What is hair Botox?
First of all, it’s not what you think.
Hair Botox, unlike its wrinkle-smoothing namesake, is not an injection and does not include botulinum toxin. It’s a non-chemical, deep conditioning treatment that coats the hair’s surface and helps tame frizz and flyaways.
The name stems from how the product works. The real Botox relaxes muscles, filling in lines and smoothing skin on your face. Similarly (but in a different way), hair Botox plumps up hair strands, eases kinks, and gently smooths tresses.
For Atlanta-based salon owner Daniel Mason Jones, hair Botox is a “game-changer” for clients looking for silky-smooth hair beyond just the weekend.
“Hair Botox is a custom curated treatment for the individual’s particular hair needs,” says Mason Jones, who serves as the creative director for Muse Salon and Spa.
“There are several different types of treatment that can be used depending on the severity of [the] damage.”
Both treatments are temporary fixes requiring a long-term commitment to keep up appearances. So here’s what you need to know before committing to hair Botox, including how it works, much it costs, and how it differs from a keratin hair treatment.
Ingredient list for hair Botox
Despite the name, hair Botox does not contain botulinum toxin, the main ingredient of Botox. Instead, stylists use a blend of primarily natural oils and extracts, along with healthy doses of hydrating and moisturizing substances.
The benefits of hair Botox
If your crowning glory is losing the battle against aging, heat, and chemicals, a hair Botox treatment may be your beauty rescue.
Signs you made want this treatment include:
- split ends/breakages
- limp or flat locks
- frizzy hair that resists straightening
- damaged hair from dyes or overprocessing
- thinning hair
Mason Jones says basically anyone who routinely uses heat tools like curling irons, straighteners, and blow dryers, or who lightens their hair with balayage or highlights, is a good candidate for hair Botox.
The hair Botox process
People can do hair Botox treatments in the salon or at home, according to Mason Jones. Many salons offer clients a simple “take-home” kit with suggestions and advice on how to achieve good outcomes.
The process starts with a thorough shampooing using a product specifically designed to open up hair cuticles to absorb the hair Botox treatment. People apply the treatment to wet (unconditioned) hair for up to 90 minutes. After rinsing out the treatment, people blow-dry and straighten the hair at a high heat.
As soon as the hair is dry, the results are immediate with smoother, fuller, healthier-looking hair.
“Hair Botox has been an absolute game-changer,” says Mason Jones, who is also a consultant to L’Oréal Professional and other beauty brands. “We have seen remarkable results, especially from our guests who are dealing with Covid-19 hair loss.”
Most people will begin to see their hair returning to its normal pattern of frizzing, curling, or thinning within three months. Mason Jason suggests talking to your stylist about when and how often to repeat the process.
“As with anything, too much of a good thing can be too much,” he advises. “Sometimes, we will suggest switching up the treatment.”
The cost of hair Botox
Looking good comes with a hefty price tag. According to industry statistics, one hair Botox treatment can cost between $150 to $300, depending primarily on where you are. At-home kits are available on Amazon from $50 to $400.
Mason Jones suggests talking with your stylist about the pros and cons of this treatment before investing a lot of time and money into the process.
“The professionals always know what’s best for your hair,” he says. “They’ve gone to school and are highly trained with chemicals and how they work.”
Hair Botox vs. keratin treatments
Think of keratin like your hair’s bodyguard. It is the key protein that makes up each strand of hair and works to protect cells from outside damage.
But aging, stress, chemicals, and other factors lead to keratin damage, exposing your hair follicles.
A keratin treatment, also known as a “Brazilian blowout,” may help repair hair damage and result in a silky-smooth appearance.
Although the results of hair Botox and keratin treatments are similar, the starting points are different.
Hair Botox is a mix of natural substances, including vitamins, oils, and collagen. Keratin treatments, particularly “Brazilian blowouts,” rely on chemicals such as formaldehyde to straighten and smooth unruly hair.
The potential danger in keratin treatments
Although there are no definitive studies linking keratin treatments to long-term health issues, formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, according to the American Cancer Society.
A 2014 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found the level of formaldehyde in many Brazilian keratin treatments exceeded recommended levels.
The latest warning is from March 2021, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned of dangers when keratin solution is heated during the treatment process in salons.
“If the salon is not properly ventilated, both the salon professionals and their clients are at risk of inhaling the released formaldehyde,” noted FDA officials in the report.
Although “formaldehyde-free” keratin is available, the FDA urges consumers to read the ingredient labels carefully. While formaldehyde may not be on the list, look for other chemicals such as methylene glycol, which converts to formaldehyde after heating.
Holiday helpers wanted
The holidays are the happiest time of the year—until they’re not. Christmas carols are not reality, and while this is a season of joy and togetherness, it is also a uniquely stressful time for many people.
There are gifts to buy, social events to attend, charities to support, family and friends to visit, trips to plan or take, more money to spend, and, of course, the pandemic on top of it all. It’s a recipe for burnout.
It’s even worse if you’re already dealing with grief, trauma, or mental illness. There’s a reason why rates of mental illness increase during the holidays, with 64 percent of people saying this time of year makes their mental conditions worse, according to a survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
So what is one of the best things you can do when you’re feeling stressed? Ask for help! After all, you need help, and your loved ones want to help you.
Even if you know you should reach out when you’re overwhelmed, many people refuse to ask for help, especially during the holidays. Why is this? Experts explain, and share how to ask for help during the holiday season—or any time of year.
There’s a reason asking for help feels so hard
“We’re trained in our culture, from a very young age, to not to ask for help and to not be a burden on others,” says Laurie J. Ferguson, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, certified life coach, and ordained minister. “It can be really hard to overcome that cultural conditioning.”
Add that to the high-pressure atmosphere of the holidays, and it’s no wonder so many people hold it all in.
This pressure can show up in different ways, and you may recognize some of the more common ways people express their feelings about it, says psychologist Jeff Gardere, PhD, an associate professor and course director of behavioral medicine at Touro College in New York City. Any of these sound familiar?
- not wanting to burden loved ones when they may be feeling extra stress
- fear of admitting weakness or troubles
- desire to maintain the appearance of “perfect” holiday cheer
- denial that you really need help
- feeling so overwhelmed you don’t know what you need or how to ask for it
- guilt over needing help
- worry that things aren’t “bad enough” yet or they might get worse
- asking for help can feel like one more stressful thing
Signs it’s time to ask for help
One of the trickiest parts of asking for help is figuring out when you really need it, Dr. Ferguson says. Ask too soon, and you might risk not having help later when you need it even more. If you wait until you’ve reached a crisis point, on the other hand, you risk a mental or physical breakdown.
Thankfully, there are some telltale signs that you should reach out to friends and loved ones during the holidays, she adds:
- You feel physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually overwhelmed.
- You don’t have the necessary skills or resources to do what needs to be done.
- You don’t feel joy or happiness in holiday celebrations.
- You lose interest in traditions you used to love.
- You lose your appetite, or you overeat comfort foods.
- You isolate yourself from others.
- You have insomnia or feel exhausted all the time.
Essentially, you turn into the Grinch. (Maybe he just needed to ask for help instead of robbing Whoville?) The bottom line is that if you feel like you need help, you probably do, and it’s OK to ask for it.
“Many people are afraid of coming off as a burden, or even causing some sort of imposition on others. But your loved ones would much rather you ask ‘too early’ than suffer in silence,” Dr. Gardere says.
Note: If you have thoughts of self-harming or suicide and/or uncontrollable physical or emotional pain, you need to call a health professional immediately. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention hotline by calling 800-273-8255 or visiting their site. Rates of suicidal acts and completion spike during the holidays, and it’s important to take this very seriously in yourself or in loved ones.
How to ask for help during the holidays (or any time of year)
We asked our experts to share their best tips for seeking help from friends and loved ones without feeling like a burden.
(Here’s how to build trust in your relationships.)
Decide what you need
Before you ask for help, make a list of what you need help with and decide which things will make the biggest difference to you. The more detailed you can get, the more confident you’ll feel when you talk to your loved ones, and the better they will be able to help you.
Make specific, targeted requests
People will be less likely to feel burdened by your request if you are very clear about what exactly you’re asking for.
There is a beginning, end, and time limit to a good request. Instead of melting down over decorations, say something like, “I’d love help hanging lights on the house from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday. If you have a ladder you could bring that would be great.”
Make a list of people who might be able to help. Don’t hint about needing help and then expect others to pick up on it. Simply be direct and tell them you need some help.
Give them an out
Try not to put people on the spot with requests. Give them some time to think before answering. Text or email instead of calling. If you do ask someone in person, offer them an out.
For instance: “I was wondering if you could watch my kids Friday for a couple of hours while I go Christmas shopping? Feel free to check your calendar and get back to me later!”
Be really honest
Your loved ones want to help because they love you. Asking for help requires being vulnerable and opening up in ways that might feel uncomfortable at first. But the more honest you can be, the better they’ll be able to help you. (And the more you can feel their love!)
Provide the tools
Have everything the person will need to help you at the ready. For instance, if you need help shoveling and de-icing, have shovels and salt already out.
Make it fun
Do what you can to make it fun. Even if they’re doing something very un-fun—like cleaning out your oven after a cookie disaster—you can do things to make it better. You can offer to provide snacks, drinks, and a fun playlist, for example, or perhaps offer a sympathetic listening ear.
Widen your circle
It can be tempting to only reach out to your closest go-to people, but they can burn out from helping. Think about who could help you with what you need, and then look for a variety of people with different skills or availability.
Learn to say ‘yes’
Don’t let your pride or fear get in the way of accepting offers of help from trusted people who volunteer it. For instance, consider saying yes if your neighbor offers to pick up your kid from the holiday party, or if your grandma offers to spot you some money for gifts. Believe your loved ones when they say they want to help you.
Accept a ‘no’ graciously
Sometimes people won’t be able to help, and you may feel embarrassed or guilty for having asked. Let the negative feelings go and be grateful they were honest with you. Healthy communication is vital for loving relationships. Resist the temptation to argue with someone when they say no.
Remember the upsides
This is the season of giving! There are a lot of positive things that happen to both the giver and receiver during a charitable act. Think of it as bonding time or a way to learn something new. Be sure to tell them how much you’re enjoying being with them.
Tell them ‘thank you’
Everyone appreciates thanks for their efforts, so find a way to show your gratitude. It could be a handwritten card, a bottle of wine, a gift card, a dinner, or whatever small thing would make them feel special.
Return the favor
Giving to others can be incredibly rejuvenating, even when you’re feeling overwhelmed yourself. Don’t feel like you have to return the favor immediately. Consider a helpful swap (“first we set up your lights, then we’ll do my house”) or something in the future (“I’ll watch your kids on New Year’s Day if you can watch mine this weekend”). If they don’t need anything in return, pay it forward by helping someone else in the future.
The science behind Botox
Botox is derived from the same toxin (Clostridium botulinum) that causes botulism, a rare and deadly type of food poisoning that paralyzes muscles.
Years ago, scientists isolated one strain of this toxin, “onabotulinumtoxinA,” and harnessed its power for good. Now known as Botox and marketed by pharmaceutical giant Allergan, this strain relaxes “hyperactive” muscles.
In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Botox for chronic migraine treatment, after numerous studies found it to be effective.
Researchers published a defining meta-analysis on “Botulinum Toxin versus Placebo” in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 2019.
It examined results from 17 separate studies on migraines from the past 20 years, concluding Botox “is the first real benefit in patient quality of life.”
While the idea of toxin injections may be scary, the risks of Botox for migraines are low.
“The amount we give is a very small therapeutic dose,” explains Stephen Silberstein, MD, a professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
“Used therapeutically, the doses are [extremely] lower than that which is toxic.”
Here’s everything you need to know about botox for migraines.
A migraine is more than just a bad headache
Heads ache for lots of reasons. Late nights, stress, screen time, certain foods, alcohol, and allergies are among the many reasons why people turn to pain medication for relief.
But when lights, sounds, or even simple movements send paralyzing waves of pain through your head, it may be a migraine headache.
Migraine is a neurological disorder that can affect the whole body, according to the Migraine Research Foundation (MRF). In addition to throbbing head pain, you may have periods of nausea, vomiting, visions issues or “auras,” and dizziness lasting up to 72 hours.
About 40 million people in the United States suffer from migraines. Women between the ages of 18 and 44 are three times more likely to have migraines than men.
The cause of migraines is unknown, but 90 percent of people who get migraines have a family history of migraines, according to the MRF.
Botox for migraines is a game-changer
Although there is no cure for chronic migraines, Botox is now the treatment of choice to reduce their frequency and severity. This is especially true after other treatments have failed.
“Before Botox, there were different classes of drugs—beta-blockers, anti-depressants, and anti-convulsants—all of which have systemic side effects,” Dr. Silberstein says.
“The advantage of Botox is that it works locally without these side effects.”
During a treatment session, professionals inject Botox into muscles on the face, scalp, neck, and shoulders. There it enters the nerve endings near the injection site and disrupts the pain messaging to the brain.
“In many ways, Botox is safer than other treatments for migraine [which are] associated with obesity, imbalance, sedation, and renal and gastric complications due to overuse,” says Teshamae Monteith, MD, an associate professor of clinical neurology at the University of Miami.
The most common side effect of Botox, according to Allergan, is pain or swelling at the injection site. On rare occasions, people report drooping eyes or drooling, but most side effects are temporary and subside within a few days.
There is good news for people with “episodic migraines,” for which Botox has not yet been FDA-approved. Allergan is currently researching whether “high-frequency episodic migraine headaches” may also benefit from Botox.
Botox can break the cycle of migraines
Botox injections for migraines generally occur every three months, according to Dr. Monteith. This is the national standard to keep patients from developing antibodies to the toxin.
The long span between Botox treatments also makes it easier for patients to manage their care.
“Most other medications require daily pills that people may forget to take,” Dr. Silberstein says.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, most patients report fewer headache days after Botox treatments, with maximum results generally seen by the third treatment.
For many patients, the migraines eventually go away, Dr. Monteith says, and Botox treatments taper off. For some, Botox therapy is continuous.
“[Botox] is generally not a lifelong treatment, as many get better over time,” she explains. “However, some patients may have a form of chronic migraine that worsens when treatment is stopped, so [extended] use may be needed.”
Who should avoid Botox for migraines?
While Botox may be standard for chronic migraine sufferers, it isn’t necessarily for everyone.
People with muscle or nerve conditions, such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or myasthenia gravis, should be wary of Botox. Though the risk is small, Botox may increase the risks of difficulty swallowing or breathing for those with pre-existing neuromuscular conditions.
Pregnancy is always a consideration that should be discussed with your doctor, especially since chronic migraines are more common in women.
“While there’s no evidence that Botox should not be used in pregnant women, I don’t use it with any pregnant patients,” Dr. Silberstein notes.
Currently, the FDA has approved Botox for migraines only in adults 18 and older who have chronic migraines. Doctors may still prescribe Botox to minors “off label,” which means outside the FDA’s approved uses. Insurance companies, however, may not cover the cost.
The financial cost of Botox treatments
The FDA recommends 155 units of Botox per treatment, which can run from $300 to $600 depending on your provider. Add the doctor fees and other “tack-ons” and the annual costs for migraine management can get pricey.
Fortunately, most insurance plans cover Botox, including Medicare and Medicaid, if your doctor diagnoses you with chronic migraines.
“Before your insurance company will approve Botox as a treatment, you typically must have tried and failed to respond to two other preventative treatments for two months,” Dr. Silberstein explains.
For migraine sufferers who do not meet the criteria, Allergan offers a “Botox Savings Program” that can help lower costs.
What is alkaline water?
There’s no debate about it: Drinking enough water is essential for great health. Nutrition experts and researchers agree drinking enough water and maintaining proper hydration can improve everything from your memory and mood to digestion and skin condition.
But in recent years, there’s been a buzz around different types of water, such as alkaline water.
The concern is about the pH of the water we drink. This term pH stands for the “potential for hydrogen.” In a nutshell, pH describes something’s acidity, explains Morton Tavel, MD, a clinical professor emeritus of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
It’s a scale that ranges between 0 and 14. Anything with a pH less than 7 is acidic, and those greater than 7 are basic—also known as alkaline.
“Pure water has a pH very close to 7,” Dr. Tavel says. So the water coming out of your tap or bottle is more or less neutral, as far as its pH is concerned.
Alkaline water is simply water with a higher pH than regular drinking water, typically at a pH of 8 or 9, explains Inna Husain, MD, an associate professor of otolaryngology and section head of laryngology at Rush University Medical Center.
Here’s what you need to know about alkaline water, including alkaline water benefits, risks, and more.
How is alkaline water made?
“Water that’s naturally alkaline becomes that way by passing over rocks—like in springs—picking up minerals as it flows, which increases its alkaline level,” says registered dietitian Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, a senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center.
But the branded alkaline water you see on the shelves is usually made with ionizers. These devices perform a chemical process called electrolysis to separate the water into two parts: alkaline and acidic. The acidic water is then filtered out, leaving behind a stream of alkaline drinking water.
There are also a few DIY tricks that will alkalize your water, too.
Even though fruits like lemons taste acidic, their pH rises once our body starts breaking down the fruit in our gut, explains Rachel Larkey, a registered dietician working in New York City and Seattle. That means adding a splash of lime or lemon juice to your water gives it an alkaline hit.
Is alkaline water good for you?
Alkaline water is part of a broader trend called the alkaline diet or the alkaline ash diet. The diet involves replacing acidic foods—such as processed foods and animal meat—with alkaline foods like fruits and vegetables.
“There’s a belief that our health will benefit from being in a more alkaline state,” says Larkey.
For example, a study published in Cancer Research found that cancer tumors are highly acidic, and this acidity helps a tumor spread and grow.
This idea leads people to believe that by eating more alkaline foods, we create an environment in which health problems like cancer can’t flourish, Larkey explains. But our body’s pH doesn’t shift in this way (and thankfully so—more on that below.)
There’s a wide range of other health claims attributed to alkaline water as well, according to Dr. Tavel.
“If you believe the marketing hype, alkaline water can increase your energy, boost your metabolism, hydrate you better than regular water, prevent digestive problems, neutralize acid in your bloodstream, help your body absorb nutrients more effectively, promote weight loss, prevent bone loss, and even slow aging,” he says.
“[But] no scientific studies have demonstrated any advantage.”
Do you need to alkalize your body?
“Every system in our body functions at a different pH,” Larkey says.
And it’s a tightly run ship. Dr. Tavel explains that unless you have certain medical conditions—like a kidney or respiratory disease—your body maintains healthy pH levels on its own.
Your kidneys and lungs are the two organs that regulate the acid-base balance of your blood.
“For example, if your blood becomes too acidic, you breathe out more carbon dioxide to bring the levels down,” Dr. Tavel says.
In fact, it would be a pretty big problem if drinking alkaline water could change our body’s pH levels, Larkey says. Our blood’s normal pH stands between about 7.35 and 7.45, and even a decimal-place change below or above that could be life-threatening.
For instance, conditions like diabetes can lead to acidosis, an acidic environment in the blood.
“And that’s deadly,” she says. “You can go into a coma pretty quickly.”
Or, if your blood is a bit too basic—a condition called alkalosis—it can lead to organ failure or heart attack.
Fortunately, drinking alkaline water won’t cause either of these states. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, blood acidosis or alkalosis occurs mainly due to situations like chronic diseases, severe dehydration, drug abuse, and poisoning.
Your urine pH
Research from the Nutritional Journal found that eating an alkaline diet does actually raise our urine pH. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re “alkalizing” your body.
Larkey explains that alkaline diet advocates sometimes cite this urine pH effect as proof the diet is working, thus justifying its health claims.
“It’s really just proof that your kidneys are already working well,” she says.
Your stomach pH
Our stomach needs a really acidic pH—about 1.5 to 3.5—in order to kill germs and kick-start digestion, Larkey says. And it’s not something food and drink can easily disrupt.
“Once alkaline water hits your stomach, the gastric juices will neutralize it,” Dr. Tavel says. “Another example of [the body’s] natural pH balancing.”
So, are there any alkaline water benefits?
There isn’t adequate scientific research to back up most alkaline water health claims—but it may offer a few potential benefits:
It might help with exercise recovery
“There is some slight evidence that [people] drinking alkalized mineral water may have improved hydration status after intense exercise,” Dr. Hunnes says.
A study published in Biology of Sport suggests alkaline water can also improve athletic performance and post-exercise recovery.
Still, the study is small, with only 36 participants. Plus, it focuses on young athletes consuming more than four liters of alkaline water per day.
It might help ease GERD symptoms
Alkaline water may also have a potential role in treating laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), the throat symptoms accompanying gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Dr. Husain says the digestive enzyme pepsin is responsible for LPR symptoms like a sore throat, cough, and difficulty swallowing.
“Pepsin can remain in the throat tissue and get reactivated when exposed to acid,” she explains.
Research published in Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology suggests alkaline water can “deactivate” this pepsin so it can’t do any more damage, possibly helping to treat LPR symptoms.
It’ll hydrate you
By and large, the main benefit of drinking alkaline water is hydration.
“If you like it, good; drink more water,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Wesley McWhorter, DrPH, an assistant professor of health promotion at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and director of culinary nutrition with the nourish program at the UTHealth School of Public Health.
“I wouldn’t discourage people from drinking alkaline water because most people aren’t drinking enough water in general—and that’s the missing link,” he says. “But it’s not a magic pill.”
Are there any alkaline water side effects or risks?
Alkaline water is generally considered safe, explains Dr. Husain. She says too much alkaline water could theoretically lower your stomach’s natural acidity, limiting its ability to kill off bacteria.
It could also potentially alter gastrointestinal pH—which could increase someone’s risk for alkalosis, Dr. Hunnes says.
“Though you would really have to drink a lot,” she says.
As for the main risk of alkaline water? There may be no evidence behind weight-loss claims, but it can certainly slim your wallet.
“The cost of alkaline water is far more expensive and may not be any healthier than regular tap water,” Dr. Hunnes says, adding that tap water has stricter regulations.
Rachel says people should also be mindful of restrictive dietary patterns like the alkaline diet. On the one hand, you may miss out on important nutrients if you only eat alkaline foods.
“But a lot of people wind up developing eating disorders or disordered eating,” she explains.
“Even though there are features of these diets that can be helpful—like eating more vegetables—focus on what you can add [to your diet] rather than what you have to replace or take away.”
What is tennis elbow?
Maybe you’ve been nursing nagging pain to the outside of your elbow for a while. Your grip strength feels weak, and you experience some pain when you extend your wrist backward. Your symptoms all seem to point to tennis elbow, but the last time you played tennis was way back in high school. So what gives?
“When it comes to conditions that can affect the elbow, there are many, and you can’t judge them all by their popular names,” says Brian Lee, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.
“Tennis elbow can happen to just about anyone, whether or not they play tennis.”
Tennis elbow in a nutshell
While tennis elbow is the colloquial name, the official name for this common degenerative, inflammatory condition is lateral epicondylitis. To be technical about the condition, you need to know that it affects the origin point of the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle. If you’ve never heard of such a muscle, don’t beat yourself up. This muscle is one of the small muscles of your forearm that assists with extending your wrist.
If your arms are extended in front of you, with your palms facing down, this muscle helps you point your fingers forward, and it helps you pull your wrists back into hyperextension to point your fingers toward the ceiling.
This muscle (the extensor carpi radialis brevis) originates outside of your upper arm right above the elbow joint, and extends down along your forearm, inserting at the base of your middle finger. The reason tennis elbow is associated with pain to the outside of your elbow is because it’s due to inflammation at the origin point of this muscle.
“It’s thought to happen as a result of overuse of the extensor muscles,” says Dr. Lee. “Since just about everyone uses these muscles a considerable amount throughout the day, it’s probably no surprise that many of the people who develop tennis elbow don’t play tennis!”
(Use these stretches to relieve soreness after your workout.)
Symptoms of tennis elbow
Dr. Lee explains the general symptoms of tennis elbow include tenderness at the outside of the elbow, pain when extending the wrist and fingers, and often decreased grip strength.
That said, he warns you should be cautious about self-diagnosis.
“While pain at the lateral epicondyle, on the outside of the elbow, is most commonly lateral epicondylitis, other situations can cause pain in that area,” he says.
“Careful examination by a skilled physician is required to ensure a patient isn’t actually having symptoms from arthritis of the elbow, radial tunnel syndrome (compression of a nerve at the elbow), biceps tendonitis, or a rupture of the extensor wad itself.”
(Keep arthritis at bay with these tips.)
Most common treatment methods for tennis elbow
Often, when people are experiencing muscle, tendon, or ligament pain, especially at a major joint, they worry they may need surgery to correct the problem. Dr. Lee points out that for most people suffering from tennis elbow, surgery is unnecessary.
(Dealing with wrist and hand pain? Try these carpal tunnel syndrome treatments.)
“I recommend physical therapy for a multifaceted treatment regimen that includes both icing and heating, anti-inflammatory measures, stretching, and eventual muscle stimulation and strengthening, including both eccentric and concentric strengthening exercises,” he says.
“I consider this protocol to be the mainstay of treatment, and it works by not only first helping the inflammation to subside, but eventually retraining and strengthening the muscles of the extensor wad so that it can subsequently function normally again.”
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that if you’re dealing with tennis elbow, you’re not going to start feeling better overnight.
“It’s essential to know that tennis elbow takes time to resolve, not uncommonly up to 12 months for full relief,” Dr. Lee says.
“Rehabilitation from this condition is more of a marathon than a sprint to get better. With that in mind, I encourage patients to take a less invasive to progressively more invasive approach.”
If tennis elbow doesn’t improve with physical therapy, looking into bracing, anti-inflammatory medication, injections, or a minimally invasive procedure may be in order, Dr. Lee says.
If you suspect tennis elbow, your first plan of action is to reduce inflammation and get a specific diagnosis. Go ahead and schedule a doctor’s appointment, and in the meantime, apply ice to help ease the pain, rest your arm and try to avoid doing movements that irritate it.
You can also take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, like acetaminophen or naproxen, or you can apply a topical anti-inflammatory like Icy Hot or Bengay. Then, once you’ve gotten your specific diagnosis, work with your physical therapist to start a stretching and strengthening routine designed to alleviate symptoms and prevent future recurrence. If, after several months of faithful program adherence, you haven’t experienced improvement, talk about other options.
(Try these four stretches to help relieve tennis elbow pain.)
Options for bracing
Googling “tennis elbow treatments” will often land you on an Amazon page selling braces designed for this purpose. You may wonder if it’s worth giving one a try. While you should ask your doctor or physical therapist if it’s advised, it might actually be worth buying one and testing it out.
People use the wrist extensor muscles, including the ECRB, frequently in performing activities of daily living, according to Dr. Lee.
“So when someone experiencing tennis elbow attempts to perform movements such as driving, carrying groceries, working out, and typing, it can be excruciating and further stimulate the inflammatory response that should be avoided,” Dr. Lee says.
“While the injury heals, an adequately applied counterforce (elbow) brace allows the ECRB muscles to relax during activity. Patients will often feel immediate relief when performing wrist extension motions due to the support from the brace.”
Lee says most of the braces on the market are adequate, but he does have a few tips for finding a good one.
“I always advise my patients to look for a brace that’s circular, long enough to fit around the forearm, and allows for tightening—braces with Velcro allow you to customize the support to your elbow. Additionally, the brace should have a pad on its inner surface that fits over the muscle belly of the ECRB,” he says.
Using the brace 24/7 isn’t advised. Rather, use it throughout the day during activities when you tend to feel associated pain the most, then ditch it overnight or when you’re not using your forearms, like when you’re just hanging out and watching TV.
(Learn whether you should try a back brace, too.)
What to keep in mind about surgical intervention
Lee admits that, yes, surgical intervention can be quite effective at relieving tennis elbow pain, but it should generally be the last resort. If, after other attempts to alleviate the pain, your doctor suggests surgery.
Whether they suggest an arthroscopic surgery or an incision depends on the level of damage expected. Remember, this is a degenerative condition, so there may be quite a bit of damage to the tendon attaching the muscle to the bone.
“The procedure involves cleaning out or ‘debriding’ the degenerative tissue, and potentially placing an anchor into the bone with a suture passed around the residual tendon to aid in repairing the tissue,” Dr. Lee explains.
If it sounds somewhat complicated and invasive, that’s because it is. And that’s exactly why you should try other forms of treatment before diving headfirst into surgery—even if a surgery goes well, you’re still going to need to follow a physical therapy plan to maximize your recovery and results.
(Tips to recover from surgery faster.)
Don’t just live with the pain—it’ll likely get worse, not better
While most people with mild tennis elbow will experience at least some relief fairly quickly with the introduction of an appropriate program, there are times when more help is needed.
This is particularly true when someone has decided to “live with” the pain when it was unnecessary to do so, assuming it would eventually just go away.
“It’s crucial to have any unresolved pain in the elbow (or anywhere in the body) evaluated promptly by a qualified medical professional. Continuing to ‘play through’ pain or use injured muscles or tendons can make the problem worse. And more severe injuries of this nature take even longer to heal and may require more invasive intervention to repair,” Dr. Lee says.
“Pain, no matter how ‘mild,’ is a sign that something is amiss and needs to be addressed. If you’re experiencing elbow pain, no matter the level of severity, be sure to see a trained professional to have it evaluated.”
(Things your physical therapist probably knows about you.)
“It’s the holidays. Let loose a little bit!”
“One drink won’t wreck your diet!”
“You need to eat more; you’re too skinny!”
“Just try a bite. I worked all day cooking this. I promise you’ll love it!”
If you’ve shared a meal with other people, chances are you’ve heard someone try to push someone else to eat or drink. And the holidays are primetime for “food pushing.”
The holiday season is often a parade of rich meals, indulgent treats, and overflowing drinks—tempting you not only to indulge in less-than-healthy food, but also to eat too much of it.
Overindulging by your own choice is one thing. Still, sometimes people overeat or eat foods they don’t want because they feel pressured to do so by others, says Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic specializing in eating issues and the author of seven books on mindful eating.
These “food pushers” can make you feel stressed out, anxious, attacked, angry, and/or regretful. In some cases, it may even make you avoid attending certain functions.
(In the meantime, use these 29 simple techniques to reduce holiday stress and anxiety.)
Why people push food on others
There are a lot of social rituals, memories, and emotions that go with food and the holidays, so it’s not surprising that people may feel more invested in getting you to eat during special occasions.
“Food is a great connector. It can be an expression of love and a way to strengthen bonds,” says Dr. Albers.
Not all food pushing is done in good faith, however, and there are seven main reasons people tell others how to eat, says psychologist Jeff Gardere, an associate professor and course director of behavioral medicine at Touro College in New York City.
Feeding others is a very primal way of showing care. It may be hard to feel in the moment, but the person trying to push you to eat something most likely has good intentions.
Some loved ones may worry when they see you not eating. They may be concerned that you are being too restrictive or picky, and it’s harming your mental or physical health. (These worries are not always correct, but if this happens a lot, or comes from someone you really respect, you may want to consider whether their concerns about your health are justified.)
Some people see dieting or weight loss as a competition. Rarely, people may try to sabotage your attempts to get healthier by getting you to overeat or break your goals. It is an attempt to keep you from being successful when they feel like they aren’t.
Food is food, but many people have come to associate certain foods as being “good” or “bad.” So if you’re being “good” by passing up an unhealthy treat, then they may feel like they are “bad” and want to convince you to join them to make themselves feel better.
In many cultures, certain foods are a big part of holiday traditions. When you decline to eat a certain food, your loved ones may see that as declining to participate in the family traditions.
Someone who has put considerable effort into cooking something may push you to eat it as a way of validating their hard work and their cooking skills.
Someone pushing you to eat something may simply not understand your feelings about certain foods. For instance, you may know that one drink will send you on a binge, but because that isn’t an issue for them, they don’t see why it’s a problem for you.
(Be a good example by giving these healthy holiday food gifts that aren’t fruitcake.)
What to say to people who push food on you during the holidays
Kindness, courtesy, and empathy go a long way in resolving issues during the holidays. Here are some tips from our experts to help you handle every type of food-pushing situation you may encounter this year.
Know what your boundaries are in advance
Decide what you want to have and what you want to avoid before going to any holiday gathering. This way you won’t have to decide in the moment. Stick to your boundaries.
Example: “I’m sticking to seltzer water tonight, thanks!”
(Here’s how to set boundaries.)
Acknowledge the love behind the request
Many food pushers are simply trying to express their love through food. Acknowledging this will help them feel loved back, whether or not you eat the food.
Example: “You remembered how much I love your baked brie, and that means so much to me! I’m going to pass for now, but you are so thoughtful, and I love spending Thanksgiving with you.”
Try a little humor
Laughter is the best social lubricant, so try and keep your reply light-hearted.
Example: “Darn, unless you’re offering to be my new personal trainer and deal with my back sweat for the next month, I think I’d better pass on seconds.”
Compliment the chef
If someone has worked hard to make you special food, it’s polite to try a bite or two, but if you really don’t want to or if it will harm your health, it’s fine to offer your compliments and leave it at that.
Example: “This cake looks like a work of art, and I’m sure it tastes just as amazing! You are such a talented baker, and I look forward to trying your food another time.”
Always be polite
Even if you think someone’s intentions are not good—like a jealous sibling trying to make you look bad—answer as if their intentions are good. You’ll look like the better person, and they won’t know they got under your skin.
Example: “Thank you so much for thinking about my health, that really means a lot to me! So I’m sure you’ll understand why I have to pass this time.”
Be OK with a little awkwardness
Saying no is uncomfortable for most people, and one way to deal with that discomfort is to just acknowledge it.
Example: “That food really looks delicious, and I don’t want to offend you, but I’ll pass this time. I hope you understand.”
Sometimes loved ones push food because they don’t understand why you’re saying no. You don’t owe them an explanation, but sometimes letting them know why it’s important to you can help smooth things over.
Example: “I’ve been working really hard with my nutritionist to get my diabetes under control, and sugary foods are a big trigger, so I would appreciate it if you don’t bring me any dessert.”
… or tell a white lie
Lying isn’t a great strategy, especially when speaking with loved ones, but sometimes a white lie can give you an out while sparing the other person’s feelings.
Example: “I’m so sorry, I ate before I came and I’m so full! Next time I’d love to try your fruitcake.”
(This is how to stop being a people pleaser.)
Offer an alternative way to celebrate
Food isn’t the only way to celebrate together, so if someone wants to use eating or drinking as a way to connect, you can try suggesting a different activity.
Example: “Instead of going out for brunch, what if we walk around the Christmas market?”
Ask for their help
People generally love to help, especially during the holidays. Let them know how they can help support you.
Example: “I’m so close to my weight-loss goals! It would mean a lot to me if you could support me and not bring the office treats into my cubicle.”
Redirect the attention
One way to deal with people who push food maliciously or repeatedly is to direct the attention away from you and toward their behavior.
Example: “Wow, you are really focused on what other people are eating! Why is that?”
Change the subject
If someone simply won’t take “no” for an answer, it may just be time to change the conversation and move on.
Example: “Nah, I don’t need ice cream right now, but tell me about your new job—do you like it?”
Share health information wisely
Telling everyone that lactose gives you terrible diarrhea, and so you won’t be eating the cheese dip, isn’t good dinner etiquette. Still, it’s OK to let people know if a certain food affects your health.
Example: “These rolls are beautiful, and they smell amazing! But I’m on an anti-inflammatory diet to help my arthritis and if I eat them, my joints will hurt. Thank you for understanding!”
Say what you will do
When it’s less about the food and more about the activity surrounding the food, letting people know you’ll still be participating can help them back off the food pushing.
Example: “I’ll skip the popcorn and hot chocolate, but I’m excited to snuggle up with the family and watch Elf together!”
Be firm and repetitive
At the end of the day, you are the only person who gets to decide what you eat. You are under no obligation to give people a reason for choosing food, nor are you responsible for managing their feelings. “No” is a complete sentence.
Example: “No thanks.” Repeat as many times as necessary.
Regardless of your reasons for turning down food, it’s important that you be true to yourself, genuine, and polite, says Dr. Gardere. “This will engender mutual respect and will keep it from turning into an awkward situation because your response comes from the heart just as does their offer,” he says.
Next, read up on holiday issues only people with anxiety will understand.
Covid-19 vaccines and kids
On October 29, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally authorized the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Within one week, nearly 1 million U.S. children in that age group had received their first shot—including Maisy, 5, and Sam, 11, of Denver, Colorado.
“I’d been waiting for the announcement and preparing our kids that it was coming, so as soon as I heard the news, I called our pediatrician’s office,” says their mom, Jill Fairchild, 48.
“They had already set up a vaccine clinic for the next day.”
The Fairchilds have two older children who are fully vaccinated, and they were relieved and excited to be able to get the rest of the family protected. The pandemic has been worrisome, but Fairchild’s worry skyrocketed as the number of cases in Colorado soared to near-record highs recently, and she got frequent email alerts of Covid-19 cases at her children’s elementary school.
Then, in early October, dad Mike, 50, caught the virus despite being vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson shot. He didn’t require hospitalization, but how sick he got and how long it lasted was shocking and scary for the whole family.
“Honestly, I couldn’t wait to get the younger ones vaccinated,” says Jill.
“The kids weren’t excited about getting a shot, but we explained to them that it will protect them and protect other people, like their immunocompromised twin cousins. Plus, they would get to do way more stuff!“
The “covid clinic” is set up like a party at the pediatrician’s office, with balloons and stickers and music, so the kids feel more at ease.
“As soon as they got the shot, all the nurses and doctors clapped and cheered for them. They loved it, they felt really proud and like they were helping,” says Jill.
Health experts are hoping many more parents will make the same decision as the Fairchilds.
Why young children need a Covid-19 vaccine now
At the beginning of the pandemic, the virus seemed far more dangerous for older people, and children didn’t appear to get symptomatic cases or severe complications. Experts now say that narrative is false.
“The idea that children are low-risk for Covid-19 is just not true anymore,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Even with all of the efforts we’ve made with efforts like masking, remote learning, and decreasing activities outside of school, we’ve seen over 8,000 hospitalizations of 5- to 11-year-olds because of the virus,” says Dr. Parikh, also a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the medical director at GoodRx.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there have been more than 1.9 million Covid-19 cases in children ages 5 to 11, and that number is likely much higher as many cases of Covid-19 in children don’t get reported.
This increase in numbers is likely due to the “delta variant,” a mutation of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus that makes it more transmissible and more likely to cause illness in children.
“The delta variant has been more contagious for children and greatly increased the risk of hospitalization or serious illness such as Multi Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) or heart problems,” says Dr. Parikh.
In addition, children are a major part of public health and overcoming this pandemic, says Federico Ricardo Laham, MD, a researcher who’s worked on several pediatric vaccines and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.
In the CDC study, 40 percent of children, ages 5 to 11, were found to have antibodies to Covid-19, meaning that they had been infected—a far higher number than anyone had anticipated, says Dr. Laham. This is an issue because children can spread it to others even if they don’t show symptoms themselves.
“The vaccines, including this pediatric vaccine, aren’t just helpful, they are essential in fighting this disease,” he says. “They are the way out of this pandemic.”
How Covid-19 affects children under 12
This is a tricky illness, and doctors and researchers are still figuring out all the ways that Covid-19 affects people, both in the acute phase of the illness and later.
One thing is clear, however: Young children can and do get sick from Covid-19, and some of them are getting very sick and even dying, says Dr. Laham.
In fact, in the past several months, Covid-19 was the sixth leading cause of death in this age group, according to the CDC.
When first infected, kids experience the same types of symptoms as adults, including fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, and body aches. But kids are at a much higher risk for a severe complication called MIS-C, a multisystem inflammatory condition that can be fatal.
According to a 2021 study published in JAMA, nearly 9,000 children have been hospitalized for Covid-19, and 5,200 developed MIS-C — with the average age being just 9 years old.
Children and teenagers are also at a higher risk for the heart complication myocarditis brought on by the illness.
Then there’s the question of what happens next. “We don’t know the long-term effects of Covid-19 in children, and ‘long-haulers’ syndrome is a serious concern for this age group, too,” says Dr. Parikh.
Even if children don’t get physically sick, they may still suffer emotionally and mentally. School closures, disruption of normal life, watching loved ones get sick or die, and media are causing rates of depression and anxiety never before seen in young children, says Dr. Laham.
“There has been a tremendous mental health toll on children during the pandemic, and the quicker we get them vaccinated, the faster they can get back to a more normal life,” says Dr. Parikh.
What is the pediatric Covid-19 vaccine?
As of now, the only FDA-authorized vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 is the Pfizer vaccine. It’s an mRNA vaccine given in a series of two shots, spaced 21 days apart. Each dose contains 10 micrograms. There is no booster shot for children authorized yet.
There are many myths and falsehoods online about vaccines, but a common one that pediatricians are hearing from concerned parents centers around the mRNA technology.
“There are lots of rumors spread on social media that mRNA vaccines can change a child’s DNA. This is absolutely false,” says Dr. Parikh. “mRNA vaccines simply cannot change DNA; mRNA never gets into the nucleus where the DNA, which is your genetic material, is stored.”
These vaccines work by providing the immune system instructions on recognizing spike proteins found on Covid-19 so the body can fight it immediately. Once the immune cells have used the instructions, they break down the mRNA and release it from the body.
“This process has been researched for decades, and we have lots of evidence that mRNA vaccines are safe and effective,” says Dr. Laham.
(These are the 10 Covid-19 vaccine myths no one should fall for.)
How does the pediatric Covid-19 vaccine differ from the adult vaccine?
The pediatric vaccine is the same formulation as the adult vaccine but differs in four ways, says Dr. Laham:
- Dose. The pediatric dose is one-third the adult dose.
- Shelf stability. The original Pfizer vaccine required cold temperatures, making it difficult to store and distribute. The pediatric vaccine has been modified to make it more stable at a wider range of temperatures.
- Color: Pediatric vaccines have a different color label to prevent confusion.
- Administration: Most adults receive the shot in their upper arm while children get the shot in their upper thigh.
Which children should get the shot?
“All eligible children should get the vaccine, and the sooner you can get your child vaccinated, the better,” says Dr. Parikh.
This is true even if your child has had Covid-19 in the past, says Dr. Laham.
The vaccine is not known to interact with medications and is not prohibited by most health conditions. Most children will be eligible, but always talk to your doctor about individual health concerns, he says.
How effective is the pediatric vaccine?
In a word: very. The pediatric vaccine was studied extensively and found to be 90.7 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 in children 5 through 11, according to the FDA data.
If a child does get a breakthrough case after vaccination, they will have milder symptoms and will be far less likely to need hospitalization, says Dr. Parikh.
What are the side effects?
The studies reported no serious side effects. The most common side effect was pain at the injection site, along with redness and swelling. A small percentage of kids reported muscle aches, fever, and fatigue. A smaller percentage of children reported any side effects than adults did.
There were some initial concerns about the vaccine causing myocarditis—an inflammatory heart condition—but the research found that children and adolescents are at higher risk of this complication from getting Covid-19 than from a side effect of the vaccine, says Dr. Laham. Zero cases of myocarditis were found in children under 12.
(Here’s how to deal with normal Covid-19 vaccine side effects.)
What can you do if you have concerns?
Parents who didn’t hesitate to get the vaccine themselves may have qualms about getting it for their young children.
An October 2021 KFF poll found that one third of parents say they will “wait and see” how the vaccine is working before having their 5- to 11-year-old vaccinated. Meanwhile, 30 percent say they definitely won’t vaccinate their 5- to 11-year-old, and 5 percent say they will only do so if their school requires it.
As a father of two young children, Dr. Laham says he understands the concerns.
It’s normal to be more worried about our children, especially when it comes to things that feel new or unknown, but many of those worries are based on myth and misinformation propagated online about the vaccine, he says. Both of his children have received the Covid-19 vaccine, a decision he feels very good about.
If you have worries, speak with your pediatrician and get information from reliable sources, like the CDC or the American Academy of Pediatrics. Avoid doing “research” on social media or relying on anecdotal stories from a “friend of a friend.”
“It’s a myth that there aren’t any studies or we don’t know enough yet to give this to kids or that it was developed too fast,” he says, adding that this is one of the most rigorously studied vaccines in history.
What can you do if your children are worried?
The conversation around vaccination has become highly politicized and even young kids may have heard some scary things. Children this age are also likely to be very nervous about getting any type of shot. The important thing is to talk to your children about the vaccine, listen to any worries they might have, and answer all their questions.
“Make it age-appropriate and tailor it to your child,” says Dr. Laham. For instance, younger children don’t need to know the technical details, but a 10-year-old who loves science may really enjoy hearing all about the vaccine development.
Keep young children off social media, where many vaccine myths abound.
In addition, focus on the positive aspects of how the vaccine will help them and others, and how it will give them more freedom in their daily life.
Lastly, lead by example. Your children are more likely to want the vaccine if you do, too.
Getting your younger children vaccinated is one of the best things you can do to protect them, your loved ones, and help bring this pandemic to an end.
Next, check out how to talk to your kids about Covid-19 and the pandemic.
Maybe you’ve heard about the potential benefits of practicing gratitude or keeping a gratitude journal. You may have even been advised to keep a gratitude journal by a doctor, family, or friends.
But are there any real benefits from keeping a gratitude journal? And how exactly does gratitude journaling work?
Experts say there’s no wrong way to do gratitude exercises like keeping a gratitude journal, unless of course you’re focusing on negative things or things that can encourage shameful feelings.
Here’s what the experts want you to know about why and how to keep a gratitude journal.
What is a gratitude journal?
According to experts, a gratitude journal is typically a journal or notepad where you jot down things for which you are grateful.
This doesn’t need to be a notepad or journal, though; it can also include listing things for which you are grateful aloud or in your mind. Some smartphone apps even allow you to text or digitally enter things you are grateful for.
“You can keep a gratitude journal on your phone, you could do it in a notebook, you could even just kind of take time to really think about those things,” says Laurie Santos, PhD, a professor of psychology and head of Silliman College at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
“All of these types of forms of engaging with a gratitude journal can really improve your well-being.”
(Check out the Silk + Sonder journal and see if it suits your style.)
What does research show about the effects of gratitude journaling?
Experts say the evidence is overwhelming: Keeping a gratitude journal is good for your health and overall well-being.
“There’s lots and lots of studies basically suggesting that gratitude improves well-being,” Dr. Santos says.
“There’s evidence, for example, that people who are more grateful experience more benefits in terms of their self-regulation, they’re more likely to eat healthier, they’re more likely to save more for retirement,” she explains. “And there’s even evidence that people sleep better when they’re feeling more grateful.”
Jane Wilson, PhD and professor emerita at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, says there are even more benefits of keeping a gratitude journal.
“People who keep a gratitude journal experience more positive emotions such as love, joy, contentment, improved social connections, increased sense of inner peace, improved exercise, and deepened sense of focus in learning,” Dr. Wilson explains.
“Keeping a gratitude journal is the number one way researchers have explored the impact of practicing gratitude.”
“Keeping a gratitude journal strengthens one’s gratitude muscle,” she adds. “By strengthening one’s gratitude muscle, people will find they more quickly notice good things in life, and they’re better able to manage future stressful situations.”
According to the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California-Berkeley, expressing gratitude or exercises that encourage it can also:
- help you through tough times
- provide perspective after a loss
- live more sustainably
- motivate you to become a better person
- make you more generous and altruistic
What is gratitude?
Gratitude can have many definitions depending on whom you talk to. But according to Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD, science director of the Greater Good Science Center, gratitude is often defined into two basic ways.
“Science defines gratitude in a couple of ways,” she says.
“One way is reverence for that which is given. Recognizing that all kinds of stuff around us every day has nothing to do with our effort, talents, our skills. It’s just there. Yes, it may be related to our capacity to apply ourselves in many ways, but gratitude is more about appreciating and being thankful for that which we haven’t had to work for that which we’ve just received.”
She says another way we define gratitude is as a specific emotional experience.
“So how you feel that kind of warmth in your chest, that affectionate sentiment, when you are in a moment where someone has done something that’s really wonderful for you, you feel grateful right then and there is that sense of trust and connection, and social support,” she explains.
“That is another way that we define gratitude, recognizing that someone else has done something that has benefited us, and they put effort into it.”
Who can benefit from keeping a gratitude journal?
Anyone in any situation can benefit from keeping a gratitude journal or being more grateful. But keeping a gratitude journal may be especially beneficial for people with mental health conditions that skew their perception events in a negative way, including depression, anxiety, burnout, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), experts say.
“Research suggests that people who practice gratitude will [also] see a decrease in negative emotions such as anger, resentment, frustration, and anxiety,” Dr. Wilson says.
How do I make an entry in a gratitude journal?
Dr. Simon-Thomas says the most simple way to make a gratitude diary entry, very generally, is to list sources of goodness that you enjoy in your life that you haven’t had to work toward or earn—things that have come to you that you get to enjoy.
“It can be as simple as running water that is drinkable from a faucet, or can be really complex and detailed, like the role that a mentor in your life has played in advancing your professional career or by introducing you to a topic or a community that has been instrumental,” she explains.
She says examples of this include gratitude for things many people take for granted, such as democracy, freedom, access to education, and health care. “Those are really important kinds of gratitude,” she says, “and they do shift us toward a more optimistic view in the world.”
Dr. Wilson says she suggests beginning by pausing to reflect upon your day or week, taking a moment to savor a few blessings in your life, and then jotting the things you noticed or think of.
How often should you write in a gratitude journal?
Experts say there’s no hard and fast rule about how frequently to make entries in a gratitude journal to reap the benefits.
“Should you try to write your gratitude journal three times a day, or every day? Or every three days? What’s the best?” Dr. Simon-Thomas says. There are some general patterns that seem to pop up like the suggestion to write three times a day, she adds, but that won’t work for everyone.
“What the cutting edge or frontier of gratitude science now is is trying to understand the relationship between an individual and the pace and frequency that is potentially most beneficial for them,” she says.
If you’re more anxious person, maybe for you the best schedule for gratitude journaling is twice a day for two weeks. For some people who lean toward a more open-minded and flexible emotional demeanor, she says journaling once every other day for four weeks may be the most impactful.
Some research suggests the ideal frequency to write in a gratitude journal seems to be around one to three entries per week for at least two weeks, according to the GGSC. Experts say this is likely because it can become easier to become numb to sources of goodness around us if we track it every day.
How much should you write in a gratitude journal?
According to the experts, any amount of expression or embracing of gratitude, including writing it down in a journal, can be beneficial. But most also agree that the more specific and in-depth an entry is, the more impact it tends to have.
Dr. Simon-Thomas says some people find it helpful to go into a lot of detail as to why they are grateful for something or how it made them feel. Some experts also advocate for the benefit of making extended entries that can be shared with others.
“The most impactful gratitude practice is writing a gratitude letter to someone , around 300 to 500 words, and then reading it aloud to that person,” Dr. Wilson says.
While it’s still unclear precisely how many entries someone should make when writing in a gratitude journal for maximum benefit, Dr. Simon-Thomas says there’s a kind of common suggestion of jotting down three good things as a starting point because some of the early research framed it that way.
But she says that recent, unpublished research has found that listing eight things you are grateful for may be the most effective number of entries for gratitude journaling.
When should you write in a gratitude journal?
Experts say there is no specific time of day when someone should enter a gratitude journal. Dr. Wilson says to determine when to make a gratitude entry, consider the best time of day that works for you.
Dr. Simon-Thomas says anecdotally, she would make an argument for either first thing in the morning or as you are falling asleep.
She says listing things for which you’re grateful right when you wake up is a way to kind of orient and prime yourself to have that outlook during the day. She says doing this practice as you’re closing your eyes on the verge of falling asleep is a way to just relax and create that frame of mind that is most conducive to falling asleep in a peaceful way.
Overall, experts say there is no wrong time of day to make an entry in a gratitude journal or list what you are grateful for.
How long do you need to keep a gratitude journal to reap the benefits?
The jury is still out on exactly how long you need to keep a gratitude journal to reap the benefits.
“There’s evidence, for example, that simply scribbling down a few things that you’re grateful for every day can significantly improve your well-being in as little as two weeks,” Dr. Santos says.
According to some experts, about 15 days is the period at which people start experiencing long-term benefits from gratitude journaling. But Dr. Simon-Thomas says there are a lot of different statements out there about the relative period of time required. She says there’s nothing wrong with the 15-day argument, but she doesn’t think it’s definitive or generalizable.
“So it may be on average, if you invited a group of people to all start keeping a gratitude journal and measured their emotional well-being in a repeated fashion over the course of time, maybe you would find that on average, 15 days or two weeks is about what it takes to really start to shift somebody’s habit of thinking,” she says.
She adds, however, that some studies suggest just experiencing 30 to 60 seconds of gratitude, writing or reflection, can change how someone acts in the next moment, and in the next couple hours.
Is there a wrong way to do it, or are there common mistakes people make?
There aren’t many mistakes you can make when trying to keep a gratitude journal, experts say, unless you’re jotting down negative or hateful emotions or thoughts. According to the experts, entries that make you feel shame, or lead you to shame or judge others, are also not helpful when keeping a gratitude journal.
Is there any benefit to physically writing down gratitude journal entries with paper and pencil?
Putting thoughts down on paper or saying them out loud is more beneficial than simply thinking about them because it makes us more aware of our thoughts, which can make them more impactful. The GGSC also says writing helps one organize thoughts, and can help us accept those thoughts, feelings, or experiences and put them in context.
“There’s definitely evidence that writing any kind of writing is of benefit to your mental health; in fact there’s a vast literature on the benefits,” Dr. Simon-Thomas says.
“The act of writing something down, the motor effort that you put in having to move your hands to make words that reflect the ideas and the feelings that you’re having is more effortful, and the more effort that you’re putting in, the more that activity becomes something practiced, and something that is skill building, as opposed to just a reactive or, or momentary experience,” she explains.
What is gratitude fatigue?
In general, experts say expressing and embracing gratitude, and keeping a gratitude journal, are good for the well-being of most people. But like most things, some people can experience gratitude fatigue, which may cause them to feel worse about their situation or life.
“Some people experience gratitude fatigue if they find themselves writing down the same thing each time they open their journal,” Dr. Wilson says. “To remedy this, look for new [or] surprising things you’re grateful for. Or … take a break from writing things down and resume the practice after a break.”
Writing prompts for gratitude journal entries
The experts say some people have no issue coming up with things they are grateful for, but this isn’t always an easy process for everyone. For some people, even trying to think of things they are grateful for, or not being able to come up with any, can be overwhelming and make you feel hopeless.
If you’re having trouble thinking of entries to make in a gratitude journal, experts advise using basic prompts that help you get started in the process. A prompt is typically a short sentence or thought that is designed to help stimulate your mind to think of things you are grateful for.
Experts say there is no perfect prompt for everyone or every situation. Some prompts may seem well-suited for a certain person or situation, but others may make someone feel worse. For example, prompts that discuss being grateful for family love and support may not be helpful for people who are not in contact with their family or don’t have family support. And not everyone has access to the same level of natural and human resources.
Examples of good prompts for gratitude journal entries include:
- I am grateful for a natural resource (water, food, clean air, sunlight).
- I am grateful for a component of the natural world (wildlife, mountains, bodies of water).
- I am grateful for modern comforts (running water, toilets, indoor heat, electricity, cars, airplanes, trains, grocery stores).
- I am grateful for institutions or services (hospitals and health care, education centers and education, emergency services like firefighters and natural disaster response services).
- I am grateful for a leisure activity (writing, reading, watching TV or movies).
- I am grateful my body is capable of … (walking, exercising, maintaining balance and posture, recovering from illness).
- I am grateful my brain is capable of … (thinking, being intelligent, being curious, having an imagination, learning new things, talking, coordinating body movement, remembering things and feelings).
- I am grateful for a stress-reducing activity (meditation, yoga, mindfulness, talking with friends and family).
- I am grateful I am alive now because … (modern amenities and comforts, scientific breakthroughs or advancements, ability to travel around the world, ability to connect with others easier).
- I am grateful for basic rights such as … (freedom, civil liberties, the right to receive education, expression of thought, the right to vote).
- I am grateful for something that someone did to help me or make me feel more secure.
- I am grateful for components of my work (respect of co-workers or bosses, benefits, positive impact of work on others or the environment, feelings of fulfillment or engagement).
- I am grateful to have certain people in my life.
- I am grateful for my pet because …
- I am grateful for a certain experience.
- I am grateful that something happened to me today.
Other tips for keeping a gratitude journal
Other tips for keeping a gratitude journal include:
- Go for depth of entries versus quantity. It’s generally better to go into as much detail as possible about why you are grateful for something than generating a long, less detailed list.
- Try to not simply go through the motions. Keeping a gratitude journal is more effective if you first commit, and stay committed to, being more grateful, happy, or optimistic. A gratitude journal entry should not be viewed as a to-do list or something you have to do against your will.
- Don’t try to make any entry if you really aren’t ready or in a good space. Pushing yourself to simply make entries can actually make you feel worse or overwhelmed and may lead to entries that are negative or shaming.
- Don’t overdo it. Many people think you have to write in a gratitude journal every day to see positive effects. But writing once or twice per week long-term may be more beneficial than daily journaling.
- Think about subtractions, not only additions. One way to stimulate feelings of gratitude is to think about how your life would be affected without certain things, such as modern comforts, friends and family, meaningful work, etc. This approach can be especially effective if someone is having a hard time coming up with something they’re grateful for.
- Savor surprises. Events that are surprising or unexpected often stimulate stronger feelings of gratitude.
- Get personal with your entries. Recording or thinking about people you are grateful for often is more impactful than thinking about things you’re grateful for.
- Think of things you’re grateful for as gifts. Thinking of things we are grateful for as gifts helps prevent many people from overlooking them or taking them for granted.
Next, check out these gratitude quotes.
Oatmeal as skincare
Oats are having a moment. The staple pantry item is popping up in all sorts of products, from plant-based milk and cheese to gluten-free baked goods—and of course, inspiring endless flavor combinations of overnight oats.
However, long before we started adding oat milk to our lattes, oatmeal served as a star skin-care ingredient. Medical literature from ancient Egypt and Rome describes how ground-up oats were used to effectively treat dry, itchy skin, according to an article published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.
Modern research backs up many of these early claims. But that doesn’t mean you should start slathering up with your instant breakfast. Studies show the grain’s health benefits for skin come from the grain’s colloidal form.
What is colloidal oatmeal?
Colloidal oatmeal is essentially oats ground into a fine powder that can dissolve in water, says Lucy Chen, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami.
This mixture creates a salve-like liquid that’s easy to apply and quickly absorbed by the skin, she explains.
It’s also an active ingredient regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2003, the FDA approved colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant that effectively relieves itching and irritation caused by a range of dermatological conditions.
What is an oatmeal bath?
Today, you can find colloidal oatmeal as an active ingredient in products like creams, lotions, soaps, and shampoos.
But an easy, inexpensive way to soak in the grain’s soothing skin benefits is by adding it to a bath, says Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.
“The baths are best because they [also] hydrate the skin while providing contact with the oatmeal,” says Tanya Kormeili, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Santa Monica, California.
She adds that some products containing colloidal oatmeal, such as masks, can include allergens or other irritating ingredients, which may worsen dry skin and exacerbate conditions like eczema.
Oatmeal bath benefits
The ancient Egyptians were on to something. Today’s research shows that bathing in colloidal oatmeal:
Strengthens your skin barrier
“The outermost layer of the skin is called the stratum corneum,” says Madeline Gainers, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Maryland. “It serves as a very important barrier.”
This layer keeps out unhealthy, dangerous toxins from the environment as well as fungi, bacteria, and other pathogens.
“It also holds water in, which is essential to prevent dehydration,” she explains.
Dr. Gainers says colloidal oatmeal has a variety of components that contribute to this skin barrier, such as polysaccharides and hydrocolloids.
These particles bind water to the skin—and when dissolved into a colloidal solution, they evenly distribute as a thin film. This creates a barrier that prevents water loss, keeping the skin hydrated.
Moisturizes dry skin
Oatmeal’s water-binding effect doesn’t just keep the skin barrier strong. It helps combat dry skin, too.
A study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology found that oatmeal significantly moisturized people’s dry skin—and the results lasted for two weeks following treatment.
Other research published in the same journal suggests the lipids in oats may stimulate the production of ceramides, a fatty, naturally occurring substance in the skin that works to lock in moisture.
Balances your skin’s pH
Healthy skin has a slightly acidic pH level.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, this acidity helps keep skin healthy by fighting infection and other damaging substances, like free radicals. An optimal pH also promotes better skin-barrier function and more moisturized skin.
But everything from soap to cosmetics, air pollution, and sun exposure can disrupt your skin’s pH balance, which can lead to a weaker skin barrier and skin irritation.
Yet, the Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology research suggests ingredients in oatmeal—particularly saponins—act as a buffer system, restoring the skin’s normal pH.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes skin to regenerate too quickly. This rapid turnover leads to a buildup of dead skin cells—often in patches that become inflamed, itchy, and painful.
It’s unclear what triggers psoriasis, and there’s currently no cure. But studies show that colloidal oatmeal is one treatment that helps people manage the chronic condition.
This is thanks to the oats’ avenanthramides, Dr. Gainers says, which are potent antioxidants with strong anti-inflammatory properties. According to research published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, these micronutrients may even block skin cells from releasing chemicals that lead to inflammation.
Can take the sting out of eczema
The Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology study concluded that colloidal oatmeal’s properties could help ease the symptoms of eczema as well.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), this common skin condition (also called atopic dermatitis) is likely caused by an immune system sensitivity—and it also usually runs in families. Eczema triggers someone’s immune system to overreact to everyday irritants like detergent, pollen, or pollution, resulting in “flare-ups” of dry, itchy skin.
In the study, a colloidal oatmeal treatment led to significantly less severe symptoms in people with chronic eczema on their hands.
Eases itchy skin and rashes
Oatmeal’s moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and itch-soothing properties tackle even more skin issues.
Along with soothing the symptoms of chronic conditions like eczema and psoriasis, Dr. Jaliman says oatmeal can help relieve allergic reactions on the skin.
A study from the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found evidence that the avenanthramides in oatmeal may also have an antihistamine effect. That means it can help relieve allergy-induced rashes or hives caused by medications, plants like poison ivy, and bug bites.
These benefits extend to non-allergic skin irritation as well—like the itching and inflammation caused by chickenpox, shingles, and sunburn.
May protect against UV damage
The antioxidants in oatmeal are strong ultraviolet (UV) light absorbers, according to the research in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.
While that doesn’t make oatmeal a replacement for protective sunscreen, this antioxidant activity may help strengthen the skin barrier against the sun’s damaging rays.
Cleans your skin
Oatmeal also acts as a mild skin cleanser. This is thanks to the grain’s saponins, plant-based compounds with soap-like properties that gently wash away dirt and oil—without drying out your skin.
Oatmeal’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties make it great for cleansing and calming acne-prone skin as well. This is especially true if you’re using harsh acne treatments that can irritate your skin barrier.
Helps you relax
While a colloidal oatmeal soak can soothe and strengthen your skin, research shows simply taking a bath can have health benefits, too.
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that bathing calms our nervous system, promoting stress relief. And bathing before bed can also help us fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, according to another study from Sleep Medicine Reviews.
How do you make an oatmeal bath?
Dr. Chen says you can use any oats to make an oatmeal bath—so long as they’re in a colloidal form. That means you’ll need to grind your oatmeal into a very fine powder so it can evenly disperse in the bath, giving it a milky look.
You can also buy pre-made colloidal oats to toss in the tub. Just make sure to look out for added ingredients that may irritate your skin.
Once you have your colloidal oatmeal:
- Make sure your bath is lukewarm—steaming hot water will irritate your skin.
- Add about one cup of the finely powdered oats to the water.
- Soak for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Soaking too long can actually do more harm than good, Dr. Chen explains.
“This could do the opposite of what [the oatmeal bath] is meant to do, drying out your skin and aggravating any skin condition.”
After bathing, you can pat your skin with a clean towel—but Dr. Kormeili says to apply a thick, alcohol-free moisturizer while your skin is still a bit damp. This works to seal in the moisture from the bath.
Are oatmeal baths safe for everyone?
The Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology study found that colloidal oatmeal is a skin-safe treatment with low potential for causing irritation or an allergic reaction.
That said, some people have an allergy to avenin, a protein found in oats.
To ensure an oatmeal bath is safe for you or your child, try a patch test before hopping in the tub:
- Dissolve a bit of colloidal oatmeal in water.
- Apply to a small area of your skin.
- Rinse the oatmeal off after 10 to 15 minutes.
- Look for signs of irritation, like itching, redness, or inflammation.
Oatmeal bath alternatives
“Another option to use is green tea,” Dr. Jaliman adds. When the tea is cooled and used as a compress, it also acts as an anti-inflammatory.
No matter what you add to your tub, your post-bathing routine is just as important, Dr. Kormeili explains.
“I find that patients who use natural oils—like coconut, avocado, or olive oil—immediately after water contact do well with their dry and eczema-prone skin,” she says. “Sealing in moisture is very key for dry skin.”
How to walk properly
Walking is one of the most accessible and all-around good-for-you exercise programs you can implement. Not only is it easy to throw on a pair of walking shoes and head out the door, but this straightforward form of low-impact cardiovascular exercise works your heart, lungs, legs, and even your core.
Although walking may not seem like something you can mess up—you’ve been doing it practically your whole life, after all—details really matter when it comes to using walking for exercise. To get the most impact from your routine, you need to make sure your form is up to snuff.
Here’s what you need to know about how to walk properly, plus walking mistakes you might be making.
Health benefits of walking
“All of the brilliant benefits of exercise—improve heart and lung health, stronger bones, lowered stress thanks in large part to endorphins, and better sleep quality—can be achieved with something as simple as regular walking,” says Laura Flynn Endres, certified personal trainer and founder of Get Fit Done Games.
“But there are unexpected benefits as well. Walking improves digestion, so walking for 10 to 15 minutes after lunch will make you feel satisfied and fresh, instead of ‘full and sluggish.’ And, if you do it outside, you get the added benefit of fresh air, sunshine, and the emotional release that comes from getting away and outside for a while.”
Of course, walking is also great for fat loss and maintaining a healthy weight. In fact, Endres points out that research indicates walking can be an effective means to blunt the effects of some 32 obesity-promoting genes by up to half.
In fact, you don’t even have to log miles upon miles of daily steps to start seeing the benefits. If you’ve previously been sedentary, it’s possible to start reaping the rewards of walking by increasing your step count to just 3,500 to 4,000 steps a day—a number that’s a lot more attainable than the often-cited 10,000 steps per day.
Don’t forget to stretch! Perform these stretches to balance your walking routine is just as important as knowing how to walk properly.
Why walking form is important
Once again, you’ve been walking practically your entire life, so surely your form can’t be that bad, right? Well … that depends. The reality is, walking is a surprisingly complex movement that requires coordination and engagement of everything from your toes to your neck and shoulders as you carry your entire body weight forward.
And, as you get older, changes to your body can result in changes to your walking mechanics. For instance, an old knee injury that flares up and causes pain may cause you to subconsciously favor one leg over the other. Or, if you’re carrying a little extra weight, you may start walking with a wider stance with outward angled toes to help support the pounds.
“Most of us have a dominant side,” Endres adds. “If your strong leg does more of the work, it can lead to more side-to-side movement, uneven hips, or harder landings with one foot than the other. Those imbalances add up over time.”
And with a walking program designed to increase your step count, those imbalances add up even faster.
Even if you’re “perfectly healthy” without injuries or other issues leading to changes in side-to-side mechanics, that doesn’t mean your walking form is correct. Correct posture plays an important role, too.
“People don’t always consider that there are form considerations for walking, just like there are for exercises like squats and pushups,” Endres says.
“And a weak core is often the culprit. If your abs and back muscles are weak, or if you simply don’t pay attention to them while walking, you might slump, look down, or lean too far forward when walking, leading to inefficient walking form.”
Here’s everything you need to know about walking for exercise.
6 common walking form mistakes
If you recently started a walking program, and a few weeks in, you’re starting to feel aches and pains, the issue might be related to your form. Check out these common walking-form mistakes and learn how to walk properly.
If you tend to carry your phone with you, checking emails and texts as you stroll around the neighborhood, it’s time to put the phone away. Walking with your head looking down (whether or not a phone is to blame) can wreak havoc on your walking form.
“Whatever your neck does, your back follows,” Endres says. “If you’re looking down, you’ll be rounded through your upper back and you’ll take the natural curve out of your lower back. Hanging heavy like that in your posture leads to strain and fatigue.”
So, first and foremost, commit to not checking your phone while you’re out on your walks. Choose a playlist or podcast before you head out, then put the phone somewhere you won’t be tempted to check it. Then, before you even start walking, check your posture.
Your ears should “stack” above your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. While walking form naturally requires movement of your major joints, your spine (including your neck!) should remain upright and aligned in a natural curve.
Sneak in extra walking time with these tips.
Weight-bearing exercise (like walking) is good for your muscles, bones, and joints, but high-impact exercise can take a toll if it’s overdone. Even though walking generally isn’t considered a high-impact form of cardio, if you slap your feet down hard with every step you take, those repetitive heavy landings can start taking a toll.
“Each time your heel lands, it causes mechanical stress on your connective tissue and joints,” Endres explains.
“Some stress is good when it’s enough that your body adapts and gets stronger. Too much, however, and your body can’t adapt. You want to limit the accumulation [of mechanical stress] by landing ‘softly,’ rolling through the foot from heel to toes, staying tall and lifted through the core, using forward and back (not side to side) movement through the arms, and keeping your hips even while you walk.”
To identify whether you’re landing heavy, try imagining yourself walking (with a normal gait) through a house at night while trying not to wake anyone else up—if you feel your footfalls might be loud enough to draw attention, it may be a sign that you need to work on “carrying your weight” with your body’s entire musculature (including your core and upper body), rather than relying only on your lower body and feet to catch and hold your weight.
Essentially, work to absorb the impact of each footfall by using your body’s full musculature to distribute the impact of each step.
(Here’s what you should know about barefoot walking.)
In an effort to speed up your pace, you might find yourself taking longer steps, rather than faster ones. The inclination is natural, but when it comes to walking form, it’s misguided.
“It might be surprising to some, but there’s research to indicate that overstriding during walking can substantially increase mechanical stress on the ankle, knee, and hip joints,” Endres says. “Instead, focus on faster foot-to-foot turnover, soft landings, and feeling ‘lifted and light’ through the core.”
Your steps should feel like they’re the same length as when you take a simple stroll, as this is your body’s natural and efficient movement pattern. If you think about it, lengthening your strides changes the angles at your ankles with each step, which then causes a chain reaction to your knees and hips. These wider steps don’t provide the same support or shock absorption as when you’re taking a more natural step width, which, over time, can lead to aches, pains, or injuries.
(Boost your mood by walking this many minutes.)
Pointing your toes outward with a greater step width
When walking, you want your toes to point straight ahead, with each heel strike aligned under your hips (not landing wider than hip-distance apart). Unfortunately, particularly in an overweight and obese demographic, it’s very common for these small mechanical changes to take place in an effort to create a wider base of support for added weight.
This wider stance and resulting wider step width can actually place more stress and strain on the joints, ultimately increasing the likelihood of injury. In fact, according to a 2007 study looking at the effects of obesity on walking biomechanics, obese individuals had a wider step width, increased knee movements, and increased ground reaction force.
Together, these effects can create a chain reaction that leads to pain and injuries with time. That said, the same study found that obese individuals can reduce the negative effects by simply walking more slowly. And if you’d rather not slow your speed, just be more conscious of your gait and pay attention to how you position your heels and toes with each step.
(Use your walking routine to help you lose weight.)
Not engaging your core
You may not have spent time thinking about it, but your core is surprisingly important for supporting proper walking form. The job of your core in everyday movement is to help your body remain upright, to transfer energy from your lower to upper body, and to facilitate coordinated side-to-side movement. Walking requires all three of these things.
And if you fail to engage your core while walking, you’re more likely to allow your low back to sway, your shoulders to round forward, and for your posture to suffer. This likely won’t cause pain or problems at first, but over time, these small mechanical inefficiencies and misalignments can lead to bigger problems.
So go ahead and check your posture before you hit the road. Roll your shoulders back, make sure your ears “stack” above your shoulders and hips, and without “sucking in,” use your abs to draw your belly button toward your spine. You may also want to tuck your hips slightly under if you have a tendency to allow your low back to sway as you walk.
(Learn which side of the road you should be walking on.)
Forgetting to use your arms
Sure, walking is mainly a lower body exercise, but your arms play a role, too! In fact, a 2020 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that walking with a restricted arm swing of one or both arms (you know, like when you’re sending text messages to your friends or you put your hands in your pockets) reduced the walking speed and stride of the study participants.
And anything that reduces your speed (and engages fewer muscle groups) will essentially make the exercise less challenging, thereby reducing the calories you burn while walking. You don’t need to exaggerate your arm swing or do anything fancy, either. Just make sure you’re allowing your arms to swing naturally as you head out for your walk.
Now that you know how to walk properly, learn what to do when walking causes back pain.
The number of people choosing to following a vegan diet, a diet free from animal products or byproducts, has dramatically increased worldwide in the past 20 years. According to 2020 research from Ipsos Retail Performance, since 2004 the number of people who identify as vegan in the United States grew from around 290,000 people to a whopping 9.4 million people.
And the number of vegans globally is increasing for good reason. Research published in ISRN Nutrition found that consuming too much animal meat and protein is linked with an increased risk of kidney, liver, bone, and heart disease, and cancer.
Many people are also increasingly aware of the inhumane conditions many animals that end up on your table endure during their lives. Livestock also take a tremendous amount of natural resources to care for and process, and the animals themselves often emit high levels of gases that contribute substantially to climate change, such as methane and nitrous oxide, per Animal Frontiers.
According to experts, eggs can be one of the most difficult items to substitute in a vegan diet. That’s why nutritionists we spoke with advocate for the use of aquafaba, a product made from water left over after cooking beans or found in canned beans.
While bean water may not sound like the most appetizing food, experts say there are plenty of reasons to give aquafaba a shot.
Here’s what the experts want you to know about aquafaba.
What is aquafaba and where did it come from?
Aquafaba in Latin roughly translates to “bean water.” Aquafaba is the leftover water found in canned chickpeas and other pulses or the water leftover after boiling pulses.
For years, registered dietitians recommended that people toss out bean water and rinse canned beans before using them. But around 2015, an American vegan software engineer named Goose Wohlt discovered aquafaba while he was trying to make eggless meringues. Wohlt realized that if you whipped leftover bean water from chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, the resulting product mimics whipped egg whites. Some sources claim a French musician actually discovered aquafaba before Wohlt in 2014.
“In the past five to six years [aquafaba] has become quite popular, maybe because of the the influence of social media and popular chefs that have been promoting it,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Wesley McWhorter, DrPH, the director of culinary nutrition nourish program at the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, Texas.
What is its taste, texture, and consistency of aquafaba?
Dr. McWhorter says it’s pretty easy to learn what the texture and consistency of aquafaba is by simply looking at the leftover water in canned beans or after boiling beans.
Aquafaba is a soupy liquid, unless it has been whipped into peaks, in which case it is the consistency and texture of whipped egg whites.
According to experts, aquafaba doesn’t normally have a strong bean taste, and you can’t notice it in many recipes. Dr. McWhorter says the taste of aquafaba usually becomes more subtle or is balanced out by other ingredients in savory or sweet dishes.
But depending on the type of pulse you use, aquafaba may have a slight hint of a taste akin to the taste of the pulse. Dr. McWhorter says beans like black-eyed peas or red kidney beans tend to have a stronger flavor, which is why many people make aquafaba from chickpea water, which has less of a bean taste.
Can aquafaba replace eggs in all contexts?
Aquafaba can be used to replace eggs in many recipes, but similar to other egg substitutes like flax eggs, they don’t really work as a replacement for things like scrambled, poached, or fried eggs.
“Aquafaba can replace the portion of egg in many food products such as egg-free mayonnaise, meringues, mousse, whipped cream, ice cream, emulsified dressings, cocktails, and bakery products,” says Yue He, a PhD candidate at the University of Saskatchewan in the department of chemical and biological engineering in Canada.
Aquafaba is so versatile because of its ratio of starch to protein, she adds, making it a great binder, emulsifier, and thickener like eggs. Unlike many other egg substitutes, aquafaba can also be whipped to form stiff or soft peaks.
Who can benefit from eating aquafaba?
Aquafaba can be used to replace animal products such as eggs, according to He. She says this makes aquafaba a great option for people with special dietary restrictions.
She adds that aquafaba may appeal to some people because it is also a cholesterol-free and eco-friendly additive for foods. Aquafaba is considered eco-friendly because it is plant-based and uses a product typically thrown away, reducing food waste.
Is aquafaba nutritious?
Aquafaba has nutritional value and potential health benefits, He notes. She says aquafaba dry matter mainly consists of polysaccharides, simple sugar, proteins, minerals, and minor phytochemical compounds called saponins and phenolic compounds, which can have health-promoting properties, such as reducing blood cholesterol level, blood lipid level, and improving blood glucose response.
Oligosaccharides also have antioxidant properties and can decrease the risk of some cancers. Some oligosaccharides, such as the compounds raffinose and stachyose, also function as prebiotics to stimulate the growth and survival of some beneficial intestinal bacteria.
Registered dietitian nutritionist Tricia L. Psota, PhD, the managing director of Nutrition on Demand, adds that aquafaba may also contain trace amounts of protein, B vitamins like folate and thiamin, and minerals like iron and phosphorus.
But all in all, there isn’t much nutrition in aquafaba. By some estimates each tablespoon of aquafaba contains around three to five calories and trace amounts of nutrients.
What do dietitians think about aquafaba?
According to the experts, aquafaba is a great food additive. Some have even referred to aquafaba as a “miracle ingredient.” Dietitians and nutritionists love aquafaba because it is so versatile and can make many dishes safe for people who cannot safely consume eggs or choose to not eat eggs for other reasons.
Chefs also love aquafaba because they can create dishes that do not need to be cooked, such as chocolate mousse, and do not need to worry about the potential for food-borne disease like you would with eggs. Aquafaba is also temperature-resistant, meaning you don’t have to worry as much about it burning or splitting.
Is there any reason not to eat aquafaba?
Despite all its perks, aquafaba does have one drawback: It can cause gas.
You may know beans can cause gas and flatulence if you’ve ever indulged in baked beans or bean-based dishes. That’s because beans and other pulses contain complex sugars called oligosaccharides that can be hard to digest. And a lot of the oligosaccharadies in pulses leach out into water when it is canned or boiled.
So people who are sensitive to beans or suffer from excess gas may want to stay away from aquafaba. But most recipes using aquafaba only call for small amounts of the ingredient. And consuming 3 tablespoons or less of aquafaba might not be enough to cause gas issues.
How you can make your own aquafaba at home?
Most of the experts say by far the easiest way to make aquafaba is to get it from a can of beans or other pulses.
“Saving the liquid from a can of chickpeas, preferably low- or no-salt-added options, is the most straightforward way to get aquafaba,” Dr. Psota says. “Before draining the can, shake it a few times so more starch is released from the beans into the liquid.”
Psota says aquafaba can also be made from scratch at home by soaking then cooking your own dried chickpeas.
“This method is less reliable because the cooking liquid needs to simmer down to the right consistency to match the canned liquid,” she adds. “It also is more time-consuming.”
Here is Psota’s recipe for homemade aquafaba:
1 pound of dried chickpeas
Soak 1 pound of dried chickpeas in water overnight, making sure to cover the beans with several inches of water, as they expand when soaking.
Drain the chickpeas, and add them to a large pot with 8 cups of unsalted water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans are tender (about 1.5 to 2 hours).
Once cooked, turn off the heat and cover with a lid, allowing the chickpeas to cool down in the cooking liquid. This leaves extra starch in the liquid, which is what gives aquafaba its egg-like properties.
When cool, remove the chickpeas with a slotted spoon, and then bring the cooking liquid to a simmer and cook for another 30 to 45 minutes. The liquid will reduce and become thicker, resembling the liquid that comes out of canned chickpeas—aquafaba.
Allow the aquafaba to cool, and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for months.
If you’re using aquafaba as a binder, such as in cookies or vegan mayonnaise, you can simply use aquafaba in its liquid form.
To make aquafaba into a foam you can use as a replacement for meringues and other similar ingredients, whip the reduced, cooled bean water for around 10 minutes with a small amount of vinegar, lemon juice, and cream of tartar. Experts say you’ll know the mixture is ready when it forms peaks like a whipped cream or whipped egg whites.
Do you need to buy special ingredients to make aquafaba?
Dr. McWhorter says it’s perfectly fine to use the dried or canned beans you already have in your cupboard or readily available at grocery stores to make aquafaba. “I do, however, recommend that people get sodium-reduced canned beans and other pulses because most regular products are very high in sodium,” he adds.
According to the experts, using leftover bean water from canned beans is typically easier than boiling beans for bean water because the water in canned beans has been soaking in the beans for a long time, meaning more of the desirable starches and proteins have leached out into the water.
In other words, canned bean water is already aquafaba. Using water that beans were boiled in takes longer to process into aquafaba because you have to reduce it for much longer.
McWhorter says the advantage of cooking beans at home to make aquafaba is that you can control the ingredients and salt level yourself.
(Here’s more on how to buy, make, and eat vegan bread.)
What type of beans or pulses make the best aquafaba?
Experts say almost any pulse, including many pulse-based products, can be used to make aquafaba. But most experts agree that white beans or chickpeas make the best aquafaba because their taste is so neutral.
“While the cooking liquid of other neutral-tasting beans can be used, chickpeas are the most common and versatile source of aquafaba,” Dr. Psota says.
Great recipes using aquafaba
When cooking or baking with aquafaba, it’s important to know that approximately 3 tablespoons is usually equivalent to about one whole egg, while 2 tablespoons is equivalent to around one egg white.
When it comes to favorite aquafaba recipes, He says her team has tried to replace egg with aquafaba in sponge cake, cookie, meringue, and mayonnaise in their kitchen lab. “My personal favorite is sponge cake,” she says.
Aquafaba sponge cake recipe
110 milliliters of aquafaba
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
130 grams powdered sugar
130 g flour
7 g baking powder
Whip 110 ml of aquafaba with 1 tsp (3 g) of apple vinegar to produce foam using a Kitchen Aid Ultra Power Mixer. Start on a low-speed setting until most of the aquafaba turns foamy and no liquid remains, then increase the speed to the maximum setting and whip for 7 minutes.
While mixing at the high-speed setting, add 130 g of powdered sugar. and whip the creamy mixture until a stiff peak is formed (3 minutes).
In a separate bowl, blend 130 g of flour and 7 g of baking powder, then gently fold into the foam using a rubber spatula.
Pour the cake batter into a baking pan (21 cm by 12 cm) and bake in a preheated conventional oven at 180°C (360°F) for 30 minutes.
After cooking, remove the pan from the oven and invert on a wire rack to cool at room temperature.
Other great aquafaba recipes
Here are some other aquafaba recipes experts and dietitians recommend:
Beet and apple salad in an edible walnut salad bowl
Edible Walnut Bowl
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
6 pitted dates
2 tablespoons aquafaba
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp coconut oil
3 cups spring mix greens
1 apple, diced
1 beet, diced or spiralized
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1 tsp whole flax seeds
Preheat your oven to 400° F.
Add the walnuts, pitted dates, salt, and ground flax seeds in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients start to bind together with a fine consistency.
With the food processor still running, gradually pour the aquafaba into the mixture and pulse for another 60 seconds or so, then remove the mixture from the processor.
Split the mixture in half and put each half on an individual piece of parchment paper, then roll the halves into balls.
Coat a nonstick rolling pin with a bit of coconut oil and use the rolling pin to flatten the balls, making sure not to overwork the mixture.
Work from the inside out to gently flatten the mixture to around 1/4-inch thickness, making sure the crust doesn’t become too thin, but you will want it to have even thickness so it will cook evenly. You can smooth out cracks using your fingers.
Drape the parchment paper over a tiny, upside-down, oven-safe bowl and mold the mixture into a shape mimicking the shape of the bowl. Using your fingers, repair cracks and put the bowl on a cookie sheet. Cover the bowl-shaped crust with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake it for an additional 3 minutes. Monitor the cooking progress to make sure the crust doesn’t get overly dark.
Remove bowl crust from the oven and let cool entirely while it is still molded over the bowl. Once the crust is fully cooled, carefully remove the piece of parchment paper and set the crust facing right-side up.
Fill the salad bowl with spring mix, beets, apples, beets, walnuts, and dried cranberries, then drizzle the salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
Vegan chocolate cherry mousse
Serves 4 to 6
3 cups frozen cherries, thawed
3/4 cup aquafaba (drained from one 15-ounce can)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/3 cup almond milk
14 oz chopped chocolate (can use mix of dark and regular; use dairy-free for vegan)
Put drained, thawed fruit into a medium saucepan and place it over medium heat. Cook the fruit, mashing and stirring the mixture frequently for 10 to 12 minutes until it reduces and becomes thick. The mixture is ready when there is enough liquid in the mixture to stop the mixture from sticking. If it does become too thick, you can add a tablespoon or two of a juice like cherry or orange juice. Take the mixture off the stove and set it aside to let it cool.
Place aquafaba, sugar, and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the mixture at a medium-high speed for around 13 to 15 minutes until the liquid has tripled in volume and formed stiff peaks.
While the aquafaba mixture is whipping, slowly melt the chocolate and heat the almond milk inside a double boiler over medium-low heat. Stir the almond milk and chocolate until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Instead of using a double boiler, you can also heat the almond milk and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, checking the mixture every 30 seconds to see if it has melted enough.
Put cooled chocolate into a large bowl and then fold in the aquafaba mixture delicately.
Divide half the fruit mixture in the bottom of four to six small bowls and dollop the chocolate aquafaba mousse on top of it. Place the bowls in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour to let the desert set.
Right before serving, pour the remaining cherry mixture on top and, if desired, add shaved chocolate.
3 tbsp aquafaba liquid drained from a can of chickpeas
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (236 ml) vegetable oil or any other kind of flavorless oil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
Put aquafaba, mustard, salt, and vinegar into a a bowl and blend for a few seconds with an immersion blender or hand mixer until all ingredients are combined.
Keep the blender or mixer running and very gradually drizzle in the oil, ensuring it is fully combined as you pour it in. If the oil is added too fast the resulting mixture is too liquidy to use. If you are getting a bit of oil on the top of the mixture that will not combine, do not add any more oil and blend before continuing.
As you are blending the mixture, the mayonnaise will turn thick suddenly. Once all of the oil has been combined and thoroughly mixed, you can add the garlic and lemon juice and mix thoroughly.
Next, check out this other vegan egg substitute, flax egg.
Why making mistakes feels so bad
Whether you blow past your monthly budget or break a friend’s trust, everybody makes mistakes. And what happens next is just as universal: Once we realize we’ve hurt ourselves or someone else, we usually experience negative emotions like shame and guilt.
Researchers believe evolution hardwired these feelings into the human condition. That’s because for our early ancestors, even small mistakes could mean big trouble, such as an unsuccessful hunt, failed protection from the weather or predators, or a life-threatening injury.
In these cases, shame and guilt worked as adaptive responses. The emotions helped us learn from mistakes to increase our collective odds at survival.
But research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests guilt and shame didn’t just help us build better structures and detect threats faster. These feelings worked to shape our individual sense of self-worth.
The paper explains how our ancestors deeply counted on one another for survival—and so if an error let down members of the community, it could deem the offender unworthy of help, support, and access to resources.
It’s a theory behind why—many millennia later, when the stakes are generally lower—we still tend to beat ourselves up over even the smallest error (and why bigger missteps can be particularly tough to overcome.)
What is self-forgiveness?
There’s another field of research dedicated to how we handle these feelings of guilt and shame in the aftermath of a mistake. Daryl Van Tongeren, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, who has co-authored several studies looking at this process.
“We were curious about a paradox in self-forgiveness,” he explains.
On the one hand, some people think that by forgiving yourself for a mistake, you’re giving yourself a license to transgress again.
“On the other hand, people view self-forgiveness as being important for mental health,” he says. “Because if you don’t forgive yourself, you get mired in guilt and shame—and that’s not going to lead to any productive change.”
That’s why the experts say self-forgiveness isn’t just a one-and-done action. It’s a process through which we start to replace feelings of guilt and shame—which can quickly create a toxic cycle—with self-compassion, awareness of our wrongdoing, and a desire to change.
“It’s not letting yourself off the hook,” Dr. Van Tongeren explains. “True self-forgiveness, remorse, repentance—it all requires us to engage in some type of effort to make a meaningful change.”
Does self-forgiveness look the same for all mistakes?
We often think about mistakes in terms of how we’ve harmed another person, explains Andrea Marquez, a psychotherapist and LCSW supervisor at Heading Health in Texas.
“In reality, self-forgiveness is a lot broader,” she says. “And more often than not, it involves reflecting on behavior inflicted on ourselves.”
This self-inflicted harm could include trivial errors like overstepping our budget or failing to maintain healthy habits. But it can also extend to more destructive behaviors, like eating disorders or addiction.
Yet sometimes, self-forgiveness is a productive process when we’re not even at fault. As an example, Marquez points to the guilt people can experience over their emotional response to a traumatic event—like a “victim’s shame” following abuse.
Still, our actions often have consequences for other people, too.
While Dr. Van Tongeren says the self-forgiveness process looks similar for all levels of mistakes, “there’s going to be a lot more emotional and cognitive work to do if it’s a bigger offense or one that affects more people.”
Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves?
As it turns out, forgiving others for their transgressions is an evolutionary adaptation, too.
Research published in Frontiers in Psychology explains how our early ancestors were motivated to forgive others based on a survival cost-benefit analysis. They’d weigh the likelihood of someone causing future harm against the long-term benefits of keeping the community intact.
Yet we don’t necessarily offer this same benefit of the doubt to ourselves.
“Because we know ourselves so well—and because we know all the circumstances surrounding the decisions and the mistakes that we have made—we have a tendency to be very harsh as we sit in judgment of ourselves,” says Bradley Nelson, DC, a holistic physician and author of The Emotional Code. “It’s true that the most difficult person to forgive is often our own self.”
Based on his research, Dr. Van Tongeren points to a few explanations for why self-forgiveness so often lies just beyond our reach.
We equate guilt and shame with remorse
Dr. Van Tongeren says people often think: If they’re not self-flagellating or self-denigrating, how will anyone know they’re truly remorseful?
It’s this subconscious idea that suffering through self-blame and shame is a way to pay for our mistakes, Marquez adds. Sometimes, depending on the perceived harm we’ve caused, we might even believe we don’t deserve forgiveness.
“[It’s] akin to a ‘martyr’ mentality,” she says.
We get stuck in a guilt-shame loop
Some people get very accustomed to carrying their shame and guilt, Dr. Van Tongeren explains. This could be due to a range of reasons, such as ingrained cultural standards, cognitive distortions like perfectionism, and health conditions like addiction.
“They internalize [their shame and guilt,] they embody it, and it’s hard for them to let it go,” he says.
As an example, he points to when someone trying to abstain from alcohol decides to have a drink.
“They might feel so much guilt and shame that they say, ‘Well, I’ve already messed up; I might as well not try to pull myself back out. In for a penny, in for a pound,'” he explains.
Then they feel so much guilt about overdrinking that they turn to this problematic, value-inconsistent behavior again the next day to soothe that guilt and shame.
“And so you just get in this cycle,” Dr. Van Tongeren says. “What’s happening is you’re just so mired in the guilt and shame that you’re turning to unhealthy coping responses.”
We’re not sure that we’ve learned our lesson
“I think other people find self-forgiveness hard because we just want to make sure we’re not rushing it,” Dr. Van Tongeren says.
This hesitation lies in uncertainty that we’re not making “the right” or “enough” changes to earn our own self-forgiveness. But by continuing to beat ourselves up and engage in negative self-talk, we add fuel to the shame cycle.
“Going through this journey can also bring back memories of previous mistakes we haven’t fully let go of,” Marquez adds. “We may uncover deeper trauma or underlying thought processes responsible for the behavior we feel guilty about—all of these can be hard to face.”
Why is learning how to forgive yourself important?
In their research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Dr. Van Tongeren’s team investigated the benefits behind practicing self-forgiveness.
“Across the studies we found that self-forgiveness really is related to better mental health,” he says.
Self-forgiveness as a mental health tool
Forgiving ourselves doesn’t just knock us out of the guilt-shame spiral, either.
“It promotes a more positive self-image and improves self-confidence,” Marquez explains.
By forgiving ourselves, we make ourselves less vulnerable to other people’s critical remarks. It teaches us to take feedback more constructively instead of feeling personally attacked, which fuels our insecurities.
The physical toll of guilt and shame
A lack of self-forgiveness tends to result in an overall greater stress level as well, Nelson says.
When our stress hormones go on overdrive, our whole body can start to suffer. These effects can include:
- a lowered immune system—so you’re more likely to get sick
- higher blood sugar and blood pressure levels
- upset stomach and digestive issues
“We don’t sleep as well, we don’t get along well with others as well, and our ability to really be truly happy and to experience joy becomes very difficult to come by,” he says.
Can you forgive yourself too quickly?
“Guilt or regret can be adaptive when we fully process it,” says Sarah Kaufman, LMSW, a psychotherapist at Cobb Psychotherapy in New York.
“When we act as detectives, trying to figure out why we feel guilty or why we regret something, we can start to uncover why we do what we do and where we want to go,” she says. “But that’s the thing—we have to be aware of what we do and why we do it. We can’t change what we don’t understand.”
That’s why the experts say it doesn’t really matter how quickly you forgive yourself for making a mistake. The important thing is to engage in thoughtful self-reflection:
- How did my actions cause harm?
- How do I feel about that?
- How would I like to move forward?
“This self-reflection process doesn’t necessarily have a set amount of time to make it effective,” Kaufman says. “It’s about internalizing the thoughts and feelings that come up.”
How to forgive yourself
While there’s no set time frame for self-forgiveness, that doesn’t mean you rush right through it.
“You need to think deeply about your actions and who they harmed—yourself and other people—and you need to own that,” Dr. Van Tongeren says. “And that part is hard.”
Here’s what the experts say on how to move through this process in a positive, effective way.
Start by showing yourself some compassion
Self-compassion means being able to look at yourself—and your actions—in an unbiased, understanding, and accepting way.
“We don’t often extend the same compassion to ourselves that we extend to other people,” Dr. Van Tongeren says.
For example, everyone gets a bit annoyed if a friend is late to dinner. But once they arrive and apologize, most of us don’t find it that difficult to move past the annoyance.
“But some of us hold ourselves to such a higher standard than we do other people,” Dr. Van Tongeren says. So, even if someone else has forgiven us, we continue to beat ourselves up for a mistake.
That’s why without self-compassion, healthy remorse can easily become unhealthy rumination—when you’re unable to stop obsessing over thoughts of what went wrong.
“[This] can sometimes lead to prolonged feelings of shame or guilt,” Kaufman says. “And it can make it more difficult to find acceptance and move forward.”
Follow the four R’s of self-forgiveness
The “four R’s” is a therapeutic model for self-forgiveness—and research published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology backs up its effectiveness.
The study shows this model helped people not only forgive themselves over a specific offense, but experience a greater sense of well-being overall.
It looks like this:
Self-forgiveness starts with the recognition you did something wrong, Dr. Van Tongeren explains. It’s important to avoid the urge to shift blame, and to instead claim ownership over your mistake.
Taking responsibility may even be a powerful way to let go of guilt, Marquez adds.
“Oftentimes, it reveals that we have done less harm than imagined.”
Remorse simply means feeling sorry for what we’ve done, Nelson explains.
“This grief or sorrow is what powers our commitment to not make the same mistake again,” he says.
But it’s important to understand the limits of your own remorse. That means recognizing when your emotional response goes beyond the bounds of your responsibility—like feeling guilt or shame over a problem you didn’t cause.
“You can only control what you can control,” Kaufman says.
Restoration is making an attempt to repair what was lost because of your mistake.
For example, if you had a weak moment and stole something, restoration would mean giving back what you stole, Nelson says.
But sometimes, there’s nothing physical to restore—like if you snap at a partner or co-worker. In this sense, restoration is the accountability you accept and the apology you offer.
Overlooking this step is one pitfall of self-forgiveness. The process isn’t that productive if we decide to forgive ourselves without committing to any sort of change, Dr. Van Tongeren says.
“In this [renewal] step, we can pause and think about the whole process that started with the mistake that we made,” Nelson says. “We can ask ourselves why we made the mistake in the first place and what we can do to prevent it from happening again.”
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Another pitfall of self-forgiveness? Sometimes we simply blow our missteps out of proportion.
“Some mistakes are just that—genuine mistakes,” Marquez says. We don’t necessarily need to find meaning, action points, or lessons in every error we make.
“[But sometimes,] it might be harder to accept that without having a positive outcome in the form of a lesson learned,” she says.
That’s why if you’re having trouble showing yourself compassion or find yourself obsessing over every mistake you make, it may be time to turn to professional support.
Therapeutic practices like cognitive behavioral therapy can help people work through feelings like guilt and navigate the steps to self-forgiveness—while retraining the thought processes that encourage negative emotions in the first place.
Now that you know about how to forgive yourself, check out how to control anger.
Earwax candles are not recommended
Virtually no one likes the feeling of excess earwax in their ear canal. Too much earwax can also become a cosmetic problem if it becomes visible.
Over the decades, people have come up with new and improved ways to remove earwax. It only takes a quick search on Instagram and other social media sites to see some of the wide array of earwax removal offerings available these days, from suction devices to electric Q-tips.
But what is earwax, is it really a problem, and should you try to remove it? If so, when and how? And why do some people seem to have more earwax than others?
We talked to experts to learn the answers to these questions and find out if earwax candles are safe, effective, or dangerous. In short, earwax candles and candling are neither safe nor effective.
What are earwax candles?
Earwax candles are hollow candles typically made of beeswax, essential oils, honey extract, and organic linen that are often between 10 and 15 inches long. Earwax candles are used in a method known as ear candling, where the hollow earwax candle is placed in the ear and the opposite end of the candle is lit.
What are earwax candles supposed to do?
Earwax candling, also known as auricular candling, thermo-auricular therapy (TAT), or simply coning, is a type of alternative medical practice that some people believe enhances general health. Many people claim earwax candling also works to draw out excess earwax and other debris from the inner ear canal.
How precisely earwax candles help remove excess earwax and other contents of the ear canal remains unclear, though some people claim that when it is lit, the earwax candle creates negative pressure in the ear canal that acts as a vacuum to suck out earwax from the ear canal into the inside of the hollow candle.
Another theory to explain how ear candling works is that no wax actually comes out during the process, but the candle wax heats up and melts earwax that then comes out of the ear canal over the following few days.
Some people claim there is evidence ear candling works because you can see the removed earwax inside the earwax candle once you’re done using it. But experts say this isn’t earwax; it’s just the remains of the burnt candle.
Should you use earwax candles?
Experts and health authorities say earwax candling is not safe, and there is no credible research to indicate it is effective.
“I do not recommend ear candling under any circumstances whatsoever. There is no evidence that this practice is either safe or effective,” says Sarah Sydlowski, PhD, president of the American Academy of Audiology and audiology director at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “It can actually damage the ear, including causing burns.”
What is earwax?
Experts say that while it might not be pleasant, earwax actually helps keep the ear canal healthy.
“earwax, or cerumen, is an acidic compound that has lubricating and antibacterial properties,” Dr. Sydlowski says.
“It’s produced by glands that line your ear canal. It’s usually slightly sticky to catch some particles that shouldn’t stay in your ear and move them out. It’s designed to keep your ear healthy.”
She says even though people tend to think earwax is “gross,” it’s actually a good thing. She adds earwax is often only a concern if you have too much of it, or it gets pushed down into the ear by devices like Q-tips.
How do you know if you have too much earwax, and should you try to remove it?
The experts say you can typically tell if you have too much earwax if it clogs or plugs the ear or interferes with your ability to hear.
But experts like Dr. Sydlowski say you should not try to remove excess earwax yourself.
She says removing earwax should always be conducted by a trained professional because when done at home by untrained individuals, any method can make the situation worse.
For example, she explains, if there is a hole in the eardrum, using water to try to remove it is unsafe because there is an open path to the middle ear space.
“Trying to scrape or scoop the wax out can result in a perforation to the eardrum, or a scrape in the delicate tissue lining the ear canal, which can introduce the opportunity for infection,” Dr. Sydlowski says.
“Do not use Q-tips, bobby pins, safety pins, keys, or any object smaller than your elbow in your ear.”
Is there any safe way to remove earwax at home?
The experts do not recommend trying to remove earwax at home or yourself. But they do note that earwax normally works its way out of the ear canal naturally.
“earwax naturally migrates out of the ear,” Dr. Sydlowski explains. “A small amount probably falls out on your pillow each night without you noticing.”
She says if you have to, the best way to “clean” your ears is to rub a slightly damp washcloth around the opening of the ear with a finger when showering.
Dr. Sydlowski adds that if you use hearing aids, earplugs, or earbuds for many hours each day, this can prevent the wax from working its way out the way it usually does. In those cases, she suggests you may need to visit a professional for ear cleaning on a periodic basis.
What other methods are commonly used to remove earwax?
Dr. Sydlowski says there are three primary ways earwax can be removed by a medical professional.
Removal by a curette
This method is performed using a small handheld tool that resembles a small spoon. A medical professional, such as a physician, nurse practitioner, or audiologist, shines a bright light into the ear and then uses the curette to scoop earwax out of the ear canal.
This method typically works best when earwax is not actually blocking the ear canal and the earwax is relatively soft. If earwax is too hard, a professional may need someone to use ear drops for a few days before the procedure to help soften the wax.
This method involves a professional using a small irrigation tool to physically flush the ear canal with water, washing wax out into a small bowl.
This method involves a professional using a small vacuum-like handheld device, often under a microscope, to suck earwax out of the ear canal. Suction is normally the best approach for removing earwax when the wax is blocking the ear canal.
Does ear candling have advantages over other methods?
Some people claim ear candling is a safer, cheaper alternative to having a medical professional remove earwax. Many advocates for ear candling also note that unlike other earwax removal methods, ear candling can be done in the convenience and privacy of your home.
But the experts say ear candling does not have any advantages over any other earwax removal method because it is not effective. Plus, it can cause damage to the ear, face, and neck.
Does ear candling have major risks?
According to the experts, ear candling is associated with a long list of potential risks. Some of the most common risks linked with ear candling include:
- burns to the ear canal, eardrum, middle ear, face, and neck
- ear injury from dripping hot wax
- excess candle wax that can clog or plug the ear canal
- punctured eardrums
- delaying how long someone waits to receive proper medical care for conditions that worsen without treatment, such as ear and sinus infections, cancer, hearing loss, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- lighting hair or clothing on fire
- conductive hearing loss
Have any government agencies tried to stop people from accessing or using earwax candles?
Health authorities in several countries around the world have issued warnings about the safety of using earwax candles for decades. In 1996 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada started taking formal actions against earwax candles and candling by targeting the people who manufacture, distribute, and sell earwax candles, such as issuing import alerts, injunctions, warning letters, and seizure of goods.
In 2017 the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Foundation issued a public statement that updated their Clinical Practice Guideline regarding earwax impaction that state ear candling is contraindicated with Grade C evidence based on evidence gathered from numerous randomized trials and systemic reviews.
What is thankful Thursday?
Whether or not you’re feasting with family this year, Thanksgiving is a reminder to count your blessings. And it turns out taking time to say or write down what you’re thankful for can have lasting perks. A gratitude practice has science-backed benefits for your mind and body.
So how do you keep the Thanksgiving vibes going? Some people take part in “Thankful Thursday.” The catchy hashtag is a reminder to shout out something you’re thankful for on social media. It’s almost like a weekly mini-Thanksgiving.
There are several ways (and reasons!) to start a gratitude practice this year. Below, licensed mental health counselors Rachna Buxani-Mirpuri and Roseann Capanna-Hodge weigh in.
4 benefits of Thankful Thursday
Here’s what Bixani-Mirpuri and Capanna-Hodge had to say about the science-backed benefits of gratitude.
Gratitude leads to positive thinking
“Studies have found that gratitude journaling can significantly increase [people’s] optimism levels,” says Buxani-Mirpuri.
Optimism can be a tricky thing to measure, but a clinical trial of 1,337 participants published in the medical journal Frontiers in Psychology tried to do just that. For 14 days, one-third of the participants listed moments they had been grateful for during each day. At the end of the study, the gratitude group scored higher on happiness and satisfaction—and lower on depression symptoms—than the other two groups.
Gratitude could improve your mental health
Developing an attitude of gratitude might sound like a softball strategy for mental health, but Buxani-Mirpuri says it can reduce levels of depression and anxiety. Focusing on what you’re thankful for helps change your thought processes, thus resulting in a more positive mood.
“By reducing negative biases and looking at things more realistically … people feel better,” she says.
Gratitude strengthens your relationships
It’s no secret that smiling can make you seem more attractive and approachable. The same can be said for expressing gratitude. Telling your loved ones that you’re grateful for them makes them feel good about themselves, says Capanna-Hodge.
People also tend to gravitate toward those who seem upbeat and supportive, according to Buxani-Mirpuri.
Showing gratitude can strengthen the bonds between friends and family, but it’s also a useful career strategy. “Appreciative people are viewed as thoughtful, trustworthy, and positive,” Capanna-Hodge says.
Gratitude could make you healthier
The more you practice gratitude, the more equipped you are to manage daily stressors, according to Capanna-Hodge. Stress can trigger a host of health problems, from hives to unhealthy weight gain. While bad stress has negative ripple effects, a gratitude practice can have remarkably positive domino effects.
Studies are still limited on the health benefits of gratitude. Based on their research and experiences with clients, Buxani-Mirpuri and Capanna-Hodge say a gratitude practice could:
- promote better sleep
- reduce inflammation
- lower blood pressure
- reduce depression in people experiencing chronic illness
- help you focus on activities that improve your mental and physical health
How to start a personal gratitude practice
First things first: Take a moment to think about the people, places, and things that bring you joy. Simply focusing on what uplifts you will shift your mind toward gratitude.
“Experiencing gratitude always begins with being mindful,” says Buxani-Mirpuri. “Just noticing and acknowledging can be … very powerful.”
Practicing gratitude will look different from person to person. The premise is simple—it’s the commitment to repeated action that takes time and effort.
“The biggest misconception about gratitude is that it is something that you can do once in a while,” explains Capanna-Hodge. “You need to integrate small gratitude practices into your life in order for your brain to shift.”
Keep reading for tips to get the most out of Thanksgiving, Thankful Thursday, or a daily gratitude practice.
Set aside time
Settling on a vague notion that you want to be more thankful isn’t enough. Make it a true commitment by carving out a few minutes each day to cultivate your new attitude of gratitude.
“Healthy habits don’t just happen; they take time to develop. And they develop more quickly when you incorporate them into your routine,” says Capanna-Hodge.
Whether you write a gratitude list in the morning or tell your partner what you were thankful for at the end of each day, set a specific time for consistency. Capanna-Hodge also recommends saying “I’m grateful for…” out loud to another person at least once each day.
Start a gratitude journal
Journaling comes more naturally to some people than others. But even if you have never kept a diary, writing down what you’re thankful for is an easy, concrete way to keep a gratitude practice.
“I absolutely subscribe to gratitude journaling and have seen my clients benefit immensely from them,” says Buxani-Mirpuri.
There are dozens of gratitude journals on the market, but any notebook will do. There’s also no right or wrong way to record your thoughts. Some people enjoy waxing eloquent about heartwarming moments in their day.
Others simply keep a bullet journal of their blessings. The point is to develop a habit you can stick with, says Capanna-Hodge.
Share your gratitude journey with others
At some point in your life, you’ve probably experienced the power of accountability. Maybe you exercise with the help of a weight loss buddy. Or perhaps you completed Dry January because a friend did it with you. Your gratitude practice is personal, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a secret. Thankful Thursday is a group exercise, after all!
“Let people know you’re working on being more grateful,” Capanna-Hodge recommends. “When we declare our goals, they are more likely to happen.” Plus, she says friends and family might want to join in with their own gratitude journal or Thankful Thursday posts.
Turn your gratitude into action
Something special happens when we start paying close attention to the ordinary gifts in our lives. Dark clouds lift. Attitudes shift. You might realize that, just as others’ actions affect you, you can influence the world for better.
Acts of kindness are practical ways to express gratitude, according to Buxani-Mirpuri. She suggests verbally thanking people for their role in your life, showing up to support friends going through a rough patch, or signing up to volunteer at a local nonprofit organization.
Think about it this way: People have given you reasons to be thankful for them, so why not return the favor?
When gratitude isn’t enough
The opposite of gratitude is ungratefulness—not depression or anxiety. If you are struggling with mental illness or a mood disorder, gratitude can help, but it is not a cure.
Buxani-Mirpuri emphasizes that even the most thoughtful, consistent gratitude practice is not a substitute for therapy. All the Thankful Thursday posts in the world will not erase post-traumatic stress disorder or a chemical imbalance.
Practicing gratitude is also not the same thing as pretending that all is well all the time. Pressure to act thankful that your situation isn’t worse can lead to guilt, frustration, and pain, according to Buxani-Mirpuri. That’s not genuine gratitude. It’s toxic positivity.
“Gratitude is about appreciating the lesson in whatever hardships come while still connecting to emotions such as grief, sadness [or] irritation,” says Capanna-Hodge.
These days nearly all of us know someone who experiences migraines, or experience them ourselves. Migraine is the third most common illness globally and some 12 percent of people living in the United States experience it, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
And having a migraine is not the same as having a regular headache. In many cases, migraines are disabling when they occur, and migraine is the sixth most common disabling condition in the world. Every 10 seconds or so, someone in the United States seeks emergency care for migraine head pain.
While most people think of the headache or aura stages of migraine, for some people the stage after the headache period resolves, or postdrome stage, is just as disabling. Even if it’s not disabling, the postdrome stage generally causes people to feel unwell and exhausted, which is why some people call this stage a migraine hangover or the hangover migraine stage.
But what is a migraine hangover, and is there anything you can do to treat or prevent it? Here’s what leading headache specialists want you to know about migraine hangover.
What is migraine?
Migraine is not simply another type of headache.
“We think of migraine as a chronic neurological disease rather than just a headache,” says A. Laine Green, MD, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
“Migraine effects both the central and peripheral nervous systems,” he explains. “It’s a disease of how our body processes sensory information.” He says a lot of the manifestations of migraine involve pain, but it can also affect how people think and act.
Experts say migraine is often disabling and can greatly affect someone’s everyday life. Dr. Laine says researchers think migraine has a strong genetic component, which tends to make some more predisposed to developing migraine.
“I often think about migraine as a threshold,” he explains. “Most people under the right set of circumstances could have a migraine, but people with a genetic predisposition are more prone to having them, or it takes less to push them past this threshold and develop migraine.”
What are the stages of migraine?
In general terms, there are four migraine stages, though not everyone has to experience every stage of migraine or experience the same stages every time they get migraine.
“There are four classic stages of migraine,” says Dr. Laine.
“There is the prodrome phase that can happen for hours to days before the actual headache. Some people also experience an aura stage, which is traditionally after the prodrome stage and before the headache phase, though it can overlap with both of these stages a bit, then there’s the postdrome stage, or as some people call it, the hangover phase.”
Experts say symptoms during the aura and headache stages are often more pronounced than the other stages and the stages most people associate with migraine. Symptoms associated with the prodrome stage can be vague and linked with other common conditions.
“The second phase, aura, occurs in about one-third of people with migraine, though it may not happen with every migraine attack,” says Lauren R. Natbony, MD, a headache specialist and assistant clinical professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and committee member of the American Headache Society (AHS).
“The aura phase typically lasts from five to 60 minutes and is followed by headache in most people. Aura is most commonly visual and patients report seeing spots, stars, flashing lights, zigzag lines, etc.,” Dr. Natbony says.
Other common symptoms during the aura stage of migraine include sensory loss, such as numbness or tingling on one side of the body, and slurred speech.
Dr. Natbony says the headache phase of migraine typically presents as pounding or pulsating head pain on one or both sides of the head that lasts between four and 72 hours. In addition to pain, she adds, other symptoms that may occur during the headache phase include:
- nausea and vomiting
- sensitivity to light, sound and smell
- neck pain
- blurry vision
What is a migraine hangover?
According to experts and leading migraine and headache organizations, what many people call a migraine hangover is actually the fourth stage of migraine, known as the postdrome stage. Dr. Laine says he thinks people refer to this stage as their migraine hangover because many of the symptoms people experience are similar to those that can occur after a night of excessive drinking.
“Postdrome is the last phase [of migraine] and occurs in about 80 percent of those with migraine,” Dr. Natbony says. “It is the after-effects of a migraine headache and can include fatigue, trouble concentrating, mood changes, etc.”
She says postdrome can be extremely debilitating and can last for 24 to 48 hours after head pain has resolved.
Symptoms of a migraine hangover
Dr. Laine and Dr. Natbony say the symptoms associated with the postdrome stage or migraine hangover stage can mimic the symptoms someone experiences in the prodrome stage—or they can be the opposite.
“Fatigue is likely the most common symptom people complain of during this stage, but there can also be alterations in mood, either up or down, ” Dr. Laine says. “Some people even feel euphoric once the pain of the headache phase has ended.” He adds that attention and concentration problems are also very common during the migraine hangover stage.
Other symptoms that may occur during the postdrome stage that overlap with the prodrome stage include:
- increased need to urinate
- food craving or aversions
- sensitivity to sounds, smells, touch, and light
- difficulty reading or speaking
- trouble sleeping
- muscle aches or stiffness
- trouble with comprehension
- tender scalp
Dr. Laine says all of these symptoms essentially cause someone to feel physically and mentally wiped out. All in all, migraine hangover can be just as disabling as the headache or aura stage of migraine, though for some people symptoms during this period are less severe or even mild.
Experts say it’s important to remember that even though the headache stage of migraine may be over, during a migraine hangover you are still experiencing migraine.
How to treat migraine hangover
Dr. Laine says it can be hard to treat migraine hangover because the migraine has progressed so far by this point. He adds most treatments are designed to prevent or reduce the headache stage of migraine and some may even contribute to additional symptoms after the headache stage ends.
“During the postdrome, it is best to avoid known migraine triggers and to load up on water, engage in relaxing activities, and minimize stress,” Dr. Natbony says.
Other tips for reducing or treating migraine hangover symptoms include:
- getting out of bed
- doing light activities
- avoiding overstimulation
- caffeine (for some people, though for others caffeine can worsen symptoms)
- using ice packs of heating bags/pads
- sleeping and resting
The AMF says overdoing it or trying to simply push through a migraine hangover isn’t a good idea. They say your body needs this time to recover from the migraine attack and not giving your body this time can increase the risk of experiencing another migraine attack.
How to prevent migraine hangover
Experts make it very clear: The only real way to prevent migraine hangover is to prevent migraine or treat acute migraine early after symptoms develop, ideally those that indicate the migraine is still in the prodrome or aura stage.
“The best way to treat postdrome is to prevent a migraine attack from happening or to treat it aggressively at the onset,” Dr. Natbony says. “Treating early in a migraine attack can prevent it from progressing to later phases.”
Dr. Laine says another huge component of preventing migraine is lifestyle modifications or non-pharmaceutical treatments, which he says can be as effective as traditional medications.
According to Dr. Laine, Dr. Natbony, and the AMF, tips for preventing migraine include:
- going to bed and getting up around the same time every day
- getting enough rest, physical exercise, and hydration
- eating regular meals and trying to avoid skipping meals
- eating a source of protein with every meal or every few hours
- reducing or managing stress
- avoiding alcohol and caffeine
- eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
Another huge part of migraine management and prevention for many people is to avoid or limit exposure to things they identify that trigger migraine.
Dr. Laine says migraine triggers can push someone, generally someone with a predisposition to migraine, into an attack. But he adds that not every migraine will have an triggering event, and some attacks can be spontaneous and seem to develop for no clear reason.
Everyone can have different migraine triggers. But according to the experts some of the most common include:
- lack of sleep or too much sleep
- changes in the weather or environmental pressure
- bright lights
- certain smells
- some medications
- hormonal changes
- certain foods, such as aged cheeses, MSG, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, deli meats, citrus fruits, chocolate, and dairy products
- air pollution
Can taking migraine medications too often make migraine worse?
If people with migraine take medications for acute migraines more than 10 days per month, they may actually start developing migraines in response to overuse of the medications. Dr. Laine says this can make migraine more frequent, last longer, or become more severe. In some cases, he adds, acute migraine medications may stop working for someone altogether if they use them too frequently.
Just as traditional as the Thanksgiving turkey is the overstuffed and satisfied sleepiness that follows. And although society has historically pointed a finger at turkey, it turns out that it’s not the main cause of this overwhelming fatigue.
Yes, turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is a component of the feel-good chemical serotonin as well as a precursor to the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. But tryptophan can be found in all kinds of foods, ranging from dairy products and nuts to meats and tofu. And not only that, but turkey doesn’t have higher levels of tryptophan than any other common meat, reported the New York Times. In fact, gram for gram, even cheddar cheese contains greater amounts of tryptophan than turkey, says livescience.com. So if the tryptophan in turkey really did cause our post-Thanksgiving drowsiness, we’d experience the same strong, lethargic sensation every time we ate chicken, beef, cheese, or nuts. And, as we know, this obviously isn’t the case.
But if the tryptophan in turkey isn’t to blame for our sleepiness on Thanksgiving, what is?
It’s actually a combination of factors, starting with the high fat content of most Thanksgiving dinners. The average festive meal contains 229 grams of fat and 3,000 calories, reported MSNBC; that’s more than most men and women eat in an entire day! Digesting fat requires a lot of energy, so the body sends more blood to your digestive system to manage the load. Reduced blood flow throughout your body means reduced energy.
Alcohol is another reason your eyelids may grow heavy. On Thanksgiving, many adults drink beer, wine, or cocktails throughout the day and with their meals without realizing that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant with fast-acting sedative effects.
Finally, on Thanksgiving, even low-carb dieters allow themselves to indulge in carbohydrate-rich foods such as mashed potatoes, pies, stuffing, cornbread, yams covered in marshmallows, and more—all in one sitting. But eating such a ridiculous amount of carbohydrates at once triggers the release of insulin, and digesting it all is a lot of work for your body, which can leave you feeling pretty comatose.
If you swear that you feel particularly sleepy after your Thanksgiving meal, it’s true—you’re not imagining it. But don’t blame the poor turkey. If don’t want to snore on the floor after you’ve cleared your plate, cut back on the fat, carbs, and booze! Check out the best and worst Thanksgiving foods for your weight here.
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