Health tips for January/February 2016

Dishwashing can have a calming effect, and stereotypic differences between men and women are not linked to brain size.


Need to relax? Do the dishes.

Believe it or not, a Florida State University study has found that washing dishes can actually have a calming effect.

In the study, in which 51 students were asked to wash dishes, participants who focused on the smell of the soap and the feel of the dishes felt a 27% drop in nervousness and a 25% jump in mental inspiration. By contrast, a control group had no benefits. The positive results answered the study’s question of whether washing dishes could be used as a practice that promotes mindfulness, which focuses on thoughts and feelings in the moment.

Makes sense — after all, when was the last time your dishwasher complained of stress?


What’s the difference between the size of certain brain regions in women and men? Not much, apparently.

For years, many believed that hippocampi, regions of the brain that help connect emotions to the senses, were larger in women than in men. Hence women are supposedly more emotionally expressive.

But a research team at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago has debunked the hippocampus myth. In an analysis of 76 published papers involving more than 6,000 individuals, the team found that there is no significant difference in size between male and female hippocampi. 

“Sex differences in the brain are irresistible to those looking to explain stereotypic differences between men and women,” says Lise Eliot, associate professor of neuroscience at the university and team leader. But in examining large datasets, “we find these differences often disappear or are trivial.”