| Talking to yourself has health benefits

Talking to yourself in the third person can help control your emotions when you’re upset, new research suggests.

The findings are based on experiments in which volunteers underwent brain scans while confronted with upsetting situations.

Psychological distance

For example, a man named Fred is upset about a recent romantic breakup. By reflecting on his feelings in the third person (“Why is Fred upset?”), he is better able to keep his emotions in check than if he uses the first person (“Why am I upset?”), according to the study authors.

“Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain,” said Jason Moser, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

“That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions,” he explained in a university news release.

Brain scans show the benefits

For the study, volunteers went through two experiments. In one, they underwent brain scans while reacting to images in both the first person and third person. When reacting to a disturbing image such as a man holding a gun to their heads, their emotional brain activity decreased within a second when they referred to themselves in the third person.

In the second experiment, participants reflected on painful personal experiences using first- and third-person language. When they used “third-person self-talk”, there was less activity in a brain area involved in painful reflections, suggesting the language helped keep emotions in check.

The brain data suggest third-person self-talk may be a relatively “effortless form of emotion regulation”, said study co-author Ethan Kross.

“If this ends up being true – we won’t know until more research is done – there are lots of important implications these findings have for our basic understanding of how self-control works, and for how to help people control their emotions in daily life,” said Kross, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan who directs the university’s Emotion and Self-Control Lab. The study was published online recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

The effect of self-talk

Talking to yourself can also be a good method to combat negative self-image. As mentioned in a Health24 article, negative self-esteem can also have a negative impact on your physical health. But by talking to yourself in an objective manner, you can break the cycle of crippling self-image.


Running Was My Therapy


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During times of extreme stress some women eat some women drink and some women binge-watch Real Housewives.

But I was in the midst of a contentious divorce, and I didn't want to risk anything—even Cold Stone Creamery benders—being used against me. So last winter, I decided to run a marathon as a way to escape the painful reality of my life.

Running had served as an outlet for me before. I started running road races in my early 30s, partly for exercise and partly for stress relief. By my first pregnancy, I had completed three marathons, the final one to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of my father, who had the blood cancer multiple myeloma.

My daughter, Johanna, was born in 2008 with Down syndrome. As I grappled with that, running once again became my therapy. I had been so intent on keeping it all together after her birth, but as we climbed hills in our neighborhood, Jo Jo happily gurgling away in the jogging stroller, I felt I had finally found a safe place to cry.

I ran on and off through my next two pregnancies, but between work and the kids, it was tough to find the time. My youngest, Geoffrey, was diagnosed with albinism, a rare genetic condition that meant he would be visually impaired. Then came the death of my father and the unraveling of my marriage. In the late spring of 2013, three weeks before my 40th birthday, I filed for divorce.

A ray of light

One day last January, getting breathless as I chased Geoffrey up the stairs, I realized I had to do something. I was out of shape, with 20 extra pounds and rising blood pressure. I owed it to my kids, and myself, to stay healthy.

I set my sights on a race on June 8 (my 41st birthday) in Lake Placid, N.Y. As a further incentive, I decided to raise money for the National Down Syndrome Society. The actual running, however, proved dicier. I could do three or four miles without going into cardiac arrest, but my days of effortless six-mile loops were long gone. I was also a bit nervous committing to training, given all the upheaval in my life.

It turned out that the structure and consistency were exactly what I needed. I followed the same New York Road Runners schedule I had used for my other marathons, adjusting it slightly so that I did my long runs when the kids were with my ex. As I ran, I listened to music and zoned out. For once I wasn't ruminating about whether Johanna was making enough progress in school or how Geoffrey and Teddy, my middle child, were doing on their nights away from me.

For months, I had been plagued by insomnia, but now I slept so soundly that I couldn't remember my dreams. And I was heartened by the support I received from family and friends. By marathon day, I had raised close to $6,000—about twice as much as I had anticipated.

Happy endings

I won't lie: I was worried about the race. Lake Placid was much hillier and hotter than where I had trained. But my kids were so thrilled by the idea of staying at a hotel and swimming in the local lake that their enthusiasm was contagious. (My mom and nanny came with us, for both child care and moral support.)

Adrenaline kept me going for the first half of the race, along with the clapping crowds and the breathtaking view of mountains. Unfortunately, nature wasn't all wonderful: June is peak black-fly season in Lake Placid, and a swarm attacked me at mile 13. Red, itchy welts popped up all over my arms, ears and face and the back of my neck. As the temperature climbed into the 80s, my head started to throb, I felt nauseous and my stomach and legs cramped up.

The old me would have gritted her teeth, grabbed another Gatorade and soldiered on. But my inner mommy voice kicked in, warning me that if I kept it up, I could cross the finish line on a stretcher. So I did something I never would have thought fathomable a decade ago: I walked the next mile. At mile 15, I broke out into a slow jog and kept that up, alternating with walking breaks.



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At mile 22, I hit the proverbial wall. This is when the glycogen in your muscles and liver is depleted and you've got nothing left to give. Before the race, I wondered if running a marathon would be easier after enduring labor three times. Yet as I hobbled along, I would have given anything to be back in the delivery room. At least I'd be lying down.

Then I thought about Jo Jo and how, even with Down syndrome, she had achieved so many huge milestones that year: She had learned to read, despite her cognitive impairments, and she had mastered swimming, despite her low muscle tone. If she could succeed with her disability, then I could keep moving on my two perfectly fine (if exhausted) legs. I slowed to a crawl but kept on.

The last half mile was a steep hill. As I came up the incline, I saw my mother, leaning over a rampart snapping photos, and I started to cry. Suddenly, I was back in November 2004, at mile 16 of the New York City marathon, when I spotted my father in the crowd. I didn't know that he had dragged my mother, my sister and my then fiancé through all five boroughs until they caught sight of me. I just knew that he was there as promised, grinning, and I slowed ever so slightly to squeeze his hand before racing on.

Just as suddenly, I was back in Lake Placid, rounding out the last quarter mile and seeing my children sitting patiently on the grass. "There she is!" Teddy said, and they scampered to the finish line. While the volunteers placed a medal around my neck, my kids jumped on me like puppies. With newfound strength, I scooped the three of them up in my arms and we collapsed, laughing, onto the ground.
 | KZN boy, 5, becomes Africa’s youngest artificial heart recipient

A five-year-old boy from Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, has become the youngest patient in Africa to receive an artificial heart, the Maboneng Heart Institute said on Wednesday.

Mnotho Mndebele, who weighs only 17kg, is also one of the youngest and smallest patients in the world to have a heart ventricular assist device (HVAD) implanted.

The operation took place a month ago at the institute, which is at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital. 

“We fully expect him to be able to go to school and do everything a normal young boy would do,” Dr Viljee Jonker, a cardiothoracic surgeon, who led the implantation team, said.

SEE: This is what a mechanical heart looks like

He would have to carry a small external battery pack for his mechanical heart, either on a belt around his waist, or in a small backpack. The batteries will have to be recharged about every eight hours.

“In his case, we opted to use the HVAD as a bridge to a future heart transplant. In reality, it is a lifeline until such time as a matching donor heart can be found for him to undergo a biological heart transplant,” explained Jonker.

Mnotho had been on the heart transplant list, but unfortunately paediatric heart donations are rarely available.

He had been in a critical condition in intensive care for four months before the operation. He suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy. The condition results in the left ventricle of the heart becoming enlarged and weakened and unable to pump blood properly. The cause can often not be determined, Jonker said.

The mechanical heart will help to restore normal blood flow by enabling the left-sided circulation of the heart to operate more effectively. 

“It will also enable Mnotho to grow stronger and gain much-needed weight over the next few years, so that he will be healthy enough to undergo a heart transplant when a donor heart finally becomes available,” Jonker explained.

From left: Sister Ina Kok, Mbali Mndebele with her son Mnitho and Sister Bulelwa Ntilashe (image supplied)

NEXT ON HEALTH24X | NHLS strike finally suspended

On day five of their strike against the National Health Laboratory Service, Nehawu (National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union) decided to suspend their action.

The strike began last Wednesday, with workers at laboratories around the country stopping work. This has caused a massive delay in the processing of medical tests and forced the NHLS to make use of private laboratories for urgent work.

This has now added to the NHLS’s serious financial problems. The NHLS is owed billions by provincial health departments who have not been paying what they owe for laboratory work for years.

Extensive consultations

Nehawu announced on Tuesday that they had decided to call off the strike pending the finalisation of a settlement agreement with the NHLS, expected to be reached today (Wednesday).

The decision was taken following the extensive consultations with members on the revised offer tabled by NHLS management last Friday.

“The union has urgently asked for a meeting with NHLS management for purposes of settlement,” said Khaya Xaba, spokesperson for Nehawu.

“As Nehawu, we would like to commend our members for remaining disciplined and resolute in picket lines as they fought for a living wage and better working conditions,” Nehawu said in a statement.

“We applaud the tenacity with which they confronted the intransigency of the employer coupled with a court interdict meant to discourage them,” said Xaba.

Nehawu continues to call for the NHLS to be brought back into the Public Service.

Worrying situation

According to Nehawu, the current funding model of the NHLS is unworkable and is resulting in financial strain, maladministration and corruption.

The Treatment Action Campaign and Section 27 are also worried about the situation at the NHLS. A joint statement released by the two organisations on Tuesday stated that the current crisis at the NHLS is the culmination of ongoing upheavals, mismanagement, corruption, massive bleeding of competent staff and an inability to protect this national asset.

The TAC and Section27 have for a long time drawn attention to the challenges at the NHLS and the urgent need to address it.

“We commend Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Director-General Precious Matsoso for their efforts to intervene,” they said.

The organisations gave their support to the NHLS employees in their quest for a reasonable salary increase and improved working conditions.

“We commend them for exposing corruption and call for an urgent investigation into allegations made by Nehawu and others,” said TAC and Section27.

Running out of money

Section27 and TAC have offered to meet with Nehawu leadership to explore ways of strengthening the NHLS and ensuring proper working conditions for all employees.

The organisations warned that although the strike may be over, the crisis at the NHLS continues, as the service faces “a debt crisis that makes Eskom pale in comparison”.

“We are informed that the NHLS may run out of money by November.”

Xaba said NHLS employees had all returned to work today while the union is meeting with the employer to discuss other demands that were not met during negotiations.

“The meeting will go ahead to finalise other outstanding issues,” said Xaba. – Health-e News.