Geeky wellbeing favourites: January 2023
New year's resolutions plus a bumper mind–body science highlights
It’s the start of a new year, and as usual this means reflection and new year’s resolutions. As a glass-half-empty sort of person, I’ve generally avoided doing this, as new year’s resolutions usually last about 5 seconds so what’s the point.
However, this year, with my newly found mid-life wisdom, I actually came up with my 2023 word (or rather, the word came to me in some sort of very unscientific magical way during a new year’s day yin workshop with the lovely Norman Blair).
Ok, I admit, I feel a little cringe just typing this, as if in my mid-life I’ve become that person. But hey, that’s the word that came to me. It means giving love and attention to support development, whether that’s my mind–body through movement and meditation, my creativity through exploration and uninterrupted focus time, or my tastebuds by rediscovering the joy of cooking.
Happy 2023 everyone! What’s your word for the year?
Five things to explore this month
Stolen focus: I am completely aware of this author’s previous failings, and that many of the ideas in this book are very obvious and not at all new (social media, ahem). But I found this a really good read and a reminder that I must reclaim more of my time (especially my work calendar, which is basically just meetings all day, leaving me no with time to think).
4,000 weeks: Speaking of time, yes I know I’ve recommended this one before, but I am reading it again right now and I feel like it’s one of these books that I need to revisit often as a reminder and practice.
New year’s resolutions: A crash course in behavioural science and some tips on making small and sustainable changes.
How to build a happy life – A new formula for happiness: Speaking of time again, and mid-life, an excellent podcast covering the Harvard longitudinal study that uncovered what makes people happy at old age.
I wish that I hadn’t worried so much about what other people thought of me
Yoga nidra: Is always a good idea. Here’s one to try this month – I like how it starts with progressive muscle relaxation and uses sound throughout (I have to admit I drifted off so certainly I can vouch for its calming properties!).
Mind–body research highlights
Practice mind–body exercise for low back pain
Really interesting review and metanalysis of the studies assessing the effectiveness of yoga, pilates, tai chi and qi gong for backpain. Across the studies evaluated, all practices were more effective than the control (doing nothing) at reducing pain (which is hardly surprising by the way); however, pilates and tai chi were the most effective. Likewise, all were more effective than the control at improving physical function, but pilates was the most effective, which leads the authors to conclude that pilates might be the most appropriate practice for low back pain (possibly due to strengthening core muscles). Comes with the usual caveats of small studies and inconsistent definition of practices.
Low effect on migraines
This fairly small study (34 participants) compared medication (NSAIDs or triptans) plus yoga therapy vs yoga therapy alone for the treatment of migraines. Both interventions were effective at reducing frequency, duration and severity, and the addition of yoga did not seem to add any further benefit beyond helping with perceived severity. However, perhaps that’s reason enough to do it? As a side note, it’s interesting to have a look at the yoga therapy sequence, which is essentially some joint mobilisation exercises, cat–cow, seated twist, down dog and lion’s seat, plus pranayama. As someone who gets some very strong tension headaches (that may be migraines, not sure), I can see how these movements could help relieve tension and reduce severity.
Yoga, pro-inflammatory cytokines and cancer
Two studies (1, 2) looked at the impact of yoga on the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (that’s the molecules that drive inflammation) on those living with breast cancer or on survivors. Both studies found that the yoga intervention led to reduced levels of some pro-inflammatory cytokines, which may have some positive effects (especially if these are driving chronic inflammation and the negative impact this has) – although huge caveat here as neither study showed a direct link between the reduction in pro-inflammatory cytokines and a positive outcome for breast cancer or preventing relapse.
Also worth noting
Some positive findings for yoga in PMS but low quality studies as usual (worth a read if you suffer from PMS or PMDD, as this article covers all interventions)
Some positive findings for Qi Gong in atrial fibrillation
Interesting reads from the blog
Let’s talk about pain: Possibly relevant to the migraine study above, but here’s my overview of the evidence around yoga and pain (or rather, my hypothesis, because the evidence is lacking to be honest)
Yoga and mhealth – the perfect recipe for health empowerment?: One for those who are still thinking about their new year’s resolutions – both yoga and mHealth can be great ways to achieve health empowerment and therefore better health outcomes
How to form a yoga habit: Another one to help support your new year’s resolutions
Until next month!