Bach) leads to changes in the brain that help with attention and storing events into memory.

Learn a foreign language

Being bilingual may help delay the onset of dementia. Individuals who spoke two languages developed dementia an average of four and a half years later than people who only spoke one language in a 2013 study published in the journal Neurology. Other research shows that people who speak more than one language are better at multitasking and paying attention. Experts say the earlier you learn, the better—growing up speaking two languages is optimal—but that it’s never too late and every little bit of language learning helps.

Play chess

Playing chess, bingo, checkers, and card games may help keep your brain fit. A 2013 French study found a 15% lower risk of dementia among people who played board games versus those who did not. And the effects seemed to last over the study’s 20-year follow-up. “The idea is that this helps build cognitive reserve,” says Dr. Verghese, whose study also found benefits to playing board games like Monopoly. “The more these activities buffer against the disease, you may be able to mask the effects of the disease for longer periods of time. It buys you extra time.”

Read more: 12 Unexpected Things That Mess With Your Memory

Read more of less

Reading, in general, is good for the brain. But reading fewer books and articles so you can give them each of them more focused attention may be even better. “Our brain doesn’t do very well with too much information. The more you download, the more it shuts the brain down,” says Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, director of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It’s better to read one or two good articles and think about them in a deeper sense rather than read 20.”

Change your font

Next time you have to read through some documents for work, consider changing the typeface before you print them out. Chances are, the docs came to you in an easy-to-read font like Arial or Times New Roman, but switching it to something a little less legible like Comic Sans or Bodoni may improve your comprehension and recall of the information, according to a small study out of Harvard University. Likewise, a study at a Ohio high school revealed that students who received handouts with less-legible type performed better on tests than the students who were given more readable materials. It’s a version of the no-pain-no-gain phenomenon: When you exert more effort, your brain rewards you by becoming stronger. But make sure you keep things new by changing fonts regularly.

Single-task

If you think your ability to multitask proves you’ve got a strong brain, think again. “Multitasking hijacks your frontal lobe,” says Chapman, who is also the author of Make Your Brain Smarter. The frontal lobe regulates decision-making, problem-solving, and other aspects of learning that are critical to maintaining brain health. Research has shown that doing one thing at a time—not everything at once—strengthens higher-order reasoning, or the ability to learn, understand, and apply new information.

Read more: 25 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Write about your stress

In one study, college students who wrote about stressful experiences for 20 minutes three days in a row improved their working memories and their grade point averages. Students who wrote about neutral events saw no such improvements. “We hypothesized that stress causes unwanted, intrusive thoughts,” says study co-author Adriel Boals, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton. “Writing gets rid of intrusive thoughts then working memory increases.” If something’s bothering you, don’t bottle it up.

Take up knitting

Activities that put your hands to work, like knitting, crocheting, and gardening, are proven stress relievers, and they may also keep your brain young. In a 2013 survey of about 3,500 knitters around the world, there was a correlation between knitting frequency and cognitive function; the more people knitted, the better function they had.

Find your purpose

People who feel they’ve found their purpose in life have lower rates of depression and tend to live longer. Studies also show that this positive outlook also benefits the brain. In one study, those who reported having a strong purpose in life were more than twice as likely to stay Alzheimer’s-free than people who did not profess a purpose. To develop a sense of purpose, focus on the positive impact you have at home or at work. You could also try volunteering for a cause that’s meaningful to you.

Read more: 12 Ways to Improve Your Concentration at Work

Be social

Spending lots of time with friends and family, especially as you get older, may be one of the best buffers against mental decline. In one study, people who participated in social activities more often and who felt that they had ample social support did better on several measures of memory, as well as mental processing speed. “Social engagement is linked with mental agility,” says Carey Gleason, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.

Play a video game

Companies like Lumosity charge you a monthly fee for brain-training games, but playing puzzle games on your kid’s Xbox may have the same effects—and depending on what you play, may be even more effective. In a Florida State University study, subjects either played games on Lumosity.com or played Portal 2, a popular action-puzzle game for computers, Playstation, and Xbox. Those who played Portal 2 scored better on problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence tests. Other research shows that playing Tetris may increase gray matter in the brain.

Use your time efficiently

Don’t spend an hour doing something that should take you 10 minutes. Conversely, don’t spend 10 minutes on something that deserves an hour. In other words, calibrate your mental energy. “Decide from the get-go how much mental energy you are going to spend on a task,” says Chapman. “Giving your full forceful energy all the time really degrades resources. You need to know when to do something fast and when to do something slow.”

Read more: 15 Diseases Doctors Often Miss

Write by hand

Sure, typing is faster, but writing longhand may be better for your brain. Studies have shown that students learn better when they take notes by hand because it forces them to process the information as they take it in. The cursive you learned in elementary school may be particularly useful. First graders who learned to write in cursive scored higher on reading and spelling than peers who wrote in print.

Take naps

Go ahead, sneak in a super-quick catnap: it’ll recharge your brain. One group of German researchers saw improvements in memory among people who dozed for as little as six minutes, although the results were even better among those who napped longer. Conversely, problems sleeping, including sleep apnea and insomnia, are associated with dementia. That research is still early (people with dementia have disturbed sleep), but bear in mind that sleeping seven to eight hours a night may help you live longer and, hopefully, healthier.

Wash the dishes

It may be easier than you think to get the optimal amount of physical activity. According to one study, washing the dishes, cooking, and cleaning can add to our daily activity total and are linked with a reduced risk of dementia. In the study, people with the least amount of total physical activity were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared with people reporting the most activity. Even playing cards and moving a wheelchair counted.

Read more: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

Ramp it up

Whether it’s physical activity or mental activity, you need to keep pushing your limits in order to reap the benefits. “You need to challenge yourself to the next level so you get the benefits,” says Verghese. Don’t be satisfied with finishing Monday’s easy crossword puzzle. Keep going until you master Saturday’s brainteaser as well. The same with walking: keep lengthening your distance.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: This Is How Much Exercise Experts Really Think You Need

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TIME Aging

What You Should Know About Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

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The condition affects about 200,000 people in the United States

Julianne Moore won a Golden Globe Sunday for her portrayal of an early-onset Alzheimer’s patient in the film Still Alice. Moore’s character, Alice Howland, is just 50 when she is diagnosed, and the movie follows her and her family’s struggle to cope as her memory and mental state decline.

But what is early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and who is at risk? Here’s what you should know about the condition that affects about 200,000 people in the United States.

HEALTH.COM: 25 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Not just for old people

Alzheimer’s disease is usually thought of as something senior citizens get. While that is often true, it’s not always the case: Up to 5% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are under age 65—usually in their 40s or 50s—and are considered to have an “early onset” or “younger onset” of the disease.

Symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s are no different than symptoms of more traditional cases, says Mary Sano, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of Alzheimer’s disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the Bronx, whom Moore consulted during her research for Still Alice. But because the condition is so rare in adults under 65, the signs may not be recognized as quickly by patients themselves, or by those around them.

“By the time people ask for help, something strange has probably been going on for at least six months,” says Sano. “And often, it’s family members and close friends who can provide a point of view that a change has occurred, which can allow that person to realize something is wrong.”

HEALTH.COM: 7 Ways to Protect Your Memory

Because early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is so uncommon, diagnosis may also require testing above and beyond what a senior citizen might undergo. “We want to demonstrate that what’s really present is a cognitive problem and not a psychological or physical problem,” says Sano. “For a younger person, we’ll do a more rigorous workup, including imaging and other tests, because we want to make sure we get this right.”

Early-onset disease has a strong genetic component, so family history—if the patient knows enough about it—can be a big part of a person’s diagnosis, as well. A blood test can determine whether someone has a gene mutation that puts them at higher risk for familial Alzheimer’s, but cannot prove whether they have (or will get) the disease.

What it’s like—and what it’s not

First things first: Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is uncommon, and it’s not responsible for most cases of middle-aged forgetfulness—like not being able to remember where you put your keys, or the name of someone you met at a cocktail party last night, for example.

Episodes like these, says Sano, are most likely due to preoccupation or periods of temporary stress, and usually aren’t anything to worry about.

When you should be concerned, she says, is when problems with your memory begin to interfere with your ability to do the things that are most important to you, or when you start to have difficulty completing common, everyday tasks. “It’s the persistence and the erratic nature of the symptoms that’s the real warning sign.”

In fact, Sano says, people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease often subconsciously modify or adapt their routines to the point where they don’t even notice specific red-flag incidents. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, warning signs may include the regular use of memory devices, relying on friends and family to do things you used to handle yourself, or withdrawal from work or social activities.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Unexpected Things That Mess With Your Memory

Symptoms are different for everyone, but one thing to watch for is difficulty remembering and retaining new information, says Sano. “Not being able to learn your new computer password, or to learn a new activity or take on a new project—those are usually the challenges at the earliest stages of the disease,” she says.

As the disease progresses, however, all forms of memory are affected. In Still Alice, Moore’s character becomes concerned when she—a linguistics who is known for her mastery of speech—loses her train of thought during a presentation and cannot think of the words to continue. In other scenes throughout the movie, she gets disoriented while out for a jog, forgets her daughter’s name, and, yes, misplaces her keys.

As the movie shows, early-onset Alzheimer’s can be especially devastating because people in their 40s and 50s are often still working and caring for children. “They’re at risk for having more functional loss, and having their life and their family’s lives affected much more than someone who’s several decades older,” says Sano. “And so the management of the disease really requires a lot of thoughtfulness and a lot of extra service.”

Treatment and hope

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, no matter what age onset occurs. But there are drugs that can slow its progression, and there are ways in which Alzheimer’s patients and their families can better manage living with the disease.

Staying physically, socially, and mental active can also provide protection against the disease and may help people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease maintain their cognition longer, says Sano. Specifically, research has shown that doing crossword puzzles and speaking a second language may help slow declines in thinking and memory.

In addition, there are many opportunities for Alzheimer’s patients to take part in ongoing research, says Sano, which may lead the way to better treatment options. She recommends talking to your doctor or visiting the National Institutes of Health’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center online for information about clinical trials happening near you.

Sano hasn’t seen Moore’s performance in Still Alice (the movie will be officially released on Friday), but she’s glad the actress did her due diligence when preparing for the part. “When we worked with her, we were impressed with her awareness of the impact of the disease—not only on the individuals, but on the people around them as well,” she says.

She’s also grateful for the opportunity the film provides to show people another side to Alzheimer’s disease. “Many people don’t know what this is and so they don’t seek advice when they see victims,” she says. “It’s critically important to allow people to find out about the disease, and raise awareness about something they need to pay attention to—something they may even be living through.”

HEALTH.COM: 15 Diseases Doctors Misdiagnose

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Ways Daily Mindfulness Will Help You Succeed

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Long story short, enjoy the journey

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Many of us are drawn to the peace and happiness promised by a life of mindfulness, but we often abandon it in our daily lives because practicing mindfulness can seem at odds with our desire to succeed.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are nine simple ways that incorporating mindfulness into your busy work life can actually help you succeed:

  1. Forgive and forget. Workplace politics are draining, and a waste of time. Don’t let yourself get sucked into drama. Save your mental energy for your own success by forgiving those who slight you, forgetting who said what about whom, and moving on to more important things.
  2. Breathe before you blast. Try not to shoot off emails when you’re angry. Take a deep breath first and reflect on what’s behind your anger. Anger-driven emails almost always do more harm than good, to sender and receiver alike.
  3. Stop being ‘judgy.’ Mistakes are an opportunity to learn, not an excuse to look at yourself or others with negativity. Assessing mistakes from a neutral perspective allows you and your team to grow from them. Harping on them only serves to bring you (and those around you) down.
  4. Do what you want. Mindfulness gurus often talk about the idea of “intention.” But what does intention really mean? It means to make sure you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. And to do what you want. If you feel like you are wasting time in your current occupation, stop doing it and start something new.
  5. Salute the sun. Starting your morning with a quiet mind will help you be more effective throughout the day. Carve out time in the mornings — before the day’s madness ensues — to do a few sun salutations, eat a leisurely breakfast, go for a jog or engage in whichever activity helps you to still your mind.
  6. Salute your enemies. The word “namaste” means “I bow to the divine in you.” Having respect for your enemies will help you learn from their strengths and be more objective about your own weaknesses. So salute your enemies. You may find yourself with fewer of them if you do.
  7. Take victory in stride. It’s important to celebrate milestones. But don’t get addicted to them. If you let yourself become too attached to your victories, you will be less able to cope with defeat. And the ability to persevere through failure is essential to success.
  8. Sleep more. According to the Dalai Lama, “Sleep is the best meditation.” Get more of it.
  9. Enjoy the journey. Life is short, and you will spend most of it working. Work can either be depressing, or it can be an incredible ride. It’s up to you. The more you enjoy what you do, the better you will be at it.

Prerna Gupta is Founder & CEO of a stealth startup in a novel area of artificial intelligence. She is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and author, whose work has been published in the New York Times, Forbes, TechCrunch, FastCompany and Recode, among others. She was previously Chief Product Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Smule. Prior to that, Prerna was co-founder and CEO of Khush, where she led the company to profitability and acquisition by Smule in 2011.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Veterans

Killed in Action, Far From the Battlefield

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Benjamin Lowy / Getty Images Iraq, 2007: Both a VA psychologist and the veteran who allegedly killed him served in Iraq that year.

VA psychologist gunned down by Iraq war vet

If you check the latest toll at icasualties.org, 4,489 Americans died in the Iraq war. But a killing Tuesday at a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in El Paso, Texas, should have pushed that figure to 4,490—one of many additional KIAs in the Iraq war that will never be added to its final tally.

KIA means “killed in action,” and might not seem to apply to the death of Timothy Fjordbak, 63, allegedly at the hand of Jerry Serrato, 48, on the fourth floor of the El Paso clinic at Fort Bliss.

But, unfortunately, it does.

Serrato, 48, had served in Iraq for several months in 2007. He was discharged from the Army in 2009 for undisclosed physical reasons. He worked for a short time at the clinic in 2013, where Fjordbak, 63, was the chief psychologist.

A former employee at the clinic has told the Washington Post that Serrato was upset that the clinic had found his claim of post-traumatic stress disorder unwarranted.

“Although we do not know all the details, what we know of the case suggests anger at the VA for denial of benefits,” says Elspeth Ritchie, who served as the Army’s top psychiatrist before retiring in 2010. “Unfortunately, the scenario of angry patients killing their doctors is way too common, both in and out of the military.”

In October, 2013, Serrato allegedly threatened Fjordbak at a grocery store after Fjordbak didn’t recognize him, the FBI said following the murder. “It was a verbal threat —real or not—his (Serrato’s) perception was some wrong had been committed against him,” bureau agent Douglas Lindquist said.

“I know what you did,” Lindquist quoted Serrato telling Fjordbak, “and I will take care of it.” Fjordbak reported what he perceived to be a threat to local police.

Mid-afternoon Tuesday, Serrato went to the top floor of the four-story clinic and killed Fjordbak with a .380-caliber handgun.

VADr. Timothy Fjordbak

Fjordbak left a private practice after 9/11 because he wanted to help veterans, officials said. He had served in Iraq for several months in 2007, just as Serrato did. There was no known doctor-patient or workplace relationship between the two men.

Fjordbak was lauded by troops he had treated, as well as colleagues and friends. “His main thing was that he could differentiate between symptoms of PTSD and traumatic brain injury,” Michael Rushton, a U.S. Air Force veteran treated by Fjordbak in November, told the El Paso Times. “It was a five-hour appointment and it was a very comprehensive series of tests. He was amazing and an excellent guy.”

The tragic case highlights the fog that is PTSD. Few PTSD sufferers are violent, and it’s challenging to attribute specific acts to the malady. “Although PTSD is associated with an increased risk of violence, the majority of veterans and non-veterans with PTSD have never engaged in violence,” according to the National Center for PTSD.

Was Serrato mentally ill? Angry over how the VA handled his case? Suffering from PTSD? Or some combination of those factors?

Victoria County, Tex., Sheriff's Office
Victoria County, Tex., Sheriff’s OfficeJerry Serotta, following a 1997 drunk-driving arrest

We’ll probably never know. After killing the psychologist, Serrato went into a restroom on the clinic’s third floor and killed himself.

Better up that toll to 4,491.

TIME mental health

The Link Between Mental Trauma and Diabetes

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Women with more PTSD symptoms appear to be at a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, a new study says

Women with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a two-fold increased risk for type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

“When we are under stress we are more likely to get sick, but women with PTSD are in this extreme stress response a lot of the time,” says study author Karestan Koenen, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The new study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, looked at 49,739 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II to assess the link between PTSD symptoms and type 2 diabetes over 22 years. They found that women with the most symptoms had double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and that the association increased based on the number of symptoms women experienced.

“It’s so important that people understand PTSD isn’t just in veterans. Most PTSD is just in regular people in the community,” says Koenen. One of the most surprising findings in the study was that using antidepressants and having a higher body mass index (BMI) accounted for about half of the increased risk for type 2 diabetes in women with PTSD. Past research has linked PTSD to having a higher BMI, with some research suggesting that elevated stress response could result in cravings for highly caloric food and lead to weight gain.

The antidepressant link is the most unexpected. An obvious explanation for the link is that some antidepressants cause weight gain, but the researchers argue weight gain isn’t caused by all antidepressants and therefore cannot account for all of the effect. “It’s probably one of the most interesting findings and I don’t have a good explanation for it,” says Koenen.

The researchers say it’s possible that extreme stress can cause changes in the regulation of the body’s immune system, inflammation markers and hormones, which could contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Ultimately, Koenen believes the study is important because it provides further evidence that medicine can benefit from a more holistic look at patients that includes not just disease but also mental health and psychology. “Our health care system acts like the brain and the body are two separate things. This is just one of hundreds of studies that have now shown that mental health affects physical health and mental health,” she says. “We need a more integrated medical system where the mind and body are worked on together.”

Koenen, who used to work in veterans affairs, says veterans have been asking for such care for a long time, with studies and surveys showing patients often ask for alternative services like yoga. “Patients understand this but the medical system hasn’t caught up,” she says.

TIME Research

Longer Rest After Concussions Might Not Be Good, Study Says

Research calls into question the five-day waiting period

Concussion patients who wait several days to resume physical activity after receiving a hit may be more likely to suffer symptoms of the condition, a new study suggests. The research calls into question the five-day waiting period for concussion patients recommended by some doctors.

The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, compared patients who waited five days to resume physical activity with those who waited one or two days. Patients who waited longer were more likely to report suffering from headaches and nausea in the first few days after the concussion and emotional symptoms in the 10 days following the blow.

The study looked at almost 100 concussion patients between the ages of 11 and 22 who had been admitted to the emergency room with a concussion. The findings do not necessarily apply to patients with more severe concussions.

None of the patients in the study were hospitalized.

TIME mental health

Depression Could Be More a Physical Than Mental Condition, Say Scientists

The starting point for the theory is that everyone feels down when they are ill

A growing number of scientists are coming to the conclusion that depression is at least as much a physical condition as it has to do with the mind.

One explanation is inflammation, which is caused by a part of the immune system that gets called into action when the body suffers a wound, the Guardian reports.

A set of proteins called cytokines sets off this inflammation in the body. This process is why people tend to feel down when they fall ill.

And so scientists think the brain may be tricked into feeling depressed through a process akin to an allergic reaction.

Read more at the Guardian

Read next: Most Cancer Is Beyond Your Control, Breakthrough Study Finds

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TIME

7 Mental Health Resolutions for 2015

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Here's how to take care of your mind this new year

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, our self-improvement efforts often focus on getting a better body. And we ignore that other, equally important part of our wellbeing: our mental health.

Certain health hazards come with warnings, like cigarettes or alcohol, but less obvious ones, like loneliness and rejection, can take just as great toll, says psychologist Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts. Research shows social isolation is linked to shorter lifespans, yet we often ignore our emotional hygiene. “If our dental hygiene were as poor as our emotional hygiene, we’d be all gums and no teeth,” says Winch.

This year, prioritize your mind as well as your body, and make a resolution for better mental health. Here are some of Winch’s tips for prioritizing your emotional hygiene in the new year (and all year long).

1. Pay attention to emotional pain. Psychological pain is much like physical pain—if something hurts for more than a few days, you need to do something about it. If you experience rejection, failure, or have a bad mood that lingers too long, don’t ignore it.

2. Take action when you feel lonely. Chronic loneliness is devastating to your emotional and physical health because it increases your chances of an early death by 14%. Therefore, when you feel lonely, actions like reaching out to family members, connecting with friends or joining a dating website can help. Make a list of people who you’ve been close to in the past (use your phone book, social media friends, and email contacts) and reach out to one of them each day to chat or to make plans. It will feel scary and risky to take those kinds of steps, but that’s what you need to do to break the cycle of disconnection and end your emotional isolation.

3. Stop your emotional bleeding. Psychological wounds tend to create vicious cycles that get worse with time. Failure can lead to feelings of helplessness that in turn can make you more likely to fail again in the future. To break the negative cycle of failure, find ways to gain control of the situation. Our minds are not as reliable as we tend to think, so ignore misleading feelings from your gut that tell you to give up, and focus on the aspects within your control, such as your preparation, planning, effort and execution.

4. Protect your self-esteem. Your self-esteem is like an emotional immune system—it can increase your resilience and protect you from stress and anxiety. Good emotional hygiene involves monitoring your self-esteem and boosting it when it’s low. How? Avoid negative self-talk that damages it further—despite how tempting it might be to indulge these kinds of thoughts at times.

5. Revive your self-worth after a rejection. It’s very common to be self-critical after you get rejected. It’s an unfortunate reaction, since that’s when your self-esteem is already hurting. You’re most likely to call yourself names, list all your faults and shortcomings and generally kick yourself when you’re already down. The most important thing you can do after getting rejected is to treat yourself with the same compassion you would treat a good friend. Make sure your inner voice is kind, understanding and supportive.

6. Battle negative thinking. When something upsetting happens, it’s natural to brood over it. But replaying the scene over and over in your mind will not give you much insight or closure. The best way to break a brooding cycle is to distract yourself with a task that requires concentration, like a game on your cell phone, a quick run or a crossword puzzle.

7. Be informed on the impact of common psychological wounds and how to treat them. You know how to treat a cut or a cold, so you should also know how to treat rejection, failure, loneliness, guilt and other common emotional wounds. By becoming mindful about your psychological health and adopting habits of good emotional hygiene, you will not only heal your psychological injuries when you sustain them, but you will elevate your entire quality of life.

For more tips, watch Winch’s Tedx Talk on how to practice emotional hygiene.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Email Habits of Very Productive People

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Here's how to practice good email hygiene

Ping! Check email. Ping. Check email again. Ping. Check. Ping. Check. Ping. Check.

If you’re like most people who sit in front of a computer all day, this probably sounds like you: When you’re not currently replying to an email, you’re looking to see if you have any new ones. Then when something new does come in, you read it, debate how to respond, then deem it too time-consuming for the moment. “I’ll get to that later,” you think. And if there’s nothing new, you’re nervously wondering why. “Is it because my inbox is full?!” So you keep checking back every 15 seconds until something pops up—in the meantime deleting all the junk mail that has since clogged your inbox.

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But a life tethered to your email means those other projects you want and need to do—be they big reports or personal tasks—can get postponed by days, weeks, or months. Not to mention, a new Canadian study found hyperchecking your email can make you (surprise!) more stressed. So we asked five people who have a barrage of emails to answer to tell us how they tame their inbox.

Read on for their strategies to deal with the deep, dark email crevasse.

Set designated “reply times”

“I do many quick checks of email throughout the day to see if there’s something high priority and urgent that has come in, but I only allocate two times a day to fully deal with the email that has accumulated. By batching all of the heavy duty email processing into bigger chunks, I can be much more efficient and reduce the feeling of constantly switching tasks.”

—Jacob Bank, computer scientist and co-founder and CEO of the Timeful calendar app

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Pick and choose what’s key

“I respond to priorities as soon as possible, and keep correspondence clear and super positive. Knowing that I’ll still never get through all the emails, I prioritize people who are asking for help and opportunities that support my intention. I’m also not afraid to use the “!” for high priorities or dramatic effect.”

—Tara Stiles, yoga instructor, author of the Make Your Own Rules Diet ($25, amazon.com), and W Hotels’ fitness partner

Email only the quick things

“Email works for quick day-to-day correspondence, but when I have something important to discuss or decisions to be made, I pick up the phone. It is always better to hear the person on the other end—the inflection in their voice. Emails can often be misunderstood.”

Bobbi Brown, makeup artist and Health‘s contributing beauty and lifestyle editor

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Sort all your stuff

“I have found that treating my online mail just like post office mail works wonders. I created folders: Everything from mom folder, workout class folder, celebrity clientele folder, house folder, summer cottage folder, medical folder, kid folders, etc. With emails organized into categories, I can easily do my three steps…find, take action, or delete. You’ll also need to unsubscribe from junk. The volume of junk email is tremendous and spending time deleting each one is taking precious time away from you. Finally, prioritize emails that need attention that particular day. I hit reply and drag them to the corner of my desktop if I can’t get to them at that moment, otherwise I use my other rule, don’t leave an email request—answer asap.”

—Kathy Kaehler, celebrity trainer, author, and founder of Sunday Set-Up, a healthy eating club

Respond—don’t mull

“I try to respond to emails as soon as I see them because otherwise they can get pushed further down the inbox and may be ignored. I recommend you be responsive but not superfluous. By responding quickly and writing short, non-flowery emails, you can create an image of efficiency and attentiveness. Even short words like “Thanks” or “Got it” will help you build a culture of trust and signal that you are on top of your inbox.”

—Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, Health’s contributing medical editor, and cofounder of Tula Skincare

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

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