Our mental fitness roundup: 4 things we learned this week

Our weekly mental fitness roundup includes detecting burnout in sweat and supporting your cheese addiction for better cognitive health.

We scour the far corners of the internet to learn about what others are doing to keep their minds healthy and happy. This week, we’ve done a bit of science-ing and picked up on an unusual Twitter trend that’s helping netizens stay optimistic and… almost saintly.

First, a bit of biochemistry. Scientists in France have developed a wearable device that can measure the concentration of cortisol in your body via sweat — and that’s big. A quick internet search will tell you that unless you’re being chased by a bear, high levels of stress hormones aren’t something you need in abundance, especially for more than a few minutes a day.

Being able to prove unhealthy levels of stress without jabs and blood tests might make it easier to justify time off and make healthier choices backed by science in the near future. The wearable has just entered its final testing stage and with it, healthcare professionals will soon be able to determine whether we’re suffering from stress levels that can have a detrimental effect on our health as well as monitor improvement. Something tells us they won’t be launching them during a pandemic though…

Speaking of the good ol’ mind-body connection, a new study published by Iowa State University explores what foods contribute to better cognitive health and happiness later in life. The good news is, the scientists found a clear winner among the foods consumed by people whose cognitive health was in ship shape — cheese.

Lamb (but no other red meats) and moderate wine consumption also scored high, while high salt intake had the opposite effect.

The study had interviewed adults over the course of fifteen years and measured their cognitive health, but further studies need to be made before we can fully support getting rid of kale in favour of cheddar.

Just in case you thought that you were alone on your quest for better mental fitness in the last year, a new survey shows that there’s an unsurprising surge in the use of online resources aimed at helping people cope with these strange and uncertain times.

This is the first time we’ve placed such an emphasis on mental wellbeing during a crisis, and we’re lucky to have such a large number of resources at our disposal. University of Manchester’s Dr Terry Hanley, a Counselling Psychology expert, said that Covid-19 has been a catalyst in the growth and evolution of digital support, and it’s important to acknowledge that it’s no longer a peripheral way of accessing help. Onwards and upwards.

Lastly, if the last twelve months have taught us anything about the internet, it’s that it’s a mixed bag. A very mixed bag that you shouldn’t reach into unless you’re mentally prepared to touch an occasional bit of poop.

Now that this metaphor is etched into your brain forever, we’re ready to talk about a discovery made by a Guardian columnist searching for a calm, polite corner of the internet. Does such a thing exist? According to those in the know, yes, and it’s called nun Twitter. Knitting jumpers, snowy walks, priests posting pictures of their dogs (dubbed ‘hairy brothers’), and polite discourse.

According to those who take part in religious twitter, the debates are kind and thoughtful, open, and forgiving to mistakes. Of course, you don’t have to be religious to tune in to nun twitter — some proponents of this corner of the internet say it’s simply refreshing to see people thoughtfully interacting online. Read more, take a gander at what nun twitter has to offer, and if it’s not your cup of tea, let us know where you go when you need a positive place to refocus online.

That’s what we’ve learned this week, but what have you? Drop us a comment below and subscribe for more mental fitness goodness.

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