Articles

How to Maintain Friendships

Age and time have a funny relationship: Sure, they both move in the same direction, but the older we get, the more inverse that relationship can feel. And as work and family commitments take up a drastically outsize portion of that time, it’s the treasured friendships in our life that often fade.

A recent study found that the maximum number of social connections for both men and women occurs around the age of 25. But as young adults settle into careers and prioritize romantic relationships, those social circles rapidly shrink and friendships tend to take a back seat.

The impact of that loss can be both social and physiological, as research shows that bonds of friendship are critical to maintaining both physical and emotional health. Not only do strong social ties boost the immune system and increase longevity, but they also decrease the risk of contracting certain chronic illnesses and increase the ability to deal with chronic pain, according to a 2010 report in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.Read the entire article on The New York Times

Happiness Is Other People

In a particularly low moment a few years back, after arriving friendless and lonely from Britain to live in the United States, I downloaded a “happiness app” onto my phone. It was surprisingly hard to choose one. There were close to a thousand bliss-promising options in the app store — ones that would teach you to meditate or be grateful, or that would send you photomontages of sunsets and puppies or unfeasibly flattering shots of your loved ones (giving you a moment to temporarily ignore your actual, less attractive loved ones.)

The app I eventually chose messaged me every hour or so with a positive affirmation that I was supposed to repeat to myself over and over. “I am beautiful,” or “I am enough.” The problem was, every time my phone buzzed with an incoming message, I would get a Pavlovian jolt of excitement thinking an actual person was trying to contact me. “I am enough,” I would snarl bitterly upon realizing the truth, unable to shake the feeling that, without friends or community, I really wasn’t.

“Happiness comes from within,” said the inspirational photo-card in my Facebook news feed a few days later, the loopy white meme-font set against a backdrop of a woman contorted into a yoga pose so tortuous it looked as though she might actually be investigating her own innards trying to locate her bliss.Read the entire article on The New York Times

The disintegration of Jake’s life took him by surprise. It happened early in his junior year of high school, while he was taking three Advanced Placement classes, running on his school’s cross-country team and traveling to Model United Nations conferences. It was a lot to handle, but Jake — the likable, hard-working oldest sibling in a suburban North Carolina family — was the kind of teenager who handled things. Though he was not prone to boastfulness, the fact was he had never really failed at anything.

Not coincidentally, failure was one of Jake’s biggest fears. He worried about it privately; maybe he couldn’t keep up with his peers, maybe he wouldn’t succeed in life. The relentless drive to avoid such a fate seemed to come from deep inside him. He considered it a strength.

Jake’s parents knew he could be high-strung; in middle school, they sent him to a therapist when he was too scared to sleep in his own room. But nothing prepared them for the day two years ago when Jake, then 17, seemingly “ran 150 miles per hour into a brick wall,” his mother said. He refused to go to school and curled up in the fetal position on the floor. “I just can’t take it!” he screamed. “You just don’t understand!”Read the entire article on The New York Times

Yoga for Everyone

It’s time to roll out your yoga mat and discover the combination of physical and mental exercises that for thousands of years have hooked yoga practitioners around the globe. The beauty of yoga is that you don’t have to be a yogi or yogini to reap the benefits. Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, yoga has the power to calm the mind and strengthen the body. Don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy yoga studios and complicated poses. Yoga is for everyone.

Read the entire article on The New York Times

It’s peak “engagement season” — the span of time between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day when, according to the website WeddingWire, more than a third of couples pledge to marry.Read the entire article on The New York Times

How to Stop Eating Sugar

If you’re like most Americans, you eat more sugar than is good for you. But it’s entirely possible to eat less sugar without sacrificing much — if any — of the pleasures of eating. Surprising as it may sound, many people who have cut back on sugar say they find their new eating habits more pleasurable than their old ones. This guide will walk you through why sugar matters, how you can make smart food choices to reduce sugar consumption, and how you can keep your life sweet, even without so many sweets.

Read the entire article on The New York Times

For years, as standardized tests took on ever greater importance in Massachusetts public schools, recess seemed to pay the price, shrinking or even disappearing in some communities. But now, with an increased focus on kids’ social and emotional development, there is a concerted effort to revive the tradition.

Across the state, a growing number of schools are tapping recess not only to encourage students to be more active but also to teach them a host of skills, such as how to get along with their peers, control their emotions, and take leadership roles.

Many school systems, from Brookline to Medway, are expanding recess or are exploring the idea in response to growing concerns about increased anxiety, stress, and depression among students, while the Legislature is pondering a bill that would require 20-minute recesses at all elementary schools.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

ne day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”

Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

 Read the entire article on The Atlantic Magazine

When the sum total of human knowledge rests an arm’s length away in each person’s pocket, why do we have to remember anything anymore?Read the entire article on The New York Times

The most common source of stress among American adults?

It’s not money or work, but concern about the nation’s future.

About 63 percent of adults surveyed said the future of country was a source of stress, a slightly greater share than the 62 percent who said money caused them stress and the 61 percent who said it was work that caused them the most anxiety, a report from the American Psychological Association found.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

When people get up and move, even a little, they tend to be happier than when they are still, according to an interesting new study that used cellphone data to track activities and moods. In general, the researchers found, people who move are more content than people who sit.

There already is considerable evidence that physical activity is linked to psychological health. Epidemiological studies have found, for example, that people who exercise or otherwise are active typically are less prone to depression and anxiety than sedentary people.

But many of these studies focused only on negative moods. They often also relied on people recalling how they had felt and how much they had moved or sat in the previous week or month, with little objective data to support these recollections.Read the entire article on The New York Times

Six years ago, at age 49, Julie Gregory paid an online service to sequence her genes, hoping to turn up clues about her poor circulation, blood-sugar swings and general ill health. Instead she learned she had a time bomb hidden in her DNA: two copies of a gene variant, ApoE4, that is strongly linked to Alzheimer’s. Most Americans with this genotype go on to develop late-onset dementia.

“Alzheimer’s was the furthest thing from my mind,” Ms. Gregory told me. “I never thought I was at risk. When I saw my results, I was terrified.”

When Ms. Gregory consulted with a neurologist about how to delay the onset of illness, he had four words for her: “Good luck with that.” After all, no drug had proven effective in reversing Alzheimer’s disease. And preventive measures like diet and exercise, the neurologist told her, would do no good.Read the entire article on The New York Times

How to Start Working Out

Exercise can protect you from disease, slim your waistline and extend your lifespan. But doing it regularly is easier said than done. Work, stress, relationships and a lack of time can all stand in the way, which is why the vast majority of Americans don’t exercise nearly enough. But the right plan and knowledge about how to structure an exercise routine can help you make it a regular part of your life. Here are ways that you can start a fitness routine – and stick to it – so you can reap the vast benefits of exercise.

Read the entire article on The New York Times

It’s hard to put a start date on America’s War on Clutter, but you could trace it to 1978, when the first Container Store opened in a 1,600-square-foot space in Dallas, or to 1985, when a few professional organizers from California saw gold in people’s junk and started a trade association that today counts about 3,400 members.

But despite an industry that’s grown so massive it’s become its own form of clutter — with books, and experts, and storage containers, and apps, and YouTube videos — we’ve made so little progress that even the professional organizers aren’t pretending the problem has been solved — or even that it’s solvable.

In Melrose, Kathy Vines, of Clever Girl Organizing, calls decluttering a “journey.” “There isn’t an end game,” she said.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

The National Cancer Institute tries to be helpful: “At some point during chemotherapy, you may feel: Anxious; Depressed; Afraid; Angry; Frustrated; Helpless; Lonely. It is normal to have a wide range of feelings while going through chemotherapy. After all, living with cancer and getting treatment can be stressful.”

These words made me want to yell. Do they not understand? It is not remotely normal to see only bleakness, to be continuously angst-ridden, and to lack the spirit even to say good night to my precious daughters.

“Many people find that light exercise, such as walking, riding a bike and doing yoga, helps them feel better.” This advice enraged me: The very idea of exercise was laughable. Each night I would resolve to walk round the block tomorrow. But in the morning I would lie unable to rise, unable to sleep, taunted by piles of unread, unreadable books by my bed. 2.30 p.m. 5 p.m. A shuffle downstairs for a bowl of cereal, the act of eating an unexpected respite, then back to bed. My wife was unwavering in the face of such misery: You will feel better, it will all be OK. I knew she believed this, but I did not.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Seven Steps, 27,000 Lives

In America, guns are a fact of life — and too often a cause of death. In all, 38,658 people died from gunshots in 2016. Some were murdered; others took their own lives. Some were killed by accident.

But none of them had to die.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

What Poisons Are in Your Body?

Our bodies are full of poisons from products we use every day. I know – I’ve had my urine tested for them. But before I get into all that, let’s do a quick check for poisons that might be in your body.

Surprised? So was I when I had my urine tested for these chemicals. (A urine or blood test is needed to confirm whether you have been exposed.)Read the entire article on The New York Times

How to find the Right Therapist

Searching for the right therapist is sort of like dating.

To find The One, you need to date around, “swipe” your way through options and get a feel for who’s out there. In my own hunt, I first searched for therapists online, which led me to feel even more confused than when I began.

Lost and without any leads, I asked my best friend for a recommendation. It felt safe to seek help from a professional who came with character references — the same way I’d scan mutual friends on Facebook before agreeing to a date.Read the entire article on The New York Times

Long walks can improve moods and reduce anxiety, but the benefits may be greatest if the walks take place outdoors rather than in a gym, according to a new study by researchers in Austria. And while the Alps may be a particularly fine place to hike, a vigorous walk in the woods or paths near home may provide the mental boost we need to keep us moving.

We all know, by now, that for optimal health, we need to move. But research and anecdotal experience indicate that people rarely exercise if they do not enjoy it. Workouts, for many, are something like possessions: If they don’t spark joy, they tend to be discarded.

Many different aspects of exercise are thought to affect how much we like working out. But in general, most experts agree that a workout’s intensity and its duration have the greatest influence on our feelings about it.Read the entire article on The New York Times

The American Fitness Index named Boston the fifth healthiest city in the country last year. Also in 2016, Money magazine called Boston the best city in the Northeast. Now, Deutsche Bank says Boston is the eighth best city in the world in terms of quality of life.

Boston is the highest ranking US city on the latter list, with locations such as San Francisco (18) and Chicago (22) also making the cut. Overall, 47 cities were ranked.

The annual report from Deutsche Bank, called “Mapping the World’s Prices,” determines quality of life by looking at eight key factors: purchasing power, safety, health care, cost of living, property price to income ratio, traffic commute time, pollution, and climate.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

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