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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Why saying 'I am excited' makes you perform better

Posted: 25 Dec 2013 11:55 PM PST

NEXT time you've got a public speaking engagement or exam coming up, psych yourself up by telling yourself how excited you are, rather than trying to calm down, and you may actually perform better.

That's according to a new Harvard study published by the American Psychological Association, which found that affirmative statements like "I'm excited" helped people improve their performance compared to self-pep talks that urged relaxation such as "I am calm".

"People have a very strong intuition that trying to calm down is the best way to cope with their anxiety, but that can be very difficult and ineffective," said study author Alison Wood Brooks in a statement.

"When people feel anxious and try to calm down, they are thinking about all the things that could go badly. When they are excited, they are thinking about how things could go well."

The results of the study are based on several different experiments. In one experiment, 140 participants were instructed to prepare a public speech on why they would be good work partners. Researchers videotaped the speeches and participants were told they would be judged by a committee to increase anxiety levels.

Before delivering their spiel, subjects were instructed to say either "I am excited" or "I am calm". Judges found that those who made the first statement were more persuasive, competent and relaxed, the study says.

Similar results were observed during a math exam, with those who psyched themselves up with the mantra "I am excited" scoring an impressive eight per cent higher on average compared to the "I am calm" group.

In a karaoke experiment in which participants' heart rates were monitored with a pulse meter, again singers who repeated the mantra "I am excited" scored an average of 80% on the karaoke machine which measures pitch, rhythm and volume. Those instructed to tell themselves they were calm, angry or sad scored 69%.

The moral of the study?

"It really does pay to be positive, and people should say they are excited. Even if they don't believe it at first, saying 'I'm excited' out loud increases authentic feelings of excitement," Brooks said.

A 2012 study out of the University of Chicago in the United States also found that performing math equations under anxiety prompts responses in the brain similar to physical pain. – AFP Relaxnews

US study: No need to avoid peanuts while pregnant

Posted: 23 Dec 2013 11:45 PM PST

Researchers say there's no reason for a woman to avoid peanuts during pregnancy.

WOMEN who eat peanuts while pregnant are less likely to have children with peanut allergies than women who avoid them, said a US study out on Monday.

The findings in the Journal Of The American Medical Association (Jama) were based on a study of more than 8,200 US children.

Among those, researchers found 140 cases of children who were allergic to nuts.

When they looked into the mothers' diets during and soon after pregnancy, as reported in the Nurses Health Survey II, they found that women who ate five or more servings per week of peanuts or tree nuts, such as cashews, almonds and walnuts, were far less likely to have children who were allergic than women who avoided nuts.

"Our study showed increased peanut consumption by pregnant mothers who weren't nut-allergic was associated with lower risk of peanut allergy in their offspring," said senior author Michael Young of the Boston Children's Hospital Division of Allergy and Immunology.

"Assuming she isn't allergic to peanuts, there's no reason for a woman to avoid peanuts during pregnancy."

Doctors used to recommend that women steer clear of peanuts while pregnant and nursing, out of concern they might lead to allergies in children.

The United States recently saw a tripling of peanut allergies in children, going from 0.4% of young people in 1997 to 1.4% in 2010, according to background data in the Jama article.

Allergies arise when the body treats nuts as a harmful invader. Symptoms can be severe and even fatal, causing hives, rashes, swelling, difficulty in breathing and a swift drop in blood pressure.

But recommendations changed in 2008, when the American Academy of Pediatrics decided there was not enough evidence to continue urging women to avoid nuts in pregnancy.

Subsequent studies, like the latest one in Jama, have shown that exposure is more likely to be helpful than harmful, though some confusion remains among the general public on the issue.

"Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy," said the Jama article.

Young noted that researchers cannot say that eating more peanuts in pregnancy will prevent peanut allergy in children.

"But we can say that peanut consumption during pregnancy doesn't cause peanut allergy in children," he said. – AFP

How sticking needles in your ear could help with weight loss

Posted: 24 Dec 2013 12:10 AM PST

A SMALL study out of South Korea has found that ear acupuncture could be used to help people shed belly fat.

In the same way that pressure points in the feet are supposed to be linked to certain organs in the body, a new study claims that the stimulation of five acupuncture points in the ear could help patients with weight loss, particularly in battling the midriff bulge.

Published online in Acupuncture In Medicine, scientists out of Kyung Hee University in Seoul divided participants into three groups: 31 people were given acupuncture treatments to the outer ear in five different points. The needles were inserted 2mm deep into the flesh and held in place with surgical tape for a week. The same treatment was switched to the other ear, and the process repeated over eight weeks.

In the second group of 30 participants, a needle was applied at one single hunger point.

The third group was given a "sham" treatment which involved removing the needles immediately after insertion.

Throughout the experiment, it should be noted that participants were asked to follow a reduced calorie diet and to refrain from exercise.

In total, 24 people dropped out before the eight-week term was up, 15 of whom were in the control group.

But among those who remained, researchers say the first group lost 6% of their body mass index at the midway point, while the group that received the single-point acupuncture treatment lost 5.7%.

Scientists say that the largest drop in waist circumference was observed in the group that received the five-point acupuncture treatment.

A study published this summer out of the University of Maryland in the United States also found that when used to complement in-vitro fertilisation treatments, acupuncture could help improve success rates. – AFP Relaxnews


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