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

This past winter, Sarah Fader, a 37-year-old social media consultant in Brooklyn who has generalized anxiety disorder, texted a friend in Oregon about an impending visit, and when a quick response failed to materialize, she posted on Twitter to her 16,000-plus followers. “I don’t hear from my friend for a day — my thought, they don’t want to be my friend anymore,” she wrote, appending the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike.

Thousands of people were soon offering up their own examples under the hashtag; some were retweeted more than 1,000 times. You might say Ms. Fader struck a nerve. “If you’re a human being living in 2017 and you’re not anxious,” she said on the telephone, “there’s something wrong with you.”

It was 70 years ago that the poet W. H. Auden published “The Age of Anxiety,” a six-part verse framing modern humankind’s condition over the course of more than 100 pages, and now it seems we are too rattled to even sit down and read something that long (or as the internet would say, tl;dr).Read the entire article on The New York Times

Tired and hungry after a day of high school and sports, Isaiah Ramsey likes to collapse on his bed, grab his phone, and place a mobile dinner order.

To his mom. In the next room.

“And I bring it to him,” said Stephanie Ramsey, of Roslindale. “That’s the sad part.”Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

For the past few months, getting my 5-year-old daughter, Emma, dressed in the morning has been a grueling ordeal. She hovers over her open dresser drawers, rapidly pulling shorts and shirts out only to immediately dismiss them.

“I have no good clothes,” she’ll announce. I stood by recently as she inspected herself in the mirror. “No! This doesn’t look pretty,” she wailed, pulling fiercely at her skirt. “I don’t look beautiful!” I took in her angst, and felt close to tears myself.

It dawned on me that Emma, my almost-kindergartner, is obsessed with her appearance. She hates to wear sneakers because she doesn’t think they complement her attire; she can spend 15 minutes adjusting a headband; she asks constantly about getting pierced ears.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

These questions only take about 45 minutes to discuss—and they almost always make two people feel better about each other and want to see each other again, according to social psychology researcher Arthur Aron of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stony Brook University in New York, who published his results in “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness” in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (1997).

You can try these questions with a date, but they’re not necessarily only applicable to fostering romance. You can also try them with people you already know well—friends, family members, even long-term partners—to deepen your ties.

Each of you should take a turn answering each question.Read the entire article on Psychology Today

Remember the good old days of traffic, when backups, congestion, and delays were confined to what now seems like the quaint notion of “rush hour’’?

These days the endless lines of brake lights are striking earlier and later — often seemingly at random — and in the process upending vacation patterns, triggering spousal tension, and forcing families to leave their homes at 5 a.m. for a day at the beach, as if they were fleeing the law.

“I don’t even know when ‘rush hour’ is anymore,” said John Paul, a spokesman for AAA Northeast.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Depression is usually considered an issue parents have to watch out for starting in the turbulent teenage years. The CW channel, full of characters with existential angst about school, friends, and young love, tells us so, as do the countless parenting books about the adolescent years in every guidance counselor’s office.

But what if by that time it’s already too late?

A large new study out this week contains some alarming data about the state of children’s mental health in the United States, finding that depression in many children appears to start as early as age 11. By the time they hit age 17, the analysis found, 13.6 percent of boys and a staggering 36.1 percent of girls have been or are depressed.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature.

Most of us today live in cities and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago.

City dwellers also have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, studies show.Read the entire article on The New York Times

When men and women finish school and start working, they’re paid pretty much equally. But a gender pay gap soon appears, and it grows significantly over the next two decades.

So what changes? The answer can be found by looking at when the pay gap widens most sharply. It’s the late 20s to mid-30s, according to two new studies — in other words, when many women have children. Unmarried women without children continue to earn closer to what men do.

The big reason that having children, and even marrying in the first place, hurts women’s pay relative to men’s is that the division of labor at home is still unequal, even when both spouses work full time. That’s especially truefor college-educated women in high-earning occupations: Children are particularly damaging to their careers.Read the entire article on The New York Times

Last fall, I picked up my 11-year-old daughter from her first middle school dance. It was at a nightclub in Amsterdam. As I stood outside waiting, streams of British bachelorettes stumbled down the alley around me. This was at 11:30 p.m. On a Wednesday. “Seriously, Mom,” Sophie said as we biked home, “you didn’t have to come get me.”

In Holland, the start of middelbareschool marks the beginning of adolescence. Kids are in sixth grade, and they want their independence. Most get mobile phones and debit cards to manage their own schedules and pocket money. They graduate to bigger bikes.

Armed with these tools of Dutch teenagerhood, Sophie zips across Amsterdam. Her dance class is a 20-minute bike ride away, through throngs of tourists and thickets of tram tracks. Come winter, it’s pitch dark by 5. When it’s warm, she and her friends scour the city to find a good jumping bridge. They change into bikinis, then leap — sometimes 30 feet — into the cool, inky waters of the canal beneath.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Cancer brings it home

The china tea cups were laid out beside a vase of roses. I arrived late to this reunion of high school friends and former teachers, and could hear the laughter from the door as I slipped in. Lunch was over, and our hostess was holding forth, confessing the teenaged pranks of which our former principal and a beloved English teacher were heretofore innocent. Tears of laughter rolled down their cheeks.

Our hostess sat back and took a breath, satisfied that her stories were having the desired effect. This was her party. It would not come again, this day. And in a way that ordinary life doesn’t often underscore, we all knew it.

Cancer is wasting her body. She is as far beyond the reach of Western medical treatment as an untethered kite in the wind.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Survival can seem like the only goal during a stay in a hospital’s intensive care unit. But for many patients, the aftermath can be just as harrowing. Now, an international initiative has launched support groups designed to help those who have left the ICU — if they can be persuaded to come in and talk about their struggles.

“There’s this broad world that exists between surviving and recovering,” said Dr. Daniela Lamas, a critical care doctor who works in the ICU at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Some patients return home disabled, unable to work or even care for themselves. Others are traumatized by being put on life support. Caregivers struggle, too; they may still be reeling from days or weeks fearing the worst. Doctors have given those symptoms an umbrella diagnosis: post-intensive care syndrome, or PICS.Read the entire article on Stat News

If President Trump’s plan to cut individual and corporate taxes is enacted, it would accelerate the rise of income inequality in America. Economists have analyzed the effects such cuts would have on the economy, but cuts would also have an impact on people’s lives beyond money. Economic inequality has a profound impact on people’s emotions, health, and thought processes that go well beyond their bank accounts.

Discussions of inequality usually focus on the poor, and tax cuts often result in cuts to safety-net programs that indeed make the poor worse off. But the most immediate effect of tax cuts is to make the rich even richer. Depending on your politics, that might seem fair or unfair. But regardless of political leanings, data from psychology and neuroscience suggest a less obvious impact: Making the rich richer actually makes life worse for everyone else, including the middle class.

The reason has nothing to do with envy. Most Americans admire the wealthy and would rather join them than beat them. Nonetheless, humans can’t help comparing themselves to each other. When others around us get richer, it raises our standards for how much is “enough.” When your friends and neighbors start installing gleaming quartz countertops, the granite that made you proud a few years ago starts to look a little shabby. Just as it takes more money to feel middle class today than it did a century ago, it takes more to feel middle class when others around us get richer.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Probing Psychoses

ANDREW LECLERC KNEW something was wrong when he heard voices when no one else was around. Some were those of people he knew, others were unfamiliar, but all had the authentic mannerisms of real people, not his imagination. He was in his early twenties, unsure of his direction in life, and had been taking synthetic marijuana to ease stress from past traumas. Disturbed by the voices, he sought help in an emergency room and voluntarily admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital, not realizing he would be kept there for six days. He was diagnosed with psychosis, but had little interaction with a therapist. “You mostly sit around with coloring books,” he says. It felt like a punishment, when all he wanted was help.

Afterward, he contacted therapists, but many were booked. An online search led him to a research study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston for people newly diagnosed with psychotic disorders. In January 2014, he entered a two-year study that compared two approaches to psychotherapy to help manage cognitive impairments and other symptoms. He was also prescribed an antipsychotic medication.

Eventually he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Now, about four years later, at 26, LeClerc is learning to live with the condition. “It’s hard for a person who’s diagnosed with schizophrenia to be told something’s not real when they think it’s real,” he says. He continues to take antipsychotic medications that help control his hallucinations and lives in an apartment below his parents in Middleton, Massachusetts. He’s hoping to start a small business, putting his love of gardening to work as a landscaper.Read the entire article on Harvard Magazine

Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich

When I was growing up, my mother would sometimes threaten my brother and me with elocution lessons. It is no secret that how you talk matters a lot in a class-saturated society like the United Kingdom. Peterborough, our increasingly diverse hometown, was prosperous enough, but not upscale. Six in 10 of the city’s residents voted for Brexit — a useful inverse poshness indicator. (In Thursday’s general election, Peterborough returned a Labour MP for the first time since 2001.)

Our mother, from a rural working-class background herself, wanted us to be able to rise up the class ladder, unencumbered by the wrong accent. The elocution lessons never materialized, but we did have to attend ballroom dancing lessons on Saturday mornings. She didn’t want us to put a foot wrong there, either.

As it turned out, my brother and I did just fine, in no small part because of the stable, loving, middle-class home in which we were raised. Any lingering working-class traces in my own accent were wiped away by three disinfectant years at Oxford. My wife claims they resurface when I drink, but she doesn’t know what she’s talking about — she’s American.Read the entire article on The New York Times

It took a second to realize I hadn’t heard him correctly. Really looking at him for the first time, I noticed he looked sad and tired. So there was no way his answer to my cashier small talk of “How are you?” had been “Fine.” “I’m so sorry — I don’t think I heard you correctly. How are you doing?” He replied, “My wife kicked me out last night, and I’m worried for my kids.” It was Nov. 22, around 7:15 a.m., and I was on my 14th shift as a cashier at Walmart.

The early-morning crowd is always a little different, I was learning — a hard-working group of nurses coming off the night shift, teachers on the way to school, cleaning crews picking up supplies, and sometimes someone having a really hard time. In fact, oftensomeone having a really hard time.

Half of the United States goes through a Walmart on a weekly basis, about three-quarters of the nation goes through each month, and the United States is filled with a lot of people who are having a hard time, so that makes sense. But most of the stories I hear in my Walmart life are beautiful ones, even when they are about hard, hard things. There is a strength and resilience that resonates loudest.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

The joy of missing out

ANYONE WHO’S BEEN in sixth grade knows the feeling: Somewhere, someone is having a good time and we weren’t invited. That old-brain trauma is a useful trigger for our device manufacturers, who exploit it to keep us obsessively checking our social media feeds. Manipulative? Sure. But it works.

Fear of Missing Out (or FOMO in our acronym-addled vocabulary) is the societal disorder driving our compulsion to know what’s happening every second, whether it’s checking in on a stranger’s #NotSadDeskLunch or the latest celebrity death. The term was likely coined by Sherry Turkle, the MIT professor who has done important work on the psychology of online interactions and the human costs of constant media engagement.

As a journalist, I understand the allure of knowing things before everyone else. In the sleepy old days when news was reported at predictable intervals, it was a kick to know the next day’s headlines hours in advance. But I could have lived without knowing about the cat that interrupted the Marlins’ home opener, or the gecko with three tails, or seeing the video of some guy at a gas station getting mowed down by a galloping deer. And that was just during one quick check-in the other day.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

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