November 14, 2012

Q&A, Dr. Drew Ramsey, Columbia psychiatry professor and co-author, ‘The Happiness Diet’

Posted by: in North America

Our October trend report, “Health & Happiness: Hand in Hand,” examines the idea that happiness is increasingly coming to be seen as a core component of health and wellness. As part of our research, we spoke with Dr. Drew Ramsey, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who is one of psychiatry’s leading proponents of modulating diet to help balance mood, sharpen brain function and improve mental health. His clinical work focuses on the treatment of depression and anxiety with a combination of psychotherapy, lifestyle modification and psychopharmacology. Ramsey is also co-author of the 2011 book The Happiness Diet with Tyler Graham. He explained his views on the connection between health and happiness and how diet comes into play.

Do you see a trend toward connecting health and happiness?

I don’t think you can have much happiness without health, and I don’t think people really are healthy if they’re not feeling happy. It’s not just having a huge smile; it’s feeling satisfied and fulfilled and connected to others. Almost always it stems from a sense of connection with my work and with other people.

I think [connecting health and happiness] is a trend. I certainly see it in the food industry, where increasingly there are ingredients being added for the reported brain benefit. But part of me always gets concerned when people are trying to market stuff as happiness. There’s a huge trend where people are thinking about their health as more than just being in good shape. People are thinking more about their emotional health and more about their brain health. And, in particular, as the Baby Boomers are easing into the dementia age, there’s a huge interest I’m seeing both clinically and in the media about brain health, brain fog, senior moments.

In the last decade, how has the role of diet changed as it relates to health as well as happiness?

It’s changed significantly. Probably one of the biggest shifts in neuroscience happened maybe 10 or 15 years ago. When I went to medical school, I was the class of doctors who learned that you did not grow new brain cells as you got older. What’s really shifted is an idea of brain growth and what’s called neuroplasticity, which is basically that that your brain cells are constantly growing and changing and making new connections and getting rid of old connections. So that’s been a huge shift in terms of fundamental brain science.

Over the last five years, really for the first time now, there is a significant collection of studies that look at what people eat, and they’ve all basically said the same thing, which is that people who eat a Western diet, or modern diet, have an increased risk for depression, anxiety and ADHD. And then there’s been a huge interest in food, stemming both from a lot of cooking shows and a huge interest again in farming, where people are actually connecting to their food, connecting to the people who produce their food. What I’m hoping to add to it is to help people understand some of the brain science and why that’s important, what you get from those foods.

How does the brain science factor in to diet and happiness?

Food choices are the foundation of good brain health. Your brain is made of food. Every molecule in your brain started out on your plate. And just like any chef will tell you, the most important thing about being a chef is getting the best ingredients. I think that’s true with the brain as well. When I think about happiness, I think about a brain that is able to regulate its mood. There are three or four areas in the brain that are connected to food and connected to symptoms. A brain that is a well-nourished brain is going to be free of certain types of anxiety.

One of the most important things people miss when they think about a bad mood is that we always look for the reasons why we’re feeling down. Is it because I got in an argument with my wife? Is it because my latte was too hot this morning? But those are all psychological reasons. What was missing in the happiness literature was the notion that some symptoms and the state of our brain depend on dietary choices. So people were saying the way to feeling happy was to give more gratitude, to think more positive thoughts. What I felt was missing in that message was that if you don’t feed yourself correctly, this changes your mood. That’s what I thought was important for people to connect—connect their forks to their feelings.

Can you reverse the potential damage that’s done from a poor diet?

I don’t think having a bad diet over 10 years leads to permanent damage. Anybody can change their diet and improve their brain health. That’s actually one of my favorite parts of this business, doing interviews where people call in and I prescribe brain food swaps. For instance, if a kid loves Twizzlers, try dried cranberries and dried goji berries. Same texture, same color, but instead of getting gluten, sugar and red dye, you’re getting lots and lots of vitamin C, lots of fiber, a whole host of vital nutrients that are very good for general health and great for the brain.

Antidepressants are the top prescribed class of medications in America, but I also try to be clear that The Happiness Diet isn’t just a book for people who are depressed to replace their medications. Whether you have already done psychiatric treatment or not, everybody’s brain needs the same food. When people start making changes, you see an almost immediate effect.

Do you think happiness is becoming more prescriptive than it was in the past?

People have always wanted to pursue happiness, but it seems there are more prescriptive ways to do that than there ever have been, ranging from the way you should eat to Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

Happiness has always been a universal human goal, but do you think it’s more important to people today than it was five years ago?

One of the real repercussions of the financial recession is that people have begun to re-examine what makes them happy. The happiness literature shows that once you can pay your bills, more money doesn’t make you happier. What makes people happier is connection to their community or family, marriage, giving back, receiving. So there’s certainly a shift afoot in terms of how people think about overall happiness.

Do you think there’s a difference between the type of happiness people experience from a material purchase versus an experience?  

Yes, I do. One is an experiential happiness that’s usually shared with another human being. Those are the most significant and grounding events for people’s emotional experience—to do something with other people. To go have a nice picnic or go to church. That’s a fundamentally different type of happiness than the happiness I get when I buy myself a new pair of very nice shoes.

What do you see as the connection between lasting happiness and how people perceive good health?

I think about it in two ways. One way I think about it is how it connects to the data, that if people have obesity and diabetes, they greatly increase their risk of having a major depressant episode. It’s the same thing with heart disease. So there’s this very intimate connection in the literature between your risk of having clinical depression and your physical health status. And then I think goals are shifting—that everybody’s in the gym wanting to look better, but whenever anybody leaves the gym, they usually feel better.

How do you see perceptions of the connection between health and happiness changing in the future, in the next five, ten years?

If I’m successful, I hope people are going to connect their food choices to their happiness much more. I think there’s going to be a lot of discussion with how technology interfaces with people and what the effects are on how we actually measure and think about happiness. I think there’s going to be an increased interest in how technology and social media affect personal happiness. I really wonder what screen addiction is doing to people’s personal relationships. And I think we’re going to see a trend of people turning to more natural experiences. When people spend time with nature, they tend to be less conflicted.

I think we’re going to see a lot of foods that are fortified for brain cells. You’ve already seen that—Horizon milk is adding DHA, which is an algae oil derivative, and I think if people knew they were drinking milk mixed with algae, that would gross them out. But when it says it supports brain health, people get excited, and they buy that milk. We’re going to see more food fortified with nutrients related to the brain and the brain health claims.

In terms of happiness, there’s going to be this really big question mark that’s happening in the field of, Can you deliver mental health services over the Internet? That’s going to be huge.

1 Response to "Q&A, Dr. Drew Ramsey, Columbia psychiatry professor and co-author, ‘The Happiness Diet’"

1 | Tom O'Connor

November 18th, 2012 at 2:02 am

Avatar

This is such a good overview of how younger MD’s are moving the needle from after the fact pharma intervention to true prevention. Healthy food truly is medicine. Thank you for writing this book. I’ll include a link on my site.

Each week my client newsletter uses data from http://www.greenmedinfo.com and http://www.humanfoodproject.com to help educate employees about the deep nutritive value found in fruits, vegetable and spices.

Thank you JWT for making this leading trend data accessible. There’s more interest in this than I think you even you understand.

Tom O’Connor
Market Fresh Fruit/ Eat Healthy At Work
206-304-2464

Comment Form

New: 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond

The Brazil Opportunity

Updates

Sign up for Email Updates

JWT AnxietyIndex

Blog Authors

Andrew Hwang - Emerging Media
Susie Uzel - London
Geri Kan - Singapore
Tobei Arai - Atlanta
James Richardson - London
Ceren Coskun - Istanbul
Anil Bharadiya - Singapore
Deborah Frenkel - Melbourne
Andres Colmenares - Bogota
Soh Chin Ong - Singapore
Sean Aaron - Emerging Media
Patty Orsini - New Jersey
Yael Shpiller - Tel Aviv
David Linden - Emerging Media
Marian Berelowtiz and Patty Orsini - New York
Nick Ayala - New York
Will Palley - New York
Jordan Price - Tokyo
Sarah Siegel - New York
Vannya Martinez - Mexico City
Marian Berelowitz and Christine Miranda - New York
Andrew Knight and Jessica Vaughn - New York
Russell Martin - Cape Town
Marian Berelowitz and Sarah Siegel - New York
Gonzalo Franseca - Buenos Aires
Alex Brousseau - New York
Marina Bortoluzzi - São Paulo
Carlos Fernandez - New York
christine
Ramon Jimenez - Madrid
Ann Mack - New York
Marian Berelowitz and Will Palley - New York
Lina Maria Aguirre - New York
Alexandra Stieber - Atlanta
katerina
Katerina Petinos - New York
Nina Hammerling Smith - New York
Alec Foege - New York
Sharon Panelo - New York
Lindsey Stafford - New York
Adrian Barrow - New York
Aaron Baar - Chicago
Hajime Kato - Tokyo
Mariko Kataoka - London
Ana Hernandes - Sao Paulo
Katie Fitzgerald and Jessica Vaughn - New York
Jessica Vaughn and Sarah Siegel - New York
Marian Berelowitz and Maria Orriols - New York
Mollie Hill
Maria Orriols - Barcelona
Aparna Jain - Calcutta
Marian Berelowitz and Nick Ayala - New York
Ahmed Mahjoub - Dubai
Jessica Vaughn - New York
Dylan Viner - New York
Lois Saldana - New York
Davina Wertheimer - Johannesburg
Harsha Prag - Johannesburg
Ann Mack and Jessica Vaughn - New York
Juliana Cubillos and Jessica Vaughn - Bogota and New York
Megan Foley - New York
Christine Miranda - New York
Meghan McCormick - Emerging Media
Tal Chen - Tel Aviv
Pam Garcia – Manila
Peta Bassett - Bangkok
Nina Yiamsamatha - Emerging Media
Thomas McGillick- Sydney
Alex Pallete and Ramon Jimenez - Madrid
Sigrid Jakob and Rodrigo Maroni - New York
Ken Fujioka - Brazil
Marian Berelowitz - New York
Michael Koenka - Amsterdam
Marian Berelowitz and Aaron Baar - New York and Chicago
Ben Hopkins - London
Alex Morrison - New York
Kimberly Douglas - London
Rasika Fernandes - New Delhi
Mennah Ibrahim - Beirut
Katie Fitzgerald - New York
Colette Henry - Dublin
Deanna Zammit - New York

Things to Watch

  • Uniqlo, H&M and Retail As the Third Space
    April 15, 2014 | 4:30 pm

    “Retail As the Third Space,” one of our 10 Trends for 2011, is rapidly accelerating: As digital commerce becomes habit for consumers, brick-and-mortar is increasingly focused around experiences, unique environments and customer service, giving shoppers new reasons to visit retail spaces. Uniqlo’s flagship in New York is a good example. A newly renovated floor incorporates a Starbucks (a favorite brand among teens) and, as MarketWatch reports, “lounge sofas, tables and chairs and an iPad station, allowing shoppers to stay and mingle.” Thanks to a partnership with the nearby Museum of Modern Art—resulting in a range that uses images from famous artists—the floor’s design is museum-like, with T-shirts in framed display cases.

    Another recent example in Manhattan is H&M’s flagship, which opened in late 2013, which one writer dubs “The most retail fun you can have with your clothes on.” For more on Retail As the Third Space, find our 2103 report Retail Rebooted here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Uniqlo

  • Bitcoin middlemen
    April 10, 2014 | 2:45 pm

    Given its volatility, security issues and legal concerns, merchants interested in accepting bitcoin have a lot to worry about, especially with the possibility (as some see it) that looming regulation could upend the entire system. To mitigate the risk and open merchants up to new revenue streams, startups such as BitPay and Coinvoice make it easier for companies to accept the cryptocurrency.

    These payment processors act as middlemen: A shopper pays in bitcoin, but the merchant can decide whether to be paid in bitcoin, fiat currency, or a combination. This allows companies to shield themselves from the uncertainty of the currency or to dip a toe into accepting it as payment. Until bitcoin becomes more stable and regulated, payment processors such as these will be a safer option for merchants. (For more on bitcoin, see also our post on the Inside Bitcoins conference.) —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: BitPay

  • Delta’s Innovation Class
    April 3, 2014 | 2:15 pm

    Delta’s new Innovation Class allows the influencers of tomorrow to spend a flight with a current industry leader—the airline calls it a “mentoring program at 35,000 feet.” The first mentor was Pebble smart watch creator Eric Migicovsky, on his way to Vancouver for the recent TED conference, who was paired with visual artist James Patten, a 2014 TED senior fellow. The next flight, in May, will feature chef Sean Brock as he heads to the James Beard Awards.

    While Innovation Class isn’t the first such initiative, it’s the first to leverage existing social networks on LinkedIn, where potential seatmates apply to Delta. The program illustrates creativity in using the plethora of touch points marketers have access to and can leverage to create valuable experiences both online and off. —Matt Goldenberg

  • Virtual reality rugby
    March 27, 2014 | 1:00 pm

    While the Oculus Rift headset doesn’t yet have a launch date, brands are already using the virtual reality platform to amaze consumers. To promote Game of Thrones, HBO made fanboys’ dreams come true at this year’s SXSWi with an experience that took viewers on an immersive trip up the show’s famed “Wall.” And U.K. phone company O2 has created “Wear the Rose,” a rugby training experience that combines footage from GoPro cameras with an Oculus headset to give fans the experience of training with England Rugby.

    “Rugby balls are thrown at you to catch, charging players run at you to teach you tackles, and at one point you find yourself in the middle of a scrum,” writes Eurogamer. O2 recently debuted “Wear the Rose” at a stadium match and will showcase it in select U.K. stores starting in June. —Aaron Baar

  • Security as a USP
    March 20, 2014 | 12:45 pm

    As we note in our wrap-up of SXSWi, security is fast becoming a unique selling proposition. Rather than treating it as an afterthought and scrambling to compensate if user data is compromised, more tech companies will build highly secure environments for their users from the start—selling security as a point of differentiation until it becomes a right of entry.

    The secure-communication app Wickr is offering up to $100,000 to any hacker who can crack its defenses and is selling a suite of six privacy features to developers and apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. Another such app, Telegram, offers a bounty as high as $200,000 to anyone who can crack it. Meanwhile, the upcoming Blackphone is described as “the world’s first smartphone which places privacy and control directly in the hands of its users.” —Ann Mack

  • Watson, AI and customer service
    March 13, 2014 | 1:45 pm

    IBM has been promoting the commercial applications of Watson, its artificial intelligence service, with CEO Ginni Rometty announcing a Watson challenge for mobile developers at the recent Mobile World Congress. Rometty also noted that North Face is testing a website that incorporates Watson intelligence to answer customer queries, as seen in this video of an IBM demo at the MWC. Watson could serve as a “personal shopping concierge” for e-commerce brands, as Ad Age put it.

    At this week’s SXSW in Austin, where IBM has Watson powering a food truck to demonstrate its multifaceted potential, an IBM exec talked up Watson’s potential in the customer-service arena. We’re seeing the beginnings of a world where artificial intelligence powers (and personalizes) an array of brand interactions with consumers. —Marian Berelowitz

     

  • Spritz
    March 7, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    Slate may have to adjust the Minutes to Read feature on its articles. In line with our Age of Impatience trend for 2014, Spritz is a new reading app that uses a new visual technology to help people read at Evelyn Wood speeds or faster.

    Pinpointing the “Optimal Recognition Point,” at which the brain begins to recognize numbers and letters, the program highlights that space for each individual word and places it at the same place on the screen, reducing eye movement. The program can push reading speeds up to 500 words a minute. (You can see it in action here.)

    Sprtiz will be available on Samsung’s new line of wearable technology. —Aaron Baar

    Image credit: Spritz

  • Virtual fitting rooms
    March 4, 2014 | 11:45 am

    PhiSix, a 3D virtual technology company recently acquired by eBay, plans to bring more of the outside world into physical stores’ dressing rooms in an effort to increase sales. We’ve reported before on websites that offer 3D virtual try-ons at home and brick-and-mortar stores that have become living, breathing websites. But PhiSix’s technology takes the virtual fashion experience one step further, allowing shoppers to see how specific items of clothing look on them, in a variety of sizes and contexts, without actually trying them on. With PhiSix’s computer graphics, which will be made available to third-party retailers, shoppers will be able to enter a store dressing room and view themselves wearing clothing in a number of active settings (e.g., swinging a golf club, walking down the street). The technology also recommends other items to consumers, based on a few basic measurement inputs. Although virtual try-on technologies, which have existed for a while, haven’t succeeded in displacing trying on actual clothing, PhiSix’s sexy timesaver may draw more shoppers into physical retail outlets. —Alec Foege

    Image credit: PhiSix

  • Daily Mail’s Just the Pictures app
    February 25, 2014 | 3:15 pm

    The U.K.’s Daily Mail, whose digital content is dominated by photographs, is planning to release an app called Just the Pictures that strips out the text for smartphone readers—or non-readers, in this case—who are looking for snackable content while on the go. At a Mobile World Congress panel in Barcelona, Melanie Scott of the Mail Online said the app will be out in March. Per Scott, the Daily Mail’s current iOS app attracts about a million daily users in the U.K., and they’re opening it four or five times a day for 12 minutes at a time, largely for the pictures. 

    Just the Pictures is another sign of images replacing words in our increasingly visual culture, one of our 10 Trends for 2014. For more on how this trend is affecting the mobile platform, watch for our annual mobile-trends report in April. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Daily Mail

  • Full-fat comes back
    February 20, 2014 | 6:00 pm

    Bring on the brie! Last week NPR reported on two studies finding that “whole-fat dairy is linked to reduced body fat,” research likely to boost a recent shift away from lower-fat dairy products. Butter has been bullish lately: Annual sales in the U.S. have increased 65 percent since 2000, with per-capita consumption reaching a 40-year high. And while milk sales in the U.S. declined in 2013, full-fat fared relatively well (with sales declining 0.8 percent vs. 4.1 percent for reduced-fat). 

    The trend ties into a growing preference for foods that feel less artificial or newfangled, as well as the ongoing urge to Live a Little (one of our 10 Trends for 2012).  —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: liz west

  • RSSArchive for Things to Watch »