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All in the Mind

All in the Mind

BBC Radio 4

The show on how we think, feel and behave. Claudia Hammond delves into the evidence on mental health, psychology and neuroscience.

272 - Toxic positivity
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  • 272 - Toxic positivity

    In the last two years, online searches for ‘toxic positivity’ have spiked. In this discussion from the Cheltenham Science Festival, we find out what toxic positivity is, and how it can hurt you and people around you.

    In front of a live audience, Claudia Hammond is joined by psychologist Dr Linda Blair, GP and educator Dr Anisha Patel, and wellbeing consultant and content creator Benjy Kusi.

    Linda has been interested in the rise in the use of the term ‘toxic positivity’ and has noticed how it is having an impact on our wellbeing. She reveals why it is important for us not to suppress ‘negative’ feelings and emotions.

    Anisha was diagnosed with bowel cancer when she was 39. She authored the book Everything You Hoped You’d Never Need To Know About Bowel Cancer, where she speaks about her diagnosis and treatment journey. She experienced first-hand the harm that toxic positivity can do.

    Benjy works with many different companies to help improve their inclusion and wellbeing practices. He is the author of the book Hope This Helps and posts frequent videos about lots of tricky issues on TikTok and Instagram.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Alice Lipscombe-Southwell Production Coordinator: Jana Bennett-Holesworth Editor: Holly Squire

    Tue, 18 Jun 2024
  • 271 - Tetris as therapy; internet addiction and teens; the psychology of secrets

    You probably know the video game Tetris, perhaps you’ve even played it, but have you ever thought about it as therapy? Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Emily Holmes from Uppsala University, about her work using Tetris as a psychological intervention for unwanted memories. During the pandemic many ICU workers found they were experiencing intrusive memories about the traumatic events they had experienced. Prof Holmes and her colleague, consultant clinical psychologist Dr Julie Highfield, ran a trial offering Tetris therapy to ICU workers and showed they could reduce intrusive memories significantly.

    Next, you may have seen headlines this week suggesting that teenage brains could be worryingly and irrevocably changed by excessive internet use. It is the latest in a recent surge of concern about teenagers' relationship to technology. Claudia and studio guest, Sarah king from Sussex University, dig into the research and discover that the evidence isn’t as worrying as the headlines make it sound.

    And do you have a secret? Apparently most of us do and we can't resist thinking about them even though that rumination can impact our wellbeing. Claudia discusses the psychology of secrets with Dr Michael Slepian from Columbia University in New York.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Lorna Stewart Production Coordinator: Siobhan Maguire Studio Manager: Emma Harth Content Editor: Holly Squire

    ICU workers testimony clips taken from https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000j22z

    Tue, 11 Jun 2024
  • 270 - Languishing and the search for meaning in the modern world

    If you’re feeling demotivated and aimless, but you’re not depressed, you might be languishing. But what exactly is languishing, and what can you do about it? Claudia Hammond talks to the sociologist Dr Corey Keyes, who coined the term. He has some solutions that could help you move from languishing to flourishing, as well as poetic descriptions of how nature inspires his work and hopeful tales about the search for meaning in the modern world.

    We hope that the many children currently going through exams across the country are flourishing, but exam success is far from the only influence on their futures. A new study shows that children who perceive greater household chaos at the age of 16 are more likely to have poor mental health by the age of 23. The most fascinating aspect of the research is that it involved twins living in the same household, and their perceptions of chaos were often wildly different. So what can parents do improve their children’s perception of chaos? Professor Daryl O’Connor from the School of Psychology at the University of Leeds joins Claudia in the studio to look at the evidence.

    We also have the story of a survivor of child sexual abuse, who fell apart when a weekend away triggered memories of what had happened to him. He went to the police, and eventually his abuser was sent to prison. But the process of doing that destroyed his coping mechanism – to lock it away and ignore it. He tells us how the Salford-based charity We Are Survivors helped him put his life back together. He now encourages abuse survivors to seek help. Details of other organisations that can provide support are available at bbc.co.uk/actionline.

    And do you have an old friend you’ve lost touch with? Why don’t you get back in touch? New research shows that we’re often reluctant to do so. Claudia and Daryl dig into the detail and wonder whether it could even help us stop languishing.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Ben Motley Content Editor: Holly Squire Production Coordinator: Siobhan Maguire

    Tue, 04 Jun 2024
  • 269 - Grief, summer seasonal affective disorder, and anxiety in older people

    In this episode, Claudia Hammond goes to the Chelsea Flower Show to speak to garden designer Katherine Holland. She credits gardening with helping to ease her grief following the death of her mother. Her Grief Kind garden features a meeting space with three chairs set around a coffee table, to encourage conversations about grief and will include a rotating display of personal objects symbolising loved ones who have died. Professor Catherine Loveday, a psychologist and neuroscientist from the University of Westminster, joins Claudia in the studio to discuss how objects can help us form links in our brains and remember our loved ones.

    Many of us breathe a sigh of relief when the weather warms up and the sun pops out, but one listener actually finds their mood worsens during the summer. Catherine and Claudia discuss the little-known condition of summer seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

    Finally, we hear from Professor Andrew Steptoe, a psychologist and epidemiologist from University College London. He heads up the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which has been running for 20 years. He has found that older people's anxiety levels have remained high following the pandemic. Claudia and Catherine unpick a few of the issues and stereotypes that some people may face.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Alice Lipscombe-Southwell Studio Manager: Neva Missirian Production Coordinator: Siobhan Maguire Editor: Holly Squire

    Tue, 28 May 2024
  • 268 - Why is exercise good for your mental health?

    As part of the BBC’s mental well-being season, All in the Mind takes a deep dive into the evidence on the relationship between exercise and mental health. Not just whether getting moving can make a difference, but why.

    Claudia Hammond laces up her running shoes and goes for a jog on the seafront in Eastbourne with a group of people who are running for their mental health. Claudia meets the founder of 'Run Talk Run', Jess Robson, and talks to other members of the group about why they find exercise to be helpful.

    Back in the studio, Claudia speaks to Jonathan Roiser, Professor of Neuroscience and Mental Health at University College London. He’s about to embark on a major piece of research that should help us understand a lot more about what exercise does for people with depression. As well as explaining what they’re hoping to discover, he tells her about the latest research into exercise and mental health. Why does it work for some people and not others, and what’s the best exercise for your brain?

    Then there’s the commonly held belief that exercise is good for your mood because it ‘gets the endorphins going’, but we know that endorphins are not able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Claudia talks to Dr Hilary Marusak from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit about one of the possible alternatives – the endocannabinoid system.

    Throughout the programme Claudia is joined by Dr Peter Olusoga, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University. Together they discuss the many barriers people face to improving their physical activity, including the fact that poor mental health itself can stop you wanting to exercise in the first place.

    And if getting more exercise really does sound like the worst idea you can think of, it turns out that watching sport on TV might also be good for you.

    Presenter: Claudia Hammond Producer: Ben Motley Content Editor: Holly Squire Production Coordinator: Siobhan Maguire

    Tue, 21 May 2024
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