No. 1 Phrase Used In Successful Relationships, Research On 40,000 Couples Finds

For the past 50 years, we’ve been putting love under the microscope. As psychologists, we’ve studied more than 40,000 partners about to begin couples therapy. We’ve also been happily married to each other for 35 years, so we know a thing or two about successful relationships.

While every partnership is unique, with its own set of challenges, there’s one thing that all couples have in common: We want to be appreciated. To be acknowledged for our efforts. We want to be seen.

The No. 1 phrase in successful relationships: ‘Thank you’

A thriving relationship requires an enthusiastic culture of appreciation, where we’re as good at noticing the things our partners are doing right as we are at noticing what they’re doing wrong.

But it’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing what your partner is not doing. You develop a narrative where you’re the one putting in all the effort, and you start to believe it’s true.

Getting rid of this toxic mindset requires building a new one: scanning for the positives and saying “thank you.”

How to get into the appreciation mindset

You probably say “thank you” all day long, almost without thinking, to your colleagues, to the bagger at the supermarket, or to the stranger who holds the door for you.

But in our most intimate relationships, we can forget how important saying “thank you” really is.

For many of the couples we’ve worked with, we found that when one person started the cycle of appreciation, it became easy for the other to join in and strengthen it.

Here’s your assignment for today:

Step 1: Be an anthropologist.

Keep a close eye on your partner, whenever you can. Follow them around. Write down what they do, especially the positive stuff! Don’t write down the negatives, such as ignoring a pile of papers you asked them to pick up.

Note that they washed the breakfast dishes, fielded phone calls, picked up the toys strewn all over the living room, and made you coffee when they went to make one for themselves.

You don’t have to hide the fact that you’re spying. You can tell your partner you’re observing them to get a better sense of their day, and everything they do.

Their behavior isn’t going to change much just by knowing you’re watching.

Step 2: Say “thank you.”

Thank them for something routine that they’re doing right, even if it’s small, even if they do it every day — in fact, especially if it’s small and they do it every day!

But don’t just say “Hey, thanks.” Tell them why that small thing is a big deal to you: “Thank you for making the coffee every morning. I love waking up to the smell of it and the sounds of you in the kitchen. It just makes me start the day off right.”


Don’t expect this to be easy. You may run into some challenges. Here’s our best advice:

If you’re crunched for time…

Make a quick list of everything you each do, then pick a couple of things to flip-flop on. If you’re always the one who gets the kids off to school, have your partner do it today instead. If your partner is always the one to make dinner, you do it tonight.

See what it feels like to put yourself in each other’s shoes.

If you’re having trouble getting out of the negative perspective…

Try to separate the negative feelings about what happened in the past. Focus on the here and now, this specific moment, this specific person. What can you tangibly observe?

Ask yourself: “Have I had these negative feelings before this relationship ever began? Who with? What set off those feelings?”

Identifying, naming and sourcing these types of negative thoughts and feelings can help you let them go.

If it feels like you’re seeing the positives, but your partner is not…

Remember, you’re trying to change your own mental habits. You’re not changing your partner.

Ultimately, how they think and feel is not within your control. But changing your own way of looking at the world is powerful. You’re disrupting the cycle of negativity and refusing to give it any fuel to continue. And that alone can make a significant difference.

(Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman are the co-founders of The Gottman Institute and Love Lab. Married for over 35 years, the two psychologists are world-renowned for their work on relationship stability and divorce prediction. They are also the co-authors of “The Love Prescription: Seven Days to More Intimacy, Connection, and Joy” and “10 Principles for Doing Effective Couples Therapy.” Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.)


An 85-Years-Long Study Throws Light On Making One Happy In 10 Minutes

What makes you genuinely happy? There could be a wide range of answers ranging from closing a big sale or investment, reaching a mountain summit after an arduous hike, or eating a perfect ice cream cone on a hot summer day. But according to what may be the longest-running scientific study of happiness, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has been going on for 85 years, the biggest determinant of genuine. long-term happiness isn’t wealth, or accomplishment, or even pleasure. It’s the relationships we form with the people in our lives, in our workplaces, and in our communities that bring us the greatest happiness in the long run.

With that in mind, the New York Times worked with the leader of the Harvard study to create a 7-Day Happiness Challenge as a way to start the new year. The whole challenge is well worth doing. These are the four steps that resonated most with me, and you can do any of them in about 10 minutes, any time of the day.

  1. Plan an 8-minute phone call with a friend.

The Times’ wellness columnist, Jancee Dunn, tried this with a friend of hers and was surprised at how powerfully it lifted her mood. The eight-minute phone call plan solves two ongoing problems with conversations. The first is that most of us “tend to think that in some unspecified future, we’ll have a ‘time surplus,’ where we’ll be able to connect with old friends,” according to Bob Waldinger, the psychiatrist leading the Harvard study who worked with the Times on these challenges. But chances are that “someday” when we think we’ll have lots of time for our friends will never come. So we need to make time right now or risk drifting away from our friendships.

The second is that, as Harvard research has shown, most conversations go on too long–often longer than either party would prefer. So set an eight-minute limit ahead of time–what Dunn calls a “hard out,” guarantees that this won’t happen. It also makes it easy for even a very busy friend to say yes to the call. For instance, Dunn’s friend spent eight minutes talking with her while traveling to the dry cleaner’s.

What surprised Dunn was how much she and her friend were able to talk about in eight minutes. “We talked about our mothers’ health, made birthday plans, gossiped about a friend who abruptly quit his job and moved to a tiny Mexican town, traded book recommendations, and explored the possibility of an afterlife,” she wrote. Perhaps because they had both committed to a tight time limit, they were quick to get the important stuff.

Dunn wrote, “I had missed her, and didn’t realize it until I heard her voice.” This is an important factor, researchers say. Hearing someone’s voice is a more powerful way to connect than texting with them or chatting over social media. So make that eight-minute phone call today, if you can.

  1. Start a conversation with a stranger.

Research has shown that starting a conversation with a stranger increases our happiness, even when we don’t expect that it will. Given that humans are profoundly social creatures and that we all thrive on connection, that shouldn’t really be as surprising as it is. Dunn put this advice to use herself when she asked a neighbor whose dog always barked at her if there was anything she could do to make friends with him. There was, and it was surprisingly simple–all she had to do was take off her hat, because hats upset this particular dog for some reason.

In my own case, a few years back, I struck up a conversation with Shelmina Babai Abji at a cocktail party and we soon became friends and supporters of each others’ careers. At the time we both had book projects we hoped to sell and in some odd twist, both our books came out on the same day. I’m proud to have her endorsement on my book, Career Self-Care.

  1. Get to know someone at work.

Work friends are incredibly important–particularly in the high pressure and long hours that go with starting a business. Yet, experts say, we don’t always recognize the value of these relationships. So choose someone at work you would like to get to know better. This could be an acquaintance who you’d like to turn into a friend, or someone you don’t know at all but would like to get to know.

For someone you don’t yet know, find a bit of common ground. These conversation starters can help. If you like, pay attention to things they may have mentioned in public, perhaps that they are about to give an important presentation or will be attending a family member’s wedding. If you follow up afterward and ask how it went, they’ll be impressed and pleased that you were paying attention and remembered what was going on with them. You’ll have turned that person from a stranger into an acquaintance.

To go from acquaintance to friend, invite them to do something simple that takes only a few minutes, like walk with you to the corner deli to pick up lunch. Or, use the Ben Franklin
effect, and ask them to do you a small and easy favor, a counterintuitive but powerful way to get someone to like you. With most people, this approach will help start you on your way toward being a work friend. If it doesn’t work with this particular person, don’t dwell on it. Just pick someone else and try again.

  1. Send someone a thank you message.

Research shows that this simple gesture creates immediate happiness benefits both for the person doing the thanking and the person receiving the thanks. So, even though it’s not the easiest of these steps, it may be the most important. Take a few minutes to write a note to a friend, a loved one, a family member, or even someone who’s helped you in your career. It can be someone you see all the time, or someone you haven’t spoken to in years.

Imagine that this is the last message you’ll be able to send this person, and write down what you’re grateful for. You don’t need to put a huge amount of thought into this–you can do it in less than 10 minutes, as promised. Now here’s the hard part: Send the message. Whether by email or social media, or snail mail, send it. Don’t worry if the person at the other end hasn’t heard from you for a long time. People are always happy to get a thank you note, even if it’s from someone they haven’t thought about in a long time. Getting it will make them happy, and sending it will make you happy.

If you can, try one of these 10-minute challenges every day next week. Altogether, they will ]take only about an hour of your time. At the end of the week, ask yourself if these small steps made you feel better than you would have without them. If the answer is yes, should you make them part of your routine every week? (

7 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude in Your Everyday Life

The secret to happiness lies in being grateful. Follow these expert tips to learn how to practice gratitude every day.

Grateful people are happy people. This was one of the top findings of the Harvard Adult Development Study, the longest-running study on happiness and health in the world, spanning 100 years and two generations of Americans. What’s more, grateful people live longer and are healthier overall. This means that learning how to practice gratitude is one of the best things you can do for yourself, says the current director of the study, psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, MD.

Why? The answer is pretty simple: Being grateful focuses your attention on what you have, rather than what you don’t, and reminds you about all that is good in your life. It also has another, less-obvious benefit, according to Dr. Waldinger, who co-authored The Good Life, a book that divulges the secrets to happiness, based on the Harvard study. “Gratitude is one of the best tools we have for strengthening relationships, and our relationships with others are the strongest factor in determining happiness,” he explains, adding that being grateful is one of the simplest and easiest things you can do to increase your happiness—and the effect is almost instantaneous.

So if you want to know how to be happy, learn how to practice gratitude in your life every day. This can include doing gratitude meditations (one of Dr. Waldinger’s favorites!), writing thank-you notes, gratitude journaling in a gratitude journal and reading gratitude quotes. Keep reading for even more tips for practicing gratitude and becoming a happier you.

What is gratitude?

Before you learn how to practice gratitude, be sure you understand the concept. So, what does gratitude mean, exactly?

Gratitude is the positive feeling of being thankful for someone or something. But in practice, it’s so much more than that, says Canadian psychologist Haley Perlus, PhD.

“Gratitude is a productive emotional training tool. When you are grateful for your life, you can experience the positive and pleasant feelings associated with happiness, peace, passion, excitement and love. These pleasant emotions can then be a catalyst for positive changes in your life,” she explains. “Gratitude is also the opposite of our negative inner voice. It disrupts negative patterns and creates an opportunity to focus on all the good in one’s past, present and future.”

Why is gratitude important?

Science has proven over and over again that gratitude provides powerful physical and mental health benefits, says Dr. Waldinger. Being grateful can help prevent disease, and being thankful can even help you live longer.

Some of gratitude’s greatest benefits include:

Lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other lifestyle diseases

Stronger immune system

Sharper memory and less mental decline with aging

Higher-quality sleep and less insomnia

Reduced perception of chronic pain

Less inflammation in the body

Better mood and less incidence of depression and anxiety

Higher self-confidence and fewer feelings of anger, jealousy and envy

Greater ability to forgive yourself and others

Better ability to prioritize and manage time

7 ways to practice gratitude

Being grateful is a learned skill—and one you can get better at with practice, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you at first, says Perlus. Ready to practice gratitude in your everyday life? Try the simple, expert-approved tips below.

  1. Say what you’re grateful for out loud

Vocalizing what you’re grateful for can be more impactful than simply thinking it, says Perlus. Hearing yourself say it aloud helps cement it in your memory, and articulating it helps you identify what aspect of the experience you are grateful for.

How to practice gratitude: Use Voice Memos or another app to dictate what you’re grateful for (and save the recordings so you can go back and listen when you need a little moment of joy). Or encourage the family to share something they’re grateful for each evening at dinner.

  1. Write down what you’re grateful for

Putting your thoughts on paper, whether that’s in a gratitude journal or a thank-you note, is a powerful way to connect your mind and your body, reinforcing the positive feelings.

How to practice gratitude: Keep a notebook in your purse or desk to jot down things you’re grateful for as they happen. Or try gratitude journaling: Write three things you’re grateful for every day in a journal you keep by your bed.

  1. Share your gratitude with others

Sharing your gratitude has an immense effect on both you and others, triggering a cascade of happy thoughts and feelings while also strengthening your bond. Even people who said thank-you to a stranger reported a strong feeling of happiness, adds Dr. Waldinger.

How to practice gratitude: Make a conscious effort every single day to tell someone how grateful you are for them. Call a parent, write a thank-you note to an old teacher, give a friend a thank-you gift or simply thank the cashier at the grocery store.

  1. Meditate on gratitude

People often make the mistake of assuming feelings control the mind—that how we feel determines what we think about. In reality, your mind dictates what you feel, says Dr. Waldinger. So focusing your mind on gratitude by doing a daily meditation is one of the best ways to feel more grateful in your life.

How to practice gratitude: Simply put, thinking grateful thoughts helps you see more things to be grateful for in your life. Clear your mind. Then take one to five minutes each morning to do a guided meditation on gratitude or to meditate on things or people you’re grateful for. A happiness meditation will help you be happier at home, at work and anywhere else you spend your day.

  1. Plan to be grateful in advance

Gratitude doesn’t just occur in hindsight. Go ahead and plan your gratefulness ahead of time. And don’t wait to spontaneously “feel grateful.” Identify areas in your life in which you feel unhappy and then list ways to feel grateful in those situations.

How to practice gratitude: Write out a list of specific things to be grateful for and carry it with you, or set an alarm on your phone to remind you to look for moments of gratitude. Not sure where to start your planned gratitude journey? Sign up to do something nice for someone else—feeling grateful is just one of the benefits of volunteering.

  1. Challenge yourself to be grateful in difficult circumstances

Life isn’t about what happens to you but how you handle it, and grateful people are more resilient when handling trying times, says Dr. Waldinger. There is no situation, no matter how difficult, in which you can’t find something to be grateful for—and practicing gratitude can go a long way toward improving the way you deal with hard things.

How to practice gratitude: Look back through old journals or photo albums of hard times in your life and make notes about what helped you get through them and what you were grateful for. Use that information to help you find the silver linings in current troubles.

  1. Get inspired by others’ gratitude

Being grateful is a skill, and you can learn how to do it by seeing how others practice gratitude in their lives. Pay attention to the way friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances show gratitude throughout the day—or ask them about their gratitude process. (

Mood Affects The Way You Process Language

Newswise — When people are in a negative mood, they may be quicker to spot inconsistencies in things they read, a new University of Arizona-led study suggests.

The study, published in Frontiers in Communication, builds on existing research on how the brain processes language.

Vicky Lai, a UArizona assistant professor of psychology and cognitive science, worked with collaborators in the Netherlands to explore how people’s brains react to language when they are in a happy mood versus a negative mood.

“Mood and language seem to be supported by different brain networks. But we have one brain, and the two are processed in the same brain, so there is a lot of interaction going on,” Lai said. “We show that when people are in a negative mood, they are more careful and analytical. They scrutinize what’s actually stated in a text, and they don’t just fall back on their default world knowledge.”

Lai and her study co-authors set out to manipulate study participants’ moods by showing them clips from a sad movie – “Sophie’s Choice” – or a funny television show – “Friends.” A computerized survey was used to evaluate participants’ moods before and after watching the clips. While the funny clips did not impact participants’ moods, the sad clips succeeded in putting participants in a more negative mood, the researchers found.

The participants then listened to a series of emotionally neutral audio recordings of four-sentence stories that each contained a “critical sentence” that either supported or violated default, or familiar, word knowledge. That sentence was displayed one word at a time on a computer screen, while participants’ brain waves were monitored by EEG, a test that measures brain waves.

For example, the researchers presented study participants with a story about driving at night that ended with the critical sentence “With the lights on, you can see more.” In a separate story about stargazing, the same critical sentence was altered to read “With the lights on, you can see less.” Although that statement is accurate in the context of stargazing, the idea that turning on the lights would cause a person to see less is a much less familiar concept that defies default knowledge.

The researchers also presented versions of the stories in which the critical sentences were swapped so that they did not fit the context of the story. For example, the story about driving at night would include the sentence “With the lights on, you can see less.”

They then looked at how the brain reacted to the inconsistencies, depending on mood.

They found that when participants were in a negative mood, based on their survey responses, they showed a type of brain activity closely associated with re-analysis.

“We show that mood matters, and perhaps when we do some tasks we should pay attention to our mood,” Lai said. “If we’re in a bad mood, maybe we should do things that are more detail-oriented, such as proofreading.”

Study participants completed the experiment twice – once in the negative mood condition and once in the happy mood condition. Each trial took place one week apart, with the same stories presented each time.

“These are the same stories, but in different moods, the brain sees them differently, with the sad mood being the more analytical mood,” Lai said.

The study was conducted in the Netherlands; participants were native Dutch speakers, and the study was conducted in Dutch. But Lai believes their findings translate across languages and cultures.

By design, the study participants were all women, because Lai and her colleagues wanted to align their study with existing literature that was limited to female participants. Lai said future studies should include more diverse gender representation.

In the meantime, Lai and her colleagues say mood may affect us in more ways than we previously realized.

Researcher Jos van Berkum of the Netherlands’ Utrecht University, co-authored the study with Lai and Peter Hagoort of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands.

“When thinking about how mood affects them, many people just consider things like being grumpy, eating more ice cream, or – at best – interpreting somebody else’s talk in a biased way,” van Berkum said. “But there’s much more going on, also in unexpected corners of our minds. That’s really interesting. Imagine your laptop being more or less precise as a function of its battery level – that’s unthinkable. But in human information processing, and presumably also in (information processing) of related species, something like that seems to be going on.”

Harvard Study Finds 4 Simple Ways to Make Yourself Really Happy in 10 Minutes or Less

An 85-year-long study reveals the secret to long-term happiness. Should you try it? What makes you genuinely happy? There could be a wide range of answers ranging from closing a big sale or investment, reaching a mountain summit after an arduous hike, or eating a perfect ice cream cone on a hot summer day. But according to what may be the longest-running scientific study of happiness, the Harvard Study of Adult Development which has been going on for 85 years, the biggest determinant of genuine. long-term happiness isn’t wealth, or accomplishment, or even pleasure. It’s the relationships we form with the people in our lives, in our workplaces, and in our communities that bring us the greatest happiness in the long run.

With that in mind, the New York Times worked with the leader of the Harvard study to create a 7-Day Happiness Challenge as a way to start of the new year. The whole challenge is well worth doing. These are the four steps that resonated most with me, and you can do any of them in about 10 minutes any time of the day.

  1. Plan an 8-minute phone call with a friend.

The Times’ wellness columnist Jancee Dunn tried this with a friend of hers and was surprised at how powerfully it lifted her mood. The eight-minute phone call plan solves two ongoing problems with conversations. The first is that most of us “tend to think that in some unspecified future, we’ll have a ‘time surplus,’ where we’ll be able to connect with old friends,” according to Bob Waldinger, the psychiatrist leading the Harvard study who worked with the Times on these challenges. But chances are that “someday” when we think we’ll have lots of time for our friends will never come. So we need to make time right now or risk drifting away from our friendships.

Picture : TheUNN

The second is that, as Harvard research has shown, most conversations go on too long–often longer than either party would prefer. So to set an eight-minute limit ahead of time–what Dunn calls a “hard out,” guarantees that this won’t happen. It also makes it easy for even a very busy friend to say yes to the call. For instance, Dunn’s friend spent eight minutes talking with her while traveling to the dry cleaner’s.

What surprised Dunn was how much she and her friend were able to talk about in eight minutes. “We talked about our mothers’ health, made birthday plans, gossiped about a friend who abruptly quit his job and moved to a tiny Mexican town, traded book recommendations and explored the possibility of an afterlife,” she wrote. Perhaps because they had both committed to a tight time limit, they were quick to get the important stuff.

Dunn wrote, “I had missed her, and didn’t realize it until I heard her voice.” This is an important factor, researchers say. Hearing someone’s voice is a more powerful way to connect than texting with them or chatting over social media. So make that eight-minute phone call today, if you can.

  1. Start a conversation with a stranger.

Research has shown that starting a conversation with a stranger increases our happiness, even when we don’t expect that it will. Given that humans are profoundly social creatures and that we all thrive on connection, that shouldn’t really be as surprising as it is. Dunn put this advice to use herself when she asked a neighbor whose dog always barked at her if there was anything she could do to make friends with him. There was, and it was surprisingly simple–all she had to do was take off her hat, because hats upset this particular dog for some reason.

In my own case, a few years back, I struck up a conversation with Shelmina Babai Abji at a cocktail party and we soon became friends and supporters of each others’ careers. At the time we both had book projects we hoped to sell and in some odd twist, both our books came out on the same day. I’m proud to have her endorsement on my book Career Self-Care.

  1. Get to know someone at work.

Work friends are incredibly important–particularly in the high pressure and long hours that go with starting a business. Yet, experts say, we don’t always recognize the value of these relationships. So choose someone at work you would like to get to know better. This could be an acquaintance who you’d like to turn into a friend, or someone you don’t know at all but would like to get to know.

For someone you don’t yet know, find a bit of common ground. These conversation starters can help. If you like, pay attention to things they may have mentioned in public, perhaps that they are about to give an important presentation or will be attending a family member’s wedding. If you follow up afterward and ask how it went, they’ll be impressed and pleased that you were paying attention and remembered what was going on with them. You’ll have turned that person from a stranger into an acquaintance.

To go from acquaintance to friend, invite them to do something simple that only takes a few minutes, like walk with you to the corner deli to pick up lunch. Or, use the Ben Franklin Effect, and ask them to do you a small and easy favor, a counterintuitive but powerful way to get someone to like you. With most people, this approach will help start you on your way toward being a work friend. If it doesn’t work with this particular person, don’t dwell on it. Just pick someone else and try again.

  1. Send someone a thank you message.

Research shows that this simple gesture creates immediate happiness benefits both for the person doing the thanking and the person receiving the thanks. So, even though it’s not the easiest of these steps, it may be the most important. Take a few minutes to write a note to a friend, a loved one, a family member, or even someone who’s helped you in your career. It can be someone you see all the time, or someone you haven’t spoken to in years.

Imagine that this is the last message you’ll be able to send this person, and write down what you’re grateful for. You don’t need to put a huge amount of thought into this–you can do it in less than 10 minutes, as promised. Now here’s the hard part: Send the message. Whether by email or social media, or snail mail, but send it. Don’t worry if the person at the other end hasn’t heard from you for a long time. People are always happy to get a thank you note, even if it’s from someone they haven’t thought about in a long time. Getting it will make them happy, and sending it will make you happy.

If you can, try one of these ten-minute challenges every day next week. All together, they will only take about an hour of your time. At the end of the week, ask yourself if these small steps made you feel better than you would have without them. If the answer is yes, should you make them part of your routine every week? (

Those With “No Religion” In USA Aren’t Increasing

(ZENIT News)- A Gallup demoscopic group reflects that, although noticed in different reports over the last decades that the number of people with “no religion” has increased, that increase has halted over the last six years.

Although it’s true that in the decade of the 50s the number of those with “no religion” was 0, in 2022 one fifth of the American population say they have “no religion,” reflecting that from 2017 to 2022 the percentage has halted. Gallup polls of that period of years show that the stabilization has stayed around 20-21%, of those that state they have “no religion.” It’s evident that the increase from 1950 to 2022 contrasts with the stabilization of those with “no religion” over the last five-year period.

Picture : Guardian

This data is relevant as, in the opinion of Dr Frank Newport, a Gallup sociologist, “there are hundreds of academic articles, academic reviews and books that examine the phenomenon of religious identity. The majority of these operate under the supposition that the percentage of those “without any religion” increases constantly, as part of a general tendency to secularization in American society. Our tendency about religious identity suggests a certain caution when assuming that these tendencies are inexorable.”

However, the Gallup data shows that there was also a stabilization of those with “no religion” in 1980, when the percentage stayed at 10% up to 2000. Between 2000 and 2017 the tendency was stabilized even more.

According to Newport, “we don’t know what will happen with religious identity in the future. History tells us that the only constant, when it comes to American religion, is change. Hence, it’s not known when or if the “ascent of those with no religion” will be recovered again. An important consideration is age.” Newport stresses that already in a 2019 analysis, an important question pivoted around the probability that the young people of today and of tomorrow will continue to become more religious as they get older. “However, regardless of what happens in the future, I believe that a key conclusion of the Gallup data is the evidence that a constant increase, year after year, in the percentage of Americans that don’t have a religious identity is certainly not inevitable.”

Is Witchcraft Real?

From ancient Greece to modern-day TikTok witchcraft, the world of witches has been a changing one.

(The Conversation) — Living on the North Shore in Boston in the fall brings the gorgeous turning of the leaves and pumpkin patches. It is also a time for people to head to nearby Salem, Massachusetts, home of the 17th century infamous witch trials, and visit its popular museum.

Despite a troubled history, there are people today who consider themselves witches. Often, modern witches share their lore, craft and stories on TikTok and other social media platforms.

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Picture : The Coversation

As a scholar who works on myth and poetry from ancient Greece – and as a native of New England – I have long been fascinated by the cultural conversations about witches. Witch trials in the Americas and Europe were in part about enforcing power structures and persecuting the weak. From ancient Greece through Puritan New England, witches functioned as easy targets for cultural anxieties about gender, power and mortality.

Ancient witches: gender and power

While modern witchcraft is inclusive of many different genders and identities, witches in ancient myth and literature were almost exclusively women. Their stories were in part about navigating gender roles and power in a patriarchal system.

Fear about women’s power was an essential part of ancient anxiety about witchcraft. This fear, moreover, relied on traditional expectations about the abilities innate to a person’s gender. As early as the creation narrative in Hesiod’s “Theogony” – a poem hailing from a poetic tradition between the eighth and fifth centuries B.C. – male gods like Cronus and Zeus were depicted with physical strength, while female figures were endowed with intelligence. In particular, women knew about the mysteries of childbirth and how to raise children.

In the basic framework of Greek myth, then, men were strong and women used intelligence and tricks to cope with their violence. This gendered difference in traits combined with ancient Greek views of bodies and aging. While women were seen to move through stages of life based on biology – childhood, adolescence via menstruation, childbearing and old age – the aging of men was connected to their relationship to women, particularly in getting married and having children.

Both Greek and Latin have a single word for man and husband – “aner” in Greek and “vir” in Latin. Socially and ritually, men were essentially seen as adolescents until they became husbands and fathers.

Picture: FT

Female control over reproduction was symbolized as a kind of ability to control life and death. In ancient Greece, women were expected to bear all responsibilities during early child rearing. They also were the ones to exclusively take on special roles in mourning the dead. Suspicion, anxiety and fear about mortality were then put on to women in general.

Powerful women

This was true especially for women who did not fit into typical gendered roles like the virtuous bride, the good mother or the helpful old maid.

While ancient Greek does not have a word that directly translates as “witch,” it does have “pharmakis” (someone who gives out drugs or medicine), “aoidos” (singer, enchantress) and “graus” or “graia” (old woman). Of these names, graus is probably closest to later European stereotypes: the mysterious old woman who is not part of a traditional family structure.

Much like today, foreignness invited suspicion in the ancient world as well. Several of the characters who may qualify as mythical witches were women from distant lands. Medea, famous for killing her children when her husband, Jason, proposes marrying someone else in Euripides’ play, was a woman from the east, a foreigner who did not adhere to the expectations for a woman’s behavior in Greece.

She started her narrative as a princess who used concoctions and spells to help Jason. Her powers increased male virility and life.

Medea allegedly learned her magical craft from her aunt, Circe, who shows up in Homer’s “Odyssey.” She lived alone on an island, luring men to her cabin with seductive food and drink to turn them into animals. Odysseus defeated her with an antidote provided by the god Hermes. Once her magic failed, Circe believed she had no choice but to submit to Odysseus.

Witches over time

Elsewhere in the “Odyssey” there are similar themes: the Sirens who sing to Odysseus are enchantresses who try to take control of the hero. Earlier in the epic, the audience witnesses Helen, whose departure with the Trojan prince Paris was the cause of the Trojan War, add an Egyptian drug called nepenthe to the wine she gives to her husband, Menelaos, and Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. This wine was so strong, it made people forget about the pain of losing even a loved one.

In each of these cases, women who practice magic threaten to exert control over men with tools that can also be part of a pleasurable life: songs, sex and families. Other myths of monstrous women reinforce how misogynistic stereotypes animate these beliefs. The ancient figure Lamia, for example, was a once beautiful woman who stole and killed infants because her children had died.

Empousa was a vampiric creature who fed on the sex and blood of young men. Even Medusa, well-known as the snake-haired Gorgon who turned men to stone, was reported in some sources to have actually been a woman so beautiful that Perseus cut her head off to show it off to his friends.

These examples are from myth. There were many living traditions of women’s healing and song cultures that have been lost over time. Many academic authors have traced the modern practices of witchcraft to ancient cults and the survival of pagan traditions outside of mainstream Christianity. Recent studies of ancient magical practices show how widespread and varied they were.

While ancient women were likely subject to suspicion and slander for witchcraft, there is no evidence that they faced the kind of widespread persecution of witches that swept Europe and the Americas a few centuries ago. The later 20th century, however, saw renewed interest in witchcraft, often in concert with movements empowering women.

Modern witches are crossing international borders and learning from each other without leaving their homes by creating communities on social media, like TikTok. If fear about women’s power led to paranoia in the past, exploring and embracing witchcraft has become part of reclaiming women’s histories. (

(Joel Christensen, Professor of Classical Studies, Brandeis University. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

Transgender Life Celebrated At Pageant In India

(AP) Anilya Boro may not have won the crown at India’s Miss Trans NE pageant this year, but having her parents there in support was a validation in its own right.

“I must prove to my parents that I can do something as a girl,” said the 22-year-old. “I didn’t win a title, but I am very happy that my parents were at the show to support me. Now they have accepted my decision to live as a girl and undergo surgery, but they don’t want me to rush through.”

Picture : AP

Twenty transgender women sashayed on a stage dressed as ethnic and tribal characters in the beauty pageant, drawing rounds of applause from the audience. The contestants came from India’s remote eight northeastern states, some of them nestled in the Himalayas in a relatively undeveloped region known for its stunning natural vistas.

Anilya Boro may not have won the crown at India’s Miss Trans NE pageant this year, but having her parents there in support was a validation in its own right.

“I must prove to my parents that I can do something as a girl,” said the 22-year-old. “I didn’t win a title, but I am very happy that my parents were at the show to support me. Now they have accepted my decision to live as a girl and undergo surgery, but they don’t want me to rush through.”

Twenty transgender women sashayed on a stage dressed as ethnic and tribal characters in the beauty pageant, drawing rounds of applause from the audience. The contestants came from India’s remote eight northeastern states, some of them nestled in the Himalayas in a relatively undeveloped region known for its stunning natural vistas.

Sexual minorities across India have gained a degree of acceptance, especially in big cities, and transgender people were guaranteed equal rights as a third gender in 2014. But prejudice persists and the community continues to face discrimination and rejection by their families. They’re often denied jobs, education and health care.

Ajan lived in the Indian capital for 13 years as a fashion designer and moved to her hometown of Guwahati in northeastern Assam state after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.

She had won the title of Trans Queen in 2014, in a pageant held in the southern city of Vishakhapatnam, and later decided to help the community in the northeastern region.

“The Miss Trans NE pageant on Nov. 30 was only for men who identified themselves as women. Next year, it will include transgender men as well,’’ Ajan said.

Anilya is keeping her sights high, dreaming of one day winning the Miss Universe title. Her mother, Aikon Boro, said Anilya wore only girl’s clothes since she was 6 or 7, feeling the most comfortable in them.

“Everybody in the family tried to change her habits and behavior but she didn’t listen. Now the family members have accepted her as a transgender person,’’ she said.

The top prize at Miss Trans NE went to Lucey Ham from Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh state which borders on China, while Aria Deka and Rishidhya Sangkarishan, both from Assam in the far northeast, were runners-up.

“I am overwhelmed with joy. I have nothing to say. I will never forget the biggest moment of my life,” Ham said after she was crowned the winner.

Disability Is Not A Barrier To Success In Life 

What we call differently-abled people are people with different abilities, which cannot be denied.

“The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The Day observance aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains derived from integrating persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. 

The main program of the observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the UN Headquarters in New York will include the Opening, panel discussions, and cultural events. Member States, civil society organizations, and the private sector are welcome to organize their events to celebrate International Day to raise awareness and promote the rights and perspectives of persons with disabilities worldwide”. (UN Department if Economic and Social Affairs)

Many disabled persons endorse that the biggest inspiration in their success, is Lipin Raj, who got into the civil service despite his visual impairment. The author as a disabled person, turned himself as an inspiration to many, but never compromises his attempts with a sense of inability!

Many people around us put aside the handicaps of life and put success into their own hands. Alix Louise Savage is an Australian Paralympic wheelchair racer and leading coach. Sauvage is considered Australia’s most famous disabled sportswoman. He won nine golds and four silvers in four Paralympic Games and eleven golds and two silvers in three IPC Athletics World Championships. And has won four Boston Marathons. He also achieved world records in 1500m, 5000m, 4x100m, and 4x400m relays. 

She was the Australian Female Athlete of the Year in 1999 and the International Female Wheelchair Athlete of the Year in 1999 and 2000. In 2002, her autobiography Louise Sauvage “My Story” was published. Many world-renowned people have come forward with the message that disability is not a barrier to success in life. Beethoven, a world-renowned pianist, born in Germany, was hard of hearing. American writer Helen Keller was visually challenged. 

Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and others are also great people who have overcome crises. Indian woman Arunima Sinha overcame physical challenges to become one of the world’s best mountaineers. They have conquered many peaks in the world, including Mount Everest. Ira Singhal, who topped the civil service examination in 2014, and Shekhar Naik, who led the Indian blind cricket team to victory in the Twenty20 match in 2012, have also fought tirelessly in the face of adversity. 

December is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The United Nations decided to celebrate this day to end the inequality and discrimination faced by people with disabilities in social life. 

In 1975, the United Nations made the Declaration on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Later 1982 was celebrated as the year of the differently abled. Then the period from 1983-92 was also observed as a Decade of Persons with Disabilities. Finally, in 1992, it was decided to celebrate December 3rd every year as Diversity Day 

A sign of cultural superiority is the vision to embrace more diversity. When one imagines primitive man struggling for basic survival, such as food, shelter, and security, artistic growth may seem like a spectacle. But in modern times, when we communicate as a global village, cultural promotion becomes an integral part of social life. 

A diversity perspective is also an approach that goes beyond dichotomies such as black-white and male-female. It is essential to include people with disabilities in this holistic approach. According to the World Health Organization, around 100 million people worldwide have some form of disability. It is also basic etiquette to share the joy of the cultural world that humanity has built. 

The United Nations promotes enabling inclusive development by ensuring the participation of the differently abled in the mainstream of society. To this end, the United Nations takes the initiative and intervenes to bring about changes in legislation and policy approaches at the national level. The World Health Organization, a part of the UN, also plays an essential role in coordinating Disability Day celebrations. 

The celebration of this day also reminds the world every year of the importance of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, they too have equal rights to live.

Which Exercise Burns the Most Calories?

Your time is precious — and limited. So when it comes to working out, it’s not uncommon to wonder: what exercise burns the most calories?

Exercise scientists have rigorously studied the amount of energy people expend during different types of exercise, and they’ve determined which workouts are best for burning calories. The thing to keep in mind: the more muscles you engage and the harder (and longer) you push those muscles, the more energy your body will churn through, says Dr. Tim Church, an exercise researcher and a professor of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. So in order to maximize the number of calories you’ll burn, “you want an exercise that uses both lower and upper body muscle groups and is performed at a high intensity,” Church says.

Picture : Stylist

A study on one popular CrossFit workout called the “Cindy” — in which a person does a series of pull-ups, push-ups and squats in as many rounds as possible — found that it burned an average of 13 calories per minute. The workout lasts 20 minutes, so exercisers burned an average of 260 calories in total. While perfect apples-to-apples studies aren’t available, some Tabata research has shown that one of these workouts — composed of 4-minute training blocks that mix maximum-intensity bouts of resistance and aerobic training with short periods of rest — burns 14.5 calories per minute, or 280 calories during a 20-minute workout.

These per-minute calorie averages beat out many traditional forms of exercise. “But there’s such a variety within these classes and the people doing them that scores are all over the map,” says John Porcari, author of the Tabata study and a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. For example, some people in his Tabata study burned up to 360 calories during the 20-minute workout, or 18 calories per minute.

Yet “per-minute” calorie burn isn’t always the best way to assess a workout’s energy demands, Porcari says. The total time spent training and a person’s willingness to stick with a workout are also important factors. “You can crank like the dickens for 30 seconds and burn a lot of calories,” he says. So if you’re extremely short on time, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is probably your best option. But in the real world, Porcari says, many people won’t be comfortable (or capable of) engaging in regular or extended bouts of high-intensity training.

He says a “more fair” way to assess an exercise’s true energy demands is to ask people to do it at a pace that is comfortable for them. And when it comes to vigorous, calorie-burning exercises that people are comfortable doing for extended periods of time, running usually comes out on top. “When you look at the literature, running tends to burn more calories than other modalities,” he says.

According to an online calorie estimator from the American Council on Exercise, a 115-pound person running for 30 minutes at a slow-to-moderate pace (a 10-minute mile) would burn about 260 calories: the same amount people who did CrossFit typically torched in 20 minutes, according to the research. A 175-pound person would burn nearly 400 calories during that same 30-minute run. Pick up the pace, and you can achieve an even greater rate of calorie burn.

You may be wondering whether more intense forms of exercise lead to a higher rate of calorie expenditure even after training is finished — or a so-called “afterburn effect.” Research from Colorado State University has shown that, yes, intense exercise does keep a person’s metabolism humming longer than mild exercise. But this afterburn effect tends to peter out quickly — within a few hours — and it accounts for a small fraction of the total calories a person expends during and after exercise.

Also, a workout’s length — not just its intensity — helps to keep a person’s metabolism elevated after training, finds a review from the University of New Mexico. So if your goal is to burn the maximum amount of energy, you’ll want to find an exercise that is vigorous and that you can stick with for a long stretch of time.

For a lot of people, that mode is running. For others, it may be fast stationary cycling or Tabata or using an elliptical. The research suggests all are more or less comparable if you’re able to put in the time and keep up the intensity.

The bottom line? The best workout for burning calories is “the one you actually do,” Church says. You can find extreme forms of exercise that maximize per-minute calorie burn. But if you don’t stick with them or do them regularly, they’re not much good to you.

Mindfulness Works As Well As An Anxiety Drug

Mindfulness meditation worked as well as a standard drug for treating anxiety in the first head-to-head comparison.

The study tested a widely used mindfulness program that includes 2 1/2 hours of classes weekly and 45 minutes of daily practice at home. Participants were randomly assigned to the program or daily use of a generic drug sold under the brand name Lexapro for depression and anxiety.

After two months, anxiety as measured on a severity scale declined by about 30% in both groups and continued to decrease during the following four months.

Study results, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, are timely. In September, an influential U.S. health task force recommended routine anxiety screening for adults, and numerous reports suggest global anxiety rates have increased recently, related to worries over the pandemic, political and racial unrest, climate change and financial uncertainties.

Picture : ABC News

Anxiety disorders include social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and panic attacks. Affected people are troubled by persistent and intrusive worries that interfere with their lives and relationships. In the U.S., anxiety disorders affect 40% of U.S. women at some point in their lives and more than 1 in 4 men, according to data cited in U.S. Preventive Services Task Force screening recommendations.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that emphasizes focusing only on what’s happening at the moment and dismissing intrusive thoughts. Sessions often start with breathing exercises. Next might be “body scans” — thinking about each body part systematically, head to toe. When worried thoughts intrude, participants learn to briefly acknowledge them but then dismiss them.

Instead of ruminating over the troubling thought, “you say, ‘I’m having this thought, let that go for now,’’’ said lead author Elizabeth Hoge, director of Georgetown University’s Anxiety Disorders Research Program. With practice, “It changes the relationship people have with their own thoughts when not meditating.”

Previous studies have shown mindfulness works better than no treatment or at least as well as education or more formal behavior therapy in reducing anxiety, depression and other mental woes. But this is the first study to test it against a psychiatric drug, Hoge said, and the results could make insurers more likely to cover costs, which can run $300 to $500 for an 8-week session.

The results were based on about 200 adults who completed the six-month study at medical centers in Washington, Boston and New York. Researchers used a psychiatric scale of 1 to 7, with the top number reflecting severe anxiety. The average score was about 4.5 for participants before starting treatment. It dropped to about 3 after two months, then dipped slightly in both groups at three months and six months. Hoge said the change was clinically meaningful, resulting in noticeable improvement in symptoms.

Ten patients on the drug dropped out because of troublesome side effects possibly related to treatment, which included insomnia, nausea and fatigue. There were no dropouts for that reason in the mindfulness group, although 13 patients reported increased anxiety.

Dr. Scott Krakower, a psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, said mindfulness treatments often work best for mildly anxious patients. He prescribes them with medication for patients with more severe anxiety.

He noted that many people feel they don’t have time for mindfulness meditation, especially in-person sessions like those studied. Whether similar results would be found with online training or phone apps is unknown, said Krakower, who was not involved in the study.

Olga Cannistraro, a freelance writer in Keene, New Hampshire, participated in an earlier mindfulness study led by Hoge and says it taught her “to intervene in my own state of mind.’’

During a session, just acknowledging that she was feeling tension anywhere in her body helped calm her, she said.

Cannistraro, 52, has generalized anxiety disorder and has never taken medication for it. She was a single mom working in sales during that earlier study—circumstances that made life particularly stressful, she said. She has since married, switched jobs, and feels less anxious though still uses mindfulness techniques.

Stress Suppresses Sex

A recent study has shown that stress can harm sexual performance and sperm health, leading to infertility. The study found that men who reported higher stress levels were more likely to have lower sperm counts and less sperm motility. In addition, the study found that stress can also lead to erectile dysfunction. While the study did not specifically look at the causes of infertility, it is clear that stress can play a role in both sexual performance and sperm health. This is yet another reason to try to reduce stress in your life.

Seven daily activities to help reduce stress levels to lead a better sexual life are:

Go for walks: Physical activities play a huge role in dealing with our stress levels. Going out for a walk early morning or evening helps us to stay active. Meeting new people, interacting with them, enjoying the small details in our surroundings, and inhaling fresh air while going for walks help reduce our stress level to a great extent.

Practicing Yoga: Yoga is a natural cure for many health problems. Several yoga positions and asanas help in better blood and oxygen circulation in our bodies. Lowering head positions in these asanas helps us maintain calm and also relaxes our nervous system

Communicate: It is important to communicate our feelings, especially during anger or grief. Holding our grief and anger for prolonged time results in added stress levels which affect our health. Communicating and sharing problems with our close and loved ones helps to relieve stress and brightens our mood. We never know if they have any ideas or suggestions to help us solve the issue.

Slow breathing & meditation: Even your breath, which you wouldn’t think, calms you down and enables you to make wiser judgments, controls your temper, and fosters patience. This facilitates better decision-making and improved stress management.

Proper diet: Good nutrition and a balanced diet are necessary to maintain stress levels. Often during stress, we tend to reach out to sweet cravings but that should be consumed within a limit. It is important to drink enough water to stay calm during stressful times.

Listen to music: Good music is a good stress manager and reliever. When you have music playing in the background of your life, you will enjoy it more and feel less stressed throughout the day.

Sleep enough: It’s crucial to obtain eight hours of sleep each night, go to bed and wake up at the same time at least five days a week. Sleep is the best healer. Sleep restores the worn-out tissue, lowers the danger of inflammation, and helps the body’s desperately required cell renewal.

If you are struggling with stress, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce it before it gets late, affecting your sexual health and mental well-being. Learn and adapt methods to deal with daily stress to live a happy life, not allowing stress to suppress your happy moments. (IANS)

15 Minutes of Exercise a Week Is Linked to a Longer Life

Squeezing exercise into a busy schedule can be tough. However, new research suggests that doing just 15 minutes of physical activity over the course of a week is linked to a lower risk of dying prematurely compared to not exercising at all—as long as the movement gets your heart pumping.

In the study, published Oct. 27 in the European Heart Journal, researchers used a data set to track nearly 72,000 people in the U.K., who were ages 40 to 69 and didn’t have cardiovascular disease or cancer when they enrolled, for about seven years. The researchers zeroed in on a week at the start of the study during which everyone wore an activity tracker on their wrist. People who did no vigorous activity during that week had a 4% risk of dying sometime during the study, but for people who got at least 10 minutes, that risk was cut in half. Among people who got 60 minutes or more, that risk fell to 1%. Overall, the researchers estimated that getting 15 to 20 minutes a week of vigorous physical activity was linked to a reduction in the risk of dying by 16% to 40%.

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Picture: NDTV Food

It comes as no surprise that the more time people spent doing vigorous physical activity, the greater the longevity benefit. But the “sweet spot” where people benefited the most was about 60 minutes a week, says Matthew Ahmadi, a research fellow at the University of Sydney in Australia and lead author of the study. (That’s not to say exercise beyond an hour was necessarily worse, noted Ahmadi; because the study didn’t include many people who got more vigorous physical activity, potential maximum benefits of getting more intense physical activity are unknown.)

Even if people don’t have the time to go to the gym, the study shows it’s possible to get health benefits from day-to-day activities because short-duration exercise can add up, says Ahmadi. He suggests picking up your pace or working more intensely at things you already do—for instance, walking, gardening, or even doing chores. “Any physical activity a person is doing provides an opportunity to do vigorous physical activity, if they can do the activity at a faster pace or higher intensity for just short periods of time,” he says. What counts as vigorous physical activity varies depending on your level of fitness, he notes, but a good sign that you’re doing it is having difficulty holding a conversation.

A similar observational study, also published Oct. 27 in the European Heart Journal by a different group of researchers, also suggests that the intensity of physical activity—not just the time spent moving—is important to reduce cardiovascular disease. In the study, which also looked at adults of the same age in the same U.K. data set, researchers tracked about 88,000 people for about seven years.

After analyzing data from the week during which people used activity trackers, researchers found that doing physical activity with greater intensity was linked to a reduction in people’s cardiovascular-disease, even without increasing the amount of time people exercised. For example, people who walked quickly for seven minutes instead of slowly for 14 minutes during that week had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease later on. 

The studies were both observational, which means that the research can’t prove that physical activity was the reason why people who did it lived longer—or had less cardiovascular disease—than those who didn’t. The week of physical activity was also just a snapshot in time, and people’s habits may have changed later. However, other studies have also found that short bursts of movement can reduce risk of death. One 2011 study published in the Lancet found that just 15 minutes of physical activity a day could reduce the risk of early death. A 2014 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that just 5 to 10 minutes a day of running could reduce early death from any cause.

The new research doesn’t mean the total time you spend moving isn’t important, says Paddy Dempsey, an author of the cardiovascular-disease study and a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. People with the very lowest rates of cardiovascular disease got more physical activity overall and got the most moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

Although any movement is valuable, Dempsey says, if you’re strapped for time, “adding in a bit of intensity can provide unique health benefits, while also potentially making workouts more time efficient.” (Source: TIME.COM)

8 Types Of ‘Difficult’ People—And Passive-Aggressive Is The ‘Absolute Worst’

Having to work with frustrating people is simply part of life. You can’t escape them. But you also don’t have to grin and bear the stress as if you have no choice.

While researching for my new book, “Getting Along,” I identified eight types of difficult people. The first step to effectively handling these annoying colleagues is to know exactly what kind of person you’re dealing with.

The 8 types of difficult people

  1. The Passive-Aggressive is the absolute worst on this list because they are the most common. They’ll appear to comply with the needs of others, but will then passively resist following through. Or they might use indirect methods to express their thoughts and feelings, so their intentions are never entirely clear.
  2. The Insecure Boss might be a micromanager who drives you up a wall with incessant nitpicking. Or they might be a paranoid meddler who makes you question your every move. They may even intentionally hurt your career if they perceive you as a threat.
  3. The Pessimist constantly points out all the ways something can fail. It sometimes seems like they can never find anything positive to say.
  4. The Victim is a type of pessimist who feels like everyone is out to get them. They don’t take accountability for their actions, and they’ll quickly point their fingers at other people when things go wrong. 
  5. The Know-It-All is convinced that they’re the smartest person in the room, hogs airtime, and has no qualms about interrupting others. They gleefully inform you of what’s right, even if they’re clearly wrong. 
  6. The Tormentor is someone who has earned their way to the top, typically making sacrifices along the path — only to mistreat others below them. They might be a senior colleague who you expect to be a mentor, but who ends up making your life miserable instead.
  7. The Biased knowingly or unknowingly commits microaggressions. No matter what they think their intention is with these comments, their behavior is inappropriate and harmful.
  8. The Political Operator is laser focused on advancing their own career — but at your expense. Of course, engaging in office politics is often unavoidable, but this person is fixated on getting ahead and has a take-no-prisoners approach to doing so. 
Picture: CNBC

How to handle passive-aggressive behavior at work

Passive aggression is one of the most frustrating behaviors I see in offices because it can be so hard to pin down and ultimately fix.

But there are some tips you can use to nudge your colleague to interact with you in a more productive, straightforward way.

  1. Don’t label them as “passive-aggressive.”

Don’t label them as “passive-aggressive.”

Illustration: Ash Lamb for CNBC Make It

“Stop being so passive aggressive!” is a loaded phrase that will only make things worse. I’d be shocked if your colleague said, “Yeah, you’re right. I’ll stop.”

It’s more likely that this request would make them even more angry and defensive, which will stop any sort of positive communication in its tracks.

  1. Focus on the content, not the delivery.

Focus on the real concern or question hidden behind the snarky comments.

Before reacting to a passive aggressive comment, ask yourself: What is the underlying idea they’re attempting to convey? Do they think that the way you’re running a project isn’t working? Or do they disagree with the team’s goals?

If you can focus on the real concern or question hidden beneath that snarky comment, you can find a way address the actual problem in a way that works for everyone.

  1. Figure out what the other person cares about.

Of course, you still may not fully understand what your coworker wants. But spend some time thinking about possible explanations. Just like during negotiations, assess the other person’s interests. What do they care about? What do they want to achieve?

Then do what psychology professor Gabrielle Adams calls “hypothesis testing”: Ask — respectfully and without judgment — about what’s going on. You might say, “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been responding to my emails. Is there something wrong?”

  1. Call attention to what’s happening.

With this tactic, it’s best to stick to facts — the things you know for sure — without emotion or exaggeration.

For example: “You said you wanted to help with this project and you haven’t joined the three meetings we’ve had so far. You also didn’t respond to the email I sent last week about next steps.”

Then explain how their actions affected you: “I’m disappointed and stressed out because I’m not able to do all of the work myself, and I had hoped to have your help.”

Finally, the tricky part: Make a straightforward request. “If you’re still interested in helping out, and I hope you are, I’d like you to attend the meetings. If not, I need to know so I can find an alternative solution.” 

Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review and a co-host of HBR’s Women at Work podcast. She is the author of “Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People)” and the “HBR Guide to Dealing With Conflict.” Follow her on Twitter @amyegallo.

Ash Lamb is an illustrator and designer based in Barcelona, Spain. He spends his time deconstructing and illustrating ideas for creative entrepreneurs. He also teaches people from all around the world how to create impactful visuals at Follow Ash on Twitter and Instagram. (Source: Harvard)

Relationships Evolving Among People In India

With the large youth population and their divergent views on romantic relationships, the idea of relationships and marriage in India has undergone a significant change in recent years.

The foundation of a romantic relationship has long been based on the institution of marriage, particularly in Indian society. Because of how dependent men and women were on one another in marriage, this constitution has endured for years despite all challenges, no matter how big or small. The youth of today are self-sufficient in all facets of life, financially, emotionally, and mentally. The need to be dependent on a partner is gradually vanishing, and both men and women are open to relationships without boundaries.

Technology has a significant influence on how people view relationships today. People no longer value the perseverance and effort it takes to build a meaningful relationship because everything, from food to information to dating, is just a click away. They view it as a waste of time if it takes longer to accomplish the goal. Relationships and all other facets of life have been influenced by this mindset. Despite little sacrifice, people still desire love. Still seeking harmony, but with few concessions. Today, a lot of people in India date multiple people without taking the time to get to know them. At the first sign of “incompatibility,” they move on to the next person, looking for the unique chemistry that only exists in rom-coms.

Due to this behaviour, marriages are no longer seen as the throne of a stable relationship and the idea of monogamy sounds like a crisis. Everyone loves the idea of falling in love, but very few people are willing to put in the effort necessary to achieve it, and those who do tend to get easily bored. This causes a lot of disappointment and resentment in those who are already married, which fuels an increase in extramarital affairs. For individuals who fit this description, there’s a good chance that marriage took place either too soon in their lives, leaving them with a fear of not having had other romantic experiences or a need to try them right away. Some people wonder or worry that they are with the wrong person because they feel it.

These individuals have always been present in Indian society, and on a large scale. In January 2020 Gleeden – an extramarital dating app presented a study, conducted by IPSOS, about the state of Infidelity in India. According to the results gathered by IPSOS, 55 per cent Indians had already been unfaithful to their current partner at least once at the time of the interview out of which 54 per cent were men and 56 per cent were women. This is shows exactly the state of a “happily ever after” marriage in India. The important question to decode here is if someone is unhappy in their marriage why not just break it off, move on and divorce your partner?

The truth is that not many people still have the courage to end a long-term marriage with a separation or divorce. Dust is still swept under the carpet, as preferred. Thus, Gleeden-like apps have enjoyed tremendous success in India. Most of their users come from highly affluent backgrounds. Professionals with college degrees and high-paying jobs are both men and women. There are also many housewives among the engineers, business owners, consultants, managers, and executives. In terms of age, men tend to be over 35 while women tend to be over 26.

Sharing about this shift in monogamy and infidelity in Indians, Sybil Shiddell, Country Manager India for Gleeden said: “The Indian society has been very quiet on matters related to marriage for many years but 2022 has seen a lot of people starting to embrace the concept that monogamy is not forcefully the only way, and more and more couples are opening their marriages to adventure and experimentation. However, it is important to understand that there could be multiple reasons behind infidelity and it does not always depend on the behaviour of the spouse. Mostly, people cheat because they feel something is missing in their life and they fancy a new adventure. For some people, cheating could also be beneficial to the couple and add some spiciness to their marriage. An IPSOS study, as well as some internal surveys, found out that physical attraction and sex, lack of attention from the current partner and desire for a blowing romance are the most common drives that lead to an extramarital affair.”

She adds: “Even as we speak about people and their desires, there isn’t a one-fits-all formula. Everything depends on the individuals and the reasons behind infidelity. In the ideal world, transparency and consent should be the preconditions: both people involved in an extramarital relationship must know that one of them (or both) is married and that they would want to stay that way making this new relationship always secondary. There should be these predefined rules like we have on Gleeden: a dating app devoted to extramarital dating, where conditions and expectations are all in the “open”. The intent is clear and there is no room for misinterpretation. This doesn’t happen on traditional dating apps, where one can pretend to be single and easily lie to their dates about the marital status and real intent of that encounter.” (IANS)

How COVID-19 Changed Life Expectancy Rates Around The World

COVID-19 has caused an inordinate number of deaths around the world so far, causing life-expectancies to plunge. Historically, countries have recovered from other so-called “mortality shocks,” such as the 1918 flu and two world wars, within one to two years. But the shock of the pandemic is enduring in many places.

A study published Oct. 17 in Nature Human Behavior reviewed life-expectancy trends in 29 countries during 2021, building on previous data the scientists had analyzed from 2020, and found that COVID-19 continued to account for most life-expectancy losses in 2021. But those life-expectancy losses from the pandemic are dissipating in some countries with relatively high rates of vaccination and infection-derived immunity, which both contribute to lower COVID-19 deaths. 

Four countries in western Europe—Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Sweden—have fully restored their population’s life expectancy back to pre-pandemic levels, and four others have nearly done so, while other countries did not experience additional losses in 2020 compared to 2021. But the U.S. and 11 countries, including many in eastern Europe, continue to record excess mortality.

“We found it was indeed possible for nations to recover from drastic and historic life-expectancy losses,” says Jonas Scholey, research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for demographic research and co-author of the paper. “But within our sample, it was not the norm.”

The reasons for disparities among the countries, not surprisingly, has to do with how resilient their health-care systems are at bouncing back from the burden of caring for COVID-19 patients. It also relates to the countries’ underlying health trends that had been in place before the pandemic.

Since COVID-19 hit people ages 60 and older particularly hard, the countries that recovered best were those that lowered excess mortality among this population most quickly, through successful vaccination campaigns and the capacity to provide antiviral treatments and intensive care. Belgium, which showed the most impressive recovery out of any country studied, was particularly strong in these areas; for people 60 and older, life-expectancy rates dropped about a year in 2020 but went up by about 10 months in 2021, nearly returning to 2019 levels.

The U.S. also improved mortality rates among the elderly in 2021, but those gains were offset by increases in deaths among younger populations, including from gun violence and opioid overdoses. On top of deaths caused by COVID-19, deaths related to other chronic conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, also continued to increase, keeping mortality among working-age populations high. Overall, life expectancy in the U.S. dropped by more than two years during the pandemic compared to 2019 levels.

In eastern Europe, persistent losses in life expectancy are likely due to fractured health-care systems that still have not recovered from the overwhelming impact of the pandemic, says Scholey. “I’m not at all optimistic about how fast health-care systems can regenerate from the shock they had to absorb over the past 2.5 years,” he says. “By that I mean people in the health care system as well; some have resigned and others suffer from burnout, and this has an effect on what health systems can do.” Many countries in eastern Europe showed deeper life-expectancy losses in 2021 than in 2020; the populations of Bulgaria and Slovakia, for example, both lost about two years in 2021 due to COVID-19, which is higher than the 18-month and 9-month deficits they recorded, respectively, in 2020.

It’s still too early to determine how big an impact the pandemic will have on life-expectancy long term. It’s also impossible at this point to assess the impact of delayed health care for conditions like cancer and heart disease, which may have an eventual effect on mortality. Experts expect the consequences of people skipping or not getting treatments because of COVID-19 to emerge in mortality and life-expectancy trends in the next few years.

Still, with more of the world’s population now vaccinated, it’s possible that in the coming year, some of the life-expectancy losses in countries could begin to reverse, says Scholey. “I am cautiously optimistic that the excess deaths this winter [from COVID-19] won’t be as pronounced in many countries as they have been over the last two years. But with a virus as unpredictable as SARS-CoV-2, “we’ll have to see.” (TIME.COM)

7 Surprising Health Benefits Of Gratitude

Now is the season to think about what makes you most thankful, but research supports making it a year-round habit. Many studies have found there are benefits of gratitude — both mental and physical — and all it takes to enjoy them is a little bit of introspection.

Here are seven surprising benefits of practicing gratitude.

Gratitude can make you more patient

Research from Northeastern University has found that people who felt grateful for little, everyday things were more patient and better able to make sensible decisions, compared to those who didn’t feel very gracious on a day-to-day basis. When 105 undergraduate students were asked to choose between receiving a small amount of money immediately or a larger sum at some point in the future, for example, the students who had shown more gratitude in earlier experiments were able to hold out for more cash.

Gratitude might improve your relationship

According to a study in the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, feeling grateful toward your partner — and vice versa — can improve numerous aspects of your relationship, including feelings of connectedness and overall satisfaction as a couple. “Having a partner that’s grateful for you or you being grateful for the other” can both help your love life, says Emma Seppälä, a happiness researcher at Stanford and Yale Universities and author of The Happiness Track. (Seppälä wasn’t involved with the research.)

Gratitude improves self-care

In a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers asked people to rate their levels of gratitude, physical health and psychological health, as well as how likely they were to do wellbeing-boosting behaviors like exercise, healthy eating and going to the doctor. They found positive correlations between gratitude and each of these behaviors, suggesting that giving thanks helps people appreciate and care for their bodies.

Gratitude can help you sleep

“Count blessings, not sheep,” Seppälä says. Research in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research has found that feeling grateful helps people sleep better and longer. That’s likely because “you have more positive thoughts before you go to sleep,” says Seppälä (who wasn’t involved in the study), which may soothe the nervous system. If you’re going to make a daily gratitude list, Seppälä recommends writing it before bed.

Gratitude may stop you from overeating

“Gratitude replenishes willpower,” says Susan Peirce Thompson, a cognitive scientist who specializes in the psychology of eating. The concept is similar to the Northeastern research that found a connection between gratitude and patience: Thompson says cultivating feelings of gratitude can boost your impulse control, helping you slow down and make better decisions. If you find yourself taking slice after slice of pumpkin pie, for example, Thompson recommends excusing yourself from the table to jot down a quick list of things you’re grateful for, which can help you clear your mind and reset.

Gratitude can help ease depression

Thompson, the cognitive scientist, says experiments have shown that people whole partake in the “three good things” exercise — which, as the name suggests, prompts people to think of three good moments or things that happened that day — see considerable improvements in depression and overall happiness, sometimes in as little as a couple weeks. “If there were a drug that did that, whoever patented that drug would be rich,” Thompson says. “Gratitude is very powerful.”

Gratitude gives you happiness that lasts

Lots of things, from a compliment to a sugary treat, can bring little bursts of happiness. But instant gratification also goes away quickly, Seppälä explains, which leaves you craving more. “Gratitude is something that leads to much more sustainable forms of happiness, because it’s not based in that immediate gratification; it’s a frame of mind,” she says. If you regularly take time to express gratitude and thankfulness, you’re likely to see results.  (courtesy:

Researchers Find Ways To Help Teens Get More Sleep

By, Rush University Medical Center

Newswise — Adjusting to a new sleep schedule at the start of the school year can lead to disturbed rest, daytime fatigue and changes in mood and focus for teens. 

Although they need eight to 10 hours of sleep per night to maintain physical health, emotional well-being and school performance, according to the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, most adolescents get less than eight, especially on school nights.

Newly published research from RUSH in the journal SLEEP sheds light on how adolescents can get more shut-eye. 

“There are a lot of changes a teen goes through,” said Stephanie J. Crowley, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the director of the Pediatric Chronobiology and Sleep Research Program at RUSH. “One specifically is a change to sleep biology that happens during puberty.” 

“The brain systems that control sleep change in such a way that it’s easier for an adolescent to stay awake later into the evening. One of these systems — the 24-hour circadian clock — shifts later in time,” Crowley said. 

So there are two competing forces: one to go to bed earlier for the school schedule and the other a biological change that happens naturally to a teen’s body.

Because of this complex conflict, RUSH researchers set out to test a two-week intervention that targets the circadian system with different behavioral measures and tries to help the teens figure out a better nighttime routine. 

To combat teen sleep deprivation, the researchers used bright light therapy on two weekend mornings for a total of 2.5 hours. The bright light cues the internal clock to wake up a little earlier. This shift should make it easier for the teen to fall asleep at an appropriate time.

Less tired, irritable

Crowley and her team then helped counteract sleep deprivation by providing time management tools and addressing barriers to an earlier bedtime, like limiting certain after-school activities. 

Researchers were able to shift the teens’ bedtime by an hour and a half earlier, and their total sleep time increased by approximately an hour. 

“The interesting thing is that teens with late circadian clocks shifted by up to two hours earlier,” Crowley said. “And the teens who had an earlier circadian clock didn’t need to be shifted any earlier. They just needed the behavioral support of trying to manage their time in the evening and increase their sleep duration.” 

The researchers also found that the teens in the intervention group were less tired, less irritable and less worried, and they exhibited better concentration. The students’ morning alertness improved as well. 

The RUSH researchers are following the participants in another study to determine whether the adolescents were able to maintain their improved sleep routine.

India’s Supreme Court Liberalizes Abortion Law

(RNS) — Some three months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Americans’ constitutional right to abortion, India’s Supreme Court has delivered a landmark judgment declaring abortion legal up to 24 weeks.

The ruling supersedes a 1971 law that made abortion legal in India, but only under certain conditions that included risk to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman, fetal abnormalities or the pregnancy being a result of rape or the failure of a birth control device. There were restrictions, however, on unmarried women.

Feminists in India welcomed last week’s ruling for embedding reproductive rights into its understanding of constitutional rights for women. Activists particularly applauded the court’s acknowledgement of marital rape, with the justices ruling that “due to a husband’s act of sexual assault or rape,” a woman “should not be compelled to give birth to and raise a child with a partner who inflicts mental and physical harm upon her.”

The judgment will have significant implications for the rights of not just India’s majority Hindu women, but also women belonging to Muslim, Christian and other minority faith groups.

But the ruling has a particular effect on Hindu Indians, who traditionally prefer male children and drive many sex-selective abortions in India, which are illegal. The medical journal Lancet has estimated that a third of all pregnancies in India are aborted illegally.  

According to the Pew Research Center, India’s population skyrocketed to 1.2 billion by 2011 from 361 million in the 1951 census. “Hindus make up 79.8% of India’s population and Muslims account for 14.2%; Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains account for most of the remaining 6%,” Pew said in 2021.

While there is no one Hindu religious view on abortion, as Hinduism brings together a wide variety of philosophies and beliefs, conservative Hindus tend to oppose abortion.

The Vedas, the ancient Hindu texts, portray abortion as a crime of the worst kind. Some ancient Sanskrit classical sources compare abortion to killing a priest, considered among the most heinous of crimes. One of the most ancient Vedas, the Rig Veda, describes abortion as equivalent to killing one’s parents. The Atharva Veda lists the “fetus slayer” among the greatest of sinners. An Ayurvedic medical text, the Sushruta Samhita Cikitsasthana says, “A woman becomes an outcast by procuring abortion.”

Yet beliefs about when life enters the fetus differ from text to text. Some of the classical texts say the embryo is an embodied soul from the point of conception. But some Hindu sources sanction and provide instruction about the termination of a pregnancy. Scholar Sandhya Jain has noted that there are Ayurvedic texts that not only offer prescriptions for contraception but also for how to end pregnancies.

Scholars caution against considering the views expressed in ancient texts as authoritative, saying that “Hindu ethics” are far from monolithic.

Shana Sippy, a scholar of Hindu and South Asian studies at Centre College, argues that the classical texts were written by and for culturally privileged Brahmin men. “Oppressed castes and women, among others,” Sippy said, are “seen as marginal and expendable.” The Vedas, therefore, “like many classical religious texts, have upheld forms of systemic oppression, at times even advocating physical violence against human beings it deems as marginal,” she said. 

Other Indian religious groups, such as Jains and Buddhists, don’t necessarily oppose abortion, though they may oppose it as an act of karma that can set back the progression of the soul in its endless journey toward salvation or freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Abortion is considered an act of violence that goes against the principle of “ahimsa,” or nonviolence. As a violent act toward a human being yet to be born, it would be considered an “unwholesome” act, explains Buddhist scholar Karma Lekshe Tsomo.

But, the effects of karma depend on the intention behind it. As Tsomo says, the karmic consequences of a surgeon’s mistake, whose patient dies on the operating table, is not the same as that of a robber who kills a person for greed.

The ancient Hindu texts emphasize the importance of saving the life of the mother. The Rig Veda says, “In an irredeemable situation, it is best to cause the miscarriage of the fetus, for no means must be neglected which can prevent the loss of the mother.”

Similarly, in Islam, women can seek abortion based on life circumstances, including financial. Above all, the Islamic tradition promotes mercy, and many Muslim jurists and bioethicists agree that abortion before 120 days of pregnancy is permissible on certain grounds.

The Supreme Court’s decision, going out of its way to address marital rape and specifying several categories of exceptions, seemed to conform to the idea that the legitimacy of abortion depends on circumstances, providing a counterweight in the world’s largest democracy to the recent tightening of restrictions in the world’s most prominent one.

A Good Marriage May Help You Live Longer. Here’s Why

By, Jamie Ducharme

If you have a happy marriage, “’til death do us part” may be a long ways off.

Married people who rated their unions as “very happy” or “pretty happy” had roughly 20% lower odds of dying early than people who said their marriages were “not too happy,” according to a recent study published in the journal Health Psychology. The work expands on existing studies that have linked marriage to a number of positive health outcomes, from a healthy heart to a trimmer waistline.

The study was based on interview responses from more than 19,000 married people up to age 90 who participated in the General Social Survey between 1978 and 2010. They were asked to rate the happiness and overall quality of their marriages, among other questions. The researchers then tracked their health and survival through 2014.

People who said they had “very happy” or “pretty happy” marriages were about 20% less likely to die during the time frame of the study compared to people who said they had “not so happy” marriages. That result held true even after adjusting for age, gender, race, education and geographic region. (The study didn’t look at how not-so-happily coupled folks fared compared to singles, nor did it account for changes in marital satisfaction over time.)

Study co-author Mark Whisman, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, says there are several ways that a good marriage seems to improve health. For one thing, married people may encourage their spouses to adopt healthy habits such as eating well, exercising and seeing a doctor regularly, Whisman says.

But there are also a number of ways that a supportive marriage seems to help psychological health, which also translates to physical well-being. In general, marriage “provides people with meaningful roles and identity, a purpose in life, a sense of security,” Whisman says. “Those kind of psychological factors might influence health.” Strong marriages in particular may improve “mental health and well-being, which we know is associated with physical health,” Whisman says.

Finally, Whisman says a happy marriage provides a degree of social support above and beyond even that provided by friends and family, and plenty of research shows that social support is integral to good health. “A high-quality marriage can serve as a buffer against chronic or acute stressors in life,” Whisman says. Married people just tend to spend a lot more time together than with anyone else, “so we think there’s something more specific about the marital relationship relative to other social relationships.”

That’s a heartening finding if your marriage is happy, but all that time together can backfire if your union isn’t so strong. Unhappy marriages have been linked to everything from a higher risk of heart disease to high blood pressure — so the health of your partnership could mirror your own wellbeing. (Courtesy: TIME)

East, South, West, Or North: What Is The Best Direction To Sleep?

“Interestingly, Anandakanda, an Ayurvedic text, mentions the directions in which one should sleep to enjoy a deep, restful sleep,” Dr Gopinath said.

Be it Ayurveda or modern science, experts constantly stress the need for a good night’s sleep for the healthy functioning of our mind and body. This is because lack of sleep can significantly impact your well-being and put you at risk of serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and mental health issues, among others. Apart from ensuring that you are sleeping an adequate number of hours, you must also pay special attention to the direction you are sleeping in, says Ayurveda.

Highlighting the importance Ayurveda places on sleep, Dr Arun Gopinath, Senior Medical Officer, Kerala Ayurveda said, “Farmers often leave their fields fallow, allowing the soil to regenerate and recoup its lost fertility. Sleep works in a similar manner – it is the period when we renew and revive our senses for a fresh start and a productive day. Sleep or nidra is highly vital in Ayurveda – so much that it is included in the three pillars of life or the Traya Upasthambhas along with food or Ahara and sexual conduct or Brahmacharya.”

He added that Acharya Charaka – one of the principal contributors to the ancient system of Ayurveda – hailed sleep as ‘Bhutadhathri‘, “indicating that restful sleep nourishes our body like a mother, or dhatri nourishes her child.”

However, despite its many benefits, many people struggle to get restful sleep. While we often blame lifestyle factors for it, little attention is paid to the direction we sleep in, which could have a significant impact on the quality of our sleep, and also our health. “Interestingly, Anandakanda, an Ayurvedic text, mentions the directions in which one should sleep to enjoy a deep, restful sleep,” Dr Gopinath said.

The best direction to sleep

According to Ayurvedic expert Dr Dixa Bhavsar Savaliya, one should sleep with their head facing south as it is considered the direction of deep, heavy sleep. “As South is negatively charged and your head is positively charged, there is a harmonious attraction between your head and the direction. Instead of energy being pulled out if you sleep with your head to the north, energy is drawn into your body promoting health, happiness and prosperity. That means you should sleep like a log with your head facing south,” she explained.

Agreeing, Dr Gopinath said: “In mythology, it is believed to be the direction of Lord Yama, meaning you will enjoy a night of uninterrupted sleep and longevity or deerghayu in this direction.”

A study, published in the National Library of Medicine, stated that hat those who were instructed to sleep with their head in the south direction for 12 weeks had the lowest systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and serum cortisol.

Worst direction to sleep

Is there a worst direction to sleep, too? Just like the south is considered to be the best direction to sleep in, Ayurvedic experts suggested avoiding facing north while sleeping. This is because “sleeping towards the north makes the positive pole of earth coincide with the positive pole of our body, which repels each other. You will, thus, have nightmares and disturbed sleep,” Dr Gopinath explained.

Dr Dixa added that, in this direction, you won’t get a restful night’s sleep and are likely to wake up exhausted from the unconscious war that’s been going on all night long. “This magnetism is understood, Ayurvedically, to affect blood circulation, stress and cause disturbance of the mind,” she said.

What about east and west?

Now that it is established that sleeping with your head towards south and north are the best and worst positions, respectively, let’s delve deeper into the remaining two directions and their effect on your sleep and, in turn, health.

East: This sleeping direction is considered beneficial for students as it is believed to be a memory enhancer. “As the sun rises in the east, this direction signifies rejuvenation and positive energy characterised by intellect and creativity,” Dr Gopinath said.

Dr. Dixa added that this direction helps improve concentration, and promotes meditative sleep and very good health.

West: Sleeping west, on other hand, is linked to an unsettled night’s sleep. “Vastu Shastra says that this is the direction of striving which could give you unsettling dreams and not a very restful night’s sleep,” she explained.

Additionally, sleeping with your head towards the west can lead to emotional distress, Dr Gopinath mentioned. “It increases Rajas or restlessness, and you may suffer from nightmares. But it also makes a person success-driven, so it is for those who want to succeed in life and are not bothered about their sleep quality,” he added.


East, South, West, Or North: What Is The Best Direction To Sleep?

“Interestingly, Anandakanda, an Ayurvedic text, mentions the directions in which one should sleep to enjoy a deep, restful sleep,” Dr Gopinath said. 

Be it Ayurveda or modern science, experts constantly stress the need for a good night’s sleep for the healthy functioning of our mind and body. This is because lack of sleep can significantly impact your well-being and put you at risk of serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and mental health issues, among others. Apart from ensuring that you are sleeping an adequate number of hours, you must also pay special attention to the direction you are sleeping in, says Ayurveda.

Highlighting the importance Ayurveda places on sleep, Dr Arun Gopinath, Senior Medical Officer, Kerala Ayurveda said, “Farmers often leave their fields fallow, allowing the soil to regenerate and recoup its lost fertility. Sleep works in a similar manner – it is the period when we renew and revive our senses for a fresh start and a productive day. Sleep or nidra is highly vital in Ayurveda – so much that it is included in the three pillars of life or the Traya Upasthambhas along with food or Ahara and sexual conduct or Brahmacharya.”

He added that Acharya Charaka – one of the principal contributors to the ancient system of Ayurveda – hailed sleep as ‘Bhutadhathri‘, “indicating that restful sleep nourishes our body like a mother, or dhatri nourishes her child.”

However, despite its many benefits, many people struggle to get restful sleep. While we often blame lifestyle factors for it, little attention is paid to the direction we sleep in, which could have a significant impact on the quality of our sleep, and also our health. “Interestingly, Anandakanda, an Ayurvedic text, mentions the directions in which one should sleep to enjoy a deep, restful sleep,” Dr Gopinath said.

The best direction to sleep

According to Ayurvedic expert Dr Dixa Bhavsar Savaliya, one should sleep with their head facing south as it is considered the direction of deep, heavy sleep. “As South is negatively charged and your head is positively charged, there is a harmonious attraction between your head and the direction. Instead of energy being pulled out if you sleep with your head to the north, energy is drawn into your body promoting health, happiness and prosperity. That means you should sleep like a log with your head facing south,” she explained.

Agreeing, Dr Gopinath said: “In mythology, it is believed to be the direction of Lord Yama, meaning you will enjoy a night of uninterrupted sleep and longevity or deerghayu in this direction.”

A study, published in the National Library of Medicine, stated that hat those who were instructed to sleep with their head in the south direction for 12 weeks had the lowest systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and serum cortisol.

Worst direction to sleep

Is there a worst direction to sleep, too? Just like the south is considered to be the best direction to sleep in, Ayurvedic experts suggested avoiding facing north while sleeping. This is because “sleeping towards the north makes the positive pole of earth coincide with the positive pole of our body, which repels each other. You will, thus, have nightmares and disturbed sleep,” Dr Gopinath explained.

Dr Dixa added that, in this direction, you won’t get a restful night’s sleep and are likely to wake up exhausted from the unconscious war that’s been going on all night long. “This magnetism is understood, Ayurvedically, to affect blood circulation, stress and cause disturbance of the mind,” she said.

What about east and west?

Now that it is established that sleeping with your head towards south and north are the best and worst positions, respectively, let’s delve deeper into the remaining two directions and their effect on your sleep and, in turn, health.

East: This sleeping direction is considered beneficial for students as it is believed to be a memory enhancer. “As the sun rises in the east, this direction signifies rejuvenation and positive energy characterised by intellect and creativity,” Dr Gopinath said.

Dr. Dixa added that this direction helps improve concentration, and promotes meditative sleep and very good health.

West: Sleeping west, on other hand, is linked to an unsettled night’s sleep. “Vastu Shastra says that this is the direction of striving which could give you unsettling dreams and not a very restful night’s sleep,” she explained.

Additionally, sleeping with your head towards the west can lead to emotional distress, Dr Gopinath mentioned. “It increases Rajas or restlessness, and you may suffer from nightmares. But it also makes a person success-driven, so it is for those who want to succeed in life and are not bothered about their sleep quality,” he added.


3 Common Thinking Traps And How To Avoid Them, According To A Yale Psychologist

The mind is a tricky thing. It can lead us to believe that we can confidently sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” at karaoke even though we haven’t heard the song in years, or that one terrible review on Yelp is reason enough not to go to a 4-star rated restaurant.

These thinking errors are what people in the psychology community call cognitive biases. And that’s the focus of a new book out this month, Thinking 101: How to Reason Better to Live Better, by Yale psychology professor Woo-kyoung Ahn. In the book, Ahn highlights some of the most pernicious cognitive slip-ups we make — and how biases can cloud our judgment and affect the people around us.

Researchers suspect that many of these biases are evolutionary, says Ahn. During times of scarcity, our ancestors had to make quick judgments in order to survive among predators or thrive in a difficult environment. But in a time of abundance, she adds, these quick judgments don’t always do us good.

However, we can do our best to try to correct these thinking traps, says Ahn, which she teaches her students how to do in her popular undergraduate course at Yale. In general, she says, the key is to pause before making assumptions — and be aware of our tendencies for different kinds of bias.

This is known in the field of psychology as an “illusion of fluency,” which describes our tendency to be overconfident in our abilities without sufficient evidence. This can lead us, for example, to bungle career-altering presentations because of inadequate preparation, or dramatically underestimate the time it takes to complete projects.

In her class at Yale, Ahn uses an experiment to illustrate this phenomenon with her students. She shows them a dance clip from the song “Boy with Luv” by the K-pop group BTS. After watching six seconds of the easiest choreography moves over and over again, she invites the students who believe they have the dance down to do it themselves. One after another stumbles.

“People can have overconfidence about what they can accomplish by watching other people do it so fluently,” Ahn says. When the pros dance in a way that looks effortless, they think they can do it effortlessly too.

How to counteract it: You can correct this bias, she says, by doing what the Yale students did: Try it out yourself. It will quickly put any feelings of overconfidence to rest.

You can also fight this tendency by over-preparing and considering potential obstacles beforehand, says Ahn. For example, if you’re working on a home remodeling project for the first time and have no idea how long it will take, don’t try to guess. Talk to friends who went through a recent remodel or consult with a few contractors to understand how long the project might take and what problems may arise. The more information you have, the better and more accurately you can assess a situation.

The bias: We tend to fixate on the negative

The concept of “negativity bias” illustrates our propensity to weigh negative events a lot more heavily than an equal amount of positive events. It explains why a friend’s unenthusiastic review of an Oscar-nominated movie, for example, might spur you to watch something else. Or why you might be less inclined to hire a potential employee after hearing one negative thing about them, despite positive referrals.

Negativity bias can be dangerous because it can lead us to make the wrong choices. It can hold us back from making a decision about something, say a big purchase like a house, or even a political candidate, out of fear there was once a negative event associated with an otherwise good choice.

How to counteract it: When making a choice, play up the positive attributes of your options, says Ahn. Marketers use this tactic all the time. For example, instead of saying that ground beef contains 11% fat, they label it is as 89% lean. These are both true and accurate descriptions of the same product, but flipping the framing of it can make it a more attractive choice for buyers concerned with fat intake.

The bias: We cherry-pick data to fit our worldview

Ahn considers “confirmation bias” — the tendency to seek out or interpret information to support what we already believe — the worst bias of all. That’s because of its potential to lead us to miss an entire range of possibilities for ourselves and others.

Ahn and Matthew Lebowitz, a psychology professor at Columbia University, conducted an experiment in 2017 to illustrate the pitfalls of this bias. They gathered a group of participants and told some of them they had a genetic predisposition to depression – even though they did not. The results of that group’s depression self-assessments showed much higher levels of depression than people in a control group who were told they did not have the predisposition.

Because of confirmation bias, the participants who were told they had a genetic risk of depression retrieved “only the evidence that fit with that hypothesis,” says Ahn. And in doing so, they managed to convince themselves that they were actually depressed. The study shows that if we believe something is a fact, even if it isn’t, our mind can find information to support those views.

Now imagine this bias at work on a societal level. Ahn says it can lead to under- or over-representation in say, leadership in politics, business and other industries, which can feed gender or racial inequality.

She shares an example. Let’s say you’re a male scientist and you’re looking to hire other scientists to join your company. Because you see that the most prominent scientists in your field are currently men, you’ve convinced yourself that the next generation of great scientists will also be men. This colors your decision-making in hiring — and so you fill the positions with men.

That choice will continue to have a ripple effect, says Ahn. For others looking at the new hires, it might perpetuate the idea that “only men can be great scientists — and that’s exactly how prejudice and stereotypes get formed in society.”

How to counteract it: Allow yourself to examine all possible explanations before you make a judgment. For example, if an actor landed a part but her parents were also in the entertainment business, many of us might attribute her employment to nepotism. Since we’ve seen many examples of parents giving their kids a leg up in business or politics, another example of a child benefiting from their parents’ success would fit that theory.

But could it also be true that she gave the best audition? By looking at the issue from many different viewpoints – not just your own – it challenges your confirmation bias. And you might realize that perhaps there is another side to the story.

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Michelle Aslam. The digital story was edited by Malaka Gharib. (Courtesy: NPR)

Saudi Man Marries 53 Times In 43 Years

A Saudi man has claimed to tie the knot 53 times in 43 years to find “peace and stability”. Being called the ‘polygamist of the century’, the 63-year-old man said the reason behind his multiple marriages was his “search for a woman who could make him happy”, reported Gulf News.

According to the ‘polygamist’, he “tried to be fair to all his wives”.

Narrating his story, he said that “when I married for the first time, I did not plan to marry more than one woman because I was feeling comfortable and had children”.

The man, identified as Abu Abdullah, said that, however, after a while, due to certain “problems”, he decided to marry again at the age of 23.

He said that several issues erupted between him and his wives, prompting him to marry again. “I married 53 women over long periods. The first was when I was 20 years and she was six years older than me,” he was quoted in the article.

Abdullah said that his shortest spell of marriage was a one-night event. He added that “most of his marriages were to Saudi women”, but he has also married foreigners during his overseas business trips. “I used to stay for three to four months. So I married to protect myself from vice,” Abdullah said.

Meanwhile, the polygamist is reportedly now married to one woman. According to him, he does not plan to remarry.

Rise In Live-In Relationships Is Due To Use & Throw Culture

Matrimonial relationships in Kerala seem influenced by a consumer culture of “use and throw” which is evident from the rise in live-in relationships and divorce on flimsy or selfish grounds, the Kerala state high court has observed.

The Kerala High Court in India observed that matrimonial relationships appear to have been influenced by consumer culture of “use and throw”, which is evident from rise in live-in relationships in the state and the prevailing trend to opt for divorce on flimsy or selfish grounds.

The HC also said that the younger generation apparently views marriage as an “evil” to be avoided in order to enjoy a “free life” without any liabilities or obligations.

The HC dismissed a divorce plea of a man who abandoned his wife and three daughters after nine years of marriage subsequent to an alleged affair with another woman and said “courts cannot come to the aid of an erring person to legalize his activities, which are per se illegal”.

“Law and religion consider marriage as an institution by itself and parties to the marriage are not permitted to walk away from that relationship unilaterally, unless and until they satisfy the legal requirements to dissolve their marriage through a court of law or in accordance with the personal law which governs them,” the high court said.

The younger generation apparently views marriage as an evil to be avoided for enjoying a free life without any liabilities or obligations. “They would expand the word ‘WIFE’ as ‘Worry Invited For Ever’ substituting the old concept of “Wise Investment For Ever”

Mere quarrels, ordinary wear and tear of matrimonial relationships or casual outburst of some emotional feelings cannot be treated as cruelties warranting a divorce, the HC said.

“They would expand the word ‘WIFE’ as ‘Worry Invited For Ever’ substituting the old concept of ‘Wise Investment For Ever.’ The consumer culture of ‘use and throw’ seems to have influenced our matrimonial relationships also,” said the court.

“Live-in-relationships are on the rise, just to say goodbye when they fall apart,” a bench of Justices A Muhamed Mustaque and Sophy Thomas said while dismissing a divorce plea of a man who abandoned his wife and three daughters after nine years of marriage subsequent to an alleged affair with another woman.

“They would expand the word ‘WIFE’ as ‘Worry Invited For Ever’ substituting the old concept of ‘Wise Investment For Ever.’ The consumer culture of ‘use and throw’ seems to have influenced our matrimonial relationships also,” said the court.

“Live-in-relationships are on the rise, just to say goodbye when they fall apart,” a bench of Justices A. Muhamed Mustaque and Sophy Thomas said while dismissing a divorce plea of a man who abandoned his wife and three daughters after nine years of marriage subsequent to an alleged affair with another woman.

The court said that law and religion consider marriage as an institution, and parties are not permitted to walk away from that relationship unilaterally, unless and until they satisfy the legal requirements to dissolve their marriage through a court of law.

What Doctors Wish Patients Knew About Loneliness And Health

Even though people are becoming more connected through social media and other outlets, the great irony is that many people still feel lonely. That loneliness, in turn, can have far-reaching implications on a person’s health and well-being. Loneliness as a public health issue has been intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing how to recognize loneliness and what can help patients overcome feeling lonely is key.

There’s a gap in feeling connected

“Loneliness is essentially the feeling of being uncomfortable or in distress when someone feels that there is a gap between the connection they would like and the connection they actually have,” said Dr. Bell Washington, adding that “you can be in a crowd full of people, you can know all of them, and you can still feel lonely.”

“So, you might have a lot of superficial social connections, but what you really want is something deeper—someone to know you on the inside,” she said. “It’s really based on perception of the difference between the relationship you’d like and the relationship that you have with others.”

Younger people are feeling lonelier

“Loneliness was already an epidemic of its own, but the global COVID-19 pandemic caused loneliness to increase substantially over the past few years,” said Dr. Bell Washington, who took a course during the last year of her MPH program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Medicine where she learned the serious complications of loneliness. “A 2021 online survey found that 36% of all Americans—which includes 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel ’serious loneliness.’”

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “found 63% of young adults also suffer significant symptoms of anxiety or depression,” she said. “That means we have a generation of young people hungry for deeper connection who often do not have the skills or opportunities to achieve it.”

“One’s 20s are filled with countless social expectations including separating from one’s nuclear family, finding a partner, developing a career and finding a ‘tribe,’” Dr. Bell Washington said. “For many this time is complicated by unrealistic social media lives which are often unattainable. That only amplifies the loneliness that young adults feel.”

Social isolation can play a role

“An individual experiencing loneliness will often describe feeling alone. This is distinct from social isolation where there is a paucity of social connectedness,” said Dr. Clark. “Social isolation can be a sequela of loneliness, but there are plenty of individuals who experience loneliness and are still socially connected.”

Additionally, “there are some people who I would consider socially isolated, but they feel perfectly fine with it,” said Dr. Bell Washington. “The pandemic revealed that though some people considered themselves loners, when they truly had to be alone all of the time (due to quarantine or isolation), they found out that they actually do value social connection, and would have preferred to be with other people.”

Social media affects loneliness

“We get these dopamine surges when someone likes our status,” said Dr. Clark, referring to a social media posting. Many, conversely, feel “sad or upset when they do not receive a certain number of likes or have over 1 million followers on their social media accounts.

“And if you’re having an identity crisis—and if you’re letting social media dictate who you are—that can create some loneliness,” he added. “We must be mindful of the psychiatric sequelae of loneliness. These include depression and anxiety.”

Everyone is at risk for loneliness

“We’re all at risk for loneliness in our lives,” said Dr. Clark. “There was a report that came out from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. It revealed that more than one-third of adults 45 or older reported feeling lonely and about a quarter of adults 65 or older were considered to be socially isolated.

“Social isolation in itself was associated with a 50% increased risk of developing a neurocognitive disorder and other serious medical conditions,” he added. “No one is immune to loneliness and social isolation, but there are certain groups who are at increased risk.”

“When we think about historically marginalized groups in terms of immigrants—as well as the LGBTQ+ community—those are groups that have been shown to be at high risk for loneliness and social isolation,” Dr. Clark said.

“Anyone can suffer from loneliness and the highest risk is for those who are not able to remedy the loneliness when they feel it,” Dr. Bell Washington echoed. She added, “The fear of being alone in your loneliness only makes the isolation worse. It is easy to feel you’re the only one who needs social connectedness, but that is not true. There is no shame in being lonely. We were built for connection.”

It’s linked to health complications

“There is some evidence to note that people who are experiencing social isolation and loneliness are at increased risk for premature death,” said Dr. Clark, adding that “social isolation and loneliness were associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% risk of stroke.”

“Now, I’m a romantic and a poet, and there’s something to be said about the broken heart—literally and figuratively speaking,” he said. “If you’re already feeling lonely, that’s going to impact your heart. If you’re feeling socially isolated, that’s going to impact your heart.”

Discrimination is also a factor

Looking at “immigrants and the LGBTQ+ group, why do these groups feel so isolated and lonely? Well, discrimination is a factor that can be a barrier for them being able to feel socially connected,” said Dr. Clark. “The other thing would be language barriers if we’re talking about immigrants where English is not their primary language.”

“It can be difficult to form relationships with others when historically marginalized groups continue to be stigmatized,” he said. “We have to acknowledge our implicit and explicit biases if we hope to seek to embrace humanity in the form of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Acknowledge how you’re feeling

“Sometimes we are in denial. When we’re in denial, it’s easy to avoid those feelings that we know are bubbling on the surface, but we just try to continue to suppress them,” said Dr. Clark. “If you are feeling lonely, the first thing is, acknowledge that, and then ask yourself: What is contributing to my loneliness?”

“Loneliness is not your fault. Social isolation is not your fault,” he said. “Because, again, there are probably precipitating and perpetuating factors that are contributing to these states of being.”

“We have to remember that we are enough and that we belong,” Dr. Clark said.

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Everyone needs a support system

“If we’re wanting people to live longer, healthier lives, we have to be better about investigating how loneliness is impacting our communities,” said Dr. Clark. “Everybody needs a support system. Even the person who says that they have a shy temperament and they’re more introverted—they still need a support system.” “When we’re looking at our AMA declaring this as a public health issue, it speaks to the importance of advocating for connectedness for all communities that will enable them to flourish,” he said. “For example, supports systems are a positive, prognostic factor for individuals who are suffering from mental health conditions, substance-use disorders and personality disorders.”

“We have to make sure people have the available resources that will allow them to cultivate connectedness,” Dr. Clark said, adding that “these resources must be diverse, equitable and inclusive.”

Don’t minimize anyone’s struggle

“People assume if someone is doing well, making money and has a family that they can’t be lonely, but that is not true,” said Dr. Bell Washington. “We all benefit from having a deeper connection with others, no matter what stage of life we’re in.”

“We really can’t minimize anyone’s struggle, because we all have different difficulties that we’re coping with,” she said. “We are human, we have needs and we have a right to express those needs. We should always be kinder than necessary because you never know the hidden battles that people are going through.”

Take loneliness seriously

“Loneliness is something to be taken seriously,” said Dr. Bell Washington. Loneliness “can have serious mental and physical complications that worsen if ignored.” She added that, “social isolation and loneliness lead to higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, memory issues and even death.”

“It is not a sign of weakness. You do not have to be a superhero. You don’t have to be strong all of the time and there’s nothing wrong with desiring or seeking connections,” she said. “The same things we needed as little kids; we need as adults too. So, of course you need sleep, healthy food and physical activity, but you also need connection.”

“That connection looks different for different people. For some, it may be connection with a higher power,  family or friends,” Dr. Bell Washington said. “I advise all patients to make sure you are taking care of yourself and seek help if you need it.” Washington

Reach out to your physician for help

“If you notice that you are sad or worried more days than not, that would be a sign that you probably should check in with someone,” said Dr. Bell Washington. “In addition to confiding in a trusted family friend, I’d recommend reaching out to your personal physician.

“They can make sure you are not suffering from depression or other mood issues as a result of your loneliness,” she added. “Your doctor would be a great person because they can be sure to provide you some help as well.”

“Then obviously if you get to the point where you’re feeling so lonely and so isolated that you start feeling hopeless or suicidal, you should reach out to your doctor immediately,” Dr. Bell Washington said, noting “there’s also a new 988 mental health hotline. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence, please get help!”

(Two psychiatrists, AMA members share their thoughts on what patients need to know about loneliness as a public health issue. These AMA members are:

  • Tiffani Bell Washington, MD, MPH, an outpatient general, child and adolescent psychiatrist working with Centurion and also in private practice in North Carolina. She is an American Psychiatric Association delegate to the AMA Young Physicians Section, alternate delegate to the Section Council on Psychiatry and a member of the AMA Ambassador Program, which equips individuals with the skills and knowledge to confidently speak to the AMA’s initiatives and the value of AMA membership.
  • Frank Clark, MD, an adult outpatient psychiatrist at Prisma Health in Greenville, South Carolina, and associate clinical professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Greenville. He is also an American Psychiatric Association delegate to the AMA Section Council on Psychiatry.)


Yoga Versus Democracy? What Survey Data Says About Spiritual Americans’ Political Behavior

(The Conversation) — As the United States gets less religious, is it also getting more selfish?

Historically, religious Americans have been civically engaged. Through churches and other faith-based organizations, congregants volunteer, engage in local and national civic organizations and pursue political goals.

Todaythe rise of a politically potent religious right over the past 50 years notwithstanding – fewer Americans identify with formal religions. Gallup found that 47% of Americans reported church membership in 2020, down from 70% in the 1990s; nearly a quarter of Americans have no religious affiliation.

Meanwhile, other kinds of meaningful practice are on the rise, from meditation and yoga to new secular rituals like Sunday assemblies “without God.” Between 2012 and 2017, the percentage of American adults who meditated rose from 4.1% to 14.2%, according to a 2018 CDC report. The number of those who practiced yoga jumped from 9.5% to 14.3%. Not everyone considers these practices “spiritual,” but many do pursue them as an alternative to religious engagement.

Some critics question whether this new focus on mindfulness and self-care is making Americans more self-centered. They suggest religiously disengaged Americans are channeling their energies into themselves and their careers rather than into civic pursuits that may benefit the public.

As sociologists who study religion and public life, we wanted to answer that question. We used survey data to compare how these two groups of spiritual and religious Americans vote, volunteer and otherwise get involved in their communities.

Spiritually selfish or religiously alienated?

Our research began with the assumption that moving from organized religious practices to spiritual practices could have one of two effects on greater American society.

Spiritual practice could lead people to focus on more selfish or self-interested pursuits, such as their own personal development and career progress, to the detriment of U.S. society and democracy.

This is the argument sociologist Carolyn Chen pursues in her new book “Work, Pray, Code,” about how meditators in Silicon Valley are re-imagining Buddhist practices as productivity tools. As one employee described a company mindfulness program, it helped her “self-manage” and “not get triggered.” While these skills made her happier and gave her “the clarity to handle the complex problems of the company,” Chen shows how they also teach employees to put work first, sacrificing other kinds of social connection.

Bringing spiritual practice into the office may give workers deeper purpose and meaning, but Chen says it can have some unintended consequences.

When workplaces fulfill workers’ most personal needs – providing not only meals and laundry but also recreational activities, spiritual coaches and mindfulness sessions – skilled workers end up spending most of their time at work. They invest in their company’s social capital rather than building ties with their neighbors, religious congregations and other civic groups. They are less likely to frequent local businesses.

Chen suggests that this disinvestment in community can ultimately lead to cuts in public services and weaken democracy.

Alternatively, our research posited, spiritual practices may serve as a substitute for religion. This explanation may hold especially true among Americans disaffected by the rightward lurch that now divides many congregations, exacerbating cultural fissures around race, gender and sexual orientation.

“They loved to tell me my sexuality doesn’t define me,” one 25-year-old former evangelical, Christian Ethan Stalker, told the Religion News Service in 2021 in describing his former church. “But they shoved a handful of verses down my throat that completely sexualize me as a gay person and … dismissed who I am as a complex human being. That was a huge problem for me.”

Engaged on all fronts

To answer our research question about spirituality and civic engagement, we used a new nationally representative survey of Americans studied in 2020.

We examined the political behaviors of people who engaged in activities such as yoga, meditation, making art, walking in nature, praying and attending religious services. The political activities we measured included voting, volunteering, contacting representatives, protesting and donating to political campaigns.

We then compared those behaviors, distinguishing between people who see these activities as spiritual and those who see the same activities as religious.

Our new study, published in the journal American Sociological Review, finds that spiritual practitioners are just as likely to engage in political activities as the religious.

After we controlled for demographic factors such as age, race and gender, frequent spiritual practitioners were about 30% more likely than nonpractitioners to report doing at least one political activity in the past year. Likewise, devoted religious practitioners were also about 30% more likely to report one of these political behaviors than respondents who do not practice religion.

In other words, we found heightened political engagement among both the religious and spiritual, compared with other people.

Our findings bolster similar conclusions made recently by sociologist Brian Steensland and his colleagues in another study on spiritual people and civic involvement.

Uncovering the spiritual as a political force

The spiritual practitioners we identified seemed particularly likely to be disaffected by the rightward turn in some congregations in recent years. On average, Democrats, women and people who identified as lesbian, gay and bisexual reported more frequent spiritual practices.

We suspect these groups are engaging in American politics in innovative ways, such as through online groups and retreats that re-imagine spiritual community and democratic engagement.

Our research recognizes progressive spiritual practitioners as a growing but largely unrecognized, underestimated and misunderstood political force.

In his influential book “Bowling Alone,” Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam suggests American religious disaffiliation is part of a larger trend of overall civic decline. Americans have been disengaging for decades from all kinds of civic groups, from bowling leagues and unions to parent-teacher organizations.

Our study gives good reason to reassess what being an “engaged citizen” means in the 21st century. People may change what they do on a Sunday morning, but checking out of church doesn’t necessarily imply checking out of the political process.

Jaime Kucinskas does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

(Evan Stewart, Assistant Professor of Sociology, UMass Boston. Jaime Kucinskas, Associate Professor of Sociology, Hamilton College. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

Women Have More Sex Partners Than Men In Several Indian States

The National Family Health Survey which was conducted among 1.1 lakh women and 1 lakh men showed that the number of sex partners on average for women was higher than men in many states and Union territories.

Women on average have more sex partners than men in 11 states and UTs but the percentage of men who had sexual intercourse with someone who was neither their spouse or lived with stood at 4 per cent, much higher than that of women at 0.5 per cent, according to the NFHS data.

The National Family Health Survey which was conducted among 1.1 lakh women and 1 lakh men showed that the number of sex partners on average for women was higher than men in many states and Union territories.

These states and UTs are Rajasthan, Haryana, Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, and Tamil Nadu. Rajasthan had the highest number of women who had on an average 3.1 sex partners as against the 1.8 for men.

But the percentage of men who had sexual intercourse with someone who was neither their spouse or live-in partner, in the 12 months preceding the survey, stood at 4 per cent. For women, the number stood at 0.5 per cent.

A marginally larger share of rural women than urban women and those currently married than of those never married, divorced, widowed, or separated said they had sex with two or more partners in the 12 months preceding the survey.

However, according to the NFHS data, a larger population of men (3.6%) than women(0.5%) have had sexual intercourse with those who were neither their spouses nor those with whom they have lived together just 12 months before the survey.

The National Family Health Survey-5 conducted during 2019-21 surveyed 707 districts of the country from 28 States and eight UTs. The national report also provides data by socio-economic and other background characteristics, useful for policy formulation and effective programme implementation.

Half Of Fatal Cancer Cases Linked To Avoidable Risk Factors

Almost half of all cancers that lead to death can be attributed to risk factors that are avoidable, a new study found, with researchers advising that governments invest in supporting environments that minimize exposure to certain cancer risk factors.

The study, which looked at cancer cases from 2019 and was published in The Lancet, found that 44 percent of cancer deaths were what researchers referred to as risk-attributable cancer deaths, meaning cancers that could be linked to higher exposure to certain risk factors for the disease.

On a global scale, the leading risk factors were smoking, alcohol and high BMI in descending order. These risk factors were the same for both male and female patients.

The same study found that 42 percent of cancer-related disability-adjusted life-years — the number of years lost to not living at full health or with a disability — could be attributed to risk factors.

The burden of risk-attributable cancers varied across regions, with smoking, unsafe sex and alcohol being the leading risk factors in lower-income, socially disadvantaged countries. Higher-income countries tended to reflect the global risk factors, according to researchers.

“Although some cancer cases are not preventable, governments can work on a population level to support an environment that minimises exposure to known cancer risk factors,” researchers said.

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“Primary prevention, or the prevention of a cancer developing, is a particularly cost-effective strategy, although it must be paired with more comprehensive efforts to address cancer burden, including secondary prevention initiatives, such as screening programmes, and ensuring effective capacity to diagnose and treat those with cancer.”

Researchers noted that “substantial progress” has been made in reducing tobacco exposure, particularly through interventions like taxation, regulations and smoke-free policies globally. Similar efforts have been made to address risks such as alcohol use and unsafe sex.

“Behavioural risk factors are strongly influenced by the environment in which people live and individuals with cancer should not be blamed for their disease,” said researchers.

Technology Promises To Change The Meaning Of Death — At Least For Some

When artificial kidneys were first used as a medical tool in 1945, it became unnervingly clear that human organs, until then essential to the human makeup, were replaceable. Soon after, hearts — once thought to be the linchpin of humanity — were quickly substituted by external devices, supplanting the inexplicable complexity of human muscle with far simpler, synthetic parts.

This month, a team of Yale scientists partially revived the cellular function of pigs a full hour after the animals’ brain and cardiac waves had flatlined. With the help of their OrganEx system, they restored some cellular activity in the pigs’ hearts, livers and — most meaningfully to bioethical discussions — brains. Though the pigs did not regain consciousness, the Yale researchers demonstrated that vital organs may remain treatable for longer than most scientists have suspected. While this finding doesn’t yet have clinical applications, it may soon offer a new challenge to medical claims about where life ends and death begins.

The pigs had been dead for an hour. Scientists made their hearts beat again.

The brain is the last human organ whose parts cannot be replaced synthetically: As philosopher Daniel Dennett writes, brain transplants are the one kind of operation where one should wish to be on the donating side. If at one point our hearts epitomized the singularity of humans, today the gooey, floating mass within our skulls delineates what we understand as human life.

Until the middle of the 20th century, a patient could be pronounced dead without debate if her heart stopped and her lungs ceased to function. But new ventilators and defibrillators meant that checking for rising, falling or fluttering chests was no longer a valid way to diagnose death. In the late 1960s, physicians who were concerned about the viability of transplantable organs proposed a new metric for thinking about our mortality, one focused on brain death rather than on the functioning of other organs. Their approach soon took hold, and when today’s physicians record their patients’ time of death, they mean the moment when medical devices can no longer register or restore consciousness.

As Harvard bioethicist Robert Truog suggests, what we formally call “death” consists “more of a moral judgment than a biological fact.” In other words, brain death is less the point at which an organism is definitively gone and more an arbitrary limit, designed to permit legal and medical systems to move on. Though there are no properly documented cases of recovered consciousness after a correct brain death diagnosis, Truog predicts that medical advances may at some point preclude us from using the term “brain death” as a legally binding elision with what the U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics defines as “human death”: the irreversible cessation of the “fundamental work of a living organism.”

Green burials can change our relationship with death

With the successful revival of some brain and cardiac cellular activity in mammals, the day when medical technologies will again force us to update our definition of human death looms slightly closer.

This promise is at once thrilling and terrifying. If we extrapolate on the potential of the Yale team’s OrganEx system, we may eventually be capable of reviving silent brains and restarting organs that once would have been considered irreversibly dead. (As it turns out, “irreversibly dead” is not a pleonasm.) In just a few decades, we may be forced to acknowledge that death isn’t a biological absolute so much as an administrative process. Death certificates might indicate that the deceased’s family couldn’t afford to reboot their loved one — or to preserve their body long enough to let such technologies take hold. With advancements in cryonics and emerging technologies such as OrganEx, this is no longer just a science fiction hypothetical but a reality conceivable within our century.

The distinction between life and death, in other words, might become a more painful sort of moral judgment: a matter of who can afford to keep a body functioning. In such a future, health inequities would be exacerbated; the wealthy could repeatedly forestall their death, while those least well-off would be forced to accept an indeed “irreversible cessation” of their bodily functions. The fact, however, is that this future shouldn’t sound unfamiliar to those least well-off today. In 2022, a person dies almost every hour while waiting for an organ transplant. Patients of color are especially vulnerable to such deaths, having fewer systemic chances to delay their fate.

The notion that death could be, and sometimes is, an administrative hurdle — the result of missing ventilators, organs or, in the future, superior but expensive OrganEx devices — makes funerals difficult to swallow. We might ask whether we should continue to develop life-extending technologies if they risk exacerbating our already horrifying inequities.

The answer, I suggest, is yes. In the 1940s, the vast majority of patients with failing kidneys did not have access to dialysis — though some exceptionally well-off, well-connected or simply lucky ones did. Since then, millions of low-income patients have been saved because we accepted this period of inaccessibility. In 2022, artificial kidneys are far from equitably distributed, with those who lack health insurance often unable to afford them. Yet the only way of increasing access to cutting-edge medical interventions is by encouraging more funding for them — even if this temporarily worsens disparities.

If the philosopher William MacAskill is right — and if we do our part to ensure we have a future to look forward to — humanity is only entering its adolescence and has a moral obligation to improve the lives of future generations. In fact, with the current pace of technological advancement, it is not implausible that these futuristic, life-extending medical technologies may become available for low-income people alive today. And one might argue that the fastest, most ethically permissible way of lowering the price of extraordinary medical therapies is by having the wealthy subsidize them as initial customers, as philosopher John Rawls implies.

DNA testing is radically reshaping the definition of family

DNA sequencing is a case in point: The first incomplete sequence cost $2.7 billion in 2003 and offered no clinical relevance. In 2011, Steve Jobs paid $100,000 to learn his genome sequence and his tumors’ genes, without encouraging results. Today, thanks at least in part to Harvard geneticist George Church, who advocated for the democratization of genome sequencing since the 1990s, it is the upper-middle-class American’s $299 go-to Christmas present and is only beginning to provide clinical benefits. Tomorrow, insurance companies and European governments may offer DNA sequencing free of charge, allowing vulnerable populations to benefit from this once-luxurious tool.

The practice of forestalling death is as old is it is undivorceable from the concept of medicine. As history shows, today’s extraordinary measures will simply be tomorrow’s measures, saving the lives of real humans, both rich and poor. This will remain true even when we again tweak our definition of where life ends and death begins. (Courtesy: Washington Post)

Indian American Creators Put A New Spin On Arranged Marriage

Visibly frustrated, matchmaker Sima Taparia recounts her struggle to an “Indian Matchmaking” producer: She has been tasked with finding potential partners for a 30-something Indian man living in Nashik, a few hours outside of Mumbai, but women of his generation would rather live in a bustling metropolis than this quieter part of the country. Thirty years ago, Sima reminisces, she followed her husband to Nashik and fell in love with the warmth of its people. Why hasn’t anyone done the same for Akshay Dhumal?

“Akshay’s charming, handsome. Parents are good. He’s loaded with money. He has a good business, good education. Everything is there,” she says. “But the girls, they do not want to go to Nashik.”

Generational differences often pose challenges to Sima, whose downsized presence in the new season of the Netflix reality series hints at the evolving landscape of arranged marriage. When the show premiered two years ago, it set off a flurry of takes in South Asian communities: Some criticized how it painted the culture as “burdensome,” while others described it as “telling it like it is.” Sima’s strong-willed client Aparna Shewakramani became a fan favorite for refusing to contort herself to fit other people’s expectations.

The determined independence exhibited by Aparna — as well as by the women who refuse to abandon their big-city lives — is also a central component of two other recent South Asian-led projects on Netflix: the romantic comedy “Wedding Season” and the comedy series “Never Have I Ever,” which released a new season Friday. All three were created by Indian Americans and explore the growing sense of autonomy exercised by the people for whom matches are sought, whether in India or as part of the diaspora. Ultimately, the power lies with them.

“In America, you feel tired of being asked about arranged marriage,” said “Wedding Season” writer Shiwani Srivastava. “But on the flip side, you realize people have a gross misunderstanding of it.”

Following in the footsteps of its rom-com forebears, the “Wedding Season” screenplay began with a trope: Protagonists Asha (Pallavi Sharda) and Ravi (Suraj Sharma) would pretend to date, but … to what end? Srivastava, 40, pulled from her life years before, when she attended weddings on an almost biweekly basis. Maybe Asha and Ravi want to throw nosy aunties off the scent. If they “dated” each other, neither one would be pestered into going out with a close friend of someone’s second cousin, twice removed.

In the film, Asha, a certified girlboss, starts to resent the expectation that she entertain those matchmaking efforts. She challenges her parents to consider that she can support herself and may never want to get married. In writing immigrant parents who presumably came to the United States in the 1970s or ’80s, Srivastava made sure to include a line in which Asha’s father, Vijay (Rizwan Manji), observes that his daughter seems to believe her parents’ mentality is straight from the India of 40 years ago.

“I think it does happen. It’s been documented across different immigrant communities: You bring your way of thinking from certain points of time and transplant it in America,” the screenwriter said. “It evolves in America but, meanwhile, India is evolving in parallel. We’re not the same. We’re different cultures.”

Srivastava underscored that “Wedding Season,” set in her home state of New Jersey, depicts “a very specific Indian American experience for millennials who were born to this wave of immigrants.” The disclaimer could be even more precise. Similar to “Never Have I Ever” — and, to some extent, this season of “Indian Matchmaking” — the film doesn’t delve into factors such as caste or colorism, both of which can heavily influence the matchmaking process. All three projects feature heterosexual Indian couples as well, for the most part from middle- or upper-class Hindu families.

These grains of salt might be implied with a Netflix rom-com, a genre hardly expected to answer for societal shortcomings. Srivastava didn’t set out with the intention to provide commentary on arranged marriage; Ravi, for instance, never hesitates to go out with someone of his parents’ choosing. Srivastava said it was a framework she used to highlight the courage it takes for two people to embrace what they truly desire in life. Although Asha and Ravi are initially set up, what matters in the end is that they choose each other.

In Srivastava’s experience, arranged marriage “feels like a misnomer — it’s more like an arranged introduction,” she said. “I often joke with my family about [this] dating service run by your parents and their network. They’re the ones setting you up on the date, and the rest is up to you.”

In “Indian Matchmaking,” Sima shares her exasperation directly with Akshay and his parents. This isn’t the first time she has been asked to find someone willing to move somewhere like Nashik. She says she often winds up asking clients, “Are you marrying a city, or are you marrying the boy and the family?”

The boy and the family, granted equal weight. In this collectivist culture — and in any culture, really — the best-case scenario would be for both partners to mesh well with each other’s families. It might even be a requirement for some couples. The worst case? Let’s turn to the teen comedy “Never Have I Ever.”

Early on, protagonist Devi Vishwakumar’s older cousin, Kamala (Richa Moorjani), begins living with Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) and her mother, Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan), after arriving from India to pursue a PhD at Caltech. Kamala is soon set up with a potential husband, Prashant (Rushi Kota), and she gives him a fair chance. But in the third season, Kamala realizes her growing discomfort with the situation has less to do with Prashant and more to do with the fact that she isn’t ready for marriage, period.

They end things, much to the chagrin of Devi and Kamala’s grandmother, Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty), who proceeds to ice Kamala out. Kamala is forced to reckon with the fact that her desire to better understand what she wants for herself — which includes dating Devi’s English teacher, Manish Kulkarni (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a man Nirmala disapproves of — butts heads with what is expected of her.

‘Never Have I Ever’ gives immigrant mothers the dimension they rarely receive on TV

“The arranged marriage storyline we were introduced to has really evolved and been a part of a larger story about [Kamala] finding her independence and voice,” said Moorjani, 33. “I felt very empowered by her journey because it’s something I deal with in my own life, to put my own happiness first.”

Moorjani found the storyline “fascinating and interesting to watch on an American television show.” The series, which was co-created by Lang Fisher and Mindy Kaling, marks the latter writer’s most substantial depiction yet of Indian American culture. She previously starred in sitcoms “The Mindy Project” and “The Office,” for which she wrote numerous episodes — including the silly, celebrated “Diwali” episode.

In a recent interview with Marie Claire, Kaling noted that her production company is developing a romantic comedy about Indian weddings that she co-wrote with Dan Goor and will star in with Indian actress Priyanka Chopra. Kaling, a single mother of two, said the film is “a lot about the value that we put, particularly Indian women, on marriage. And how so much of our value is set on being married.”

When filmmaker Smriti Mundhra was in her late 20s, an aunt recommended she become a client of Sima’s. It didn’t work out for Mundhra romantically — she had just gotten out of a relationship and largely agreed to her aunt’s suggestion because she “felt like as long as I was unmarried, I was disappointing people that I loved” — but she did succeed on another level. She was now well acquainted with Sima, who was “so blunt and so hilarious.”

In her time working with Sima, Mundhra encountered firsthand the “regressive and problematic things that exist” in matchmaking alongside the merits of a “culture that values community over individuality.” As a storyteller, she couldn’t let that go. Sima first appeared in Mundhra’s 2017 documentary “A Suitable Girl,” about three Indian women facing pressure to marry, before starring in “Indian Matchmaking.”

Mundhra, now 42, approaches reality television as a documentarian. In its second season, the show is less concerned with whether its characters will find love than it is the evolving concepts at play: individual needs and desires, societal expectations and, of course, the matchmaking process itself. Sima can seem dismissive at times but, according to Mundhra, is a “product of her generation” and aware she must change alongside her clients.

“That doesn’t come without its pains and frustrations,” Mundhra added.

One of the most significant shifts Mundhra has witnessed in the process may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with more traditional practices: Whereas Sima used to base the bulk of her assessments off conversations with clients’ parents, she now speaks to clients directly. This makes for great television at times, particularly when a client balks at Sima’s frequent suggestions that they lower their standards, but exposes flaws in the system as well. Should they really be expected to set aside much of what they believe they deserve?

The answer varies. Mundhra noted that none of the clients showcased in “Indian Matchmaking” were forced into the process; even for the more reluctant sort — such as Aparna, who decides Sima isn’t a match for her, either, and spends the second season looking for love on her own — autonomy doesn’t imply rejecting traditions but deciding the extent to which they embrace them.

The show continues to follow Aparna’s journey even after she shirks the matchmaking process because, according to Mundhra, the realization that “I need to hit pause on this because I need to figure out who I am” is just as valuable a takeaway.

The desire to “make our communities happy, our families happy — it’s still strong,” Mundhra said of her generation. “But it’s getting harder and harder to drown out that individual voice.”

Global Population Projected To Exceed 8 Billion In 2022; Half Live In 7 Countries

The world’s population will cross 8 billion in November, according to recently released projections from the United Nations. And more than half of all people live in just seven countries.

China has the world’s largest population (1.426 billion), but India (1.417 billion) is expected to claim this title next year. The next five most populous nations – the United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Brazil – together have fewer people than India or China. In fact, China’s population is greater than the entire population of Europe (744 million) or the Americas (1.04 billion) and roughly equivalent to that of all nations in Africa (1.427 billion).

As recently as 2015, half the world’s population was concentrated in just six countries – the same as above, with the exception of Nigeria, which was then the seventh most populous country and has since passed Brazil to move into sixth place. Recent population growth, however, has been faster in the rest of the world than in these nations, meaning that the top six now hold slightly less than half (49%) of the world’s people. Including Brazil’s 215 million people puts the world’s seven most populous countries at 51.7% of the global population.

In the UN’s “medium” scenario for future population growth – its middle-of-the-road estimate – the global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100. Growth is expected to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 29% of all the world’s births happened last year. The 2021 total fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa, 4.6 births per woman, is double the global average of 2.3 births per woman and triple the average in Europe and Northern America (1.5) and in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (also 1.5).

Desi Dating Service For South Asians In North America Launched

In the age of dating apps for adults, the platform specially caters to South Asian families in the diaspora that are looking for suitable marriage prospects within their own community.

Texas-based, Indian-American entrepreneur Radha Patel has launched, ‘The Auntie Network’, a tech-driven online desi dating platform for South Asian singles and families in North America.

The Auntie Network is based on the traditional South Asian system of matchmaking and aims to provide its users with suitable dating or marriage prospects from among the Desi diaspora community in the States.

“For decades, the Sima Aunties (Indian Matchmaking on Netflix) of the world have leveraged their networks to introduce single men and women to prospective life partners,” said Patel, founder and CEO of The Auntie Network and happily-married mother of two.

“Now, imagine if we could all harness the power of our inner Sima Aunties and had access to a network of singles all over North America, and eventually from the diaspora around the world,” she said.

“Just like grooming a child into an adult takes a village, finding that adult his/her plus one for life also takes a village,” Patel said. “Our platform aims to provide a safe, secure, sophisticated village for Indian singles who don’t cringe at the thought of a digitally-arranged marriage.”

Here is a step by guide to using ‘The Auntie Network’:

Step 1: Create an account at

Start by making your own “parent” account. This is how you will talk to the parents of prospective matches and share profiles with your kids.

Step 2: Search the network

Find eligible matches by location, community, and many other search options. Save and favorite profiles or share potential matches with your children.

Step 3: Meet other aunties & uncles

Get to know parents of eligible singles and determine together if your children are a good match. Involve your kids as little or as much as they want in the search process.

Step 4: Introduce your kids

Recommend hand picked matches for your kids. They can talk to one another & decide if this is their life partner. Help make your family complete because after all… Auntie knows best! Membership varies from $0 to $30 a month, depending on the level of services selected.

The Auntie Network is currently live and family members can sign up for a free one month trial at

Meteoric Rise In Number Of Americans Injecting Drugs

A recently released study by the Coalition for Applied Modeling for Prevention (CAMP) and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the colossal rise in injection drug use (IDU) in the United States in recent years.

CAMP’s study estimates that in the last decade, IDU has gone up exponentially. The most recent data, from 2018, estimated that approximately 4 million Americans injected drugs. This is a five-fold increase from the last approximation, in 2011.

The burden of fatal and nonfatal overdoses among those who inject drugs has also gone up sharply, according to CAMP’s research. Injection-related overdose deaths tripled from 2007 to 2018. Data also shows that there are about 40 nonfatal overdoses for every fatal overdose of IDU. 

“Our estimate of the number of people who inject drugs in the U.S. indicates that services need to be substantially expanded — this includes services to meet harm-reduction needs and efforts to reduce escalating rates of overdose mortality, as well as services to address the spread of infectious diseases,” said Heather Bradley, a lead author of a study that CAMP cited in its findings.

The CDC warns that “people who inject drugs are at high risk for HIV if they use needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment.” 

The CDC estimates that a third of people who inject drugs share syringes, needles or other drug injection equipment. 

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Though new cases of HIV are down overall, the CDC reports that about 10 percent of new HIV cases in the United States are people who inject drugs.

Hepatitis C cases have also skyrocketed in recent years. According to the CDC, in 2011 there were an estimated 2,700 cases of hepatitis C, and in 2019 the number leapt up to approximately 57,500.

The CAMP researchers note the findings in the study “provide valuable insight” to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on IDU in the U.S. and give researchers and public health officials information they can use to try to implement harm reduction in IDU. 

Tags CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CDC drug trafficking drugs Drugs hiv illegal drug use injection drug use United States 

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India’s Population Will Be Larger Than China’s In 2023

India is set to become the world’s most populous country next year, overtaking China with its 1.4bn people, according to UN figures.  On World Population Day, the United Nations has released a report projecting India to surpass China as the world’s most populous country next year. It further stated that the world population is forecast to reach eight billion by mid-November 2022.

By this November, the planet will be home to 8 Billion people. That overall population milestone “is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another,” Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, without citing specifics.

“This is an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates,” he added.

 But population growth is not as rapid as it used to be.  It is now at its slowest rate since 1950 and is set to peak, says the UN, around the 2080s at about 10.4bn though some demographers believe that could happen even sooner.

Currently, with 4.7 billion Asia is the most populous continent and has 61 per cent of the global population,17 per cent reside in Africa (1.3 billion), 10 per cent in Europe (750 million), 8 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean (650 million), and the remaining 5 per cent in Northern America (370 million) and Oceania (43 million). 

According to World Population Prospects 2019, China with a 1.44 billion population and India with 1.39 billion are the two most populous countries in the world, representing 19 and 18 per cent of the world’s population, respectively. However, by around 2023, India’s population will overtake China to become the most populous country with China’s population projected to decrease by 31.4 million, or around 2.2 per cent, between 2019 and 2050.But the population of the world is expanding unevenly.

More than half the growth we will see in the next 30 years will happen in just eight countries – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania.

At the same time, some of the world’s most developed economies are already seeing population decline as fertility rates fall below 2.1 children per woman, which is known as the “replacement rate”. In 61 countries, the report says, populations will decline by at least 1% by 2050.

With one of the lowest fertility rates in the world (at 1.15 children per woman), China has announced that its population is due to start declining next year – much earlier than previously thought. That is despite the country abandoning its one child policy in 2016 and introducing incentives for couples to have two or more children.

As India’s population continues to grow it will almost certainly overtake China as the country with the biggest population in the world. 

Fertility rates are falling globally – even in many of the countries where the population is expanding. That is because, as previous generations expand, there are more people having children, even if individually those people are having fewer children than their parents did.

Growth is also largely thanks to developments in medicine and science which mean that more children are surviving into adulthood and more adults into old age. That pattern is likely to continue, which means that by 2050 the global average life expectancy will be around 77.2 years.

But this pattern means that the share of the global population aged 65 years or above is projected to rise from 10% this year to 16% in 2050. Again the distribution will be unequal with some countries, in East Asia and Western Europe, already seeing more extremes in ageing.

GOPIO And Indian Consulate Celebrate Yoga Day With Happy Life Yoga

On the occasion of International Yoga Day 2022, GOPIO Northeast chapters in cooperation with the Indian Consulate in New York and Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Happy Life Yoga speaker Tirlok Malik hosted a highly interactive and informative Yoga Zoom event on June 23rd featuring experts and speakers from various walks of life. 

Ambassador Randhir Jaiswal, Consul General of India in New York sent his best wishes to GOPIO and Malik for celebrating the International Yoga Day 2022. The chief guest Indian Consul Vipul Dev, who looks after Political, Press, Information and Culture at the Indian Consulate, New York (USA) and special guest Congressman Subramanian Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Indian-born American businessman who has been serving as the U.S. representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district since 2017, were present on the occasion. 

GOPIO-Manhattan Secretary Bhavya Gupta was the MC for the event which was hosted in the presence of Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of GOPIO International as well as distinguished members of GOPIO International and its chapter officials from the Northeast of USA and many viewers from all over the world. The event was also supported by The Indian Panorama, Indian American Forum, GOPIO Chapters (New York, Central New York, Central Jersey, Edison and Connecticut).

The event was energetic, knowledgeable, inspiring, and celebratory in nature. While emphasizing upon the growing importance of Yoga in today’s times, Malik explained his vision behind Happy Life Yoga and its underlying philosophy, “A way of living inspired by the wisdom of Ayurveda, Yoga and Indian Philosophy, Happy Life Yoga is beneficial for one and all. The pandemic has made the world realize that it is of paramount importance to have a good health, physically and emotionally, and the Happy Life Yoga platform can show how to achieve it.”

GOPIO Chairman Dr. Abraham in his welcome remarks said, “Yoga has now become an international brand after the UN declaration in 2014 and Yoga Day is now celebrated all over the world.” Dr. Abraham also complimented the Indian Consulate for continuing to hold the celebration at the Times Square in New York City.

 Indian Consul Vipul Dev said, “Yoga has become very popular in our life and personally I feel great that something like Yoga from my country has been adopted and owned by the rest of world.” He also added that Yoga brought positivity in his life. He also mentioned that the Indian Consulate in New York has been celebrating Yoga Day with community groups starting in the first week of June, including one at the Niagara Falls.

In his brief remarks, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi congratulated GOPIO and Tirlok Malik for propagating the power of Yoga globally through the Happy Life Yoga event. “Today, the International Yoga Day has evolved into in major annual event that’s celebrated all across the globe. The key is to celebrate Yoga as a health practice that is truly universal. I would like to congratulate GOPIO and Mr. Malik for playing an active role in propagating the power of Yoga.”

One of the major highlights of the Happy Life Yoga event was the knowledge sessions moderated by Malik who is known for his ability to engage with his audience using the right mix of banter and substance.

The distinguished speakers included Prof. Indrajit Saluja (Chief Editor/Publisher, The Indian Panorama), Indu Jaiswal (Chairperson, Indian American Forum), Sangeeta Agarawal (CEO and Founder, Helpsy), Dr. Jaya Daptardar (Author and Ayurveda Practitioner), Domini Monroe (Model and Actress), Dr. Tara Shajan (President, Nurse Association), Prakhar Gupta (Podcaster), Dr. Renee Mehrra (Reenbow Media), Anil Narang (Vegan Ambassador), Anna Pillai (Ayurveda Practitioner), and Victoria Moran (Founder, Main Street Vegan Academy).

The event ended with a thunderous applause even as Malik promised to bring more Happy Life Yoga events in the near future. Happy Life Yoga is the creation of Tirlok Malik. It is essentially an educational platform that offers a unique holistic approach to health and happiness using tools from Ayurveda, Indian Philosophy, and Yoga to help better manage modern-day challenges such as work, finances, relationships, family and other social pressures. It was launched in June 2019 in New York. Malik’s portfolio of work has won many awards and has been acclaimed in media and people worldwide. Through his work he intends to inspire others to live happier and healthier lives and the journey continues.

During the program, GOPIO Foundation Executive Trustee Lal Motwani, who also serves as honorary chair of GOPIO-New York chapter spoke on the new initiative from the chapter on launching India Collection of Books at the Queens Public Library on August 13th when the library will also honor India for its 75th Independence. GOPIO-Manhattan Chapter Board Member Siddharth Jain spoke on the various services from the chapter including community feeding on the last Monday of every month and invited members of the community to sponsor this effort. 

GOPIO-Manhattan Chapter President Shivender Sofat invited the community to participate in other chapter activities including welcoming new students from India for a Welcome Dinner event in late September. GOPIO-New York President Beena Kothari, who managed the Zoom session gave the vote of thanks.

Also present at the event were community leaders including AIA National President Govind Munjal, India Association of Long Island President Bina Sabapati, The Kerala Center President Alex Esthappan, Milan Cultural Association President Suresh Sharma, Indo American Senior Citizen Association President Mukund Mehta and community leader Pam Kwatra. 

GOPIO Manhattan, in accordance with its mission to serve the larger society and those in need, has taken several initiatives in the recent past. A Community Feeding is organized by the Chapter providing ​vegan or ​vegetarian lunch for the homeless and needy at Tomkins Square Park in Manhattan on the last Monday of every month. The chapter appeals to the community to support the initiative by being a volunteer and/or a sponsor.

AAPI Will Celebrate 8th International Yoga Day With Focus On “Heal the Healers” In San Antonio, TX

American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in collaboration with all the 10 City Council Districts of San Antonio, TX and Mayor Ron Nirenberg and iDoYoga San Antonio is organizing its flagship Free Yoga Classes and Education on the benefits and ways to make yoga a part of one’s daily life during the 40th annual convention.

Led by internationally famed yoga gurus, including  Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, PhD, Spiritual leader, teacher and author; Paramaguru Sharath Jois, Lineage holder of Ashtanga Yoga; and, Eddie Stern, Yoga teacher, speaker and author, the highly anticipated and popular Yoga on the famous Riverwalk is part of the global celebration of the 8th International Day of Yoga (IDY), founded in 2014 by the United Nations General Assembly, establishing June 21st (summer solstice) of each year to be a day of celebrating yoga in nations around the world. It was ratified by 175 nations and is now being celebrated each year by millions of people around the world.

A major theme during the 40th annual convention is “Physician, heal thyself,” acknowledging and seeking to respond to the growing signs of burnout among physicians, by offering positive remedial resources as part of the first-ever Wellness Program being offered to participants at the 40th annual Convention of AAPI to be held in san Antonio from June 23rd to 26th, 2022 at Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center.

AAPI is the largest ethnic physician organisation in the USA, representing the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin. The convention is focussed on themes such as how to take care of self and find satisfaction and happiness in the challenging situations they are in, while serving hundreds of patients everyday of their dedicated and noble profession, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI said.“We do acknowledge that these are challenging times, more than ever for us, as physicians, who are on the frontline to assess, diagnose and treat people are affected by this deadly pandemic with Physician burnout post COVID-19. Our colleagues have sacrificed their lives in order to save those impacted by this pandemic around the world,” Dr. Gotimukula added.

Accordingly, the wellness sessions at the convention include: Yoga and Meditation practices, welcome kit with books & self-care supplies, personal Reflexology Sessions, take home wellness routine, ailment based yoga therapy sessions, workshop on Spiritual well-being, book talk with Yoga Gurus, including on the science of Yoga & Lifestyle medicine, and a unique opportunity to visit first of its kind in San Antonio, Aum Ashram.

“Our physician members have worked very hard during the covid 19 pandemic. The 2022 convention is a perfect time to heal the healers with a special focus on wellness,” said Dr.  Jayesh Shah, Chair of AAPI Convention 2022. Dr. Shah praised the dedication and generosity of each member for giving their best, to make this Convention truly a memorable one for every participant. Put together by a highly talented and dedicated team of Convention Committee members, the 4 days long event will be filled with programs and activities that cater to the body, mind and soul. The Convention is going to be a unique experience for everyone, he added.

Convention Committee members include Mr. Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer of the Convention; Dr. Aruna Venkatesh, Convention Treasurer; Dr. Vijay Koli, Past President of AAPI & Convention Advisor; Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, Convention Advisor; Chief Operating Officers, R. Reddy Yeluru and Ram Joolukuntla; Dr. Rajeev Suri, President of TIPS & Co-Chair of the Convention, and the other Co-Chairs of the Convention, including Dr. Shankar Sanka, Dr. Hetal Nayak, and Kiran Cheruku.

The Convention will honor India and its  75 years of Independence Day celebrations- co-sponsored by the Embassy of India & the Consulate General of India (CGI) – Houston.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI said, “This is the first time in the AAPI convention we offer these exclusive wellness packages geared towards the well-being of Physicians and their families by bringing the essence of science and spirituality of yoga and lifestyle medicine into our self-care routine. As we all are aware, a calm mind and a refined intellect are essential for making right choices. We promise to leave you empowered with the tools required.”

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT said, “AAPI being the largest ethnic medical association in the nation, we are proud, we have been able to serve every 7th patient in the country. We serve in large cities, smaller towns and rural areas, sharing our skills, knowledge, compassion and expertise and caring millions of people.”

“Leading up to the festivities, we will be accepting donations for 2 local non-profits, including
Yoga Day Foundation and the Veteran’s Yoga Project, said Dr. Hetal Nayak, Founder of I Do Yoga San Antonio. “These organizations exist to provide yoga and mindfulness training to families in San Antonio through schools, hospitals, military installations and community partnership to improve services. They believe access to these tools improves physical, mental, and emotional health and empowers families to navigate their communities and lives in a more positive way.  iDoYoga San Antonio, is a grassroots community project under the Sewa International, she added.

Each day of the convention will have a specific theme. On Thursday, the theme chosen is “Unity in Diversity” and the delegates will showcase one’s own state dress code. Heritage India is the theme for Friday honoring and celebrating India’s rich culture and diversity. On Saturday, the focus is on the much loved Bollywood with special performance by popular Bollywood singer Shaan, The cuisine served each will day match the theme chosen for each day, he added.

Some of the major events at the convention include: Workshops and hands-on sessions on well-being, 10-12 hours of CMEs, Women’s Forum, CEOs Forum, AAPI Got Talent, Mehfil, Bollywood Nite, Fashion Show, Medical Jeopardy, Poster/Research Contest, Alumni and Young Physicians events and Exhibition and Sale of Jewelry, Clothing, Medical Equipment, Pharma, Finance and many more.

“A huge thank you to all of the doctors, physicians, and other healthcare professionals for your dedication and commitment to service during this uncertain time,” Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI said. “This is a unique opportunity for all of us, the front-line physicians who are putting our lives at risk to the save the lives of others,” Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said. “Thank you for fighting selflessly against this virus and helping keep everyone healthy and safe,” Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI added.

During the annual convention, physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year.

AAPI delegates will have a multidisciplinary CME conference that allows specialists and primary care physicians to interact in an academic forum. World-renowned speakers will discuss gaps between current and best practice of wide-ranging topics at the CME sessions.

Planned to have a limited number of attendance due to the ongoing Covid pandemic and the taking into account the safety of the participants, including Physicians, Healthcare Leaders, Academicians, Researchers and Medical Students, “the annual convention offers extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events,” Dr. Gotimukula added. For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  and

Life Expectancy in India Rises But Disparities Remain

The current life expectancy for India in 2022 is 70.19 years which is a 0.33% increase from 2021, according to reports. In 1950, three years after the country gained independence, the life expectancy stood at 35.21 years. Although its life expectancy is lower than its comparators in the middle-income range, namely, Sri Lanka (77.39 years), Brazil (76.37 years), China (77.3 years) and Costa Rica (80.75 years), the gains in India’s life expectancy have definitely been noteworthy. Due to improvements in healthcare facilities and availability, there have been significant enhancements in infant and child mortality along with maternal mortality. All of these have contributed to the gains in the longevity of life in India.

India’s life expectancy at birth inched up to 69.7 in the 2015-19 period, well below the estimated global average life expectancy of 72.6 years, reports TOI. It has taken almost ten years to add two years to life expectancy.

A look at life expectancy at age one and at age five in this period suggests high infant and under-five mortality could be the reason India finds it difficult to raise life expectancy at birth faster.

Data in the recently released “abridged life tables” 2015-19 of the sample registration system (SRS) shows that the gap between life expectancy at birth and life expectancy at age one or age five is biggest in states with the highest infant mortality (IMR), Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

In Uttar Pradesh, with the second highest IMR of 38, life expectancy jumps the highest, by 3.4 years, on completion of the first year. In Madhya Pradesh, with the highest IMR of 43, surviving the first year after birth raises life expectancy by 2.7 years.

Over a 45-year period, India had added about 20 years to its life expectancy at birth from 49.7 in 1970-75 to 69.7 by 2015-19.

Odisha has had the highest increase, of over 24 years, from 45.7 to 69.8 years followed by Tamil Nadu, where it increased from 49.6 to 72.6. Uttar Pradesh had the second lowest life expectancy of 65.6 in 2015-19, after Chhattisgarh with just 65.3. However, from having the lowest life expectancy in India of just 43 years in 1970-75, it has increased by 22.6 years in Uttar Pradesh.

In the neighborhood, Bangladesh and Nepal, which had lower IMRs than India (24 compared to 28), now have higher life expectancy at birth of 72.1 and 70.5 respectively, according to the UN’s Human Development Report, 2019.

Life Expectancy is one of the most important and most used indicators for human development. It helps in assessing the overall health of the population. It captures mortality along the entire life course, very different from infant and child mortality. There has been an unprecedented increase in life expectancy due to better availability of medicines, technology and treatments.

While like other nations, life expectancy in India has improved in general, there is a huge gap in data between people from different social and economic groups. As India moves ahead with the idea of Universal Health Coverage, it is important to address the pressing need of giving attention to the health of marginalized populations in India.

Disparities in mortality and morbidity among various social-economic categories have existed in India for several decades. A study published in 2020 in BMJ which analyzed data from National Family Health Survey Round IV (2015-16) showed that the life expectancy of SCs, STs and OBCs were lower than other higher caste individuals.

This was common across both males and females. NFHS-IV data also showed that Muslim female life expectancy was 69.4 years, 2.8 years less than Hindu high caste female life expectancy, and Muslim male life expectancy was 66.8 years, 2.6 years less than high caste male life expectancy.

Furthermore, compared to upper-caste Hindus and other backward castes (OBCs), Adivasis die four years earlier, Dalits three years earlier. This data is from a new 2022 study that looked into Social disadvantage, economic inequality, and life expectancy in nine Indian states. It was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

In absolute terms, the disparities in life expectancy between higher-caste Hindus and life expectancies of Adivasis and Dalits are comparable to the Black-White gap in the United States. To no surprise, another study concluded that individuals with a family income of Rs 50000 had more than double the mortality rate than those with an income of more than Rs 1 lakh.

Your Guide To A Good Night’s Sleep

New Delhi– Most of us today, idolise the ones working on 3 to 4 hours of sleep. It’s all cool but I’m sure you remember the sweet taste of sleep? Oh no, I’m not tempting you to sleep for long hours and forget all your responsibilities. I know we’re living in a fleet-footed world and 24 hours just don’t seem enough.

When you don’t have something in adequate amounts you should always try and optimise it rather than disrupting everything, especially your sleep. Let me explain with an example – when you leave for a trip, you pack your stuff in a nice and organised manner but when you start packing for your return journey, what happens? You know that very well!

When your responsibilities seem to overpower you, stop, take a deep breath and make those 24 hours your slave.

How can you do that?

First of all, find out what works for you. People need a different amount of sleeping hours to boost their energy levels. You need to find your optimum level. After that, start scheduling your work and leisure timings accordingly.

Do you feel sleepy but still keep tossing around even after getting in bed at the right time?

If yes, this is probably because of your environment and poor pre-sleep discipline. To have the sleep that you are looking for, you need to work hard. Create an environment, which works best for you.

Pre-sleep discipline: Keeping all the distractions aside mentally and physically, dim the lights and start preparing for your bed. This will allow your mind to know it’s time to sleep and till the time you get to bed, your head would be light as a feather.

Set your Bedroom Temperature Body and bedroom temperature can profoundly impact sleep quality. Studies reveal that high or low temperatures in the sleeping area can deteriorate sleep quality. Depending on your body’s preferences, you need to find what suits your body for a good and comfortable sleep. In most cases, the bedroom should be cool (between 60 and 67 degrees) for optimal sleep.

Take a relaxing shower A relaxing warm shower is another popular way to sleep better. According to studies, a hot bath before bed improves sleep quality and helps people get more sound sleep. Alternatively speaking, if you don’t want to take a bath at night, simply dip your feet in lukewarm water for relaxation for improved sleep.

Invest in a comfortable bed, mattress, and pillow Some people wonder why they always sleep better in the hotel. Apart from having a relaxed environment, bed quality can also affect your sleep. The best mattress and bedding is extremely subjective. If you plan on upgrading your bedding, base your choice on personal preferences.

Sleep hygiene is important Blue light from cell phones, TV screens, and laptops can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, so make sure you turn them off at least half an hour before you sleep. Even the bright light from a lamp or the window can affect your pattern; consider using blackout curtains, eye-masks, white noise machines, and other accessories for a good night’s sleep.

The bottom line Sleep plays a crucial role when it comes to our health. Common sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can cause sleep loss; people with sleep apnea characteristically make periodic gasping or snorting noises, momentarily interrupting their sleep. These obstructions during sleep can pose serious complications and should be sought from a medical professional. Also, sleep loss and sleep disorders are linked with hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, obesity, mental distress, and adverse health behaviors such as cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, and heavy drinking.

Additionally, sleep medicines aren’t the solution and even lead to addiction. If you are interested in optimal health and wellbeing, then you should make sleep your topmost priority and start incorporating some of the tips above.

The Buzzy New Drinking Trend: Alcohol-Free Booze

Non-alcoholic alternatives to booze have been around for a while. But recently, the sector has been booming.  For a long time “you had ‘near beer,’ which was kind of a joke,” said Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest. “People would be discreet about drinking them. And now that’s completely changed.”

The non-alcoholic trend started to pick up a year or two before the pandemic, with no-alcohol bars catering to the so-called “sober curious” popping up in some cities, and has continued to grow at a rapid clip.

In recent years, major alcohol companies including Heineken, AB InBev and Molson Coors have started offering more zero alcohol options. Smaller brands, such as Athletic Brewing, which makes non-alcoholic craft beer, and Seedlip, which makes booze-free liquor alternatives, have also arrived on the scene.

A non-alcoholic martini. Seedlip “started to gain momentum a few years ago and continues to today,” said Lizzy Freier, director of menu research and insights at food service consulting firm Technomic.

Mentions of Seedlip on drink menus has grown 100% year-over-year, Freier said, adding that “we’re now starting to see some new alcohol-free spirits show up on the market, especially in independent restaurants.”

Non-alcoholic booze alternatives are still a tiny market compared to regular alcoholic beverages. But while alcohol sales slip, sales of their alcohol-free counterparts are soaring.

In the year ending May 14, US retail sales of non-alcoholic spirits grew 116% to $4.5 million, according to NielsenIQ. Alcoholic spirit sales slipped about 1% to just under $21 billion.

In that same period, non-alcoholic beer jumped 21% to $316 million and non-alcoholic wine rose 20% to $50 million. Traditional beer sales fell 4% to about $46 billion, and sales of alcoholic wine declined 6% to nearly $20 billion.

Stanford sees it this way: As interest in non-alcoholic alternatives rises, there’s a greater imperative for brands to deliver better products as more of them launch.

“There is a real market force now to go and create those solutions and to really work at it,” he said. “There’s money to be made. So people are figuring it out.”

But, Stanford added, “I do wonder what the natural ceiling is for these products, because you don’t have the functionality of alcohol.” In other words, how many people really want booze without the buzz?

Going out, but drinking less

Demand for non-alcoholic alternatives has been largely driven by younger consumers who want to drink less but aren’t interested in abstaining from alcohol altogether, Stanford said.

“They’re not necessarily teetotaling. In fact, most of them aren’t,” he said. “They do drink alcohol, but they’re just trying to moderate.”

A non-alcoholic beer or cocktail might appeal to consumers who, for example, are observing Dry January. Or maybe they want to stay out late with friends, but keep drinking to a minimum. Perhaps they have to drive home, or are trying to avoid a hangover. Or they are aware of alcohol’s negative health effects, and want to consume less in general.

Those drinkers could always reach for a seltzer or a soda, of course. But non-alcoholic beverage makers are positioning their products as more sophisticated and flavorful. And, with colorful cans and festive packaging, they’re designed to help non-drinkers blend in.

“The biggest market play we’re seeing is this emphasized idea that customers can still gather, celebrate and enjoy a good drink while still abstaining from alcohol, whether that be for lifestyle choices or personal reasons,” Freier said.

Erin Flavin, seated facing the table, started researching non-alcoholic alternatives to booz when she quit drinking.

Erin Flavin found herself imbibing more than she wanted to during the pandemic. So in October 2020, she decided to quit drinking. Sick of seltzer, she explored other options.

“I started out with teas,” she said. She discovered Rishi Tea & Botanicals, which makes a line of “sparkling botanicals” drinks. They come in flavors like grapefruit quince, dandelion ginger and elderberry maqui, made with red wine grape skins.

“I was drinking that a lot, in a beautiful glass, and still having my little ritual at the end of the night,” she said. “That really helped.” Last year, she started selling some non-alcoholic drinks at her Minneapolis hair studio, Honeycomb Salon. She plans to open a non-alcoholic liquor store soon.

While some, like Flavin, took stock of their drinking habits during the pandemic, others had been thinking about alcohol alternatives for years.

Non-alcoholic beers get crafty

For Ben Jordan, it was challenging to find something flavorful but non-alcoholic to drink when he’d go to get-togethers while at graduate school, about a decade ago.

“I was wanting to drink beer at parties and in social environments, but didn’t want the effects of ethanol,” he told CNN Business. At the time, the non-alcoholic beer options were “pretty bad,” he said.

So he set out to find a solution, eventually co-founding ABV Technology, which sells and rents machines that remove alcohol from beer to craft breweries, enabling them to get in on the trend. ABV Technology also offers its products to distilleries and wineries. The company was incorporated in 2017, and Jordan is its CEO.

One surprising incentive for craft brewers deciding whether to invest in non-alcoholic beers? The hard seltzer craze.

Once ABV Technology’s machines remove alcohol from beer, that booze can then be used for hard seltzers. For a brewer, that affords the option of turning alcoholic beer into two products: non-alcoholic beer and trendy hard seltzer.

Ben Jordan, CEO of ABV Technology, Jordan predicts that in the United States, non-alcoholic beer could end up making up a fifth of the total US beer market.  “Things look very positive for the non-alcoholic beer industry right now,” he said.

But there are challenges ahead, especially as consumers cope with soaring inflation. Non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits don’t come cheap.

Bottles of non-alcoholic spirits are priced in the $20 to $30-range on Amazon. And a can of non-alcoholic beer costs about the same, if not more, than the same sized-can of regular beer, Jordan said.

A sliver of the population may be willing to pay that amount for that alternative, Stanford said.

“Upwardly mobile, young consumers who want these kinds of products for specific lifestyle reasons — as long as you’re offering them quality and something that they actually want to hold and be seen with, they will pay those prices,” he said.

But getting money-conscious skeptics on board? “The challenge is, you’re gonna have to convince them that the quality is there,” Stanford said, “that they’re going to look cool drinking it, and they’re going to want to be seen with it.”

Emmy-Nominated Filmmaker Tirlok Malik Makes Happy Life Yoga Presentation To Over 200 CEOs At Asia Society In New York

Tirlok Malik, Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Happy life Yoga speaker, was a guest speaker at the event finale for ‘New Majority 2022: The Opportunity for Building Allyship’ organized by the Asian American Business Development Center, Inc., at the Asia Society and Museum. AABDC is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization established in 1994 by Mr. John Wang, the founder and the president.

It assists Asian American businesses in strengthening their capacity to compete in the mainstream market, to expand business opportunities, and to promote recognition of Asian American businesses’ contributions to the general economy. AABDC is associated with the United Nation Department of Global Communications and actively supports the 17 sustainable development goals.

The event featured guest speakers from various fields such as civil rights, business, community, and nonprofit leaders to gather, speak, learn from and brainstorm with each other. The event unpinned the all important thought that when we engage in difficult conversations about unlearning prejudice acquired in our respective communities, when we work together and support each other, and when we speak with one voice, it is incredibly powerful.

It was a very informative and constructive summit discussing the opportunity for Building Allyship in Asian and American communities. The event had opening keynote remarks by Ramon Laguarts (Chairman and CEO, Pepsico). Some of the other speakers at the event included Dr. Randal Pinkett (CEO, BCT Partners), Anne Chow (CEO, AT&T), S.David Wu (Ph.D) (President, Baruch College, The City University of New York), Michael Garner (Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, MTA), Frankie Miranda (CEO, Hispanic Federation), Ying McGuire (CEO, National Minority Supplier Development Council), Sandeep Gupta (Board member, Ascend Canada, Partner Deloitte & Touche LLP), and Marcela Miguel Berland (CEO, Latin Insights), among others. Dr. Pinkett was also the MC for the event.

Tirlok Malik made an engaging Happy Life Yoga presentation at the end of the event with more than 200 CEOs participating in laughing and positive happy affirmation for self along with Malik. Tirlok Malik explains, “You have to start with affirming to yourself: ‘I Love Myself,’ because if you love yourself, you take care of yourself. And then we are able to bring happiness to others.” Malik further says that Happy Life Yoga (yoga of life) is a gift from the spiritual land of India, which he wants to share with the world. Malik was honored with the Outstanding Asian American in Business award by the Asian American Business Development Center in the year 2005.

Malik into his 50s (he refuses to reveal his age) has made a handful of films around India. His most recent release is a short film titled To New India with Love, streaming on YouTube. The movie about youth aspirations explores how ambitions, and as a result relationships, are changing order in modern India. The film has gathered critical acclaim with political leaders such as Kiran Bedi talking about the message it showcases.

The filmmaker, who has lived in New York since he turned 24, doesn’t mince words when he speaks about the confused Indian. “The first generation wants to send their children to America but when it comes to marriage they want their children to go the traditional way. As ironical as it may sound, this is the mindset of most Indians,” he says. It is this complex cultural tiff that Malik explores in his films.

Yoga And Meditation Can Change Your Genes

Yoga and meditation may do more than just help you feel relaxed in the moment. A new scientific review suggests that these and other mindfulness exercises can actually reverse stress-related changes in genes linked to poor health and depression.

In the new paper, published in Frontiers in Immunology, British researchers analyzed the findings from 18 previously published studies—involving a total of 846 people—on the biological effects of meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, Qi gong and Tai Chi. Together, the authors say, the studies show that these mind-body exercises appear to suppress the expression of genes and genetic pathways that promote inflammation.

Inflammation can temporarily boost the immune system, and can be protective against infection and injury, the authors write in their paper. But in today’s society, in which stress is primarily psychological, the body’s inflammatory response can become chronic and can impair both physical and mental health.

Researchers found that people who practiced these activities regularly had fewer signs of inflammation, including a decrease in their production of inflammatory proteins. This signals “the reversal of the molecular signature of the effects of chronic stress,” they wrote, which may translate to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.

Environment and lifestyle can both affect which genes are turned on and off, and that can have real effects on disease risk, longevity and even which traits get passed on to future generations. Stressful events, for example, can activate the fight-or-flight response and trigger a chain reaction of stress-related changes in the body—including activating specific genes involved in making proteins that produce inflammation.

Lead author Ivana Buric, a PhD student in Coventry University’s Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab in England, says her team was surprised to see that different types of mind-body techniques had such similar effects at the genetic level. “Sitting meditation is quite different than yoga or Tai Chi,” she said in an email, “yet all of these activities—when practiced regularly—seem to decrease the activity of genes involved in inflammation.”

This is a relatively new field of research, she adds, and it’s likely that similar benefits could be obtained from other lifestyle changes like healthy eating and exercise. There aren’t yet enough studies to know how activities like yoga compare to other types of physical activity in terms of altering gene expression.

Buric says the existing studies suggest that mind-body interventions “cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our well being.” She also emphasizes that inherited genes are not static and that DNA activity can depend on things people can control. “By choosing healthy habits every day, we can create a gene activity pattern that is more beneficial for our health,” she says. “Even just 15 minutes of practicing mindfulness seems to do the trick.”

Monkeypox Due To Risky Sexual Behavior, Expert Says

A leading adviser to the World Health Organization described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as “a random event” that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. David Heymann, who formerly headed WHO’s emergencies department, said the leading theory to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission among gay and bisexual men at two raves held in Spain and Belgium. Monkeypox has not previously triggered widespread outbreaks beyond Africa, where it is endemic in animals.

“We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission,” said Heymann.

That marks a significant departure from the disease’s typical pattern of spread in central and western Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates and outbreaks have not spread across borders.

To date, WHO has recorded more than 90 cases of monkeypox in a dozen countries including Britain, Spain, Israel, France, Switzerland, the U.S. and Australia.

Madrid’s senior health official said on Monday that the Spanish capital has recorded 30 confirmed cases so far. Enrique Ruiz Escudero said authorities are investigating possible links between a recent Gay Pride event in the Canary Islands, which drew some 80,000 people, and cases at a Madrid sauna.

Heymann chaired an urgent meeting of WHO’s advisory group on infectious disease threats on Friday to assess the ongoing epidemic and said there was no evidence to suggest that monkeypox might have mutated into a more infectious form.

Monkeypox typically causes fever, chills, rash, and lesions on the face or genitals. It can be spread through close contact with an infected person or their clothing or bedsheets, but sexual transmission has not yet been documented. Most people recover from the disease within several weeks without requiring hospitalization. Vaccines against smallpox, a related disease, are also effective in preventing monkeypox and some antiviral drugs are being developed.

The disease can be fatal in about 10% of infections, but no deaths have been reported among the current cases.

WHO said the outbreak is “atypical” and said the fact that cases are being seen in so many different countries suggests the disease may have been silently spreading for some time. The agency’s Europe director warned that as summer begins across the continent, mass gatherings, festivals and parties could accelerate the spread of monkeypox.

Other scientists have pointed out that it will be difficult to disentangle whether it is sex itself or the close contact related to sex that has driven the recent spread of monkeypox across Europe.

“By nature, sexual activity involves intimate contact, which one would expect to increase the likelihood of transmission, whatever a person’s sexual orientation and irrespective of the mode of transmission,” said Mike Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London.

On Sunday, the chief medical adviser of Britain’s Health Security Agency, Dr. Susan Hopkins, said she expected more monkeypox cases to be identified in the country “on a daily basis.” U.K. officials have said “a notable proportion” of the cases in Britain and Europe have been in young men with no history of travel to Africa and who are gay, bisexual or have sex with men. Authorities in Portugal and Spain also said their cases were in men who mostly had sex with other men and whose infections were picked up when they sought help for lesions at sexual health clinics.

Heymann, who is also a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the monkeypox outbreak was likely a random event that might be traceable to a single infection.

“It’s very possible there was somebody who got infected, developed lesions on the genitals, hands or somewhere else, and then spread it to others when there was sexual or close, physical contact,” Heymann hypothesized. “And then there were these international events that seeded the outbreak around the world, into the U.S. and other European countries.” He emphasized that the disease was unlikely to trigger widespread transmission.

“This is not COVID,” he said. “We need to slow it down, but it does not spread in the air and we have vaccines to protect against it.”

Heymann said studies should be conducted rapidly to determine if monkeypox could be spread by people without symptoms and that populations at risk of the disease should take precautions to protect themselves.

A French Nun Who Enjoys Chocolate And Wine Is The Oldest Living Person

A 118-year-old nun living in a nursing home in southern France has become the world’s oldest living person, according to the Guinness World Records.

Sister André is also the oldest nun ever, according to a statement released by Guinness on Monday, April 25th.

Born as Lucile Randon on February 11, 1904, Sister André has dedicated most of her life to religious service, the statement said. Before becoming a Catholic nun, she looked after children during World War II and then spent 28 years caring for orphans and elderly people at a hospital.

Sister André, who lives near the French city of Toulon, is also the world’s oldest Covid-19 survivor. The Guinness World Records statement said she tested positive for the virus at the beginning of 2021, but recovered fully within three weeks, just in time for her 117th birthday.

In an interview with the French TV channel RMC Story on Tuesday, Sister André appeared to have mixed feelings about becoming the new oldest living person.

“I feel I would be better off in heaven, but the good Lord doesn’t want me yet,” she said, calling the title a “sad honor.” However, she also expressed her joy at being “pampered” by her family.

Sister André enjoys chocolate and wine — and drinks a glass every day — her nursing home, Résidence Catherine Labouré, confirmed to CNN.

When she turned 118 earlier this year, the elderly nun received a handwritten birthday note from French President Emmanuel Macron — the 18th French president of her lifetime — according to a tweet from the nursing home. There have also been 10 different Popes presiding over the Catholic Church since she was born.

Sister André became the world’s eldest following the death of Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman previously certified as the world’s oldest person, who died at the age of 119 on April 19.

World’s oldest person, Kane Tanaka, died in Japan aged 119. The title of oldest person ever recorded also belongs to a French woman. Born on February 21, 1875, Jeanne Louise Calment’s life spanned 122 years and 164 days, according to the Guinness World Records statement.

How Much You Should Sleep Every Night

A national panel of sleep experts released new recommendations Monday that call for more hours of sleep for most young people.

The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at promoting healthy sleep and safety, says the amount of sleep a person needs is highly variable and that some people need more than others. Still, the new hour ranges for each age group recommend more hours for infants, kids and teens:

Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)

Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)

Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)

Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)

School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)

Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

To come up with the new recommendations, the foundation put together a panel of 18 scientists and researchers from prominent medical associations in the United States and asked them to review over 300 studies on how much sleep is ideal. The panel then voted on how much sleep is appropriate at different ages.

Getting too little sleep and getting too much sleep are both unhealthy behaviors that can lead to a variety of consequences from grogginess to weight gain.

US Life Expectancy Declined In 2021

Life expectancy in the United States took another hit in 2021, furthering a dramatic decline from 2020 that was the largest since World War II, according to a new report.

The study — published Thursday on the preprint server medRxiv, which means it has not been peer-reviewed — found that after falling nearly 1.9 years in 2020, life expectancy in the US decreased another 0.4 years in 2021 as Covid-19 continued to spread.

“Although the introduction and availability of effective vaccines were expected to curb US mortality rates in 2021, slow vaccine uptake and the spread of the Delta variant produced large surges in mortality,” the researchers wrote.

With a brief exception in the summer of 2021, Covid-19 has consistently been one of the top three causes of death for the past two years in the US, an analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows.

In the decade before the pandemic, life expectancy in the US changed by an average of less than 0.1 years annually, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Changes to life expectancy amid the Covid-19 pandemic widened an existing gap between the US and other high-income countries, the new report shows. Among a set of 19 peer countries, life expectancy dropped only a third as much as in the US in 2020 (down 0.6 years, on average) and rebounded in 2021, with an average increase of about 0.3 years.

Life expectancy in the US fell from 78.9 years in 2019 to 76.6 years in 2021 — now more than five years less than the average among peer nations.

“This speaks volumes about the life consequences of how the US handled the pandemic,” Dr. Steven Woolf, study author and director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement. “What happened in the U.S. is less about the variants than the levels of resistance to vaccination and the public’s rejection of practices, such as masking and mandates, to reduce viral transmission.”

In the US, there was a disproportionate decrease in life expectancy for Black and Hispanic people in 2020. But in 2021, White people had the largest losses, with life expectancy holding steady for Hispanic people and rising slightly for Black people.

For this study, Woolf and other researchers from the University of Colorado and the Urban Institute analyzed death data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the Human Mortality Database and other international statistical agencies.

Taking A Break From The Digital World Is Healthy

Technology has connected us in ways we never anticipated and made our lives more convenient. While technology definitely comes with numerous positive benefits, there are negative sides to it as well that can lead to physical and psychological issues. A 2017 study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people within the age group of 19-32 who had higher usage of social media were more likely to feel isolated than those who didnt use social media so often.

Innovative technologies and smart gadgets have made us slaves of the digital era, and there’s an imperative need to get some respite from this dependency and disruption. That’s where yoga and meditation can make a difference. These ancient practices have been part of our civilisation for years and are used to align the body, mind and spirit and bring mental clarity.

Why a Break from the Digital World is Necessary

We are constantly tethered to technology through our smartphones, tablets, computers, and even watches, and companies are pushing our psychological buttons to make us return for more. Constant distractions are ruining our cognitive functions and leaving many prone to anxiety and memory lapses. Overuse of digital media can also have detrimental effects on physical health. Too much smartphone usage can put a lot of pressure on the shoulders, neck, and spine. Technology overuse can also lead to strained injuries of the thumbs, fingers, and wrists. Overexposure to the blue light emitted by smartphones and computers can also interrupt the circadian clock, causing sleep issues.

How Yoga can help

In people who practice yoga on a daily basis, changes occur in the brain structure and new connections are developed. Also, it results in improved cognitive skills like memory and learning. Here are some easy yoga poses to get you started:

Tadasana (Mountain Pose): How to do:

*Stand with the feet together keeping the arms by the side.

* Straighten the legs and tuck the tailbone in while engaging the thigh muscles.

* While inhaling, elongate through the torso and raise the arms.

* Exhale and release the shoulder blades away from the head.

* Take slow breaths and maintain this position for 30 seconds.

Benefits: This pose engages all the major muscle groups and improves concentration and focus.

AdhoMukhaSvanasana: How to do:

* Come onto your hands and knees with the palms just past the shoulder.

* The knees must be kept under the hips.

* Lift the hips and press back to form a V-shape with the body.

* Keep the feet hip-width apart.

* Spread the fingers and move the chest towards your legs.

* Maintain this position for 30 second and gently release.

Benefits: This pose stretches the lower body, improves posture and balances the body and mind.

Balasana (Child’s Pose): How to do:

* Kneel on your mat with the toes tucked under.

* Lower the hips towards the feet and extend your arms forward.

* The stomach should be resting on the thighs and forehead touching the mat

* Maintain this position for 1 minute and release.

Benefits: Apart from releasing tensions in the chest, this pose relaxes the spine and back as well as promotes good sleep.

Savasana: How to do:

* Lie on the back with the arms alongside the body.

* The palms should be facing upwards and the body must be kept completely relaxed including the face.

* Continue with gentle breathing and keep your attention on your breath.

* Stay in this pose for a few minutes and release.

Benefits: This pose calms the nervous system reducing stress and anxiety. It also aids the immune and digestive system.

Achieve Balance with Meditation

Meditation has been a useful tool for ages to maintain control of the mind and transform thoughts. People who incorporate meditation into their daily lives remain more composed during times of adversity and clear-minded. In fact, new studies have revealed that consistent practise of meditation increases GABA levels, which promotes emotional well-being and helps one feel happy.

When combined with yoga and pranayama, meditation can do wonders for our body and mind gradually, and one can see the reflection of the same in their daily lifestyle.


The rapid advancement of technology has certainly led to increased stress and emotional distress driven by rapid reward cycles, exposure to too much information, and simultaneous engagement in different tasks. Meditation and yoga can help us release inner tensions, quiet the mind, and stay focused. Only a few minutes of practise every day can bring a whole world of change, making us happy, healthy, and resilient to stress and burnout. Technology is here to stay and even get more advanced. It rests on us as to how we can adopt these practises as part of our lifestyle to bring a positive change and stay healthy.

Do Women Live Longer Than Men?

The numbers don’t lie: women tend to live longer than men. The average American man will live to age 76, according to the latest CDC figures, while the average woman in America will live to age 81.

And a woman’s extra years tend to be healthy ones. The World Health Organization’s HALE index, which calculates the number of years a man or woman can expect to live without a major disease or injury, finds that American men can look forward to 67 healthy years, while American women will enjoy 70 years of “full heath.”

This male-female lifespan gap is not a new phenomenon; experts have known about it for decades. It’s also not restricted to Americans. “This gender gap in life expectancy is true for all societies, and it is also true for the great apes,” says Dr. Perminder Sachdev, a professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Australia who has studied human longevity.

Why do women tend to outlive men? Sachdev says there are a few popular theories—some to do with biology, and some to do with behavior.

“Men are more likely to smoke, drink excessively and be overweight,” he says. “They are also less likely to seek medical help early, and, if diagnosed with a disease, they are more likely to be non-adherent to treatment.” On top of all that, he says, men are more likely to take life-threatening risks and to die in car accidents, brawls or gun fights.

There’s evidence that a man’s biology—namely, his elevated levels of the male sex hormone testosterone—may lead him into the kind of trouble that could shorten his life. Research from Duke University has found that elevated testosterone levels are associated with risky behaviors.

Experts say testosterone may abbreviate a man’s lifespan in other ways. “Male sex hormones decrease immune function and increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases,” says Kyung-Jin Min, a professor of biological sciences at Inha University in South Korea.

In a 2012 study published in the journal Current Biology, Min and his colleagues examined the historical health records of 81 Korean eunuchs: men who were castrated as children, and who therefore stopped producing much testosterone. They found the eunuchs tended to live about 14 to 19 years longer than uncastrated men who shared their same socio-economic status.

While the links between testosterone and immune function aren’t clear, Min’s study points to lab research showing that testosterone may block the release of some disease-fighting immune cells. On the other hand, there’s also a good amount of research linking low levels of testosterone to heart disease and poor health outcomes in men, so the relationships between testosterone and a man’s health are complex.

It may well be that a man’s hormones aren’t to blame; instead, a woman’s hormones may offer her some added lifespan benefits.

“Estrogen appears to be protective—it has been shown to have an antioxidant role,” says Sachdev. A 2013 review in the International Journal of Endocrinology found evidence that estrogen can prevent the kind of DNA damage that leads to disease. That review also turned up evidence that estrogen can help maintain normal, healthy cell function.

These sorts of findings help explain the male-female longevity gap. But why would evolution and natural selection instill women, but not men, with these life-extending attributes?

“All this is entirely speculative,” Sachdev says, but it may have to do with a female’s historical role as child-rearer. “Once children are born, men are disposable,” he says. “But the robust body of the mother is important for the survival of the offspring.” A woman’s body has evolved to withstand and bounce back from the physical trauma of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the demands of breastfeeding—challenges to which a male’s body is never exposed. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And for women, that strength may translate to a longer, healthier life.

10 Happiest Countries In The World

Happiness is a difficult thing to measure, but one initiative at the United Nations has been trying to figure it out. Every year since 2012, the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network has published its World Happiness Report—a study that examines the connections between happiness and development, all while encouraging policymakers to place more of an emphasis on the former.

Around 1,000 people in each U.N. member state rate their quality of life on a scale from 0 to 10, while researchers cull data from six areas: GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support, trust and corruption, perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity. The World Happiness Report 2022 was just released, and while the results follow previous trends (every Nordic country made the cut), the list is a little more interesting because of COVID-19. The report paid special attention to evaluate how different governments have supported citizens’ happiness before, during, and likely after the pandemic.

Here is the list of the 10 happiest countries in the world—and who knows? Maybe just daydreaming about visiting these countries will give you a boost of happiness.

10. New Zealand

New Zealand has had one of the lowest rates of COVID-related deaths during the pandemic, cementing its spot in the top ten. Even without that time stamp, Kiwis are a famously happy and friendly bunch, which stems from satisfaction in both the workplace and social spheres. Having a Prime Minister who prioritizes emotional and mental growth certainly doesn’t hurt, either: In 2019, Jacinda Ardern introduced a Wellbeing Budget, which allocated billions of dollars towards initiatives like bolstering mental health, reducing child poverty, and supporting the Māori and Pasifika populations.

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: This one’s easy: go play outside. New Zealand is one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world, with as many outdoor activities as there are stunning landscapes. Whether you spend your vacation kayaking in Milford Sound, hiking through Tongariro National Park, or bungy jumping in Queenstown, you’re sure to leave feeling better than when you arrived.

9. Israel

After placing 12th last year, Israel has finally broken into the top ten in 2022. The country’s response to the pandemic instilled a lot more government trust among citizens, as it was one of the first nations to successfully vaccinate a large percentage of its population. Israel also happens to be one of the healthiest countries in the world, with the lowest number of diet-related deaths (high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, etc.) in the entire world.

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: Travelers can enjoy that life-extending Mediterranean diet at thousands of restaurants in Tel Aviv, the culinary capital of Israel. Writer Gabrielle Robins suggests seeking out street food like falafel at HaKosem, hummus at Abu Hassan, and kebabs at Zalmaniko.

8. Norway

There’s not too much to complain about in Norway. The mix of a well-integrated government welfare system and a thriving economy built on responsible management of its natural resources (good riddance, fossil fuel-powered cars) means that very few are left behind, and the feelings of social support, trust in government, and economic well-being that come from that all contribute to overall happiness.

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: It’s scientifically proven that being near water makes people happier, and Noway has a lot of opportunities to enter an aquatic state of mind. The country has some of the deepest and most beautiful lakes in Europe, including Lake Mjøsa about 60 miles north of Oslo. There is a bike path that circles the entire lake, so get in a good ride before cooling off in the water.

7. Sweden

Sweden had the highest number of COVID-related deaths among all the Nordic countries, which may account for its drop from the 6th to the 7th spot this year. Still, it remains one of the happiest countries in the world thanks in large part to a high GDP per capita. An emphasis on social equality that is built into the education system starting in kindergarten, 16 months of paid family leave that can be split between a couple after a new child is welcomed into a family, and free day care also make Sweden the best country for women, according to a separate study. Basically, an emphasis on work-life balance leads to a happier populace.

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: Lagom is a way of life in Sweden (similar to hygge in Denmark), something that’s hard to translate but basically boils down to balance and moderation. Swedes apply lagom to everything from wardrobe to diet, but the most tourist-friendly way to enjoy this lifestyle is to join in fika—a designated time of day to slow down and be in the present, usually with a hot cup of coffee and baked good. Just stop by any one of Stockholm’s excellent cafes around 11 a.m. (we’re fans of Café Pascal and Green Rabbit) to easily join the locals in this daily tradition.

6. Luxembourg

With a population under 600,000, this small country offers high salaries and a strong social security system to help its citizens after retirement. But before you jump to the conclusion that money is actually buying happiness in Luxembourg, the country has many other perks that have nothing to do with cash, including a great healthcare system and excellent work-life balance (probably due to the mandatory five weeks of vacation time).

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: Can’t decide between nature and culture? Get a dose of both (and a little exercise while you’re at it) by climbing Chemin de la Corniche, a pedestrian promenade that winds along Luxembourg City’s 17th-century stone walls. Dubbed “Europe’s most beautiful balcony” by Luxembourger author Batty Weber, the street affords incredible views of the Alzette River and the city’s historic center.

5. Netherlands

The biggest stat from the Netherlands this year? That its happiness levels have barely changed (we’re talking less than 0.03 percent) between 2005 and 2021. And in the Netherlands, it turns out, happiness starts young. A 2013 UNICEF report rated Dutch children the happiest in the world, based on a number of metrics related to educational well-being, safety, and health.

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: According to the UNICEF report, 85 percent of Dutch children eat breakfast with their parents every morning (a sign of positive wellbeing). While you may be past the age of sitting down for meals before school, you can still enjoy a classic Dutch breakfast during your visit to the Netherlands: typically a slice of bread topped with appelstroop, jam, or hagelslag sprinkles (we’re smiling already).

4. Switzerland

Switzerland (which dropped one spot this year) is a country where everything is voted on, from how many vacation days workers should have to how many immigrants should be allowed into the country, and referendums down to the local level happen many times a year. This system of direct democracy means that Swiss citizens feel an unparalleled sense of participation in their country’s evolution. The Swiss are known to be insular, and it can be off-putting to first-time visitors, but there is a strong social fabric held together by a belief that every voice matters, which can go a long way toward feeling content.

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: According to a research from University College London, eating small amounts of dark chocolate can lead to a significant decrease in depressive symptoms—and where better in the world to shop around for chocolate than Switzerland? Try the 99 percent cocoa bar at the Teuscher HQ in Zurich, or hop on a train to Broc to visit the renowned Cailler-Nestle chocolate factory and shop.

3. Iceland

Iceland ranks high in terms of the proportion of respondents who said they felt like they had a fellow citizen to count on when the going gets rough. This perhaps became most obvious in the wake of the country’s post-2007 financial collapse and subsequent revitalization. You’d think that the perpetual flood of American tourists into Reykjavik might have dealt a blow to the residents’ happiness—it’s got to be a little harder to get that dinner reservation than it used to be, after all—but when it comes to well-being, the Icelanders are unfazed. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they can always escape the city to a countryside that looks like another planet.

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: In a small country like Iceland, it’s easy to socialize with your friends and family—a huge contributing factor to overall happiness. Tap into that close-knit culture by joining an Icelandic family for a homemade meal, which you can easily do through several tour companies. Creative Iceland offers a deal like this in Reykjavik, while Viator has an option in the fishing town of Hofn.

2. Denmark

Denmark remained in the number two spot this year. The country rates near the top in all the reported metrics—life expectancy, social support, and generosity among them—but it is also a country hugely committed to renewable energy production (39.1 percent of its energy was wind-generated in 2014). A recent study from the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute (whose existence is probably reason enough for a top spot) narrows down Denmark’s happiness to a number of different categories, including trust in the government, economic security, freedom, civil participation, and work-life balance.

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: Socioeconomic factors aside, the country’s happiness certainly comes in part from a respect for the planet it’s built on. To get a sense of that “at one with nature” mentality, visit Denmark in the summer and stay at a traditional Danish seaside inn. After a few days cycling along the coast, eating fresh mussels and house-made sourdough, and taking in views of the Baltic Sea from a shaded hammock, you can’t help but feel a little more joyful.

1. Finland

For the fifth year in a row, Finland is number one when it comes to happiness. The country consistently ranks among the top education systems in the world, occasionally beaten out by countries like South Korea, Japan, and Singapore. Much of that success comes from a widespread reverence for teachers, who are required to have a master’s degree (their education is state-funded), and a pedagogical system that focuses less on quantitative testing and more on experiential learning and equal opportunity.

Endorphin-boosting travel tip: Winter swimming is an extremely popular activity in Finland, with citizens claiming they get a huge rush of happiness as soon as they’re back on dry land and their circulation kicks back in. It’s an acquired taste to be sure, but the surge of serotonin and dopamine might just be worth it.

“Master of Arts in Happiness Studies” Announced By Centenary University In New Jersey

Centenary University in the state of New Jersey is launching what it called the world’s first “Master of Arts in Happiness Studies.” The first ever such program at the University level will “explore the implications of happiness for individuals, the workplace, and our broader society,” according to the college’s announcement. It’s set to launch virtually in the fall and will cost students $17,700.

Centenary, a private college in Hackettstown, New Jersey, with about 1,100 students, teamed up with the Happiness Studies Academy to create the happiness program. University President Bruce Murphy told the media that a variety of professionals could benefit from the program, such as human resource employees creating trainings for staff or CEOs incorporating lessons into their organizations.

Murphy said in his March 18th announcement: “This online, 30-credit graduate degree is an interdisciplinary program designed for leaders who are committed to personal, interpersonal, organizational, and societal happiness. Grounded in science and research, this new degree will study happiness and resilience to prepare graduates to make an impact in a wide range of fields.”

“We were thrilled when Centenary University President Murphy and his colleagues were willing to take the leap, so to speak, and create and an academic field out of the fields of happiness, which is sorely needed in our world,” Ben-Shahar, who co-founded the Happiness Studies Academy, is quoted to have said.

The academy’s mission “is to lead the happiness revolution by educating leaders who are themselves dedicated to personal, interpersonal and communal flourishing,” according to its website.

“When we’re talking about happiness, we’re talking about cultivating resilience, the ability to deal with hardships, with difficulties, and there’s plenty to go around today,” Ben-Shahar told Fox News. “Whether you’re talking pandemic, whether you’re talking war, uncertainty, whether it’s on the economic level, the emotional level.”

“We need some practical advice, evidence-based advice to help people deal with difficulties,” he continued. The degree will incorporate aspects of various disciplines ranging from psychology, philosophy and neuroscience to finance and business to literature, religion and music.

“This fully online accredited MA in Happiness Studies focuses on educating leaders who are committed to the cultivation of wellbeing in themselves and others, to the fulfillment of society’s potential for both happiness and goodness,” the program’s website states. “Regardless of your area of interest and action … the rigorous ideas and evidence-based interventions that are part of the MA in Happiness Studies will help you bring out the best in your family, colleagues, clients, students and yourself.”

“Whatever profession you identify, there is a place – a very important place for happiness studies – for the science of well-being,” Tal Ben Shahar, a happiness expert and the director of the program, told the media. “The degree in happiness studies is relevant for essentially every field of practice,” Ben-Shahar said. He said the Happiness Studies Academy receives students from a variety of professions, including lawyers, doctors, therapists, teachers, coaches and managers.” 

Centenary has received 38 applications for the program since it was announced at the March 18 World Happiness Summit in Miami, Murphy was quoted to have said. “I see a lot of opportunity for individuals to be engaged, to take this master’s degree program, to get the certification and to go forth and do great things with it,” Murphy said. 

Finland Ranks First In The World Happiness Report

For the fifth year in a row, Finland has topped the rankings of the World Happiness Report. Aalto University experts are available to comment on what happiness means in this context and how this small country ensures its residents’ well-being.

Finland shares a 1,340 kilometer border with Russia. Besides separating the European Union country from its neighbor, the border has also marked a grim reality: the largest happiness divide in Europe, with the happiest country alongside one of the unhappiest.

‘Other countries outside of the Nordics, like Canada, New Zealand and Netherlands have started examining wellbeing more closely to better understand what factors explain why some citizens are happy and some not. Wellbeing is very multi-layered. First, of course, you need to have your basic needs met. We might take food, shelter, and clean drinking water as self-evident, but if you suddenly lose them – like many civilians in Ukraine right now – life becomes a struggle. It’s much easier to think about higher needs, such as self-expression, when you can take your survival relatively for granted,’ says Frank Martela, an expert on the basis of Finland’s happiness.

‘Research shows that high national ranking on these surveys is not so much about culture,’ Martela notes. ‘It’s more about how a country’s institutions take care of their people – this leads to higher ratings of life satisfaction.’

Smart urban planning is part of how Finland promotes satisfaction and well-being. Access to green spaces reduces stress and promotes physical activity, and an environment of trust means that kids can move around independently and adults can feel safe and secure. Marketta Kyttä, professor of land use planning, says ‘a person’s environment plays a big role in their happiness, which makes the topic of health promotion in cities very important. It’s closely related to social sustainability and whether you feel connected to your community.’

Much of Finland’s success is underpinned by an effective system of progressive taxation, explains Timo Viherkenttä, a professor of practice in law and taxation. ‘Taxation – there’s two sides of the coin. It’s not a question of whether Finns are masochists and want to pay more. Finns get more social structure and safety with the higher taxes they pay. Nevertheless, we have to be vigilant that our tax euros are being spent efficiently,’ Viherkenttä says.

‘I think that health is a major factor in happiness. In Finland there’s always been heavy discussion around how to improve our healthcare and education systems – we prioritise these key initiatives so they’re not left behind,’ he says.

Aalto University experts are available to comment on following themes:

Measuring and maintaining well-being

Frank Martela is a philosopher and researcher of psychology specialized in meaningfulness, happiness, and how organizations and countries can unleash human potential. His book A Wonderful Life – Insights on Finding a Meaningful Experience (HarperCollins 2020) has been translated into 24 languages, including French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean, and Indonesian.

Martela has become one of the key experts on why Finland is so happy. He has written about the topic for Scientific American Observer and co-authored a chapter on the Nordic countries for the 2020 Word Happiness Report. Martela has been interviewed by The New York Times, Vice News, Le Monde, and the Monocle Observer. He earned his first PhD in organizational research (Aalto University, 2012) and his second PhD in practical philosophy (University of Helsinki, 2019).

Urban planning to make people feel healthy and safe

Marketta Kyttä, professor of land use planning, studies child- and human-friendly environments, environments that promote wellbeing and health, urban lifestyles, perceived safety, as well as new methods for public participation. Her multidisciplinary research team is currently focused on the place-based, person-environment research with public participation, using geographic information system methodology. The team has also worked on numerous real-life public participation projects in Finnish cities and abroad.

High rewards from high taxes

Timo Viherkenttä is a professor of business law with extensive experience in tax law and the economy. He was the CEO of the State Pension Fund of Finland (2015-2020), and has also served as Justice of the Supreme Administrative Court, as well as Director General of the Budget Department at the Finnish Ministry of Finance.

Best Way To Fight With Your Partner, As Per Psychologists

When it comes to relationships, conflict is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be emotionally distressing or callous. Couples can disagree and, yes, even fight while still showing compassion and respect for each other, according to psychologists.

In fact, clinical psychologist Deborah Grody says, married couples who don’t have any conflict are often the ones who end in divorce. “Relationships that can’t be saved are relationships where the flame has completely gone out, or it wasn’t there in the first place,” she says. When one or both partners are indifferent toward their relationship, they don’t care enough to even fight, according to Grody.

That said, frequent heated and hurtful conflict is certainly not healthy or sustainable, either. You can have conflicts with your partner in a constructive way, and it may actually bring you closer together, according to a 2012 paper published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Researchers found that expressing anger to a romantic partner caused the short-term discomfort of anger, but also incited honest conversations that benefited the relationship in the long run.

If you want to navigate conflict with your partner in a healthier and more productive way, keep these things in mind during your next argument:

Be curious about your fights

During counseling sessions, Noam Ostrander, an associate professor of social work at DePaul University, often asks couples, “What does the 5:30 fight look like on weekdays?”

“They sort of smile because they know,” says Ostrander. That’s because, Ostrander says, couples often have the same fight over and over — almost following a script — without solving anything.

A common cause of “the 5:30 fight,” Ostrander says, is one partner wanting to tell the other about their day, and the other partner avoiding it — needing a minute to decompress after getting home from work. This likely leads to one partner accusing the other of not caring about them, and the other partner feeling attacked.

Instead, Ostrander encourages couples to pinpoint what triggers this repetitive fight, and try out ways to compromise instead of allowing the conflict to erupt. Rather than following the same old script, notice that you fight when one person gets home, and suggest a new way around that. “You can say, ‘What if we just pause, say hello or kiss hello, give it 15 minutes, and come back together,’” Ostrander says. This way, both partners can communicate that they do want to hear about the other person’s day and together, find the best way to do that.

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Schedule a time for conflict

Despite having even the most open lines of communication, conflicts are still bound to happen. And when they do, it’s helpful to choose a time to talk through problems, according to Grody. “If you start to have a fight, say, ‘Let’s pick it up this evening, or another time when there’s time to discuss things,’” she says.

Setting aside time to work out disagreements allows both partners the space to regroup and prepare, Grody explains. They can think about the best way to communicate their feelings in a calmer, more rational way, so as to avoid the instinct of being defensive or accusatory. “Most of the time, things are said on impulse in the heat of anger,” says Grody. “But the words stay with us.”

Call a timeout if you or your partner needs one

During an argument, it’s common for one or both partners to enter “fight, flight or freeze” mode, according to Ostrander. Humans enter one of these modes when they think they may be in danger, he says. “Fight or flight” refers to when stress hormones activate to give people more energy to either fight the stressor or run from the situation. And “freeze” mode occurs when a person simply does not react at all, in hopes that the stressor loses interest in the fight, he says.

When a couple is in this precarious zone, problem solving is highly unlikely, because each person is solely focused on reacting to the perceived threat they feel from their partner. And if only one person is in the “fight, flight or freeze” mode, while the other is trying to resolve the issue, it can frustrate both people and escalate the fight, Ostrander says.

“If you’re really upset with someone and they’re trying to problem solve, it can feel like they’re not even listening,” he says. “I often encourage, in those moments, that someone needs to call a timeout.”

And you can frame this timeout in a way that doesn’t make your partner feel like you’re simply walking away. “Perhaps somebody says, ‘Okay, I want to have this conversation. I need like 10 minutes to calm down. I love you, I’m not going anywhere,’” Ostrander says. “‘We’re going to come back to this, we’re going to figure it out.’”

When returning to the discussion after the brief hiatus, both people will be in a better place to make real progress, Ostrander says.

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Make requests instead of complaints

Fights often start with the same two words: “You always.” Rather than asking their partner to do something they’d like them to do, like cleaning up around the house, people jump to make accusations, according to Ostrander.

“You’re not getting what you want, because of how you’re asking for it,” he says. It’s easier for people to ask their partner why they never do something than it is to simply request that they do it.

Saying, “I’m not feeling great. I’m stressed about the way the house looks. Would you mind picking some stuff up?” is more direct and respectful than putting your loved one down for his or her failure to meet your need, Ostrander says. It’s also more likely to result in your partner completing the task.

Listen, and ask your partner for clarification

When the time comes to sit down and talk about solving conflicts, Grody says the most important thing couples can do is to listen — without interrupting. This can be more challenging than it seems. If your loved one says he or she doesn’t feel heard, for example, you should listen until your partner is finished speaking, according to Grody. Then, ask for clarification if there is something you don’t quite understand.

Asking, “what makes you feel like I’m not listening?” is a much more tactful way to address your partner’s complaint than simply saying, “well, I’m listening, so you should feel heard,” Grody says. Making sure you’re holding eye contact and positioning your body toward your partner when he or she is speaking will also signal that you are listening. These small adjustments can prevent countless fights down the road, Grody says.

And of course, during any fight, insults and character assassinations should be avoided at all costs, according to Grody. “Once it gets to the point where there’s name calling and things like that, the discussion should stop,” she says. “It’s not going to go anywhere.” Couples can come back to the conversation when both parties have had time to cool down.

Learn the right way to apologize to your partner

Just as people have different love languages, Ostrander says we have different apology languages, too. It’s not enough to recognize that you’ve hurt your loved one and you owe them an apology: You have to know them enough to tailor your apology to their needs, according to Ostrander.

“Some people want big gestures and some people want, ‘I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings, and I will take steps not to do that again,’” says Ostrander. “The process is figuring out what’s meaningful for your partner.”

Incorporating Pleasure Can Lead To Safer Sex: WHO Researchers

Teaching people about achieving sexual pleasure can help sell safe sex messages, according to researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study found that programs using this approach improves condom use more than ones that focus only on the dangers of unprotected sex, the BBC reported. The researchers say enjoyment — rather than fear — is a healthy motivator.

Billions of dollars are spent around the world each year on sexual and reproductive health and rights services, yet many programmes do not address one of the fundamental reasons many people have sex — to feel good, the report said.

Anne Philpott, a public-health professional, set up The Pleasure Project — the group that worked with the WHO team — in 2004, as a result of the frustration of “endless Aids meetings where no one talked about people’s motivations for having sex”.

“Pleasure is arguably the most powerful motivating factor for having sex and yet has been absent from sex education or sexual-health interventions,” Philpott said.

“If you ask most people, ‘Did your sex education equip you for your relationships and sex lives?’ they will say, ‘No’,” she added.

Globally, a million sexually transmitted infections are acquired every day, the majority without symptoms. Using a condom can protect against these, as well as prevent pregnancy.

Philpott said condoms should be marketed as pleasure tools — as a way to enhance feeling and reassurance.

The researchers trawled medical literature to find recent examples of different safe-sex programs and measure their effects on behavior change. They found 33 projects promoting pleasure along with the safe-sex message, the report said.

And these tended to be more successful in terms of increasing condom usage than those that focused only on sexually transmitted infections and risk reduction, it added.

Teaching about pleasure, desire and joy alongside consent, wellbeing and safety are the objectives of a pleasure-based sex education programme. (IANS)

Americans Less Likely To Have Sex, Partner Up And Get Married Than Ever

Valentine’s Day is a day of love, a special day on which we’re supposed to make sure that those around us know how much we care for them. But on this day when Cupid is supposed to strike us with his arrow, there are several reasons to think “love” (by its many definitions) isn’t what it once was in the United States, for better or for worse.

Indeed, here are four potentially troubling statistics and one potentially positive sign about love in the US. We’re at a 30-year low for sex

Twenty-six percent of Americans ages 18 and up didn’t have sex once over the past 12 months, according to the 2021 General Social Survey. You might think this is just a pandemic effect, but it’s part of a long-term trend. The two years with next-highest percentage of adults saying they didn’t have sex once in the past year were 2016 (23%) and 2018 (23%) — the last two times the survey was conducted. Before 2004, the highest percentage of Americans who said they hadn’t had sex in the past year was 19%.

Last year’s survey was also the first time that the percentage of Americans who had sex once a month or less topped 50%. In 1989, 35% of American adults had sex once a month or less.

Some of this has to do with fewer people getting married and an aging population, but that doesn’t explain all of it. Among married couples under the age of 60, 26% had sex once a month or less in 2021. In 1989, it was 12%. The 1980s really were better for sex.

We’re at a 30-year low for living together: Fewer people are living together with a partner.

It’s not just about sex. Some 62% of Americans ages 25 to 54 lived with a partner or were married, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center study of 2019 US Census Bureau data. This included 53% who were married and 9% who were cohabitating. That’s well below the 71% of couples who lived together in 1990, with 67% married and 4% cohabitating.

You might think the growing share of unmarried people living without a spouse is due to rising educational levels among women who don’t need the financial support of a man. The statistics tell a different story, though. Better educated people and higher wage earners are the most likely to live with a partner or be married. A lot of people won’t get married if they don’t think it’s financially feasible, according to Pew polling.

There’s also been a higher increase in unmarried men living alone (10 points) than women (7 points) compared to the 1990 baseline.

Partnership is at a low, not just marriage Could it just be the case that people are still in relationships, but don’t want to be tied down by either living together or being married? Yes, but the statistics suggest something else is cooking.

The General Social Survey has, on and off since 1986, asked participants whether they had a steady partner. This past year, 30% of adults ages 25 to 54 (the same age bracket as the Pew study) indicated that they did not have a steady partner. In 1986, it was 20%. In fact, the percentage of 25- to 54-year-olds who said they didn’t have a steady partner never topped 23% prior to the 2010s. It’s been 25% or above in every survey since.

Interestingly, as the population ages and more Baby Boomers have gotten above the age of 55, the percentage of older folks in a relationship has stayed fairly steady — in the mid-to-high 60s on average.

That means this trend toward singledom is more about young people than older people. It’s the same with sex: The percentage of those age 55 and older not having any sex in the last year (40%) is about the same as it was 30 years ago.

Many Americans Didn’t Get Their Partner A Card For Valentine’s Day

Of course, the reason love is on my mind is that today is Valentine’s Day. Love is supposed to be in the air.  A 2022 Monmouth University poll found, however, that a mere 55% of Americans in relationships usually receive a Valentine’s Day card from their partner. Combine the other 45% with the over 30% of all American adults without a partner, and most people aren’t getting a card from a partner this year.

Once again, it’s among the younger generation where love seems to be less in the air. The clear majority (64%) of Americans ages 55 and older who are in a relationship say they usually get a card from their partner. This drops to 57% among those ages 35 to 54 and a mere 41% in my age bracket (18-34).

It shouldn’t be that hard to do Valentine’s Day right. Our partners really don’t want that much from us. Just 4% want an expensive gift more than anything else for Valentine’s Day. The majority across age brackets yearn for a simple gift like chocolates or to spend the night at home with their partner doing a favorite activity.

The divorce rate is dropping

If there is one thing good about declining marriage and partner rates, it’s that it seems people are less likely to run headlong into a marriage that has a high probability of failing.

The rate of divorces and annulments was at its lowest level this century in 2019, according to the CDC/NCHS National Vital Statistics System. There were 2.7 divorces and annulments per 1,000 people in the population. That’s down from 4 per 1,000 in the year 2000.

It shouldn’t be surprising, therefore, that the divorce rate among young adults has seen the sharpest drop. This is the group that is least likely to marry, and those who do seem to be doing a better job of going into a marriage that has a good chance of succeeding.

Maybe one day I’ll be one of those lucky ones in a successful marriage. A boy can hope. Can’t he?

Covid Lockdown Linked To Increase In Drinking At Home

Lockdown measures throughout 2020 have been linked to people in Scotland and England drinking more at home, according to new research.

The latest study, from researchers at the University of Sheffield and University of Glasgow, measured the impact of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 on drinking practices, using data on almost 300,000 adult drinkers.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, found that while people were broadly drinking the same amount of alcohol during periods of restrictions as they were when no restrictions were in place, lockdowns appeared to be linked to a shift in habits to at-home, late evening drinking.

In Scotland, the study found that there was also an increase in solitary drinking, although researchers say this could be explained by a higher proportion of people living alone in Scotland than in England.

At-home drinking remains an under-researched area, and while the long-term impacts of these recent changes are not yet known, the study authors suggest that these new drinking habits should be closely monitored as we move into a period of fewer restrictions.

During the first UK lockdown, venues such as pubs and restaurants were closed, affecting the type of locations where people could drink alcohol. Restrictions were eased from July 2020, with pubs and restaurants gradually allowed to reopen. However, from September 2020 in response to rising case numbers, a series of national and local restrictions were put in place that once again impacted hospitality settings.

The research team studied 41,500 adult drinkers in Scotland and more than 250,000 adult drinkers in England, focusing on the original March 2020 lockdown, the easing of restrictions in July 2020 and the onset of further restrictions in September 2020 until December 2020.

While figures show there was no statistical difference in the total number of alcohol units consumed each week during different periods of the first year of the pandemic, more detailed analysis reveals that lockdown restrictions were associated with people starting to drink later in the day, and in Scotland where there is a higher proportion of people living alone, with more solitary drinking.

Dr Abigail Stevely, co-author of the study from the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group, said: “Despite some concerns that people might drink more in the day-time, we actually found that there was a shift towards people starting drinking later in the evening during lockdown restrictions. This perhaps reflects changes in people’s routines and the absence of opportunities for daytime socialising such as going to the pub with colleagues after work.

“Although we found that lockdown restrictions did not change overall levels of alcohol consumption, there is evidence from other studies that heavier drinkers may have increased their consumption. It will be therefore important to continue monitoring drinking during the pandemic to prevent additional health problems in future.”

The study’s findings suggest shop-bought alcohol consumption increased following the March 2020 lockdown and remained persistently higher than previous years throughout the rest of 2020, even in the period when lockdown restrictions were eased. Meanwhile, hospitality alcohol consumption decreased following the March 2020 lockdown and remained lower than previous years throughout the remainder of 2020.

The researchers believe this is most likely explained by three reasons: even when on-trade premises reopened they were operating at reduced capacity; some venues (e.g. nightclubs and live music venues) remained closed; some people will have continued to stay away from hospitality settings even in periods of lesser restrictions over fears of catching COVID-19.

Dr Iain Hardie, lead author of the study from the University of Glasgow MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, said: “Going forward it remains unclear what the long-term consequences will be of the changes in alcohol consumption in 2020. With hospitality premises back operating at closer to full capacity it’s likely that alcohol consumption in these venues will move closer to pre-pandemic levels, although they could potentially decline again in response to new variants if restrictions are reintroduced or people are afraid of indoor spaces.

“However, the increase in home drinking in 2020 is a concern. We know from other studies that alcohol related harm has risen during the pandemic. The increase in home drinking is likely to have contributed to this. In the past, home drinking has been a relatively under researched topic, and there is now a need to monitor it more going forward to find out whether these home drinking habits picked up by people in 2020  become a new norm within peoples’ drinking behaviour. ”

The study, ‘The impact of changes in COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on alcohol consumption and drinking occasion characteristics in Scotland and England in 2020: an interrupted time-series analysis’ is published in Addiction. The work is funded by The Economic and Social Research Council. The Medical Research Council and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office.

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s top 100 universities, renowned for the excellence, impact and distinctiveness of its research-led learning and teaching.

With six Nobel Prize winners among its former staff and students, Sheffield has a proud history of discovery, innovation and social change. In 1930, it pioneered the very first medical use of penicillin, while more recently researchers developed a lifesaving drug for the treatment of ovarian and breast cancer.

U.S. Population Growth Has Nearly Flatlined, New Census Data Shows

America’s population size is standing still, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Population growth over the 12-month period from July 1, 2020 through July 1, 2021 stood at unprecedented low of just 0.12%. This is the lowest annual growth since the Bureau began collecting such statistics in 1900, and reflects how all components of population change—deaths, births, and immigration levels—were impacted during a period when the COVID-19 pandemic became most prevalent.[i]

The new estimates show that during this period, population growth declined from the previous year in 31 of 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., with 18 states sustaining absolute population losses. In some states, especially California and New York, population losses were exacerbated by inflated out-migration during the pandemic, just as other states such as Florida and Texas benefitted from greater population in-flows.

While COVID-19 clearly played a role in this near-zero population growth, that growth had begun to plummet even before the pandemic. The 2020 census showed that from 2010 to 2020, the U.S. registered the second-lowest decade growth in its history—a consequence, in large part, of the aging of its population, which led to more deaths and fewer births. Nonetheless, the new data shows that pandemic-related demographic forces have left an indelible mark on the nation.

Historic dips and spikes in population growth follow pandemics and economic trends

The unprecedented near cessation of U.S. population growth is depicted in Figure 1, which charts annual growth rates in the 121-year period from 1900 to 2021. Over this time, the nation experienced wide variations in growth, resulting from wars, economic booms and busts, as well as changing fertility and immigration patterns.

Noteworthy are the sharp dips in growth: in 1918-19, due largely to the Spanish Flu pandemic, and in the late 1920s and early 1930s as a result of the Great Depression. Growth rose to levels approaching 2% during the prosperous post-World War II “baby boom” years of the 1950s and 1960s. And after a lull in the 1970s and 1980s, population growth rose again in the 1990s due to rising immigration and millennial generation births.

The 21st century ushered in another population growth downturn, exacerbated by the 2007-09 Great Recession. This spilled into a 2010s decade-wide growth slowdown that provided a backdrop for the nearly flat growth of 0.12% in 2020-21. This most recent statistic reflects more deaths and fewer births associated with an aging population along with greater restrictions in immigration near the end of the decade, even before the pandemic hit.

The factors that led to today’s unprecedented flat growth rate

The demographic components of reduced population growth in 2020-21 are depicted in Figure 2, which contrasts year-by-year changes since 2000 in what demographers call “natural increase”—the excess of births over deaths as well as net international migration.

As indicted above, declines in the nation’s natural increase levels during the 2010s reflected more deaths associated with an aging population as well as the after-effects of the Great Recession in the postponement of childbearing for young adult women. Immigration trends were more uneven due to changing economic circumstances, including the recession and immediate post-recession downturn, as well as immigration policies that became more restrictive during the Trump administration.

Both natural increase and immigration contributions to population growth became markedly reduced in 2020-21, in large part due to the pandemic. (Pandemic impacts were partially evident already in 2019-20 data.) Population gains attributable to natural increase rose as high as 1.1 million in 2016-17, but dropped to 677,000 in 2019-20 and then again to 148,000 in 2020-21. Over the past two years, the number of deaths in the U.S. rose by 363,000 (from 3.07 million to 3.43 million) and the number of births declined by 166,000 (from 3.74 million to 3.58 million)—reflecting, in part, pandemic-related decisions to postpone having children.

Immigration levels plummeted as well, exacerbating the impacts of earlier policy restrictions. The new estimates showed a net international migration of just 256,000 in 2020-21—down from an already low 477,000 in 2019-20 and from over 1 million per year in the middle of the 2010s decade.

Despite this decline in immigration, it was the dip in natural increase—propelled by deaths during the pandemic—that drove much of the nation’s dramatic growth slowdown.  In contrast to earlier years, the contribution of natural increase to the nation’s growth was even less than that of immigration.

Eighteen states lost population in the past year

The national growth slowdown exerted a broad impact across the nation’s states. Among the nation’s 50 states and Washington, D.C., 31 showed lower growth (or greater losses) in 2020-21 than in 2019-20 (see downloadable Table B).

The states that led in growth rates were mostly in the Mountain West, including Idaho, Utah, Montana, and Arizona, which had annual rates exceeding 1.4%. In terms of numeric growth, the biggest gainers in 2020-21 were Texas (310,000 people), Florida (211,000), Arizona (98,000), and North Carolina (93,000). Still, these gains were smaller than what these states saw in 2019-20 or 2018-19.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that 18 states (including Washington, D.C.) lost population in 2020-21. This is up from 16 population-losing states 2019-20; 14 in 2018-19; and just 10 in the two prior years.

New York and California registered the biggest numeric losses. Both states showed substantially greater losses in 2020-21 than in the prior two years, as was the case for most states that sustained recent population losses.

Twenty-five states registered more deaths than births

The poor growth performance of most states in 2020-21 reflects a combination of lower natural increase and smaller immigration from abroad—components which led to reduced national growth and reduced domestic migration across states (see downloadable Table C).

All 50 states and Washington, D.C. displayed lower natural increase in 2020-21 than in the previous year. Moreover, 25 states showed what demographers call “natural decrease”—an excess of deaths over births. Led by Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia, most of these states are in the nation’s Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast. Just eight of these states registered natural decreases in 2019-20; in 2018-19, this was the case for only four (West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont).

Similarly, immigration from abroad was lower across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. in 2020-21 than in the previous year. This is especially the case for those with greatest immigrant gains: Florida, Texas, New York, and California.

Domestic migration sharpened state gains and losses

Domestic migration (movement within the U.S.) is the one demographic component which can either worsen or improve state population growth in a slow growth environment. This was especially the case during the past year, when pandemic-related economic, social, and safety factors prompted selective movement flows.

The new census estimates show how domestic migration impacted states which both lost and gained population. For example, the three states with the greatest overall population losses—New York, California, and Illinois—were the three leaders in net out-migration.    These states contain major cities and metropolitan areas, which have been associated with out-migration during the pandemic, and registered greater out-migration in 2020-21 than in each of the previous two years. It is also noteworthy that Washington, D.C. lost 23,000 domestic migrants—a huge outlier from earlier years, when the city experienced far smaller migration losses or gains (see downloadable Table C).

Similarly, states with the greatest overall population gains—Texas, Florida, and Arizona—were leaders in 2020-21 domestic in-migration. Just as most migrant-losing states shed greater numbers of migrants during the pandemic than earlier, it is the case that most migrant-gaining states (Arizona and Nevada were among the exceptions) gained more migrants than before.

A historic demographic low point

Among the many consequences the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on the nation, its impact on the nation’s demographic stagnation is likely to be consequential. The new census estimates make plain that as a result of more deaths, fewer births, and a recent low in immigration, America has achieved something close to zero growth in the 2020-21 period. This trend has affected most states, and will lead to sharp changes in how many Americans make decisions about childbearing as well as where and how they live.

While it is true that the rise in pandemic-period deaths—especially among the older population—contributed much to this slow growth, declines in fertility and immigration also added a great deal. Because the latter demographic components contribute most to any future rise in the nation’s youth and labor-force-age population, it is vital that we examine public policies that can overcome barriers to the bearing and raising of children and, probably most important, stimulate immigration in ways that will reinvigorate the nation’s population growth.

Even before the onset of the pandemic, Census Bureau projections foresaw the onset of slower growth, increased aging, and continued stagnation of our labor force. Among the many ways that are needed to recover from the pandemic, a focus on reactivating the nation’s population growth should be given high priority.

How American Couples’ ‘Inter-Hindu’ Marriages Are Changing The Faith

When my wife and I started dating, we thought our shared Hindu faith would make things simpler. We had friends who had dated non-Hindus who had encountered bumps when it came to how they would tie the knot and how the children would be raised. The fact that we were both Hindus meant we could sidestep those kinds of interfaith hassles.

We soon learned that, even though we both called ourselves Hindu, some key differences in the way we each practiced the faith complicated our relationship.

The oldest of the major global faiths, Hinduism formed more than 4,000 years ago out of widely diverse sects across what we now call India. As it spread to the four corners of the globe, thanks in part to the Indian diaspora prompted by British rule, Hinduism took on local colors.

The Hindu identity of my wife’s family was shaped by generations of living in Guyana, a former British colony on the northeast shoulder of South America. Their practice was shaped by the trauma of indentured servitude, pressure from Christian missionaries and cultural hybridity passed down from generations in the West Indies.

My family traces its lineage to the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where our faith was shaped by thousands of years of rituals and rites of worship, some of them germane only to Tamils.

As our lives were intertwined, I adapted to singing bhajans, devotional songs that were foreign to me growing up. I learned to celebrate Holi, or Pagwah, the spring holiday called the festival of colors, which is less known in South India. My wife, for her part, had to familiarize herself with my family’s observance of regional festivals such as Pongal, celebrating the sun deity Surya, which is observed widely in the Tamil diaspora on Jan. 14.

Our conflicts may not have the same implications as a Catholic marrying a Protestant, a Sunni marrying a Shia or even an Orthodox Jew marrying a Reform Jew, for whom the theological differences may go beyond devotional customs. Nonetheless, nearly two decades after we met, we still occasionally encounter tensions about when to celebrate a given holiday or which mantras — prayers — are correct in certain religious observances.

But over time we have come to understand that our differences are cultural deviations and that our spiritual practices are enriched when we meld the best of both of our backgrounds.

In raising our child, we are combining elements of both of our cultural practices and theological interpretations of Hinduism, making sure that he participates in the Hindu devotionals his Caribbean ancestors did to maintain their religion through a life of bondage, while teaching him how to identify religious symbols in Tamil, my ancestral language.

Groups, such as the Pew Research Center, that study religious demographics don’t keep data on intercultural and inter-tradition relationships and marriages, but such bonds among American Hindus are clearly on the rise as the children of different diaspora communities meet at school or at work and as Hindus have begun identifying more with the idea of being Hindu than a specific sect or tradition within the faith.

It’s no longer uncommon to see relationships between, say, Sri Lankan and Trinidadian Hindus, or Hindus from South Africa and those from the Indian state of Punjab. While these couples have Indian heritage in common, however distant, we have also seen increasing numbers of relationships between Indic and non-Indic young people, such as Indonesian Hindus.

The choices American Hindus make about who they will marry will have profound implications for the next generation. In some sense, the implications are contradictory: Some Hindus will inevitably move away from regional and cultural identities — losing some of their grounding in the faith — while at the same time more deeply embracing a faith based on common devotional practice.

The most significant example may be caste, a system that is not theologically intrinsic to or scripturally codified in Hinduism but is internalized by many Hindus from India and other parts of the Indian subcontinent. Already we have seen caste become a less important issue as Indian-American Hindus enter into relationships with non-Indian Hindus (and, indeed, non-Hindus).

But younger American-born Hindus are also less attached to theological considerations or fidelity to a sampradaya, or philosophical tradition. As a result, more Saivites (followers of Siva) are marrying Vaishnavites (followers of Vishnu) or devotees of the feminine goddess Shakti.

There are also increasing numbers of marriages between the mostly Indian American followers of Chinmaya Mission and the many white, Black and other non-South Asian devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, known popularly as Hare Krishnas.

This could mean some sampradayas may see a dip in their memberships as more Hindus identify with a broader religious community and a more unified idea of American Hinduism, distinct from other Hinduisms in regions like South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

For those of us who are now raising that next generation, these changes are an opportunity and challenge as we redefine what it means to be Hindu in America.

(Murali Balaji, a former award-winning journalist, is a lecturer at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the editor of “Digital Hinduism: Dharma and Discourse in the Age of New Media.” The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

This column is produced by Religion News Service with support from the Guru Krupa Foundation.

How Social Media Influences Our Perception Of Love

Many of us don’t genuinely compare true love, but we draw similarities from films and television shows. Doesnt that make you think? Do you ever wonder why people seem to have bought into an idea of love, which is designed for amusement?

Social media impacts our perceptions of true love and what it should look like. Let’s have a look at some of the tools it employs.

High passion: This is defined as ensuring that your partnership is satisfied every day. It means that both partners are entirely satisfied with their relationship at all times. Each person is constantly filled with butterflies for the other. This is just one aspect of your union when you truly fall in love and are a member of a solid relationship. You’ll have off-days and days when you’d rather share something emotionally with each other than physically. You’ll have days when you don’t want to talk at all. True love is when you can sit in a room with someone and be at ease in silence.

Romance: It’s all about the romance in the movies: the flowers, the fancy dinners, the mansion and valuing your life over his. It’s critical to value romance. Small things, on the other hand, are what keep it going. It’s something that both parties should work on. Do you get up early to say your goodbyes before he goes for work? When he arrives home, do you get a kiss? Even after courtship, if you practice simple things, the spark will stay. It’s up to you both to keep it alive.

The “nomeansyes” trope: This is a difficult one. It’s difficult because social media has discovered a technique to persuade us to believe in an idea that is neither pragmatic nor realistic. We have a tendency to believe that the one person with whom our timing was off, the one who slipped away, would someday return to us.

Wouldn’t someone who is so ideal for you find a method to communicate with you? Yes, there are times when this genuinely works. However, it’s definitely better to let someone leave with no expectations for the future. Allow the last chapter to come to a close and look forward to the next. There’s a reason for everything. Perhaps the pages in your book that were set aside for the person have ran out. You should allow yourself to consider a re-read if the stars mysteriously align.

The perfect person: Sorry to break it to you, but this is also a myth. Why? Because there is no such thing as a flawless human. We see flawless portrayals of individuals in the media because a playwright has painstakingly crafted them. This could be their idealised version of what someone should be. There is a fact that you should quit looking for someone who is perfect in every way. Are you flawless? Look for someone whose goals and values align with yours. Most crucial, aim for a relationship where you can adore each other’s great as well as unfavorable aspects. Love is accepting each other’s flaws as well.

For us, social media generates illusions. We cling to illusions that help us build our ideals and notions about what love should be like. Let go of those illusions. Love is more about acts than it is about the flawless picture. Perhaps we should take a different approach.

Instead of waiting for them to make the first move, if you truly love someone, you should be bold enough to take action, to make the grand gesture at the end of the movie, and to profess your love. Instead of ideals, perhaps what we should take away from social media is the power to find answers and take control.

Is Hybrid Dating The New Norm?

Aside from the medical concerns that the epidemic presented to millions of people, there was also an overwhelming sense of loneliness and fear that contributed to mental health problems. Humans are social beings, so it’s only natural that they want to connect with others and develop meaningful bonds. In fact, in the 21-30 age range, 90 per cent of men and 78 per cent of women showed a strong desire to venture out during these difficult times.

Eagerness to get out and meet new people

Two out of every three males in the 18-21 age group believe that they are obligated to go out and meet intriguing people; they believe that they no longer have a choice. Instead, it’s an absolute must to keep them sane.

According to QuackQuack CEO Ravi Mittal, the epidemic has produced a global feeling of agonising isolation triggered by stay-at-home standards. ‘The yearning among people, particularly young people, to return to regular conduct is stronger than ever. They’ve been glued to their screens for the past 18 months and can’t take it any longer.’

The sweet spot between video calls and restaurant dates.

While the epidemic has caused certain mental problems, it can never be regarded casually. It is necessary to maintain vigilance since lives are at stake. A decent strategy would be to keep the interactions online for as long as feasible and then organise for ‘meets-in-person’ when the pain of nostalgia becomes too much to bear. Men and women can communicate via phone conversations, chats, and video calls while also planning meet-ups at a favourite hangout.

At least 52 per cent of men aged 21 to 30 and 45 per cent of men aged 31 and up are willing to leave their homes on occasion for brunch or dinner dates. The fact that this population has already been vaccinated is one clear reason. According to App, 75 per cent of males in the 18-20 age bracket are willing to go out with their dates while adhering to all pandemic restrictions. A combination of online and physical dates, according to 44 per cent of women, is the greatest option for pursuing a romantic relationship.

Challenges that stem from dating the ‘hybrid’ way

In this time of uncertainty and disease, about 55 per cent of women between the ages of 21 and 30 are nervous about going out on a date. They do agree, however, that if they are too lonely or miserable to stay at home for too long, they may reconsider their decision not to go on an offline date. Moving out of your gates and attempting to enjoy a few moments with the one you love is both exciting and terrifying. Hybrid dating may not be the greatest option for lovers who are so enamoured with each other that they don’t want to be apart for even a second. It is still the most practical approach that is precisely aligned with the current circumstances.

It has the support of a large number of people of various ages, and as the trend gains traction, it is safe to assume that hybrid dating is not risky – 83 per cent of males in the 30+ age group agree. People are catching on to this new trend: in the last three months, the number of women who agree with the concept of hybrid dating has increased by 50 per cent . After all, mental health is at the top of the list of things that might assist you in living a happy life. There are no questions to be asked if anything assists you in achieving that goal. Everything is fair and just when it comes to finding ways to spend time with the people you care about. (IANS)

Tools For Peace: Pope Francis Presents Three Points To Ponder

Every year on the New Year’s Day, the Church celebrates the World Day of Peace. Each year the Holy Father sends a message for the celebration of this day. This year, on the 55th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis had this message for us: “Dialogue Between Generations; Education; and Work: Tools for Building Lasting Peace.”

In his introductory remarks, Pope Francis expresses his sadness over the fact that the path of peace which St. Pope Paul VI called by a new name of integral development, “remains sadly distant from the real lives of many men and women and thus from our human family, which is now entirely interconnected.” Despite numerous efforts, wars and armed conflicts, diseases of pandemic, effects of climate change and environmental degradation, hunger and economic slowdown add up to disruption of peace in the world.

The Pope reminds us that peace is both a gift from high and the fruit of a shared commitment. All of us, therefore, must contribute our mite towards peace beginning with our own individual hearts and families, then within the society and all working up to relationships between peoples and nations.

Pope Francis proposes three paths for building lasting peace. First, Dialogue between Generations, second, Education and third Work. A word on each:

Dialogue Between Generations to Build Peace: In a world beset with untold problems, two common reactions of people are, either to flee from reality or to react with destructive violence. But the Pope says that there is another possible option: “Yet between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue. Dialogue between generations”. He goes on to explain: “Dialogue entails listening to one another, sharing different views, coming to agreement and walking together.” This sounds very much like the way we are to be involved in the current synodal process on Synodality.

We must note here that the Pope does not merely preach but works to promote peace. We recall with great admiration how a couple of years ago the Pope brought leaders of two warring factions of South Sudan together and even knelt down and kissed their feet to broker peace.

Stressing the urgent need for an inter-generational partnership, Pope Francis affirms: “Young people need the wisdom and experience of the elderly, while those who are older need the support, affection, creativity and dynamism of the young.” The Pope is of the opinion that “the global crisis we are experiencing makes it clear that encounter and dialogue between generations should be the driving force behind a healthy politics, that is not content to manage the present with piecemeal solutions or quick fixes, but views itself as an outstanding form of love for others, in the search for shared and sustainable projects for the future”.

For such lasting endeavours, dialogue between the elderly (“keepers of memory”) and the young (“those who move history forward”) is necessary. Each must be willing to make room for others and not to insist on monopolizing the entire scene for pursuing their own immediate interests.

Such inter-generational dialogue is also necessary when we think of care for our common home. The environment, the Pope reminds us, “is on loan to each generation, which must then hand it on to the next.”

Teaching and Education as Drivers of Peace: To build paths of peace together we cannot ignore education which is a privileged setting and context for integral development. “Education provides the grammar for dialogue between generations,” observes the Holy Father.

However, the Supreme Pontiff laments that “In recent years, there has been a significant reduction worldwide in funding for education and training; these have been seen more as expenditures than investments. Yet they are the primary means of promoting integral human development; they make individuals free and responsible, and they are essential for the defence and promotion of peace. In a word, teaching and education are the foundations of a cohesive civil society capable of generating hope, prosperity and progress”.

While there is a significant reduction in the funds for education, on the other hand, military expenditures have increased and they seem certain to grow exorbitantly, says the Holy Father. He goes on to call governments to “develop economic policies aimed at inverting the proportion of public funds spent on education and on weaponry”.

The Pope hopes that “investment in education will also be accompanied by greater efforts to promote the culture of care…. A country flourishes when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components: popular culture, university culture, youth culture, artistic culture, technological culture, economic culture, family culture and media culture”.

Pope Francis says that it is essential then “to forge a new cultural paradigm” through “a global pact on education for and with future generations, one that commits families, communities, schools, universities, institutions, religions, governments and the entire human family to the training of mature men and women”.

It is by investing in the education and training of younger generations, we can help them, through a focused programme of formation, to take their rightful place in the labour market, affirms the Pope.

Creating and Ensuring Labour Builds Peace: “Labour is an indispensable factor in building and keeping peace”. Humans are social animals. We always work with or for someone. Hence the work place enables us to learn to make our contribution towards a more habitable and beautiful world.

The Pope is well aware that the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected the labour market. Millions of economic and productive activities have failed. Migrant workers have suffered particularly with no system of welfare or social security for them. Violence and organized crimes are on the increase in many countries. The only answer to this is “an expansion of dignified employment opportunities” according to the Holy Father.

“Labour, in fact, is the foundation on which to build justice and solidarity in every community. Peace is not possible without justice and solidarity. Efforts must be made to encourage a renewed sense of social responsibility, so that profit will not be the sole guiding criteria.” The fundamental human rights of the workers must be respected. When justice is ensured and human rights are respected, the workers will themselves contribute to building peace.

Holy Father concludes his World Day of Peace Message with the following appeal to government leaders, those with political and social responsibilities, priests and pastoral workers, and to all men and women of good will: “Let us walk together with courage and creativity on the path of intergenerational dialogue, education, and work.

May more and more men and women strive daily, with quiet humility and courage, to be artisans of peace. And may they be ever inspired and accompanied by the blessings of the God of peace”. Let us pay heed to the Holy Father’s appeal and to his peace message. Let us use the three tools proposed by him and contribute our share in building world peace. Peace be with you!

How Break-Ups, Solitude Disproportionately Affect Middle-Aged Men

Break-ups and years of living alone may increase the risk of ill health and death — but apparently only for men, according to a new Danish study.

A few breakups or years lived alone is not in itself a risk of poor health but the combination of long-term solitude and multiple failed relationships is shown to affect levels of two inflammatory markers significantly, the study by researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s department of social medicine showed. The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

The researchers used data from the Copenhagen Ageing and Midlife Biobank for over 4,800 participants (aged 48 to 62) between 1986 and 2011. The data included information on serial partnership breakups and the number of years lived alone, apart from the participants’ education, long-term health conditions, medicines etc.

Blood samples were taken to measure the inflammatory markers interleukin 6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP).

The researchers found that the highest levels of inflammatory markers in men were found in those who had experienced the most partnership breakups. Inflammatory markers were up to 12% higher in the group who had spent seven or more years living alone.

No such associations were found among women, although the study had just 1,499 women. But the authors also suggest that men tend to externalise their behaviour following a partnership breakup, by drinking, for example, whereas women tend to internalise, having depressive symptoms. This may influence inflammatory levels differently.

Partnership breakups and living alone are associated with several adverse health outcomes. The aim of this study, carried out in Denmark, is to investigate whether accumulated numbers of divorces/partnership breakups or years lived alone across 26 years of adult life are associated with levels of inflammation, and if vulnerability with regards to gender or educational level can be identified.

Methods 4835 participants from the Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank (CAMB) aged 48–62 years were included. Data on accumulated numbers of partnership breakups and years living alone were retrieved from a national standardised annual register. Inflammatory markers interleukin 6 (IL-6) and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) were measured in blood samples. Multivariate linear regression analyses were adjusted for age, educational level, early major life events, body mass index, chronic diseases, medicinal intake affecting inflammation, acute inflammation and personality scores.

Results For men, an association was found between an increasing number of partnership breakups or number of years living alone and higher levels of inflammatory markers. No such association was found for women, and no evidence of partnership breakups and educational level having a joint effect was found for either gender.

Conclusion The findings suggest a strong association between years lived alone or accumulated number of partnership breakups and low-grade inflammation for middle-aged men, but not for women. Among those of either sex with a lower level of education, no specific vulnerability to accumulated years lived alone or number of breakups was identified.

Indra Nooyi Discusses Life Experiences With Indian American Community

The Connecticut Chapter of the Global organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO-CT) and the India Cultural Center (ICC) of Greenwich, Milan Cultural Association of Hartford and Ascend Connecticut/Westchester Chapter co-hosted a program ‘A Conversation with Indra Nooyi’ December 4, 2021, at The Village, near Star Point in Stamford, Connecticut, USA.

It was a sold-out program, according to a press release, to hear the famous Indian-American CEO, who is a national icon in the U.S., especially for women and immigrants to this country.

Nooyi’s memoir, My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future. Was published recently, and discussions at the meeting revolved around the book as well as on life in general for the Indian-American community.

Raised in a traditional home in South India, Nooyi broke many stereotypes to become the first woman to head PepsiCo and enhance the company’s image and revenues, all while raising a family in Connecticut.

A graduate of the Yale School of Management, Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 2019 and was there for 24 years. In her book, Indra Nooyi shares these experiences and ideas of how to balance work and family for women.

At the Dec. 4 event, Nooyi spoke on her life from coming to the U.S. and climbing the ladder to become the first Indian CEO of a Fortune 50 company, at the same time managing her family and helping society at large.

The discussion was moderated by ICC Director Mudita Bhargava, who asked a range of questions. Bhargava is also a Vice Chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party.

Greenwich high school seniors Maya Hirani and Veda Swaminathan introduced Moderator Bhargava and Speaker Indra Nooyi.

“Family is the most important unit that exists, however, families are fragile and can be messy at times, but it is better to keep it intact,” Nooyi is quoted saying at the meeting. On women’s empowerment, Nooyi said, “It is very important for the women to be educated and be financially independent.”

A sold-out audience for the Dec. 4, 2021, event hosted in Connecticut by GOPIO and several other organizations, to discuss former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi’s new book. Photo courtesy GOPIO “Women are making a difference, for example, 70% of female students in High Schools are valedictorians and they get whole 1 point more in GPA, 47% of MIT students are women and more that 50% graduates are women,” Nooyi added.

On the role of technology in our lives, Nooyi said that one needs to juggle priorities to balance work and families. On mental health, Nooyi has said “There’s a stigma attached to it, we deny this issue, however we should talk about mental health and support those dealing with it.”

On rising upward in your profession, Nooyi recommended, “Put your hand up for the most difficult assignment because then you’ll leave the mark and you’ll be remembered.” The vote of thanks was offered by GOPIO-CT Vice President Dr. Jaya Daptardar. The book Indra Nooyi – My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future is available from Amazon.

America Growing More Secular By The Year

Christmas is just 10 days away, and most Americans will celebrate the birth of Jesus. But a new poll from Pew shows the share of U.S. adults who consider themselves Christian is falling. Only 63% of Americans self-identify as Christian this year, a marked drop from 75% 10 years ago.

The declining number of Americans who say they are Christian is offset by a growing number of people who call themselves atheist, agnostic or people of no particular faith. These unaffiliated Americans make up a full 29% of the U.S. population, up from 19% in 2011.

“The secularizing shifts evident in American society so far in the 21st century show no signs of slowing,” the Pew researchers concluded. “The religiously unaffiliated share of the public is 6 percentage points higher than it was five years ago and 10 points higher than a decade ago.” “In U.S., roughly three-in-ten adults now religiously unaffiliated” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

Though Christians are still a healthy majority, their decline is perhaps best reflected in two questions from the poll: how often people pray and how important religion is in their lives. Only 45% of U.S. adults said they pray on a daily basis (down from 58% in a similar 2007 survey). And the number of Americans who say religion is “very important” in their lives is also falling: 41% of Americans consider religion “very important” in their lives, down from 56% in 2007.

Protestants account for most of the decline — down 4 percentage points from five years ago and 10 percentage points since a decade ago, with both evangelical and nonevangelical Protestants declining overall to 40% of U.S. adults. Catholics held relatively steady at 21%.

“This is at least in part a reaction to the political environment,” said David Campbell, professor of American democracy at the University of Notre Dame who has written about American secularization. “Many people turning away from religion do so because they think of religion as an expression of political conservatism, or as a wing of the Republican Party. That’s especially true of white Americans. The more religion is wrapped up in a political view, the more people who don’t share that political view say, ‘That’s not for me.’”

There was no corresponding rise in the number of Americans adhering to other faiths. A total of 6% of Americans identify with non-Christian faiths, including 1% who describe themselves as Jewish, 1% Muslim, 1% Buddhist, 1% who are Hindu and 2% who identify with a wide variety of other faiths.

But notably, the number of atheists and agnostics in the survey roughly doubled in the past decade to 4% and 5% respectively, up from 2% and 3% in 2011.  Some scholars said this doubling may not be as big a shift numerically as it is culturally.

“There’s less stigma attached to being an atheist,” said Ryan Burge, assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and the author of a book about the “nones,” or the religiously unaffiliated. “It’s revealing of what’s been there for a long time, rather than a big shift. People may not have answered honestly 20, 30 years ago.”

But Burge said the decline of Protestant Christianity from 52% in 2007 to 40% today is very significant.“It’s more evidence that America is going to be much different,” Burge said. “Think of American history. For a plurality of Americans to say religion is not important, that’s a big shift in how we think about ourselves.”

A survey released by PRRI during the summer found that the religiously unaffiliated had lost ground, making up just 23% of the country. But the Pew poll found little to support that conclusion. The number of people with no religion grew steadily from 16% in 2007 to 29% in 2021, Pew indicated.

Despite the growth of secular Americans, shifts in American culture and politics have not caught up, said Hemant Mehta, a popular atheist blogger who has reported on issues important to the atheist community.

“All these numbers are meaningless unless we convert them into political power,” he said, speaking of the 29% of people with no religious affiliation. “Conservative Christians do that really well. They still have all the power. We’re growing in numbers but we have no political power. Unless we can figure out how to get politicians to care about issues that matter to most of us, what’s the point?”

The poll was part of the National Public Opinion Reference Survey conducted by Pew online and by mail between May and August. The survey was conducted among 3,937 respondents, who took the poll on their own . It has a margin of error of 2.1 percentage points.

Dr. Ann Shippy Launches Be Resilient, Be Immune Program

Are you worried about the status of your immune system? You’re not alone. People all over the globe have been feeling anxious about their health and the health of their loved ones. It’s something that most of us have not had to deal with in our lifetimes. With stress and the uncertainty of your future health, it’s more important than ever to build a strong, resilient immune system.

Dr. Ann Shippy’s Be Resilient Be Immune program provides strategies to build immune defenses and lifelong wellness.  Dr. Ann Shippy merged her internal medicine background, extensive research, and clinical expertise into an online program that was designed to help you take control of your health, build confidence, and stop living with fear. Be Resilient Be Immune is for anyone who wants to learn Dr. Shippy’s strategies for resilient health.

In a series of over 25 comprehensive videos, Dr. Shippy shares her recommendations and action steps on what you can do now to help prepare your body so that you’ll be better equipped to resist and fight infection. This program includes everything from diet recommendations, treatment protocols and lifestyle choices to help you elevate and improve your immune system naturally while helping to support lifelong wellness.

Dr. Shippy’s methods are designed to help you identify your individual challenges and build a solid foundation for a stronger immune system. The program’s topics include labs to help assess your immune status, lifestyle choices that may lower immune status, analysis of worldwide data and treatments, and nutraceuticals and other strategies to support resilience.

Dr. Shippy has committed her work to designing life-altering treatments and protocols for her patients by tapping into the human body’s incredible ability to express or repress helpful or detrimental genes, as well as prevent, heal and even reverse certain illnesses. In this program, Dr. Shippy also addresses the science of epigenetics, the way lifestyle impacts genetic expression and how this all ties into resilience, immunity, and your future health.

Clients who have completed the program mention how Dr. Shippy helped get their body back into balance while laying the foundation for a healthy immune response that was resilient when challenged. Be Resilient Be Immune is a substantial and compelling program for anyone who is looking for sound, scientific resources and tools from a premier functional medicine doctor.

Dr. Shippy believes that everyone (especially those who may be at high risk) should implement key strategies to build up their immune system to achieve resilience for this infection as well as other illnesses. If you or someone you know wants to learn how to be prepared, be resilient and be strong, sign up today for this insightful and informative health program, led by Dr. Shippy.

Dr. Shippy’s Background
As a former IBM engineer, Dr. Ann Shippy, MD transitioned to the world of medicine in part in search of better solutions to her own health ailments, which she hadn’t found in traditional medicine. She is board-certified in internal medicine and certified in functional medicine to better serve her patients. Her practice, which is based in Austin, Texas, takes a functional approach to a wide range of health concerns, including autoimmunity, digestive issues, and toxicity from mold exposure and heavy metals. Dr. Shippy has authored two health manuals: Mold Toxicity Workbook and Shippy Paleo Essentials.

3 Factors That Determine If People Inform Themselves Or Remain Ignorant

Newswise — People choose whether to seek or avoid information about their health, finances and personal traits based on how they think it will make them feel, how useful it is, and if it relates to things they think about often, finds a new study by UCL researchers.

Most people fall into one of three ‘information-seeking types’: those that mostly consider the impact of information on their feelings when deciding whether to get informed, those that mostly consider how useful information will be for making decisions, and those that mostly seek information about issues they think about often, according to the findings published in Nature Communications.

Co-lead author Professor Tali Sharot (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences and Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research) said: “Vast amounts of information are now available to individuals. This includes everything from information about your genetic make-up to information about social issues and the economy. We wanted to find out: how do people decide what they want to know? And why do some people actively seek out information, for example about COVID vaccines, financial inequality and climate change, and others don’t?

“The information people decide to expose themselves to has important consequences for their health, finance and relationships. By better understanding why people choose to get informed, we could develop ways to convince people to educate themselves.”

The researchers conducted five experiments with 543 research participants, to gauge what factors influence information-seeking.

In one of the experiments, participants were asked how much they would like to know about health information, such as whether they had an Alzheimer’s risk gene or a gene conferring a strong immune system. In another experiment, they were asked whether they wanted to see financial information, such as exchange rates or what income percentile they fall into, and in another one, whether they would have liked to learn how their family and friends rated them on traits such as intelligence and laziness.

Later, participants were asked how useful they thought the information would be, how they expected it would make them feel, and how often they thought about each subject matter in question.

The researchers found that people choose to seek information based on these three factors: expected utility, emotional impact, and whether it was relevant to things they thought of often. This three-factor model best explained decisions to seek or avoid information compared to a range of other alternative models tested.

Some participants repeated the experiments a couple of times, months apart. The researchers found that most people prioritise one of the three motives (feelings, usefulness, frequency of thought) over the others, and their specific tendency remained relatively stable across time and domains, suggesting that what drives each person to seek information is ‘trait-like’.

In two experiments, participants also filled out a questionnaire to gauge their general mental health. The researchers found that when people sought information about their own traits, participants who mostly wanted to know about traits they thought about often, reported better mental health.

Co-lead author, PhD student Christopher Kelly (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences and Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research) said: “By understanding people’s motivations to seek information, policy makers may be able to increase the likelihood that people will engage with and benefit from vital information. For example, if policy makers highlight the potential usefulness of their message and the positive feelings that it may elicit, they may improve the effectiveness of their message.

“The research can also help policy makers decide whether information, for instance on food labels, needs to be disclosed, by describing how to fully assess the impact of information on welfare. At the moment policy-makers overlook the impact of information on people’s emotions or ability to understand the world around them, and focus only on whether information can guide decisions.”

Daily Dose Of Yoghurt Could Be The Go-To Food To Manage High Blood Pressure

Whether it’s a dollop on your morning cereal or a simple snack on the go, a daily dose of yoghurt could be the next go-to food for people with high blood pressure, according to new research from the University of South Australia.

Conducted in partnership with the University of Maine, the study examined the associations between yoghurt intake, blood pressure and cardiovascular risk factors, finding that yoghurt is associated with lower blood pressure for those with hypertension.

Globally, more than a billion people suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), putting them at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) such as heart attack and stroke.

CVDs are the leading cause of death worldwide – in the United States, one person dies from CVD every 36 seconds; in Australia, it’s every 12 minutes.

UniSA researcher Dr Alexandra Wade says this study provides new evidence that connects yoghurt with positive blood pressure outcomes for hypertensive people.

“High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, so it’s important that we continue to find ways to reduce and regulate it,” Dr Wade says.

“Dairy foods, especially yoghurt, may be capable of reducing blood pressure.

“This is because dairy foods contain a range of micronutrients, including calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which are involved in the regulation of blood pressure.

“Yoghurt is especially interesting because it also contains bacteria that promote the release of proteins which lowers blood pressure.

“This study showed for people with elevated blood pressure, even small amounts of yoghurt were associated with lower blood pressure.

“And for those who consumed yoghurt regularly, the results were even stronger, with blood pressure readings nearly seven points lower than those who did not consume yoghurt.”

The study was conducted on 915 community-dwelling adults from the Maine–Syracuse Longitudinal Study. Habitual yogurt consumption was measured using a food frequency questionnaire. High blood pressure was defined as being greater than or equal to 140/90 mmHg (a normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg).

Researchers say that future observational and intervention studies should continue to focus on at-risk individuals to examine the potential benefits of yogurt.

India’s Population Growth Rate Is Slowing Down Women Are More than Men For the First Time Ever In India

India’s population growth is losing steam as the average number of children born crossed below a key threshold, according to newly released data from a government survey, media reports state. India’s total fertility rate (TFR) across India dropping to 2.0 in 2019-2021, compared with 2.2 in 2015-2016. A country with a TFR of 2.1, known as the replacement rate, would maintain a stable population over time; a lower TFR means the population would decline in the absence of other factors, such as immigration.

Other vital indicators found in the report suggests, India now has 1,020 women for every 1000 men. India’s population is not getting any younger, and India is no longer facing the threat of a population explosion. All three radical findings are part of the summary findings of the fifth round of the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS), which were released by the Union health ministry on November 24.

NFHS is a sample survey, and whether these numbers apply to the larger population can only be said with certainty when the next national census is conducted, although it is very likely that they will in the case of many states and Union territories. In cities across India – as in other countries – women are opting for fewer children: the urban fertility rate is 1.6.

The new data has been welcomed, and is hailed as a heartening signal by government officials and researchers in a country that is expected to overtake China to become the world’s most populous sometime this decade. Since the mid-20th century, Indian leaders have tried to curb high birthrates, which are often reversely correlated with women’s welfare metrics and economic progress. A burgeoning population is seen, in the longer term, as a hurdle to development and a driver of environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions.

These new numbers indicate that India can no longer be called a country of “missing women”, a phrase first used by Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen in a 1990 essay in the New York Review of Books. Back then, there were 927 women per 1,000 men in India. According to NFHS-3, conducted in 2005-06, the ratio was equal, 1000: 1000; it went down to 991:1000 in 2015-16 in NFHS-4. This is the first time, in any NFHS or Census, that the sex ratio is skewed in favour of women.

Indian fertility rates have been trending downward for the last two decades as the country grew richer, underwent rapid urbanization, and rolled out programs that provide contraceptives and family planning education. But the progress shown in just the last two national surveys has been significant, demographers said.

“This is of course good news,” said Nandita Saikia, a professor of public health at the International Institute for Population Studies (IIPS) in Mumbai. “It indicates there has been some kind of transformation in the last four years in socioeconomic conditions.” India’s population has been expected to overtake China’s sometime around the year 2027. That date “could be delayed if this trend continues,” Saikia added, “but not for long.”

The dropping fertility rate does not mean India’s population is already decreasing, but rather its growth rate is slowing. India’s population, which stands at just under 1.4 billion, will continue to rise beyond the year 2050 and peak at over 1.6 billion before stabilizing and returning to about 1.4 billion by 2100, according to United Nations projections.

Several Indian leaders since the country’s independence in 1947 have grappled with the population question. In the 1970s, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi carried out a controversial mass sterilization drive. Population control measures – and the difference in birthrates between India’s religious groups – remain one of the most polarizing issues in domestic politics today.

The declining fertility rate observed in recent years was backed by an uptick in several key indicators, demographers said. The proportion of women who used contraceptives rose from 54 to 67%, according to the national survey, while those who reported an unmet need for contraceptives fell. The proportion of teenage marriages has also decreased, according to the study, while there has been an improvement in the gender balance of newborns in a country with a deeply held preference for sons. For every 1,000 baby boys, there are now 929 baby girls, up from 919 girls five years ago.

The study showed the long-standing gap between India’s north and south widening: the large, poor tracts that line the northern Ganges River continue to show high fertility rates, with women in Bihar state having an average of three children each. Southern states including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had fertility rates below the replacement rate.

To be sure, the gender ratio at birth for children born in the last five years is still 929, which suggests that son-preference, in its various macabre forms, still persists, but the sex ratio is a significant milestone achieved on the back of policies aimed to curb sex selection practices that were once rampant and female infanticide, and on the fact that women in India tend to live longer than men.

The average life expectancy at birth for men and women was 66.4 years and 69.6 years respectively in 2010-14, according to data from the Census of India website. There are other interesting read outs from the survey. The share of population under the age of 15 years, which was 34.9% in 2005-06, has come down to 26.5% in 2019-21. India is still a young country — a median age of 24 years in 2011 according to the Census figures — but it is ageing, and that comes with the associated policy challenges.

“The fact that we are now an aging population suggests that our approach to women’s health needs a more holistic life cycle view rather than one that prioritises reproductive health only,” Yamini Aiyar, president of the Centre for Policy Research, said. “The fact that more women have completed ten years of schooling in 2019-20 than previously coincides with a drop in female labor force participation points to significant structural challenges in India’s labour market. These need to be urgently addressed if India is to make progress,” Aiyar added.

Finally, the total fertility rate (TFR), or the average number of children per women in India, is now just 2, which is below the internationally accepted replacement level fertility rate – the point at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next — of 2.1. This means, India’s population may have peaked — another data-point that can only be established by the Census, but which is almost certainly for at least the southern states, as well some of the richer ones.

“There is usually a gap of 30-40 years between total fertility rate falling below replacement levels and a decline in overall population, because the population which will give birth in the next 10-15 years has already been born in the past when fertility levels were higher,” said Dr KS James, director and senior professor at the International Institute for Population Sciences. “Of course, the population growth in southern states is going to fall at a faster rate than the rest of the country,” he added.

NFHS-5 was conducted in two phases between 2019 and 2021, and covered 650,000 households from 707 districts of the country. The States and UTs that were surveyed in Phase-II are Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

NFHS is the most comprehensive database on a host of socioeconomic and health indicators with a focus on women – NFHS-5 covered 720,000 women and just above 100,000 men – and its basic results can be compared to the previous four rounds which were conducted in 1992-93, 1998-99, 2005-06 and 2015-16.

While the statistics quoted above are a watershed moment in India’s socio-economic and demographic transformation story, other findings of NFHS also convey a similar message. Socio-economic challenges facing India, going forward, will need to be dealt with more nuance and some of the stereotypes and political beliefs (such as the political obsession with population control laws) which dominate the public discourse will need to be shelved.

“This is not saying the country’s problems of unemployment, inequality, education, and everything else are automatically over,” said Sanjay Kumar Mohanty, the head of population policies at IIPS. “But population is no longer a top priority concern.”

“The improved sex ratio and sex ratio at birth is also a significant achievement; even though the real picture will emerge from the census, we can say for now looking at the results that our measures for women empowerment have steered us in the right direction ,” said Vikas Sheel, additional secretary, Union ministry of health and family welfare and mission director, National Health Mission.

Bidens Showcase First White House Christmas Decorations

For their first Christmas in the White House, the Biden family will celebrate with the theme of “gifts from the heart” for their holiday decor.  In unveiling the theme on Monday, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden explained:

“The things we hold sacred unite us and transcend distance, time, and even the constraints of a pandemic: faith, family, and friendship; a love of the arts, learning, and nature; gratitude, service, and community; unity and peace. These are the gifts that tie together the heart strings of our lives.”

An ornament of a portrait of U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden is hung on a Christmas Tree in the State Dining Room of the White House during a press preview of the holiday decorations Nov. 29, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

In just one week, over 100 volunteers from the local area decorated the outside and inside of the White House with 41 Christmas trees, 6,000 feet of ribbon and over 78,750 holiday lights.

Every room in the White House celebrates a different gift

In the East Colonnade and East Landing, doves and shooting stars adorn the hallways. The decorations honor the service of COVID-19 frontline workers and first responders. Featured here is a Christmas tree that honors the military, “who have laid down their lives for our country, and the families who carry on their legacies.”

The library is decorated with stacks of books and birds and butterflies created out of recycled newspaper; it represents the gift of learning. The Vermeil Room is decorated with colorful paint swatches and paint brushes, and represents the gift of the visual arts.

Wreathes are seen on the back of chairs in the room that displays the White House’s collection of state china. The holiday decorations symbolize the gift of friendship and sharing.

The East Room, the largest room in the White House, represents the gift of gratitude. It is decorated with the Neapolitan crèche that includes with over 40 figurines from the 18th century; the crèche has been displaeevery holiday season since 1967.

A White House Military social aide looks on near the official White House Christmas tree in the Blue room during a press preview of the White House holiday decorations in Washington, D.C. on November 29, 2021.

The Blue Room, where the official White House Christmas tree sits, represents the gift of peace and unity. Doves carrying a banner embossed with every U.S. state and territory cascade down the tree.

The Red Room, decorated to represent the gift of the performing arts, includes brass instruments hanging from the mantel. Ballet slippers, tap shoes and musical notes are strung around the tree.

A ginger bread White House is seen in the State Dining room during a press preview of the White House holiday decorations in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 29, 2021.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

The State Dining Room represents the gift of family. It features a gingerbread White House, made of 55 sheets of baked gingerbread. It has eight detailed replicas of community buildings to honor frontline workers, including a hospital, police station and fire station.

The Grand Foyer and Cross Hall represent the gift of faith and community. The area is decorated with floating candles. The hallway alcoves and tree displays depict wintry scenes of towns and cities, representing the bonds of communities.

Is Husband Justified In Beating The Wife? Survey Has Telling Responses

Responses to the question, “In your opinion, is a husband justified in hitting or beating his wife…,” from as many as 18 states and Jammu and Kashmir are telling.

A falling fertility rate and a surge in their bank accounts point to the growing empowerment of women but when it comes to attitudes regarding domestic violence, the latest National Family Health Survey shows the distance that needs to be travelled.

Responses to the question, “In your opinion, is a husband justified in hitting or beating his wife…,” from as many as 18 states and Jammu and Kashmir are telling.

Of the women surveyed, Telangana led with 83.8 per cent of them saying that men are justified to beat their wives; Himachal Pradesh registered the lowest at 14.8 per cent. Among men, Karnataka leads with 81.9 per cent of the respondents saying such behaviour is justified as against 14.2 per cent in Himachal Pradesh.

Also Read |NFHS survey out: Dip in women owning property, but better financial, social autonomy

The survey asked the question and then listed the “following (seven) situations” as reason to hit or beat the wife: If she goes out without telling him; if she neglects the house or the children; if she argues with him; if she refuses to have sex with him; if she doesn’t cook food properly; if he suspects her of being unfaithful; if she shows disrespect for in-laws.

According to the survey, the most common reasons cited to justify domestic abuse: showing disrespect to in-laws, neglecting the house and children.

Data pertaining to surveys held in 2019-21 was released Wednesday. These were conducted in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura and West Bengal.

The other states which have a high percentage of women who justify domestic violence are Andhra Pradesh (83.6 per cent), Karnataka (76.9 per cent), Manipur (65.9 per cent) and Kerala (52.4 per cent). Men from Himachal Pradesh and Tripura had the lowest acceptance of domestic abuse with only 14.2 per cent, 21.3 per cent respondents agreeing.

Data from the NFHS-4 (2015-2016) for the entire country released in January 2018 said that while 52 per cent of women surveyed believed it was reasonable for a husband to beat his wife, only 42 per cent of men agreed with it.

In the latest survey, of the 18 states, women respondents in 13 — Manipur, Gujarat, Nagaland, Goa, Bihar, Assam, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal — chose ‘disrespect to in-laws’ as the main reason for justifying beating.

This is followed by the second option: ‘neglecting house and children’ for accepting spouse violence. ‘Being suspected of being unfaithful’ has got the least number of justifications for beating. Only women (21%) in Mizoram choose it as the main reason for physical abuse over the other two options.

Sharada A L, director of Population First, an NGO working for women rights, said: “This kind of patriarchal mentality is deeply imbibed in the minds of the women who think that serving their family and husband should be their first priority.”

How Do People Understand Other People?

Newswise — To successfully cooperate or compete with other people in everyday life, it is important to know what the other person thinks, feels, or wants. Dr. Julia Wolf, Dr. Sabrina Coninx and Professor Albert Newen from Institute of Philosophy II at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have explored which strategies people use to understand other people. For a long time, it was assumed that people relied exclusively on a single strategy: mindreading. This means that people infer the mental states of others solely based on their behaviour. In more recent accounts, however, this ability has been relegated to the background. The Bochum-based team now argues that although people use a number of different strategies, mindreading also plays an important role. They present their findings in the journal Erkenntnis, published online on 10 November 2021.

Strategies for understanding others

In recent years, researchers have criticised mindreading for being too complicated and demanding to be a common strategy for understanding other people. Julia Wolf provides an example of mindreading: “When I see someone running towards a bus, I infer that this person has the desire to catch the bus,” she says. “In doing so, I can either picture myself in their situation, or draw on my knowledge of general principles regarding the behaviour of others.”

However, in order to recognise the feelings, desires, and needs of others, people may take a different approach. They can directly perceive that a person is stressed based on physical features and other contextual cues. But they can also predict what a person will do next based on learned behavioural rules, without having to infer and attribute a mental state. “When someone gets on the bus, I can predict that they will show their ticket at the entrance without thinking about what is making them do so,” says Sabrina Coninx.

People combine different strategies

Today, researchers assume that people combine several strategies to understand others. “We argue that mindreading is more than an unreliable and rarely used backup strategy in this context – it plays a major role in social cognition,” Albert Newen sums up the findings. The authors identify three criteria that could be used to test the importance of mindreading: how frequently it is used, how central it is, and how reliable it is.

While more empirical research is needed to answer the frequency question, the Bochum-based team thinks that there are good reasons to think that mindreading is central to social understanding. “It enables us to develop an individual understanding of others that goes beyond the here and now,” explains Julia Wolf. “This plays a crucial role in building and maintaining long-term relationships.”

Moreover, the researchers see no reason to assume that mindreading is less reliable than other strategies. “All strategies have limited reliability; social cognition is only successful by combining them,” says Sabrina Coninx. The Bochum-based group therefore suggests that social cognition shouldn’t be considered in terms of competing strategies. They assume that the strategies interact, support each other, and can be combined flexibly to best suit the situation at hand.

What Americans Can Learn From Other Cultures About The Language Of Gratitude

Families and friends traditionally gather to express gratitude during this time of year. Many also participate in acts of service and charity as a way of giving back to their local communities.

As communication scholars who study intercultural communication, we have studied how the many languages around the world have their own unique words and expressions for saying “thank you.” In turn, these expressions reveal very different assumptions about how human beings relate to one another and about the world we collectively inhabit.

Not everyone says thank you

Americans are known the world over for saying “thank you” in many everyday situations. Though some of these “thank yous” are undoubtedly heartfelt, many are also routine and said without much feeling. Given how often Americans say “thanks,” it might be surprising to know that in several other cultures around the world, people rarely say “thank you.”

In many cultures in South and Southeast Asia, including in India, where the expression in Hindi is “धन्यवाद,” spelled out as “dhanyavaad” in English. A deep degree of unspoken gratitude is assumed in interpersonal relationships through this expression.

In an article in The Atlantic, author Deepak Singh, an immigrant from northern India to the United States, explains that “in the Hindi language, in everyday gestures and culture, there is an unspoken understanding of gratitude.”

In many relationships – for instance, between parents and children or between close friends – saying thank you is considered inappropriate in these countries because it introduces a sense of formality that takes away the intimacy of the relationship. Thank you is appropriate when it is deeply and truly felt, and in situations where a person goes above and beyond the normal expectations of a relationship. Then too it is said with great solemnity, with eye contact, and perhaps even with hands at heart center in namaste position.

The economic rhetoric of gratitude

In American English, many of the expressions of gratitude are couched in transactional language that involves expressions of personal indebtedness. We say, “I owe you a debt of gratitude,” “Thanks, I owe you one,” “One good turn deserves another,” and “How can I ever repay you?”

Thinking of gratitude as a kind of transaction can indeed encourage people to form mutually beneficial relationships.

But it can also lead people to see their personal and impersonal relationships in economic terms – as transactions to be judged by market criteria of gain and loss.

The American language of gratitude tends to reflect the fact that many of us might see relationships as interpersonal transactions. But if we were to enter into relationships only on the premise of what benefits us personally, and potentially materially, then it can be very limiting.

This is why, we argue, it can be enlightening to look at other languages of gratitude.

Thanking earth, sky and community

Many Chinese people, for example, use the phrase “謝天,” or “xiè tiān,” which literally means “thank sky” as a way to express gratitude to all things under the sky. In a famous essay included in many high school textbooks called “Xiè Tiān,” writer Zhifan Chen noted, “Because there are too many people that we feel grateful to, let’s thank sky then.” The writer redirects individuals’ gratitude toward an all-encompassing universe, one that includes all things and all beings.

In Taiwanese, people say “感心,” or “kám-sim,” which means “feel heart,” to express gratitude. In complimenting a good deed, the word is also meant to highlight how people who witness the act but do not directly benefit from it are touched by the benevolence. It encourages people to recognize that the impact of good deeds is not limited to its direct recipients but to other members of the community as well.

To say “kám-sim” is to recognize that our actions have effects that ripple outward, potentially strengthening and solidifying the social fabric, which ultimately benefits us all.

Every time we express gratitude, we invoke a social world. Often, we invoke a world without realizing its full force.

For instance, when we use a language of gratitude characterized by economic metaphors, it can shape our view of the world and our social relationships, encouraging us to see life itself as a series of transactions. Being more conscious about our linguistic conventions and the potentials of our choices can empower us to create a world we really desire.

Learning from other languages of gratitude, perhaps we can make our “thank you” less casual and more heartfelt.

Now You Can Increase Your Life Span

Daejeon, South Korea–While everyone wants to live a long and healthy life, it isn’t possible for everyone. However, recent research has highlighted the significance of the tumour suppressor protein PTEN that can increase your health span, when targeted to create therapies to promote a longer life span.

This study was conducted under Professor Seung-Jae V. Lee from the Department of Biological Sciences.

It was published in the ‘Nature Communications Journal’. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) signalling (IIS) is one of the evolutionarily conserved ageing-modulatory pathways present in life forms ranging from tiny roundworms to humans. The proper reduction of IIS leads to longevity in animals but often causes defects in multiple health parameters including impaired motility, reproduction, and growth.

The research team found that a specific amino acid change in the PTEN protein improves health status while retaining the longevity conferred by reduced IIS. They used the roundworm C. elegans, an excellent model animal that has been widely used for ageing research, mainly because of its very short normal lifespan of about two to three weeks.

The PTEN protein is a phosphatase that removed phosphate from lipids as well as proteins. Interestingly, the newly identified amino acid changed delicately recalibrated the IIS by partially maintaining protein phosphatase activity while reducing lipid phosphatase activity.
As a result, the amino acid change in the PTEN protein maintained the activity of the longevity-promoting transcription factor Forkhead Box O (FOXO) protein while restricting the detrimental upregulation of another transcription factor, NRF2, leading to long and healthy life in animals with reduced IIS.

Professor Seung-Jae V. Lee said, “Our study raises the exciting possibility of simultaneously promoting longevity and health in humans by slightly tweaking the activity of one protein, PTEN.”

This work was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation of Korea

Happiness: Only I Myself Am Responsible For It

Happiness is something we all yearn for in life. So, what is this thing called happiness? True and everlasting happiness is something that cannot be found outside ourselves. It cannot be found in jobs, food or relationships. All these experiences come and go so that is temporary pleasure, temporary happiness. Real inner happiness is very personal and precious. It’s my right and only I myself am responsible for it….and… it does require effort.

Many obstacles will come in life and try to take away our inner happiness. True happiness resides within the soul, within the mind. It is a positive and pure state of mind and no one or no situation can take it away from you. You are the Creator of your true inner happiness. By choosing the thoughts you want to think in any given situation you can keep the light of true happiness ignited.

Happiness can only grow and flourish in a peaceful, positive, pure and powerful mind and it will die in a mental atmosphere filled with the obstacles of negativity, anger, criticism, arrogance or depression. It is as if many of us have forgotten our original positive qualities and we have been overtaken by the negative qualities that are prevalent in our world today.

Instead of taking or giving sorrow or becoming disheartened by these obstacles of negativity, take a high jump in a second with your light form, your soul-conscious form of eternal light and power. Do not waste your time worrying or getting upset by these negative thoughts. Jump across these obstacles in a second by remembering your original soul conscious form and creating positive thoughts.

So in order to prepare yourself for the arrival of true happiness, the first thing you need to do is to become light, soul conscious and examine the quality of your thoughts. Connect your mind with the Source and fill your heart with the elevated qualities of your original form, the qualities of peace, love, happiness, truth and purity. This awareness and practice will remove the obstacles of negative thoughts and will bring you back to a state of inner peace and true happiness.

So, for the next few days make an effort to observe your thoughts and then ask yourself the questions: Am I the master of my own thoughts? Or, is my mind mastering me? Am I able to put a full stop to negativity and create pure and positive thoughts whenever I want? Am I experiencing a life of true happiness?

What Makes Life Meaningful? Views From 17 Advanced Economies

What do people value in life? How much of what gives people satisfaction in their lives is fundamental and shared across cultures, and how much is unique to a given society? To understand these and other issues, Pew Research Center posed an open-ended question about the meaning of life to nearly 19,000 adults across 17 advanced economies.

How we did this

From analyzing people’s answers, it is clear that one source of meaning is predominant: family. In 14 of the 17 advanced economies surveyed, more mention their family as a source of meaning in their lives than any other factor. Highlighting their relationships with parents, siblings, children and grandchildren, people frequently mention quality time spent with their kinfolk, the pride they get from the accomplishments of their relatives and even the desire to live a life that leaves an improved world for their offspring. In Australia, New Zealand, Greece and the United States, around half or more say their family is something that makes their lives fulfilling.

“The most important thing for me is work. I think it is very important to build my career, to build my life, so that I’m doing better and better. And the way to do that is to take a lot of personal responsibility and work hard.” –Man, 25, Netherlands.

Publics are also largely united in the relative emphasis placed on careers and occupations. Jobs are one of the top three sources of meaning for people in most places surveyed. Still, the emphasis placed on them can vary widely, from a high of 43% in Italy to a low of 6% in South Korea.

And although in Italy as many cite their occupation as cite their family as a source of meaning, in places like the U.S., only around a third as many cite their careers. While some specifically describe their careers and what is meaningful about them – e.g., a cybersecurity worker who enjoys seeing his contributions in practice or a teacher who enjoys helping to inform children about history – others more generically mention enjoying their work or their colleagues or feeling intellectually challenged.

Many also highlight the importance of having one’s basic financial needs met – or even having some level of luxury – in order to lead a meaningful life. In nine of the 17 publics surveyed, material well-being is one of the top three factors people cited and, in most places, around one-in-five or more mention it. In South Korea, it even emerges as the top source of meaning. Still, the lifestyle elements respondents cite run the gamut from “food on the table” and “a roof over my head” to “a decent income to support my family” and “no debt” to “enough money” to enjoy riding motorcycles or other activities like travel.

“Being comfortable and stable with basic needs (food, shelter, health care and public education for my child) and a little extra (maybe going out to dinner or a vacation).” –Woman, 51, U.S.

Health, too, is relatively top of mind, coming up as one of the top three sources of meaning for people in around a third of the places surveyed.

Still, the relative emphasis on health can vary widely, from 48% who mention it in Spain – making it the top source of meaning for Spaniards – to only 6% who say the same in Taiwan. For some, specific health problems cause them to value their health – such as one American woman who noted, “God gave me life, He pulled me through cancer. Life is precious and we only have one chance at it.”

Others more generally note health as a prerequisite for other sources of meaning, emphasizing “being healthy” or “still breathing” as part of a list of things they value. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are also touted as sources of meaning.

Notably, for most, this emphasis on health is not tied directly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there is a widespread sense in most publics surveyed that the global pandemic has changed people’s lives, in most places, people who mention health as something that gives them meaning are no more likely to mention COVID-19 than those who do not prioritize health. Some people who mention both do so because they have health problems that have been compounded by the disease, causing additional difficulty.

One American described her situation in the following way: “Currently, being self-quarantined due to health issues and to keep away from COVID, God is what keeps me going,” while another described their predicament as “years of personal work to overcome anxiety and depression [that] took a hit with social distancing.”

Still, others who mention both health and COVID-19 in their responses are largely appreciative of their health because of the global pandemic. One American woman summarized her experience as: “I had COVID and it was the scariest thing and it really changed my outlook on life.” A Dutch man also emphasized the importance of healthy living even in a pandemic context: “What I find important for a fulfilling life are things like: to do sports, meaning active exercise 2 to 3 times a week; to eat a varied diet … now in this pandemic, you still have to make sure that you get enough exercise and try to bring structure into your life by making day or week schedules.”

In fact, how a topic like COVID-19 comes up – or doesn’t – highlights where the commonalities end and the differences between these 17 advanced economies emerge. Take Taiwan as an example. In Taiwan, society – or the institutions and attributes of where people live – is the top source of meaning, above family, occupation and material well-being.

Two women in Taiwan emphasize ease of living on the island: “Food, clothing, housing, and transportation are all convenient. Life is safe and tranquil,” and “There are many convenient stores in Taiwan … The public health insurance system is good; medical service is convenient.” Others note their satisfaction with Taiwan’s political system. One woman claimed she is “fortunate to live in Taiwan, especially in the aspect of public health, democracy, and the rule of law and human rights, because it is very free.”

A young man simply noted, “Living in Taiwan is very free, freer than China and Hong Kong.” Some specifically mentioned their government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, like a woman who listed the island’s “stable economy, well-controlled new COVID-19 pandemic, [and] easy access to medical care” as meaningful. Taiwan is one of the few societies – the others are also largely in the Asia-Pacific region – where references to COVID-19 do not tend to coincide with negativity; instead, most praise how well their government has handled things.

The topic of faith, religion and spirituality is also one where some societies notably differ. Outside of the U.S., religion is never one of the top 10 sources of meaning cited – and no more than 5% of any non-American public mention it. In the U.S., however, 15% mention religion or God as a source of meaning, making it the fifth most mentioned topic. For some, the emphasis on religion is about their personal relationship with Jesus: “I follow Jesus so my faith and hope is based on how he plays a role in my life.

I don’t rely on any human to benefit my life.” Others note the benefits that come from being part of organized religion, such as camaraderie in a tough time: “My husband just died, so life is not very fulfilling right now. The support of family and friends, church, and his coworkers have helped me find meaning, as well as thinking about the good things we shared.” Evangelical Protestants in the U.S. are much more likely than mainline Protestants to mention faith as a source of meaning – 34% vs. 13%, respectively. Across all U.S. religious groups, those who attend religious services more often are much more likely to cite their religion in their answer than those who are less frequent attendees.

“I find [living] within [New Zealand] satisfying. We live in a country which has natural beauty and has a great deal of respect for nature which in turn helps us get a better connection to the country. I like going outside, going for a run every day, and seeing blue skies, forests and the wonderful people and it has a positive impact on my mental health, and especially compared to other countries I’ve been to.” –Man, 18, New Zealand

The United Kingdom, Australia, France, New Zealand and Sweden also stand apart for the relative emphasis they place on nature compared to many other places surveyed. In each of these countries, nature is one of the top eight sources of meaning. In the UK, too, hobbies and activities are revered by many: Around one-in-five mention their hobbies as something that gives them satisfaction in life, ranking only behind family and friends. (To explore more about how each society is similar – or different – and to read about where people get meaning in their own words, please see “What people around the world say about the meaning of life.”)

When discussing what makes life meaningful and fulfilling, a median of 10% across the 17 publics surveyed also mention challenges or difficulties that have interfered with their search for happiness. Once again, this varies substantially across the publics surveyed, with around one-in-five mentioning hardships in Italy, but only 5% or fewer saying the same in New Zealand and the UK.

In some places surveyed – including Italy, the U.S. and Spain – those who mention their society, places and institutions are also more likely to mention challenges or difficulties. In South Korea and Taiwan, the opposite is true: In both of these publics, those who mention their society are less likely to mention negative things. People who find meaning in their family or their friends also tend to be less likely to mention difficulties or challenges, and the same is true of those who mention education and learning or their hobbies.

Why this report focuses on topic rankings in addition to percentages

There is some variation in whether and how people respond to the open-ended question. In each public surveyed, some respondents said that they did not understand the question, did not know how to answer or did not want to answer. The share of adults that did so ranged from 23% in the U.S. to 1% in Spain.

In some publics, people also tended to mention fewer things that make life meaningful in their response than did people surveyed elsewhere. For example, across the 17 publics surveyed, a median of 34% responded to the question about what gives them meaning in life by mentioning only one of the topics researchers coded (e.g., family). The shares in South Korea and Japan are much higher, with at least half only bringing up one source of meaning when providing a response.

These differences help explain why the share giving a particular answer in certain publics may appear much lower than others, even if the topic is the top mentioned source of meaning for that given public. To give a specific example, 19% of South Koreans mention material well-being while 42% say the same in Spain, but the topic is ranked first in South Korea and second in Spain. Given this, researchers have chosen to highlight not only the share of the public who mention a given topic but also its relative ranking among the topics coded, both in the text and in graphics.

These are among the findings of a new analysis of an open-ended question about meaning in life, which was part of a Pew Research Center survey conducted Feb. 1 to May 26, 2021, among 18,850 adults in 17 advanced economies.

In addition to similarities and differences between the publics surveyed, the analysis also reveals broader patterns in where people find meaning based on their age, gender, income and political ideology, among other factors. Some of these additional key findings include:

Younger people tend to emphasize their friends, education and hobbies as sources of meaning more so than older people. For their part, older people are more likely to discuss retirement and health than younger ones. Older people are also somewhat more likely to discuss challenges and negative things when discussing what gives them meaning than younger ones.

In most respects, men and women are quite similar with regard to what gives them meaning. But women are somewhat more likely to mention family as a source of satisfaction in their lives than are men in most places surveyed. Women are also somewhat more likely to emphasize their health than are men. People with higher levels of education and higher  incomes  tend to be more likely to mention their family and career as things that give them meaning than are people with lower levels of education or lower incomes, respectively.1,2 Mentions of service and civic engagement tend to be higher among those with more education. Those with lower incomes are also somewhat more likely to cite challenges in their lives when discussing what gives them meaning than those with higher incomes.

Those who place themselves on the left of the ideological spectrum are more likely to cite nature as a source of meaning than those who place themselves on the right. They are also more likely to mention their friends and hobbies, whereas those on the ideological right mention religion more often.

In the U.S., partisanship also sometimes plays a role. For example, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are about twice as likely than their Democratic counterparts to bring up freedom and independence. Americans today – and especially Republicans – have also become more likely to mention freedom and independence as a source of meaning in life since 2017. For more on this and other changes over time, see “Where Americans find meaning in life has changed over the past four years.”

Ayurveda Day Held At Indian Consulate In New York

The Consulate General of India in New York organized an event to celebrate Ayurveda Day on 2nd November 2021.  Ayurveda Day is celebrated on Dhanvantri Jayanti or Dhanteras, a festival that takes place two days before Diwali.  Welcoming the guests, Consul General Randhir Jaiswal conveyed his greetings to one and all on the occasion of the sixth Ayurveda Day. He recalled how Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of medicine, was fast becoming relevant to health and well-being in modern times.

To treat ailments today, one has to draw from all available sources of scientific medical knowledge, and for that reason integrative medicine approach which counts on Ayurveda along with other systems, was fast becoming popular” – he noted.  He emphasized how the salience of Ayurveda and traditional knowledge were on the rise across the world, especially at a time when there was a strong urge among the global community to go “back-to-basics”.

In this regard, he highlighted some data points from the WHO Global Report on Traditional and Complementary Medicine 2019 – number of countries with national policy on traditional and complementary medicine has increased from 25 in 1998 to 98 in 2019 and countries with health insurance cover for traditional and complementary medicine has increased from 37 in 2012 to 45 in 2018.  Consul General underlined the vast network of scientific studies being undertaken on Ayurveda in universities in the United States and in research ecosystems across the world including in India.

The highlight of the event was a panel discussion held on the theme “Ayurveda in everyday life for the modern fast lifestyle”.  The discussion was moderated by Mr. Kushal Choksi, a former Wall Street trader who has co-founded ‘Elements Truffles’, an Ayurveda inspired food start-up.  The distinguished panelists included Mr. Bhushan Deodhar, an Ayurveda enthusiast and CEO of Shankara Naturals; Ms. Divya Alter, Founder & Director of Bhagavat Life, which is perhaps the only dedicated Ayurvedic culinary center in New York City, and also credited with North America’s first Ayurvedic chef certification program; Ms. Alak Vasa, Co-Founder of Element Truffles, an Ayurveda inspired artisanal chocolate company; and Ms. Nidhi Pandya, a renowned Ayurvedic expert.

The panelists focused their presentations on how to bring Ayurvedic way of living in modern life.  They also emphasized on the benefits of Ayurveda and how it connected health to sustainability. Explaining the tenets of Ayurveda, they outlined the myriad ways in which it embraces nature and the environment.

They appreciated the push being given by the Government of India to promote Ayurveda and traditional systems of medicine in India and abroad. In this context, they noted the establishment of a special Ministry in India – Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy) – to give a boost to traditional medicine and knowledge. The conversation reinforced Ayurveda’s position as a way of life with universal appeal. It renewed commitment of the community to share this time-tested knowledge that could benefit people across cultures, traditions and lifestyles.

The program ended with chanting of musical mantras by Ms. Jahnavi Harrison. The guests at the event were served delicious Ayurveda inspired vegetarian lunch comprising super foods such as Makhana (commonly known as foxnuts) and other specialties. The audience was most delighted to know that an Ayurveda ecosystem was fast developing in New York area with Ayurvedic expertise and choices for a healthy living.

World Can Learn From The Buddhist Concept Loving-Kindness

As the world deals with the trauma caused by COVID-19, World Kindness Day, observed on Nov. 13 annually, is a good opportunity to reflect on the healing potential of both large and small acts of kindness. Indeed, it was the kind acts of essential workers that helped save many lives.

As a scholar of Buddhist studies, I have researched the ways in which Buddhist monks talk about kindness and compassion toward all beings.

The Dalai Lama has famously been quoted as saying “My true religion is kindness.” Although there is more to Buddhism than just kindness, Buddhism’s teachings and exemplary figures, I believe, have much to offer to a world experiencing intense suffering.

Loving-kindness teachings

Some of the earliest Buddhist teachings developed in India – which are recorded in the Pali canon, the collection of scriptures in the Pali language – emphasized the idea of “metta,” or loving-kindness. One teaching from this collection of scriptures is the “Karaniya Metta Sutta,” where the Buddha exhorts the good and wise to spread loving-kindness by making these wishes toward all beings:

In gladness and in safety,

May all beings be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be;

Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,

The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,

The seen and the unseen,

Those living near and far away,

Those born and to-be-born —

May all beings be at ease!

In order to put these words into practice, several Buddhist teachers from North America teach meditation practices meant to develop one’s own metta, or loving-kindness.

During meditation sessions, practitioners can visualize people and chant wishes of loving-kindness using variations of phrases based on the Karaniya Metta Sutta. A commonly used version is from a well-known Buddhist meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg.

May all beings everywhere be safe and well.

May all beings everywhere be happy and content.

May all beings everywhere be healthy and strong.

May all beings everywhere be peaceful and at ease.

Practitioners spread this kindness toward themselves, people close to them, people they do not know – even distant people or enemies – and finally all beings throughout the world. After visualizing this attitude of loving-kindness, practitioners find it is easier to radiate kindness toward others in real life.

In addition to metta, Buddhists also practice compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha) for a peaceful state of mind.

Cultivating compassion

Later forms of Buddhism in East Asia and Tibet developed the idea of compassion further through the figure of the bodhisattva.

The bodhisattva is a practitioner who has vowed to work selflessly for the enlightenment of other beings. The development of this state of mind is known as “bodhicitta.” Bodhicitta provides the motivation and commitment to this difficult path of putting others before oneself.

One practice for cultivating bodhicitta is exchanging self for others. In this practice, those on the bodhisattva path would regard the suffering of others as if it were their own and would offer help to others as if helping oneself.

As the Indian Buddhist monk Santideva writes in his classic eighth-century work on the path of the bodhisattva, “The Bodhicaryavatara,” one should meditate with this sentiment in mind: “all equally experience suffering and happiness. I should look after them as I do myself.”

Many bodhisattvas and their meanings

The Buddhist figure most focused on kindness is the bodhisattva of compassion, known originally as Avalokiteshvara, who became popular in India by the sixth century A.D. A popular way to depict Avalokiteshvara is with 11 heads and 1,000 arms, which he uses to benefit all sentient beings. Tibetan Buddhists believe that all Dalai Lamas are manifestations of this bodhisattva.

This bodhisattva is known by various names across Asia. In Nepal, the bodhisattva is known as Karunamaya, and in Tibet as Lokesvara and Chenrezig. In China, the bodhisattva is a female figure called Guanyin and portrayed as a woman with long, flowing hair in white robes, who holds a vase tilted downward so she can drop the dews of compassion upon all beings.

Throughout East and Southeast Asia this is a popular figure. People make offerings to seek help, especially in regards to success in business and starting a family.

With practices that urge people to practice compassion toward others and with figures who can be asked to bestow it, Buddhism offers unique and diverse ways to think about and express kindness.

How Religious Is Your Average 22-Year-Old?

I’m a quantitative scholar of American religion and politics, so I am used to everyone from religion scholars unused to working with data to anxious parents asking me random questions.

“Are Latter-day Saints attending church with less frequency in the last few years?”

“How similar are Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu Americans in their political views?”

“Are young Southern Baptists less conservative on abortion than their parents?”

Those questions and many more like them are completely valid and worthwhile to ask. But until about 10 years ago, my answer was something like, “It is statistically difficult, if not impossible, to answer with any degree of accuracy.” (This is how quantitative scholars talk.) Until the mid-2000s, the data that most researchers had available was limited in ways that made many potential areas of inquiry problematic.

For instance, the General Social Survey is the gold standard for any researcher who is interested in how American life has changed since 1972. The GSS contains a wealth of questions focused on a variety of topics, including sexuality, drug use, social connections, religious behavior and views of politics and government.

And it is what we call longitudinal: Every year or two, the team at NORC at the University of Chicago conducts face-to-face surveys with about 2,200 respondents and makes the data publicly available. The GSS is therefore an unbelievably valuable resource and has been the foundation for thousands of articles, books and lectures over the last four decades.

The GSS has one major drawback, however: its small sample size. The total number of people ever interviewed by the NORC team is 64,814.

So, let’s say that I wanted to understand the religious attendance patterns of of Latter-day Saints between 2008 and 2018. If I were to use the GSS data, there are a total of 147 LDS identifiers in the data during that 10-year span. But if broken down in individual years, it’s about 20 respondents each year. It’s difficult to learn much about any group by only analyzing the behavior of 20 of them. Thus, it’s statistically impossible to understand how Mormon religious behavior has changed using the GSS.

However, beginning in 2006 a new survey became publicly available that opened up an entirely new world to social scientists — the Cooperative Election Study. In the 2006 version of the CES, there were 36,421 respondents. There were 32,800 in 2008. In total, the CES boasts a sample size of nearly 447,000 respondents. That’s nearly seven times the size of the entire 46 years of the GSS.

To return to our example of Latter-day Saints, there were 764 LDS members in the 46 years of the GSS. In the 2018 wave of the CES, there were 823 Mormons, but in total there are nearly 7,000. That means that a social scientist can now trace the church attendance of just LDS members under the age of 35, say, or nonwhite Latter-day Saints. It’s also possible to have some reasonable level of statistical certainty surrounding how they have voted in presidential elections dating back to 2008.

Questions about the composition of small religious groups like Hindus or Buddhists were difficult to answer before the advent of large surveys like the CES. It was statistically impossible to trace the religiosity of just 18- to 22-year-old people in college before the introduction of these large-scale surveys. Trying to explore combinations, like people who make six figures a year but have only a high school diploma, was unrealistic when a sample only contained five people who fit those criteria. In the CES and other new instruments, those people number in the hundreds.

I can’t count the number of times people have asked me if there is any time in American history that the country has had lower levels of religiosity than it does right now. Unfortunately, we can’t answer that with any degree of certainty. High-quality data doesn’t really exist prior to the 1970s. And, to be honest, we only have limited statistical ability between the 1970s and the mid-2000s.

I think about these issues quite a lot and am of two minds about it.

The first emotion is one of deep sadness for how much we will never know about the contours of American society just a few decades ago. A religious picture of the United States in the 1940s is incredibly blurry, if not entirely opaque, when seen through the lens of quantitative data.

But I have a great sense of excitement when I consider how much better we will understand American society from this point forward. The questions that social science can ask and answer have never been greater and are expanding by the day as social scientists gather new data and compare what we find to what has come before.

The possibility of knowing more things with a greater sense of certainty should be a thrilling opportunity for all of us.

6 Red Flags In Relationship You Shouldn’t Ignore

We’re always told to steer clear of people who exhibit red flags in relationships, but exactly what red flags should we be looking out for?

When you’re dating someone new, the romance and excitement of the “honeymoon phase” can blind you, and you may not be aware of the warning signs. Red flags like constant put-downs can signal a kind of emotional abuse, which is relatively common.

In a 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 47.1% of women and 46.5% of men said they had experienced some form of psychological aggression in a relationship.

It can help to know which red flags to look out for so that you can proceed with caution or cut things off if necessary.

1. Frequent lying

Constantly catching your partner being dishonest isn’t a good sign. “We are all guilty of telling white lies; however, if you notice that your partner is consistently deceiving or getting caught in lies, it is a red flag,” says Samara Quintero, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Choosing Therapy.

These can be small lies, like being dishonest about where they’re going — or big lies, like not telling you how much debt they have.

Being lied to over and over again can make it difficult to build a solid foundation in the relationship or destroy one that you’ve already built, which can lead to a shaky future, Quintero says.

2. Constant put-downs

A partner frequently criticizing you or putting you down, even if it’s in a subtle or passive-aggressive way, can affect your self-esteem.

“This is a form of emotional abuse that can lead to feelings of anxiety and insecurity in the partnership,” Quintero says.

She says some common examples might sound like:

  1. “You’re lucky I’m still with you because you’ll never do better than me.”
  2. “You sound so ridiculous when you try to be funny.”

A 2013 study suggested that emotional abuse could be just as harmful as physical abuse, both contributing to depression and low self-esteem — so this red flag should certainly be taken seriously.

“Addressing this behavior with your partner is imperative, and if they refuse to take responsibility or express a willingness to change, it might be time to reevaluate the relationship,” Quintero says.

3. An unwillingness to compromise

If your partner isn’t willing to compromise even when it comes to the little things, you should proceed with caution.

“If you’re in a relationship with someone who seems to make everything one-sided, you may end up over-compromising and wind up feeling resentful, hurt, misunderstood, and unsatisfied,” says Emily Simonian, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the head of learning at Thriveworks. In healthy relationships, it’s crucial that you consider each other’s needs and desires and that compromise isn’t a one-way street.

4. A tendency to run away from difficult discussions

A partner who lacks the emotional or behavioral skills needed to cope with problems and runs away from them instead can harm your relationship. Some examples are walking away from arguments without hearing you out, or ignoring you for days at a time when things get rough.

People who have trouble tolerating difficult emotions tend to lash out or flee when the going gets tough, Simonian says. Even healthy relationships will go through rough patches, so you want to be sure that your partner will communicate effectively with you instead of running away when things get hard.

5. Controlling behavior and excessive jealousy

If your partner is very jealous, this may lead to controlling behavior. For example, they might feel jealous when you have a social life outside of your relationship, Simonian says. A jealous partner may also suffocate you with excessive calls or texts and try to control what you do.

“Attempts to control usually start off subtly but eventually increase in intensity and can often leave you feeling as though nothing you do is ‘good enough,'” Simonian says. “If you notice yourself feeling smothered or consistently altering your behavior in order to appease their jealousy, it could be a sign of bigger issues to come.”

A 2010 meta-analysis found that as jealousy in a relationship increased, the relationship quality decreased, indicating that jealousy harms romantic relationships. Additionally, a 2014 study suggested that people in relationships where a partner acted too possessive in the early stages were more likely to have an unhealthy communication style later in the relationship.

6. A lack of healthy open communication

A partner who turns to passive-aggressiveness, blaming, or expressing emotions in an aggressive way is exhibiting ineffective communication, Quintero says.

Communication is a foundation of a relationship, so if you both can’t communicate openly and healthily, you’re going to run into problems.

“A healthy relationship provides a safe place for both partners to speak openly on their emotions without fear of judgment or criticism,” Quintero says.

A 2017 study suggested that communication early in a relationship might play a role in future relationship satisfaction and that satisfaction with communication in the beginning of a relationship might result in a more amicable partnership later on.

How To Nurture Creativity In Your Kids

Parents who want their kids to be more creative may be tempted to enroll them in arts classes or splurge on STEM-themed toys. Those things certainly can help, but as a professor of educational psychology who has written extensively about creativity, I can draw on more than 70 years of creativity research to make additional suggestions that are more likely to be effective – and won’t break your budget.

Be Cautious With Rewards

Some parents may be tempted to reward their children for being creative, which is traditionally defined as producing something that is both new and useful. However, rewards and praise may actually dissuade your child’s intrinsic interest in being creative. That’s because the activity may become associated with the reward and not the fun the child naturally has doing it.

Of course, I am not saying you should not place your child’s artwork on your fridge. But avoid being too general – “I love every bit of it!” – or too focused on their innate traits – “You are so creative!” Instead, praise specific aspects that you like in your child’s artwork – “I love the way you made such a cute tail on that dog!” or “The way you combined colors here is pretty!”

Some rewards can be helpful. For example, for a child who loves to draw, giving them materials that they might use in their artwork is an example of a reward that will help them stay creative.

It is also important to note that there are many activities – creative or otherwise – for which a child may not have a particular interest. There is no harm – and much potential benefit – in using rewards in these cases. If a child has an assignment for a creative school activity and hates doing it, there may not be any inherent passion to be dampened in the first place.

Encourage Curiosity and New Experiences

Research shows that people who are open to new experiences and ideas are more creative than those who are more closed off. Many parents have children who naturally seek new things, such as food, activities, games or playmates. In these cases, simply continue to offer opportunities and encouragement.

For those whose children may be more reticent, there are options. Although personality is theoretically stable, it is possible to change it in subtle ways. For example, a study – although it was on older adults – found that crossword or sudoku puzzles can help increase openness. Childhood and adolescence is a natural period for openness to grow. Encouraging curiosity and intellectual engagement is one way. Other ways might include encouraging sensible risk-taking – such as trying a new sport for a less athletic child or a new instrument for one less musically inclined – or interest in other cultures. Even very simple variations on an evening routine, whether trying a new craft or board game or helping cook dinner, can help normalize novelty.

6 Coffee Habits That Help With Weight Loss

It’s safe to say that for some of us, coffee may be the one thing getting us through our busiest days of the week. And, for the most part, those daily cups can actually benefit our health as long as they’re consumed in moderate amounts.

We recently learned that there are certain unhealthy coffee habits that can lead to weight gain—like adding too much sugar or drinking on an empty stomach. But are there specific coffee habits that can help us lose weight?

We spoke with our medical board experts Laura Burak, MS, RD, author of Slimdown with Smoothies and founder of Laura Burak Nutrition, as well as Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility, to learn which coffee habits they believe can help you lose weight and stick to your health goals. Then, for more healthy eating tips, make sure to check out these Weight Loss Habits Dietitians Want You to Try Right Now.

1 Skip the table sugar.

According to Manaker, not putting sugar in your coffee is one of the easiest ways to help you meet your weight loss goals. The guidelines for how much sugar you should have in a day varies depending on your caloric intake, but the average suggested sugar intake is no more than 50 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet.

With that in mind, adding just one tablespoon of sugar to your coffee will give you about 12.5 grams of sugar, which is a pretty large chunk of your daily recommended levels in just one cup of coffee.

Eating too much added sugar over time can not only lead to weight gain, but can also increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. So if you’re wanting to skip the sugar but still want something a bit sweet, “try exploring some non-nutritive sweetener options like allulose or monk fruit,” says Manaker.

2 Drink your coffee black.

Adding tons of sugar to your coffee can negatively impact your weight loss goals, but so can adding too much coffee creamer, which is why both of our dietitians suggest drinking your coffee black if you can.

“Adding cream, half-and-half, and even whole milk in excess can add a significant amount of calories and fat to your coffee,” says Manaker.

Burak agrees, saying that “black coffee contains fewer than 5 calories per cup, but beware of the extras you may be adding that can contribute a significant amount of unnecessary calories and saturated fat to your diet, especially after several cups in one day.”

Speaking of creamers, this is The #1 Worst Coffee Creamer on Shelves.

3 Add a scoop of collagen peptides.

One of the major contributors to weight gain is overeating. The key to weight loss is to feel full by consuming healthy foods and drinks with enough protein and nutrients to keep you satisfied and not tempted to overeat on the not-so-healthy stuff.

“Adding collagen peptides is a great coffee habit for weight loss because it gives you a boost of protein, which may help support a feeling of satiety in the morning without affecting the taste of your coffee at all,” says Manaker.

Not only does research back this up, but one of our expert writers tried drinking collagen with her coffee for two weeks straight and reported feeling full from breakfast to lunch every day.

4 Don’t use coffee as a meal replacement.

Coffee may be a natural appetite suppressant, but Burak warns that it should never be used as a meal replacement or substitute for food.

“Coffee alone is not a meal or snack, but I often find clients still using a 3 p.m. cup of coffee as a way to skip a meal and save calories as it does temporarily suppress your appetite,” says Burak.

Unfortunately, this meal-skipping is not only harmful to your metabolism, but it may also lead to overeating later on in the day.

This is a delicate balance because according to Burak, drinking coffee with your meal can help give you a feeling of satiety or fullness, which can also help prevent you from overeating.

“It is also liquid which, like water, helps to keep your tank feeling full and therefore can assist you with eating a more appropriate amount of food if you’re looking to lose weight,” says Burak, “but the bottom line is, don’t skip meals and eat when you’re hungry!”

5 Opt for half-caff or caffeine-free coffee in the afternoon.

It may be tempting to reach for that cup of coffee around 3 or 4 p.m. when you’re starting to lose steam at work, but Manaker says this may not be the best for your health.

Caffeine can affect a person’s sleep, and drinking it close to bedtime can cause a person to miss out on their important rest,” says Manaker. “A lack of restful sleep is linked to weight gain, supporting healthy sleep habits by not drinking coffee in the afternoon or opting for a decaf cup can help you with your weight loss goals.”

Here’s What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Caffeine.

6 Get enough sleep.

If you want your coffee to help you with your weight loss goals, you may first want to make sure you’re naturally getting as much sleep as you need.

According to Burak, the energy boost you get from coffee can hide the fact that you aren’t getting enough sleep. Without adequate amounts of sleep, you may be more inclined to overeat, which might lead to weight gain.

“The caffeine in coffee acts as a stimulant, which can give you a temporary boost of energy and get your metabolism going throughout the day,” says Burak. “The key is to make sure you’re still focusing on getting quality sleep and not using coffee chronically for artificial energy.”

Millennials Love Their Gin &Tonic

Gin and Tonic is one such cocktail that has had the privilege to stand out among others, such as whisky and soda, rum and cola, and vodka and sprite. It is the one spirit that has earned the slang ‘G&T’. For those of us who are unfamiliar it is gin with ice, tonic water, and a squeeze of lime on top.

Gin and tonic is an iconic drink that was created in India, way back in early 19th century when India was ruled by the Britishers, they mixed gin with quinine, water, and sugar to prevent malaria. This turned out to not only be a medicinal drink but an extremely good combination yielding to a flavour-some cocktail. Tonic water was born as a soda drink with quinine, and the result the classic Gin & Tonic.

British palates grew accustomed to the combination of bitter, sweet, and a tinge of citrus. Gin and tonic took its position in the global cocktail world when the British returned to the UK. Today, across UK there are multiple gin bars with a lengthy list of options to explore.

When people travel, they often try new cuisine and drinks from various cultures. In the United Kingdom, G&T has become the drink of choice, and visitors to the nation find it everywhere. As a result, its popularity among young millennials has grown because of its delicious blended clarity with a 5-7 per cent alcoholic strength.

Although it appears to be a simple drink, it is quite easy to go wrong. The following are crucial measures to remember while making a perfect G&T:

* Gin — Choosing a good quality gin is an excellent. Tanqueray London Dry is a magnificent choice for a well-balanced cocktail. Tanqueray 10 is ideal for those seeking a citrus-forward spirit. And for those who enjoy botanical flavors, Gordon’s London dry gin is an excellent choice. Always measure your spirit to ensure that you know how much you’re drinking and how much tonic to add.

* Glass — It’s critical to have a glass that’s clean, unchipped, and cold. However, you may drink your gin and tonic in a copa or red wine glass if you can locate one. The copa, or red wine glass, can hold ice and has a stem to keep the drink cold for longer. While taking a drink, the design allows the scent to be focused on the nose.

* Ice — Preferred choice should be a quality ice with a shape and size that delays the dilution process (often round or square), and that is dry enough not to melt quickly. This may be fixed with a block of clear ice, which is devoid of gas and contaminants, melts slowly, and does not react with the fizz in tonic. As a result, it stays bubbly for a long time.

* Tonic Water — Chilled tonic water dissolves CO2 and keeps it effervescent for a long time. To avoid disturbing the fizz, it should be poured carefully from the glass’s wall. Maintain a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio (1 part gin to 3 or 4 parts of Tonic). If the ratio is not followed, the drink will likely taste spirit-forward or diluted, and both are going to ruin the experience.

* Lime — It is the most popular garnish. It should be squeezed over the drink to provide citrus flavor and freshness. Lime should be juicy, fresh and should not have been sliced the day before.

Some of the other most popular gin cocktails would be Negroni, Gibson, Gimlet, Martini, Tom Collins, Singapore Sling & Bees’ Knees. Gin based cocktails hold great standard and class in a bar. The Martini right from its inception had been a signature cocktail for celebrities. Negroni had been extremely popular with elite get-togethers.

How Parents Can Help Teens Navigate Social Media

Newswise — BUFFALO, N.Y. — How can families help children and teens navigate the ever-changing landscape of social media — especially when many of today’s parents and caregivers did not grow up with these technologies as central to their daily lives?

Sourav Sengupta, MD, a University at Buffalo expert in child and adolescent mental health, says one way that trusted adults can support young people is by setting age- and developmentally-appropriate boundaries. It’s not a matter of “teetotaling,” he notes: It’s about slowly teaching young people how to use social media in healthy ways.

“I think we are generally behind as adults in keeping up with our children’s social technology use,” Sengupta says. “While some parents of younger children identify as ‘digital natives,’ many parents became more active social technology users beyond childhood or adolescence.

“Our children will need to grow up to find a reasonable way to incorporate, tolerate and utilize social technologies in their lives,” Sengupta adds. “We really cannot afford to be passive in that process. We need to be engaged, which includes offering firm boundaries.”

Sengupta is an assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, and program director for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship in the Jacobs School.

Q: What are some ways that social media impacts mental health?

Sengupta: “There is significant evidence for the negative social and emotional impacts of excessive social technology use. For example, there are concerns for increased social isolation, lower self-esteem, decreased participation in normative healthy activities, and decreased concentration.

“On the other hand, there is also evidence to support adolescents utilizing social technologies to explore their identities, connect with peers and family, and learn more about their world.”

Q: How do generational gaps create challenges for parents and caregivers?

Sengupta: “I think that many of us do not have meaningful lived experiences of what it means to be a modern child with so much access to such a broad range and depth of social, cultural and technological information, all the time.

“For parents and caregivers who find themselves a bit overwhelmed, we may need to catch up a bit. Check in with other parents, spend some time interacting with the apps your kids are using. If you’re looking for a little primer, check out Common Sense Media’s Social Media resource page for parents.”

Q: Instagram has been in the news a lot lately. What are some considerations for this platform?

Sengupta: “Instagram is a highly visual medium. It immediately grabs our attention at a very primal level. Combine that with the experience of getting (or not getting) ‘likes,’ responding to comments, and constantly comparing complex experiences through pictures with limited context, and you’ve got a recipe for a highly stimulating, variably rewarding, intermittently toxic social experience for young people.

“Instagram can really lend itself to the ‘curated life’ phenomena. If you see other users primarily posting about their most amazing positive experiences, it can give the impression that others’ lives are amazing while mine is ‘just okay.’ Teens can spend a significant amount of time agonizing over getting a post ‘just right.’ To me, parents’ supervision and potential concern over use may need to be proportional to the amount of time and energy an adolescent spends crafting the perfect image or comment.”

Q: What tips do you have for parents?

Sengupta: “Think purposeful and pro-social. If young people are using social media to learn something new, interact with peers about a special event coming up, or directly connect with a friend or family member, these can be healthy ways for them to feel connected and engaged in their social world.

“Limits are important. We know that spending hours a day on social media can put young people at increased risk for depression. One study showed that limiting use to 30 minutes or less per day was associated with decreased loneliness and depression. For teens, 30 minutes or less a day is a great goal but may feel far off for many teens and families. If you are pulling back, do it gradually and don’t be surprised by resistance. For younger children, strongly consider holding off on anything other than directly supervised use or video calls with trusted friends and families. And don’t forget, there should be a significant amount of screen-free time before bed.

“Slowly grant increasing freedom as young people demonstrate they are developmentally prepared to handle that autonomy. It’s like how you’d approach helping young people gradually develop a healthy relationship with alcohol or rich foods or romance. Different families will have different values and priorities that inform how much and how often their kids will use these technologies, but we need to be involved. We need to (re)engage.

“Familiarize yourself with the social technologies children and teens are using. You should be on their platforms as a friend or connection. There should be a clear understanding that you get to ‘vet’ what is being posted.

“Talk to young people about digital safety. They should understand that they shouldn’t give away personal/private information to strangers. For teens, we need to discuss healthy emotional expressions and contrast those with exploitative or risky expressions they may come to regret. If teens are being too excessive or risky in their social media use, parents may have to be creative and persistent in finding ways to appropriately limit use. And if this is feeling too difficult, it may be time to check in with a teen’s pediatrician or consult with a therapist.

“Lastly, work to be a good role model. Teens are going to find it difficult to listen to their parents about less screen time if adults in the household are constantly on their devices. Find ways to unplug and spend quality time together as a family. Not always easy, but always worth it.”

Changes In Sex And Intimacy Among Single Indians In Covid Times

The pandemic and lockdown restrictions have changed dating for single Indians and shaped the way single people in India are approaching sex and intimacy. In its Intimacy in a Pandemic Report, Bumble, the women-first dating app and social networking platform, shows how partner priorities are also seeing a seismic shift.

There’s an increased openness towards sexual exploration among the dating app’s users globally right now as per the recent global survey conducted within the app. India had the highest percentage of Bumble users (34 per cent) who respond that they are more open to exploration when it comes to sex compared to the US, UK, Australia and Canada.

The app’s recent nationwide survey showed 65 per cent of single Indians claim the pandemic has changed their approach to sex and intimacy. More than one in three (37 per cent) people surveyed claim they are being more open to sharing their boundaries and desires with someone they are dating right now. About one in three (33 per cent) people have ‘locked down’ and started living with someone they met on a dating app since the second wave hit India in March 2021.

The new research and insights about the state of sex and intimacy for daters in India show:

Confidence levels are at an all-time high

The past year has been a time of reflection for singles to think about what they are looking for in a relationship. This time ultimately gave people an opportunity to define their relationship priorities and the confidence to take control of their dating lives.

Nearly half of Indians surveyed on Bumble (47 per cent) are feeling more confident about what they want and need from a sexual partner, and we’re also seeing an increased openness to sexual experimentation.

Over half of the users (60 per cent) surveyed in India indicated that they were looking to be more sexually active following ease in lockdown restrictions.

Compatibility is a top priority

The app’s latest research shows that daters are prioritizing compatibility now more than ever as people start dating IRL with increased confidence in what they are truly looking for in a sexual partner. People are also expressing an increased openness to communicating their boundaries and desires when it comes to sexual health and preferences.

More than one in three (37 per cent) people surveyed claim they are being more open to sharing their boundaries and desires with someone they are dating right now.

Over a quarter of Bumble users surveyed in India (26 per cent) indicated that they are planning to express their sexuality differently now compared to a year ago.

Bumble’s latest data indicates that there’s been a shift in the way people are approaching sex and intimacy in India with over half (51 per cent) of those surveyed responding that they are doing something different when it comes to sex and intimacy this year.

“We’re seeing a trend of single people in India being more intentional when it comes to dating, with over half of daters surveyed indicating that they are focused on trying to find a partner that’s right for them. In fact, 13 per cent of our Bumble community in India responded that they’ve added more steps to screen potential partners. People are more intentional now when they interact with potential partners and focused on compatibility. We are excited to see how the Bumble community expresses their newfound confidence in their dating journeys as restrictions ease across the country,” shares Samarpita Samaddar, Communications Director, Bumble India.

Ranking Healthfulness Of Foods From First To Worst

New nutrient profiling system, most comprehensive and science-based to date, clears up confusion to benefit consumers, policymakers

Newswise — A scientific team at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts has developed a new tool to help consumers, food companies, restaurants, and cafeterias choose and produce healthier foods and officials to make sound public nutrition policy. Food Compass is a new nutrient profiling system, developed over three years, that incorporates cutting-edge science on how different characteristics of foods positively or negatively impact health. Important novel features of the system, reported Oct. 14 in Nature Food, include: Equally considering healthful vs. harmful factors in foods (many existing systems focus on harmful factors);

Incorporating cutting-edge science on nutrients, food ingredients, processing characteristics, phytochemicals, and additives (existing systems focus largely on just a few nutrients); and Objectively scoring all foods, beverages, and even mixed dishes and meals using one consistent score (existing systems subjectively group and score foods differently). “Once you get beyond ‘eat your veggies, avoid soda,’ the public is pretty confused about how to identify healthier choices in the grocery store, cafeteria, and restaurant,” said the study’s lead and corresponding author, Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School. “Consumers, policy makers, and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone toward healthier choices.”

The new Food Compass system was developed and then tested using a detailed national database of 8,032 foods and beverages consumed by Americans. It scores 54 different characteristics across nine domains representing different health-relevant aspects of foods, drinks, and mixed meals, providing for one of the most comprehensive nutrient profiling systems in the world. The characteristics and domains were selected based on nutritional attributes linked to major chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and cancer, as well as to risk of undernutrition, especially for mothers, young children, and the elderly. Food Compass was designed so that additional attributes and scoring could evolve based on future evidence in such areas as gastrointestinal health, immune function, brain health, bone health, and physical and mental performance; as well as considerations of sustainability.

Potential uses of Food Compass include:

Encouraging the food industry to develop healthier foods and reformulate the ingredients in popular processed foods and snacks;

Providing food purchasing incentives for employees through worksite wellness, health care, and nutrition assistance programs;

Supplying the science for local and national policies such as package labeling, taxation, warning labels, and restrictions on marketing to children;

Enabling restaurants and school, business, and hospital cafeterias to present healthier food options; Informing agricultural trade policy; and, Guiding institutional and individual investors on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investment decisions.

Each food, beverage, or mixed dish receives a final Food Compass score ranging from 1 (least healthy) to 100 (most healthy). The researchers identified 70 or more as a reasonable score for foods or beverages that should be encouraged. Foods and beverages scoring 31-69 should be consumed in moderation. Anything scoring 30 or lower should be consumed minimally.

Across major food categories, the average Food Compass score was 43.2.

The lowest scoring category was snacks and sweet desserts (average score 16.4).

The highest scoring categories were vegetables (average score 69.1), fruits (average score 73.9, with nearly all raw fruits receiving a score of 100), and legumes, nuts, and seeds (average score 78.6).

Among beverages, the average score ranged from 27.6 for sugar-sweetened sodas and energy drinks to 67 for 100% fruit or vegetable juices.

Starchy vegetables scored an average of 43.2.

The average score for beef was 24.9; for poultry, 42.67; and for seafood, 67.0.

Food Compass is the first major nutrient profiling system to use consistent scoring across diverse food groups, which is especially important for mixed dishes. For example, in the case of pizza, many other systems have separate scoring algorithms for the wheat, meat, and cheese, but not the finished product itself. Consistent scoring of diverse items can also be helpful in assessing and comparing combinations of food and beverages that could be sold and consumed together, such as an entire shopping basket, a person’s daily diet pattern, or a portfolio of foods sold by a particular company.

“With its publicly available scoring algorithm, Food Compass can provide a nuanced approach to promoting healthy food choices–helping guide consumer behavior, nutrition policy, scientific research, food industry practices, and socially based investment decisions,” said last author Renata Micha, who did this work as a faculty member at the Friedman School and is now at the University of Thessaly. Additional authors are Naglaa H. El-Abbadi, Meghan O’Hearn, Josh Marino, William A. Masters, Paul Jacques, Peilin Shi, and Jeffrey B. Blumberg of the Friedman School.

The study is part of the Food-PRICE (Policy Review and Intervention Cost-Effectiveness) project, a National Institutes of Health-funded research collaboration working to identify cost-effective nutrition strategies that can have the greatest impact on improving health outcomes in the United States. This work was supported by Danone and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers R01HL130735 and R01HL115189. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Please see the study for conflicts of interest.

Are You Addicted To Technology?

Newswise — During the COVID-19 shutdown, many people increasingly turned to technology for entertainment and information, a trend that raises concerns about an increase in technology addiction.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 30 percent of Americans are almost constantly online, and health officials are concerned about the amount of time children and adults spend with technology. China recently banned children from playing online games for more than three hours a week, internet addiction centers have been opening in the United States and Facebook has come under fire for teenagers’ obsessive use of its Instagram app.

“There is functional, healthy engagement with technology – ubiquitous and necessary in our everyday lives – and addictive use, and it can be difficult to know when that line has been crossed,” says Petros Levounis, chair of the Department of Psychiatry, associate dean at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and author of Technological Addictions. “However, while obsessive use of technology may signal an addiction, it could otherwise be a sign of another mental health disorder.”

What does it mean to be addicted to technology?
While the majority of people who use technology will not have any problems – indeed, there are professional and recreational benefits from using electronics – a small percentage could develop an addiction and suffer consequences similar to that from substance abuse. In fact, studies have shown that as internet addiction worsens, so does the probability of developing a substance use disorder.

Using technology can become an obsession. People start engaging activities like online gaming, internet auctions, surfing the Net, social media, texting or cybersex and get caught up in the excitement. Soon, the focus shifts from generating feelings of pleasure and reward to being an activity they do to avoid feeling anxious, irritable or miserable.

How has the COVID-19 shutdown contributed to technology addiction?
We have noticed emerging addictions. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, cybersex has increased, with online dating apps, text chats and online pornography. Internet gaming, too, has exploded. One of the most concerning aspects with online gaming is that companies are now using psychology labs to maximize the effectiveness of their products in a way that is highly reminiscent of how the tobacco companies employed chemists to maximize their products’ addictiveness.

How do people know they’re addicted?
The two major red flags are: continued use of technology despite the knowledge of adverse consequences – people say “I know it’s bad for me, but I have to keep doing it” – and lying to people who are important to you about the frequency of the activity.

If you suspect you or someone you love is addicted to technology, what can you do?
Do not try to get the person into a rehab to be “cured.” Find a psychiatrist, preferably one who specializes in addiction, who can evaluate the person for a variety of disorders. The person might have depression, anxiety or a more serious psychiatric disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which is masquerading as a technological addiction.

How can parents help their children to use technology wisely?
Parents need to be good role models and be consistent in setting rules. For example, it is not okay for parents to declare that dinner time is a “cell phone free” time and then proceed to check emails during meals. If parents take technology out of their children’s bedrooms to promote good sleep hygiene, they should abide by these rules as well.

Did You Ever Wonder What Makes A Society Happy?

According to the World Happiness Report 2021 which was released by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Finland was once again crowned as the world’s happiest country. India has been ranked 139 out of 149 countries in the list of UN World Happiness Report 2021. To make society happy, firstly it is really important to spread awareness on how it is okay to relax, chill and take a break. People tend to normalise overworking, which is so wrong. Of Course, we need a job to live and sustain ourselves but you shouldn’t be working yourself to death, and the fact that this is seen as normal is really worrying. You spend more hours at work than you do awake at home, so if those hours are drenched in misery then sadness basically becomes the norm. A study from Gallup (2017) found that happier employees were more engaged, which resulted in improved customer relationships, and a 20 percent increase in sales.

Also, lowering down the crime level would act as a major factor towards a happy society. People who witness crimes, or come across evidence of a crime in their local area, can suffer anxiety and may feel demoralised or powerless. We should also teach them to stop judging people by materialistic things and accept everyone with all their flaws. Media plays an important role in making society happy because they have the power of reaching out to billions of people and helping them out through a solution-based approach.

As per Aishwarya Jain, the Founder of IM Happiness, a social community that works to increase awareness of mental well-being, “Every great leader always talks about building a happier society from Chanakya to J.R.D. Tata. As J.R.D Tata said, “I do not want India to be an economic superpower. I want India to be a happy country”. Happiness makes good things happen. It actually promotes positive outcomes. It’s high time corporates start taking importance of mental well-being like it’s happening around the world. Last week, Nike became the latest company to close its offices for a week to give employees a mental health break. That’s after LinkedIn, Bumble, and Hootsuite have all shut down their offices for a week this year to address mental health. I think the global revolution of happiness has started.”

Our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive. Yet in today’s world, we ironically sacrifice happiness for success only to lower our brain’s success rate . When we are happy — when our mindset and mood are positive — we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the centre, and success revolves around it. IM Happiness is a community that believes happiness is a skill to be enhanced by training and practice. The team works day and night to help the sufferers get rid of their mental chaos and teach them the skill of being optimistic and happy in every situation, either favourable or adverse. They work on the aim of the United Nations Goals of promoting good health and well-being and have worked closely with the organisation. The team is utilizing the power of Science and Spirituality in achieving this aim.

IM Happiness is initiating a new campaign, ‘Hello Happiness’. The campaign unites 30+ celebrities from across the country to have a surprise conversation with selected people in India. Ranveer Brar, Daniel Weber, Masoom Minawala Mehta and Ash King are some of the celebrities who will be a part of this campaign. With this campaign, the community wants to help people deal with their emotions and to motivate them. The campaign is free of cost and the nominee just has to register, wherein the unique algorithm will connect the nominee with a celebrity or other mentors on a call according to their keywords. The community is trying to bring a change but it is the society’s accumulative effort to spread awareness and to make oneself happy. We should try to start small and it will eventually make a great difference because a better society allows us to lead a better life. (IANS)

Is Breakfast Really Good For You?

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But you’ve also probably heard that it’s fine to skip. A 2019 research review published in The BMJ only adds to the debate: It analyzed 13 breakfast studies and found that eating a morning meal was not a reliable way to lose weight, and that skipping breakfast likely does not lead to weight gain. So should you say goodbye to your eggs and toast? Here’s what the science says about breakfast.

Does eating breakfast help you lose weight?

The weight-loss question has been central to the breakfast debate for years, in part because several high-profile studies — some of which were funded by cereal companies, including Quaker and Kellogg — claimed that eating early in the day was necessary for controlling weight. When looking at research that isn’t funded by the food industry, however, the answer is less clear. Some studies have found that breakfast eaters tend to weigh less than people who skip the meal and burn more calories throughout the day. But it’s possible that lifestyle and socioeconomic factors may be driving forces here, making a person more likely to eat breakfast and also have better overall health. For example, making time for breakfast is easier for people with 9-to-5 jobs than it is for night shift workers (who research has shown face a range of health risks). Other research, including the new review, has found no strong connection between breakfast and weight loss. One paper from 2017 actually found that skipping breakfast may lead to more calorie burning — but also higher levels of inflammation in the body.

Despite all the back and forth, Sharon Collison, a registered dietitian nutritionist and a clinical instructor in nutrition at the University of Delaware, says she’s not aware of any studies that have shown that eating breakfast can make you gain weight — so there’s likely no harm in eating it. Anecdotally, Collison says she’s seen from her clients that “people who struggle with weight tend to eat more of their calories later in the day and less earlier in the day. People who don’t eat enough earlier in the day may have increased hunger and increased cravings later in the day and will end up eating more.” But more research is needed.

Is it unhealthy to skip breakfast?

Weight loss aside, Collison says she’s “totally pro-breakfast” and encourages the vast majority of her clients to eat it, for a range of reasons. “People who consume breakfast regularly often have increased physical activity. They have better dietary profiles and lower intake of snacks,” Collison says. “Skipping breakfast is associated with increased disease risk — not only obesity but diabetes, heart disease and just lower dietary quality.” One small study from 2017 suggested that breakfast-eating could improve a range of metabolic health markers, potentially improving the body’s ability to burn fat and fight chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes — at least among people who were already lean. More research is needed to know how different types of people respond to fasting, the scientists say. But what if you’re truly not hungry in the morning? Collison says that may be indicative of other problematic eating habits, like snacking at night. “If you eliminate that snacking and then wake up hungry and eat a good breakfast, your overall dietary pattern is going to be so much better, and your health status is going to be better,” Collison says.

What’s the healthiest breakfast?

Even if you’ve decided to eat breakfast, a question remains: what should you eat? A donut and coffee, Collison says, are not going to give you the same benefits as a well-balanced plate. Collison says a good morning meal incorporates four things: protein, whole grains, healthy fat and a fruit or vegetable. Research has shown that protein and fat can increase satiety and cut down on unnecessary snacking later, while whole grains and produce add nutritious fiber, vitamins and minerals. Collison recommends Greek yogurt with nuts, berries and whole-grain cereal or farro; scrambled eggs with veggies, plus toast with avocado and fruit on the side; or oatmeal made with milk, nut butter and fruit. Generally, she says she steers clients away from smoothies or juices. “I do encourage people to eat their breakfast, because you just don’t get the same sense of fullness” with a liquid.

When should you eat breakfast?

The exact timing will vary depending on a person’s needs and schedule, but Collison says a good rule of thumb is to eat within an hour of waking. “It’s kind of like putting gas in your car,” Collison says. If you’re going to work out in the morning, plan to eat something beforehand. “The quality of your workout could be compromised if you don’t fuel your body before,” Collison says. “The closer it is to the physical activity, the more you want carbohydrates and less fat and fiber, because that will take longer to digest.” Collison recommends a banana, oatmeal or cereal. If you’ve done a vigorous workout, like running, for 45 minutes or more, you’ll likely need to eat again afterward for recovery. Something that replenishes fluid, carbs and protein — like chocolate milk — is a good option, as is a banana with peanut butter or cheese, crackers and fruit. A recovery meal probably isn’t necessary if you’ve done lighter exercise, like walking, Collison says.

Why Partners Become Emotionally Unavailable To Each Other?

We’ve all been there, the stage when we are falling in love with a person and everything feels so perfect. An expert says: It’s perfectly normal to go through this process but what happens next? How do we mature from this infatuation into something more stable and sustainable? How do we manage to deal with our partner’s flaws once we get past the butterflies-in-the-stomach stage?

Chandni Tugnait, a psychotherapist, life and business coach, and founder-director of Gateway of Healing, says there are many reasons why people become emotionally unavailable to their partners. Tugnait talks about what one can do about this disconenct:

Getting too caught up in the infatuation phase

Falling head over heels for someone isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some people enter relationships rather slowly, taking time to really get to know the other person and letting themselves fall slowly, whereas others rush into relationships and focus only on the good things. To some extent, all of us have rose-tinted glasses on, when we are infatuated with someone; everything about our new love-interest feels perfect, therefore we conclude that they must be right for us. We might also tend to neglect the issues in the relationship as a whole because we are driven by an intense need for completion that makes it hard for us to see things objectively. For this reason, people can get disappointed in their partners once they come out of this infatuation stage simply because they expect certain things from them that were never established.

No personal boundaries

Setting your own boundaries is something that many of us struggle with, especially in romantic relationships. It can feel scary to put a certain distance between you and your partner and it can be hard to find that right balance between getting too close and being suffocated by the relationship. However, having solid boundaries would allow you to enjoy this relationship while not losing yourself in it.

They have unrealistic expectations

Having realistic expectations about what you are entering into when you start a serious relationship is very important for the success of the relationship. A lot of people tend to set themselves up for failure as they create unrealistic expectations; for example, they might expect their partner to always be available and willing to put their relationship first, leaving other things aside.

Having problems accepting your own flaws

The best way for your partner not to feel overwhelmed by your flaws is simply by first accepting them yourself. There are many people who refuse to take responsibility for some of the things they do wrong in relationships, yet they still get upset when their loved ones point out those flaws which in turn fuels the conflict between them. It is also very important to be empathetic towards your partner and try to understand their point of view so that you can establish a healthy communication.

They stop putting in effort

Putting in some sort of effort is what will keep relationships alive. When people stop trying to make things work it usually means that they have lost interest in the relationship but still want to hold on to it for as long as possible; usually because they are afraid of being alone or lonely.

They start thinking that they don’t deserve better

A lot of us enter new relationships with the idea that we don’t deserve someone better and therefore we end up accepting all sorts of unacceptable behaviour from our partners. We might even be in this situation ourselves! Think about that for a second; when you think that you don’t deserve better, it means that one day you will stop making an effort to find someone who is actually good for you because deep down, the idea that, “they are as good as it gets” still lingers.

They stop seeing their partner’s flaws

A relationship can only work if both people acknowledge each other’s flaws and learn how to deal with them accordingly. For example, if your partner has anger management issues, much care needs to be taken so they don’t lash out at you when they get mad or hold a grudge after they calm down. However, this can only happen if both partners are willing to talk about their flaws and improve the way they act on them.

They don’t express their feelings

Even when it comes to expressing our feelings, some people tend to take things too far by saying everything that pops into their head without thinking or saying nothing and suppressing it all. This usually results in an overload or lack of information, respectively, that makes it hard for anyone to keep up with what’s going on. The worst part is that this never allows your partner to fully understand how you feel so they won’t be able to comfort you and help you through difficult situations. Expressing yourself is very important as you learn about what bothers you and how you can fix it while enabling your partner to understand and comfort you.

They start thinking that they don’t deserve to be happy

Again, this goes back to the point we talked about earlier, when you think that you don’t deserve better and therefore end up accepting all kinds of bad behaviour from your partner. This also leads to a feeling of apathy because no matter what happens, your life will always remain stuck in the same place where it is hard for anything new or exciting to happen. This in turn, makes you feel unhappy.

They try taking control over their relationship

This usually happens when people are afraid of losing their loved ones so they try doing whatever it takes in order to keep them around as long as possible. However, trying to control every aspect of a relationship usually results in a lack of communication, emotionally suffocating the partner, nagging, sulking, and prevents any kind of healthy relationship from emerging.

They isolate themselves

Being emotionally unavailable to the point when you stop having friends can be very dangerous because when there is no one around to support you, it will be harder for your partner to do so as well. This makes the situation even worse because it becomes more and more difficult for anyone to help you break out of that vicious cycle.

They are simply lazy

Some people are unable to complete tasks or maintain good habits once they stop thinking about what would happen if they fail at something. For instance, it’s easy to cancel your plans last minute a couple of times but as those habits stack up over time, your partner will start feeling that their presence does not matter much and this usually leads to an emotionally abusive relationship.

They think the grass is greener on the other side

Some people always want more, no matter what. Often, it results in their relationships deteriorating because they seek for better things outside even if they already have everything in and around them. Over time, you can develop an attitude of constantly wanting something else or expecting too much from your partner as well and this may cause them to feel less loved by you.

They lose themselves along the way

Sometimes, we forget about our feelings or desires because we let ourselves get carried away with day-to-day chores. This usually happens after long-term relationships where partners start feeling like they cannot do anything without having their significant other around all the time to support them and make everything better. In the end, it’s hard to feel like you have your own identity because the other person starts taking too much control over your life.

They get comfortable with the routine

Some people don’t know how to get out of a rut so they do nothing about it and this results in them feeling stuck with their partner on an emotional level as well. This usually happens when one becomes complacent with the current situation and stops caring about improving things between them. If you let these opportunities for change slip away from you, what would remain is simply a relationship that no longer exists or one that doesn’t have value anymore.

They become toxic themselves

Sometimes people just become emotionally unavailable because of their own issues which stem from past experiences or by being exposed to those experiencing them, for too long. If you surround yourself with destructive people, sooner or later you will start developing a lifestyle based on toxicity which would invariably be unfavourable for everybody around you.

Be mindful, take responsibility and nurture the relationship with your partner by being emotionally available to them and allowing the same for yourself too. Reaffirm commitment, surprise your partner and most importantly, be available for them. (IANS)

Involve Your Kids In Happier Activities To Reduce Screen Time

“I miss the good old busy mornings of packing lunch, braiding my daughter’s hair, nagging my son to be ready on time and dropping them off at the bus stop. What replaces all this is screens. Lunch boxes come in the form of meals served on study tables, staring at gadgets,” says Divya Singh Vishwanath, Lifestyle Blogger and Stylist. But what is the solution? School is online and so are submissions’, extra classes and social activities. This is worrying, but Divya suggests some fun solutions to reduce screen-time:

* Board games: Get a few that interests the kids, as children of all ages enjoy these and there are so many available; something is sure to work. The best is to involve them in choosing. You could teach them a few card games or tricks as well.

* Art: Works great even if neither of you is artistic. You could even make a board game like snakes and ladders and knots and crosses at home. It gets the kids all excited and off the screen. Try paper-mache or pottery or simple paint and paper. Mandala art books are a good idea. Even if nothing comes out of the craft sessions, you and your kids have had a lot of fun and that counts.

* Puzzles: Kids of all ages love puzzles and every possible puzzle is available online.

* Cooking: Making dinner or evening snacks and cleaning up could be a part of family activity. Your meals will be delicious, it’s good bonding time, kids will learn about nutrition, you would have kept them away from screens and the food will finish without a fuss.

* Dancing: How about a little workout before bed? And what better way to do that than a quick dance! It’s fun and good exercise.

* Reading time: Get your kids to read every day. Discussing the story afterwards is super fun. Change a scenario in the book and ask them to add to the story. If not the book, give them any situation and ask them to make a story around it. You will be surprised at the ideas they come up with.

* Make studying fun: With lockdown, life is boring for them as it is. Make studies fun, I taught my kids simple addition and subtraction by playing snakes and ladders. We wrote alphabets on rocks and made words; a box of dice was used to do math sums; word blocks were used to make sentences; a candy for every paragraph written; words followed by a small drawing; a representation of a story/essay through a drawing. It’s tough but you will manage.

* Routine: This is very important for kids and for grownups (of course with some flexibility). In my experience, a set waking up time and sleeping time is a good start.

* Physical Activity: Try making them play a sport every day, be it a trek or a run, a long walk, tennis, badminton, anything that can be arranged. It’s good for their health, their energy gets used up and they sleep well. If nothing is possible, get innovative. Hide the puzzle pieces around the house and ask them to find it and all to be done without pausing. A treasure hunt around the house is a good idea too. So is climbing stairs. Just a few examples.

* Conversation: Talk to them. Share how your day went and ask them to do the same. No bond is built better than by talking and listening. Ask them for their thoughts on certain decisions you need to take. It’s beautiful to hear their views and opinions on things and situation. (IANS)

Family Values, Religious Sanctity Keep Indian Marriages Together’

A strong sense of family values and religious sanctity are two important factors that keep marriages together in an Indian family, says Kiran Chadha, a former bureaucrat, writer, motivational speaker, philanthropist, and adventure lover, who points out that 99 percent of marriages stay alive in India against just 60 percent globally. She also feels that the pandemic and the WFH (work from home) norm can be a blessing in disguise. Because “if everybody learns to share work and accommodate each other”.

Indian Marriages Celebrations“In spite of India’s different regions and religions, there is a common thread in Indian marriages that have kept them intact in spite of the institution being under strain in various parts of the world. To my mind, there are five,” Chadha. The author of the meticulously researched “Magic of Indian Weddings – Timeless Traditions, Sacred Customs” (Rupa), told IANS in an interview. “First is the importance of family life in India. Second is the religious sanctity of marriage ceremonies. Third, are the social compulsions. Fourth is the union of two families of the bride and the groom. Lastly, is the legal aspect of age and progeny.”

“Because of this, the rate of divorce in Indian Marriages is only one percent as compared to the rest of the world. The word divorce has no equivalent in Sanskrit or Hindi. This was unheard of till the Britishers came into India. The global rate of divorce is close to 40 percent, which is astounding. I again point out that families in India play a positive role in the progress of matrimonial lives of their children,” Chadha explained.

The book came about through her fascination for weddings. “I find weddings magical. There is a feeling of overwhelming joy. All wait for the auspicious time of the saat pheres, kanyadan and doli. It was the curiosity to learn, what is it that has held this institution alive for thousands of years. I wanted to know what each custom entails; what do the shlokas mean. Why the mauli? Why the kalash pujan? all in Indian marriages. I often asked the scholars or the learned religious heads to explain. But got information in bits and pieces,” Chadha said. As writing became her calling after she retired from the government, she decided to research about the intricacies of weddings.

“Initially, I had envisaged a treatise on the Hindu weddings. And only later, I expanded the scope of my research to include wedding celebrations all over the country to include Christian, Muslim, Parsi, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and tribal weddings. All covering the traditions and rituals from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from the east to the west. “My endeavor has been to explain to the new generation that marriage is not just the big fat Indian wedding events with more entertainment and less substance. This institution of Indian marriage is a commitment. A lifelong commitment”. “Each ingredient used, from the coconut to the rice flakes to the Mauli, Agni, candles, flowers bear testimony to the rituals while each of these symbolizes a belief, a norm or a practice. In all weddings, both religion and society play an exclusive and inclusive role,” Chadha elaborated.

As the scope of the subject is as large as the scriptures. And books already available, she read many books, searched the libraries. Also went through some of the old scriptures too, though briefly. She read on Hindusim, Catholicism, and Islam apart from available notes on the Indian marriage rituals and superstition. And also in Indian marriage dresses too. These all are in different regions to study the sequences of the ceremonies and get authentic nomenclatures.

She also met religious heads in temples, gurudwaras, churches, and the Arya Samaj. Also met the residents of various states to validate her research. What are the additional precautions marriage couples need to take in these pandemic times with WFH increasingly becoming the norm, schools reopening, and the space for physical social interaction shrinking et al? While this might not be an issue for couples above 50, how do younger couples give each other space?

I discussed this with a few couples. For WFH couples, the lockdown and pandemic have been either a blessing in disguise or a total catastrophe. Space not only in terms of time but space as in the number of rooms a family has played a vital role. All are required to draw on their inner strengths to be accommodating and adjusting. Where there was enough space, couples and children managed well. Others, who had to work in close proximity lost control of their lives,” Chadha said.

“WFH can be a blessing if everybody learns to share work and accommodate each other. This should not mean that you are working all the time since you are at home. Whether they are Indian marriages or others, my advice is to maintain office times, dress up well, take short breaks, close the office (in his case computers) and spend quality time with the family. And also play with kids and yet reserve special private time for your spouse and help each other at home. Those above 50 need to busy themselves with hobbies. So they do not feel left out and yet remain occupied,” she added.

Chadha took up writing a post a personal loss when she decided that she must carry on in life both productively and positively for her children and grandchildren. The tryst started in 2015 and her first work was a coffee table book, “Dalhousie� through my eyes”, a pictorial history of the quaint hill town from where she hails, right from its founding by the British in 1859. The book covers schools, the NGOs, history, the landmarks, the fauna and flora, the hotels and some bungalows of those times. The book was released in 2017 to rave reviews in the electronic and print media and was taken up for a special session in the Khuswant Singh Literary Festival in Kasauli in 2019.

The second work, “Echoes of the Heart� Dil Se” is a poetry book with verses and poems both in English and Hindi. The book has reached some 600 libraries in India for the visually handicapped through the Braille format. “This book is my emotional ode to myself; mostly penned during the lockdown and is not for sale,” Chadha said. With two PhD’s in the subjects of petroleum and iron ore, her quest for knowledge continues in her current role of an author and a poet. During a very successful career in the Indian government spanning 36 years, in different ministries, she traveled extensively to more than 50 countries. She made a mark in Geneva as an excellent orator who spoke on the future of iron ore exports from India. She has written many papers and her exposition on the Second World War was published in 2001.

Awarded the Shresht Putri Award by the Governor of Himachal Pradesh in 2002, Chadha’s love for the Himalayas stems from her childhood as an avid trekker with a group ‘Himtrek’ that has undertaken challenging treks all over the Himalayan range, including Mansarovar & Mount Kailash. She imbibes her values from her alma mater, Sacred Heart Convent, Dalhousie. Her interests include reading, music, knitting, dancing and trekking. Post-retirement, apart from writing, Chadha is also engaged in social and welfare activities and started the NGO ‘Swachh Dalhousie’ in 2014.

What next? What’s her next project?

“Writing keeps me positive, occupied, and productive. My next project is about the friendship during lockdown between a seventeen-year-old girl and a seventy-year-old successful woman. Who mentors who are the theme as it is slowly taking shape in my mind,” Chadha concluded.

Life Begins At 60; No Work, Only Leisure, These Are The Best Years, After All!

With a strong focus on ageing positively, senior citizens want to explore new career avenues, pursue their passions, and at the same time engage in social good more actively. Contrary to widespread belief, today’s senior citizens are far from retirement.

In celebration of World Senior Citizen’s Day (August 21), Columbia Pacific Communities, India’s largest senior living community operator, launched India’s first ever report on the golden agers, The Positive Ageing Report. Supported by extensive desk research, the report, aims to examine traditional notions and understand evolving needs of seniors while giving key insights on the changing aspirations, needs of senior citizens and their view of ageing in the 21st century.

People older than 60 years account for 8 per cent of the Indian population. However, by 2050, the number of elderly will almost double, with over 319 million people aged over 60. This necessitates reimagining of our existing infrastructure and services to support positive ageing and better senior care for the ageing population. In the given scenario, the findings of the Report will help enhance our understanding and drive conversations around what senior citizens feel about ageing and the kind of support they need from society. The Report is based on face-to-face and telephonic interviews conducted by Innovative Research Services (India) Pvt. Ltd.

Some of the key findings from the report are as follows:

* For people over 60, men (31 per cent ) identify themselves with their careers (compared to 19 per cent women), women (30 per cent ) believe their identity comes from their passions and interests (compared to 23 per cent men).

* The proportion of women over 60 (36 per cent ) who spend over four hours daily on social media is greater than millennial and Gen Z men (22 per cent ) and more than double of millennial and Gen Z women (15 per cent).

* More than two out of five respondents over 60 (45 per cent ) agree with the statement — ‘Life begins at 60; no work, only leisure, these are the best years, after all!’

* Nearly a third (31 per cent ) of the respondents believe that it is only after 60 that they would have all the time and the wisdom to achieve their ambitions.

According to Mohit Nirula, CEO, Columbia Pacific Communities, “The philosophy of positive ageing is central to all our efforts at Columbia Pacific Communities. We strive towards creating an ecosystem that fosters a healthy ageing experience for the elderly. Considering several factors of the rapidly transforming world and the significant shift in our population demographic, we wanted to ascertain the future needs of seniors better. “Therefore, we commissioned a survey on positive ageing, examining people across age groups within three broad frameworks — identity, technology and health. The findings of the survey have been eye-opening and have challenged pre-existing notions. The report reveals Indian seniors to be as independent, focused, enterprising and aspirational as any other age group. It is our pleasure to release “:The Positive Ageing Report and we are confident that it will provide key perspectives to policy makers and other stakeholders and help them strengthen their efforts towards the health and well-being of the elderly,” Mohit Nirula said. On the occasion, putting the spotlight on the issue of loneliness among the elderly, Columbia Pacific Communities, launched the initiative #ReplyDon’tReject with the critically acclaimed senior actor, Boman Irani.

The initiative calls out to the younger generations, by offering a unique perspective, and appeals them to avoid treating frequent video, photo, or good morning messages from senior citizens as mere forwards and view the mere act of frequent messaging as the desire to connect and share as well as the struggle to fight their solitude. (IANS)

Life Partner USA Launched in Chicago

Chicago IL: Life Partner USA – A community-based organization dedicated to facilitating meeting of life partners – has been ceremoniously launched in Chicago with the attendance of a host of community and business leaders on July 31, 2021 at Naren Patel Auditorium in the Hillside, IL with the attendance of Chicago’s prominent community and business leaders.

It takes 10 seconds to break someone’s life and takes your entire life to give someone new life. In Indian community any reason a person over 50 years old’s wife expires. He has everything except nobody to talk to. He is feeling too lonely and causes mental health problems such as depression. They get addicted to NARCO (Tylenol 3, Vicodin) alcohol, marijuana, and drugs. In severe cases, they commit suicide. On the other hand, no Indian women get ready after 50 years old. This is a massive growing problem in our society, if you find out from seances bureau numbers are very high for them. To resolve this, we have Life Partner U.S.A.

We are not a marriage bureau or matchmakers, our main goal is bringing two people together, everything will be confidential; nobody will know about you and our Service is Free of cost. This official launch of Life Partner USA was celebrated with a great festivity overwhelmed by an extravagant musical show featuring some of Chicago’s finest vocalists: Bhupinder Singh, Rama Raghu, Jitender Bulsara, Rita Shah and Pratibha Jairath with the masterful orchestration led by Hitesh Master and his troupe.

The event kicked-off with the lamp-lighting ceremony with frontline community leaders. Chicago Alderman David Moore, who served as the chief, guest in his remarks, commended Mr. Suresh Bodiwala for creating an outstanding platform for the people to find life partners who are devoid of them in the life. Alderman David Moore expressed his praise for the Life Partner USA and its mission to help meet soulmates.

Speaking at the ceremony, Founder/President Suresh Bodiwala said he is truly impacted by struggles of life of single/divorced/widowed individuals living without a life partner in abject loneliness silently suffering the pangs of life without companionship.  President Suresh Bodiwala explained in detail the objective of Life Partner USA which he founded and narrated his journey of life.

Presiding over the event, Mr. Suresh Bodiwala expressed his desire to serve the supreme power by assisting mankind and by serving humanity. He has a strong will to live up to his ripe age and use each hour to serve humanity for the remaining 31 years. He is also the founder President / Chairman for Asian Media USA, Asian community USA, Asian cremation USA, Asian Wedding USA, Asian Business USA, Asian Broadcasting USA, Best of Chicago USA, Gandhi Memorial Chicago, Bollywood Ticket and Bollywood Muzik.

The event was supported by some amazing sponsors who were recognized with a plaque for their community service in their respective fields. The Grand Sponsor was Mr. Mafatbhai Patel, Distinguished Community Leadership Award, Mr. Sunil Shah, Distinguished Community Leadership Award, Mr. Iftekhar Shareef, Distinguished Community Leadership Award, Shobhana Kothari, Media Excellence Award were Rita Shah, Distinguished Community Service Excellence Award, Keerthi Kumar Ravoori  with Distinguished Leadership award, Dr. Bhupinder Beri, Community Service Award , Pinky Dinesh Thakkar Community Service Award, Sohan Joshi, Community Service Award, Ketan Shah , Community Service Award, Hasmukh Kothari, Community Service Excellence Award, Hanumanth Reddy, Leadership role in the Indian American community.

The efforts of Life Partner USA are supported by a number of ambassadors representing a variety of communities and language groups. The ambassadors are Hema Shastri, Bharti Desai, Hima Mehta (NJ), Sandhya Bhatt, Mr Kanti N Patel, Farhana Altaf Bukhari, Nita Bodiwala, Vishnu Mahadeshwar, Subhash Mantri, Meena savant, Srinivas Aanaya, Lakshman Swamy, Shirley Kalvakota, Gurmeet Singh Dhalwan, Usha Kamaria, Keerthi Ravoori, and Umira Khan. Noman Khan served as the Emcee for the evening.

Mr. Suresh Bodiwala immigrated to the United States in 1969. He is an academic scholar and worked as a Director of Engineering in Research and Development fields in Aerospace and Nuclear Industries for 36 years winning several distinguished honors and awards. He is married to his childhood sweetheart, Usha, for over 48 wonderful years. “With the blessing of God, we are physically and mentally blessed and are a ‘happy’ family with three talented daughters and four grandchildren”, said Mr Bodiwala while addressing the audience.

Why Food Could Be The Best Medicine Of All

When Tom Shicowich’s toe started feeling numb in 2010, he brushed it off as a temporary ache. At the time, he didn’t have health insurance, so he put off going to the doctor. The toe became infected, and he got so sick that he stayed in bed for two days with what he assumed was the flu. When he finally saw a doctor, the physician immediately sent Shicowich to the emergency room. Several days later, surgeons amputated his toe, and he ended up spending a month in the hospital to recover.

Shicowich lost his toe because of complications of Type 2 diabetes as he struggled to keep his blood sugar under control. He was overweight and on diabetes medications, but his diet of fast food and convenient, frozen processed meals had pushed his disease to life-threatening levels.

After a few more years of trying unsuccessfully to treat Shicowich’s diabetes, his doctor recommended that he try a new program designed to help patients like him. Launched in 2017 by the Geisinger Health System at one of its community hospitals, the Fresh Food Farmacy provides healthy foods—heavy on fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-sodium options—to patients in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, and teaches them how to incorporate those foods into their daily diet. Each week, Shicowich, who lives below the federal poverty line and is food-insecure, picks up recipes and free groceries from the Farmacy’s food bank and has his nutrition questions answered and blood sugar monitored by the dietitians and health care managers assigned to the Farmacy. In the year and a half since he joined the program, Shicowich has lost 60 lb., and his A1C level, a measure of his blood sugar, has dropped from 10.9 to 6.9, which means he still has diabetes but it’s out of the dangerous range. “It’s a major, major difference from where I started from,” he says. “It’s been a life-changing, lifesaving program for me.”

\Geisinger’s program is one of a number of groundbreaking efforts that finally consider food a critical part of a patient’s medical care—and treat food as medicine that can have as much power to heal as drugs. More studies are revealing that people’s health is the sum of much more than the medications they take and the tests they get—health is affected by how much people sleep and exercise, how much stress they’re shouldering and, yes, what they are eating at every meal.

Food is becoming a particular focus of doctors, hospitals, insurers and even employers who are frustrated by the slow progress of drug treatments in reducing food-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and even cancer. They’re also encouraged by the growing body of research that supports the idea that when people eat well, they stay healthier and are more likely to control chronic diseases and perhaps even avoid them altogether. “When you prioritize food and teach people how to prepare healthy meals, lo and behold, it can end up being more impactful than medications themselves,” says Dr. Jaewon Ryu, interim president and CEO of Geisinger. “That’s a big win.”

The problem is that eating healthy isn’t as easy as popping a pill. For some, healthy foods simply aren’t available. And if they are, they aren’t affordable. So more hospitals and physicians are taking action to break down these barriers to improve their patients’ health. In cities where fresh produce is harder to access, hospitals have worked with local grocers to provide discounts on fruits and vegetables when patients provide a “prescription” written by their doctor; the Cleveland Clinic sponsors farmers’ markets where local growers accept food assistance vouchers from federal programs like WIC as well as state-led initiatives. And some doctors at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco hand out recipes instead of (or along with) prescriptions for their patients, pulled from the organization’s Thrive Kitchen, which also provides low-cost monthly cooking classes for members of its health plan. Hospitals and clinics across the country have also visited Geisinger’s program to learn from its success.

But doctors alone can’t accomplish this food transformation. Recognizing that healthier members not only live longer but also avoid expensive visits to the emergency room, insurers are starting to reward healthy eating by covering sessions with nutritionists and dietitians. In February, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts began covering tailored meals from the nonprofit food program Community Servings for its members with congestive heart failure who can’t afford the low-fat, low-sodium meals they need. Early last year, Congress assigned a first ever bipartisan Food Is Medicine working group to explore how government-sponsored food programs could address hunger and also lower burgeoning health care costs borne by Medicare when it comes to complications of chronic diseases. “The idea of food as medicine is not only an idea whose time has come,” says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “It’s an idea that’s absolutely essential to our health care system.”

Ask any doctor how to avoid or mitigate the effects of the leading killers of Americans and you’ll likely hear that eating healthier plays a big role. But knowing intuitively that food can influence health is one thing, and having the science and the confidence to back it up is another. And it’s only relatively recently that doctors have started to bridge this gap.

It’s hard to look at health outcomes like heart disease and cancer that develop over long periods of time and tie them to specific foods in the typical adult’s varied diet. Plus, foods are not like drugs that can be tested in rigorous studies that compare people who eat a cup of blueberries a day, for example, with those who don’t to determine if the fruit can prevent cancers. Foods aren’t as discrete as drugs when it comes to how they act on the body either—they can contain a number of beneficial, and possibly less beneficial, ingredients that work in divergent systems.

Doctors also know that we eat not only to feed our cells but also because of emotions, like feeling happy or sad. “It’s a lot cheaper to put someone on three months of statins [to lower their cholesterol] than to figure out how to get them to eat a healthy diet,” says Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

But drugs are expensive—the average American spends $1,400 a year on medications—and if people can’t afford them, they go without, increasing the likelihood that they’ll develop complications as they progress to severe stages of their illness, which in turn forces them to require more—and costly—health care. What’s more, it’s not as if the medications are cure-alls; while deaths from heart disease are declining, for example, the most recent report from the American Heart Association showed that the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% in 1999–2000 to 37.7% in 2013–2014, and 40% of adults have high total cholesterol.

What people are eating contributes to those stubborn trends, and making nutrition a bigger priority in health care instead of an afterthought may finally start to reverse them. Although there aren’t the same types of rigorous trials proving food’s worth that there are for drugs, the data that do exist, from population-based studies of what people eat, as well as animal and lab studies of specific active ingredients in food, all point in the same direction.

The power of food as medicine gained scientific credibility in 2002, when the U.S. government released results of a study that pitted a diet and exercise program against a drug treatment for Type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program compared people assigned to a diet low in saturated fat, sugar and salt that included lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables with people assigned to take metformin to lower blood sugar. Among people at high risk of developing diabetes, those taking metformin lowered their risk of actually getting diabetes by 31% compared with those taking a placebo, while those who modified their diet and exercised regularly lowered their risk by 58% compared with those who didn’t change their behaviors, a near doubling in risk reduction.

Studies showing that food could treat disease as well soon followed. In 2010, Medicare reimbursed the first lifestyle-based program for treating heart disease, based on decades of work by University of California, San Francisco, heart expert Dr. Dean Ornish. Under his plan, people who had had heart attacks switched to a low-fat diet, exercised regularly, stopped smoking, lowered their stress levels with meditation and strengthened their social connections. In a series of studies, he found that most followers lowered their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and also reversed some of the blockages in their heart arteries, reducing their episodes of angina.

In recent years, other studies have shown similar benefits for healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean diet—which is high in good fats like olive oil and omega-3s, nuts, fruits and vegetables—in preventing repeat events for people who have had a heart attack. “It’s clear that people who are coached on how to eat a Mediterranean diet high in nuts or olive oil get more benefit than we’ve found in similarly conducted trials of statins [to lower cholesterol],” says Rimm. Researchers found similar benefit for people who have not yet had a heart attack but were at higher risk of having one.

Animal studies and analyses of human cells in the lab are also starting to expose why certain foods are associated with lower rates of disease. Researchers are isolating compounds like omega-3s found in fish and polyphenols in apples, for example, that can inhibit cancer tumors’ ability to grow new blood vessels. Nuts and seeds can protect parts of our chromosomes so they can repair damage they encounter more efficiently and help cells stay healthy longer.

If food is indeed medicine, then it’s time to treat it that way. In his upcoming book, Eat to Beat Disease, Dr. William Li, a heart expert, pulled together years of accumulated data and proposes specific doses of foods that can treat diseases ranging from diabetes to breast cancer. Not all doctors agree that the science supports administering food like drugs, but he’s hoping the controversial idea will prompt more researchers to study food in ways as scientifically rigorous as possible and generate stronger data in coming years. “We are far away from prescribing diets categorically to fight disease,” he says. “And we may never get there. But we are looking to fill in the gaps that have long existed in this field with real science. This is the beginning of a better tomorrow.”

And talking about food in terms of doses might push more doctors to put down their prescription pads and start going over grocery lists with their patients instead. So far, the several hundred people like Shicowich who rely on the Fresh Food Farmacy have lowered their risk of serious diabetes complications by 40% and cut hospitalizations by 70% compared with other diabetic people in the area who don’t have access to the program. This year, on the basis of its success so far, the Fresh Food Farmacy is tripling the number of patients it supports.

Shicowich knows firsthand how important that will be for people like him. When he was first diagnosed, he lost weight and controlled his blood sugar, but he found those changes hard to maintain and soon saw his weight balloon and his blood-sugar levels skyrocket. He’s become one of the program’s better-known success stories and now works part time in the produce section of a supermarket and cooks nearly all his meals. He’s expanding his cooking skills to include fish, which he had never tried preparing before. “I know what healthy food looks like, and I know what to do with it now,” he says. “Without this program, and without the support system, I’d probably still be sitting on the couch with a box of Oreos.” (Photographs By Zachary Zavislak)

Weight Gain During Covid-19: The Resulting Sleep Pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and our lives in so many ways, and for so many of us, this time that was largely spent at home staying safe also meant indulging in comfort foods. As a result of this, many Americans have gained weight over the last year. One study of 3,000 Americans done by the American Psychological Association found that 61 percent of respondents had an unwanted weight change during COVID.

The thing is, yes, our bodies may have changed in ways we didn’t want them to, but the most important thing to remember is that our bodies also got us through a global pandemic, and that’s something to be grateful for. But with the new working-from-home lifestyle, elevated stress levels, and gym closures that we all faced during the pandemic, it means that some have put on a few pounds. Other than the extra weight being an annoyance, it can also lead to other lifestyle hiccups, like sleep, for instance. Weight fluctuations, believe it or not, can affect your sleep hygiene, so it’s important to understand how weight, stress, and sleep go hand in hand (in hand), so you can make sure you’re still getting enough sleep at night, even with a change in lifestyle and health.

If you’ve found that you’ve recently experienced a change in weight and your sleep has been affected as a result of it (or if you just want some assistance in finding better sleep), we’ve put together a guide on understanding your new body and how it can affect the rest of your lifestyle.

The Pandemic’s Negative Effects on Weight Gain and Healthy Sleep

The COVID-19 pandemic, to put it simply, has been awful. Not only has it had a huge, negative impact on the world as a whole, but it’s been incredibly stressful (and dangerous) for people everywhere. This stress over the past year has had a direct result on your sleep, whether you’ve realized it or not. Dubbed “coronasomnia,” this COVID-related sleeplessness has been difficult to battle, but stress is only one factor here.

Stress is actually related to why so many people have gained weight over the last year, along with lack of activity. While we were all playing it safe by staying home to avoid getting sick, many of us were also not moving very much. Suddenly many people are working from home and falling into a totally different lifestyle from what they were used to.

The APA survey found that the average amount of weight gain over the last year was 29 pounds, but answers varied greatly. The survey also asked about how the pandemic affected mental health, and many said they felt a negative impact. When your mental health suffers, so much can go right along with it, including your physical health. During this time, when there was so much uncertainty, many found comfort in things like food or curling up on the couch with Netflix. While those might provide immediate comfort, it also leads to weight gain, which can have further negative effects on your body.

Other pandemic habits that could have negatively affected your weight include:

Your work-from-home lifestyle: Working from home means you aren’t getting any movement you might have gotten from a commute. Even if you drive to and from work, you aren’t getting up in the morning and doing a morning routine, walking to your car, walking into work, and reversing it at the end of the day. A WFH lifestyle has been appealing for many because you got time back in your day, but it also meant less activity.

Being stuck indoors: For many people, their activity was an outdoor thing. For much of the last year, we’ve been staying indoors, which cut out outdoor activities that increased exercise. As the virus started to wane, people were able to get outside more and more, but that was only after several months of staying inside. The benefits of being outdoors are not only great for physical health but mental health, as well.

Gym closures: Gyms and fitness centers were closed for a long time, and if that was your only way of working out, you might have lost out on your exercise time. Not everyone has the space or means to work out at home, so maybe you took a break from calorie-burning. That’s okay!

Many things could have gone into your weight gain over the past year, and, again, the most important thing to remember right now is that you’re here, you’ve made it through this pandemic, and you want to live a healthy lifestyle, and that means making sure you’re paying attention to your sleep hygiene, even with a little bit of extra weight on you. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered on everything you need to know.

How Weight Gain Can Impact Your Ability to Sleep

An unfortunate side effect of gaining weight is disrupted sleep. It can happen for a variety of reasons, but many of these factors can be tied back to a change in your weight. Just like other factors in your life can affect how you sleep at night, a change in your body in any form definitely can. Here’s a look at how weight affects your sleep hygiene.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is what occurs when you momentarily stop breathing while you’re asleep. Studies have shown that sleep apnea can occur for a number of reasons, one of which is an elevated weight. If you’re an older man, you’re also at a higher risk for sleep apnea, and weight gain can only make you more at risk for this sleep disorder. Sleep apnea can be very dangerous if left untreated, so if you have any suspicion that you’re dealing with this (snoring, insomnia, and morning headaches are all symptoms), check with your doctor for treatment.

Discomfort while sleeping

If you’ve put on a significant amount of weight, you might feel uncomfortable while sleeping. This can be from added strain on your body from the extra weight. Your joints probably aren’t used to some extra weight on them, and that can make you uncomfortable while you’re sleeping. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t sleep well. One way to combat this is with a more comfortable sleeping environment, like with a better mattress and supportive pillows.

Added stress

This is a vicious cycle. The pandemic has certainly added stress to your life, which may have contributed to your weight gain, and the stress and weight gain can make it more difficult to sleep at night. Without a good night of sleep, you’re more likely to make poor food choices during the day and be more stressed because you’re tired, continuing the cycle. Stress wreaks so much havoc on your sleep patterns, so it’s important to do whatever you can to cut back on stress in the way that works best for you.

A way to target all of these sleep issues is, of course, to work toward a healthy weight goal, but we know that’s easier said than done and not necessarily a priority for everyone. Studies have shown that a decrease in belly fat is linked to better sleep, but it’s virtually impossible to target belly fat when working out or eating healthy. While you can tone certain muscles with weight lifting, you can’t reduce fat on your body. So if you want to reduce belly fat, you simply have to eat healthily and exercise — the fat will come off everywhere, including your belly.

Your weight also factors into your Body Mass Index (BMI), and while this metric is often viewed as wildly outdated and irrelevant, studies have analyzed how it equates to sleep patterns. One study showed that people who had a lower BMI slept longer hours than those with a higher BMI. A healthy BMI range is considered to be about 18.5 to 25. While it can be a goal to aim for what is considered a healthy BMI on the scale, your better bet is to either consult your own healthcare provider on what a healthy weight is for you or simply work toward a level of health that is attainable and maintainable.

Tips for Achieving Better Sleep

No matter what your concern, there are always ways to improve your sleeping habits. It may take some trial and error to figure out what tips will work for you, but good sleep is worth the effort. Here are a few things you can try.

Set a consistent bedtime

This is one of the best things you can do to improve sleep. Create a routine for yourself that starts with bedtime preparation. Maybe it includes a warm bath, and maybe it includes reading a few pages, maybe it includes listening to some music. All of these can help you wind down, but whatever you have to do, make sure you’re climbing into bed around the same time every night. Ideally, you want to get in bed in enough time for a complete night of sleep (depending on age, this could vary from seven to 10 hours for people over the age of 13).

Consider what time you need to wake up in the morning and work your way back from there to set your bedtime, and stick to that. This routine will help get your body in the mode for bedtime on a regular basis.

Avoid snacking before bed

While some foods can help you sleep, eating the wrong foods before bed is more of a bad idea than a good one. Some foods can lead to indigestion or prolonged wakefulness. If you’re very hungry and it’s nearing bedtime, reach for foods with natural melatonin or things that will sit well in your stomach as you’re falling asleep.

Create a den of comfort

If your bed isn’t comfortable, you won’t sleep well, plain and simple. Make sure you have a mattress that’s appropriate for your sleeping style, as well as any bells and whistles you might need. These could be mattress toppers for more comfort, pillows that better support your neck, or even an adjustable bed base to elevate you. Though these changes in your bed can come with a price tag, there are plenty of affordable options for mattresses, pillows, and accessories. For the best sleep, it’s important to create a comfortable and supportive sleeping environment.

If your weight has changed, it might make your mattress feel completely different than it used to. Different mattress constructions will hold your weight differently, and if you’re heavier, you’ll sink into the mattress more. On some mattresses, that means you have less support than you once did.

It’s important to consider your weight when shopping for a mattress and understanding how different mattresses feel for different body types. Someone who is incredibly petite will have a different sleeping experience than someone who is of average weight. If you’re on the heavier side, you want to find a mattress that will support you for a long period of time and not break down or start to sag. There are mattresses on the market designed for people of larger stature so you can be sure you’re getting a supportive night of quality sleep. In general, these mattresses are hybrids made with coils or innersprings. Foam mattresses don’t provide proper support for larger people, which is why looking for a mattress with a spring or coil core is a better option.

If you’re struggling with sleep and think changing your mattress could help, it’s worth looking into a properly supportive mattress for your sleeping style or even your weight.

Consider the season

The time of year can absolutely affect how well you sleep. If it’s cold season, that can make it harder to breathe or sleep comfortably during the night. If it’s allergy season, you might also have a hard time breathing at night. While it can be tricky to really do much about something like a cold or allergies, it’s worth keeping them in mind if insomnia is knocking at your door. Do what you can to remedy any of these seasonal annoyances, like by using a humidifier or dehumidifier (depending on your concern) while you sleep or adding some melatonin into your bedtime routine to make sleeping easier.


Yes, exercise will definitely help you sleep. You can look at it in a few different ways. One, exercise can be a great stress relief, and less stress usually means better sleep. Exercise also, quite simply, makes you tired. (Though you don’t want to exercise right before bed because your body doesn’t have enough time to cool down and head into the proper circadian rhythm.) Exercising during the day raises your heart rate and encourages the release of melatonin into the body, keeping your circadian rhythm running smoothly — which all contribute to a restful night of sleep.

And of course, we know exercise is a great way to burn off some calories, which can be helpful if you’re carrying a little extra weight that you don’t want. It doesn’t take much to get your heart rate up and break a sweat. Even a simple walk each day is beneficial for all these factors that contribute to better sleep.

Cut the screens

Ditch your phones, TVs, and tablets before bedtime. Though it’s not a big deal to use your gadgets earlier in the evening, once you get in bed, you should put them away or turn them off. The harsh light makes it harder to sleep, and we all know how addicting it can be to continuously scroll through social media. Put them away when you get in bed and reset your mind for sleep instead.


The most important thing you can remember from all of this is that your body got you through a pandemic. So maybe it looks a little different today than it did a year ago. Bodies change all the time, and you have to give yourself a little bit of grace. Though weight fluctuations can affect your lifestyle, including your sleep hygiene, it’s a manageable concern that you can definitely get through. You’re still here, and you’re open to finding ways to make changes. That’s what matters.

Sunday Mass: Obligation Or Opportunity?

When I was a boy in the United States, pillows, mattresses, upholstered furniture and other stuffed items (but not teddy bears) came with a tag on them that said, “Do not remove this tag under penalty of law.”

The closest I ever came to a life of crime was at about age nine when I pulled the tag off my pillow. I was pretty sure government agents would not raid my bedroom, but it felt deliciously wicked to run the risk.

Since it did not fall under the “I disobeyed my parents and fought with my siblings” script of kids’ confessions, I never brought it up in confession. (What does an orphaned only child confess?)

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Decades later, the tags were reworded to make it clear that the sanction, meant to guarantee the safety of the filling, was on producers and retailers, not consumers who could legally remove the tags. So, my life of crime was not criminal after all.

I recall those tags as I hear of announcements that the “dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass in person” in effect during the pandemic will be lifted and the “obligation” reinstated. “Do not miss Sunday Mass under penalty of law.”

We can be confident that anyone who violates the “obligation” is no more likely to find a halberd-bearing Swiss Guard at their door than I was to find an FBI agent under my bed.

While not so good as in-person celebrations of the liturgy, in a sad number of cases it may be better than what is on offer at local churches

Researchers in the United States found that before the pandemic more than one-quarter of Catholics who went to Mass on Sunday did so out of habit. In some, maybe most, cases, what lay behind the habit was a sense of being under an obligation to attend.

Though the statistics may vary in other countries, the situation is probably not very different.

Now that people have formed a new habit of not going to church on Sunday, how likely are they to revert to their old habit?

Will reinstating an “obligation” be effective at helping people reactivate that old habit? Even from a marketing point of view, it is likely to provoke resistance, liturgical tag tearing.

Instead of emphasizing obligation, why don’t bishops emphasize opportunity?

“After more than a year and a half of being unable to come together in worship, we now have the opportunity to do so again!” is more attractive than, “Your dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is hereby cancelled.”

Of course, if people’s pre-pandemic experience was of uninspiring preaching that insulted the spirits and intelligence of its victims, sloppy liturgy and a crowd rather than a community, no amount of enthusiastic sales pitches will bring them back.

Something else may complicate drawing people back into church buildings. Those with internet access and an interest in maintaining whatever liturgical connection they could during pandemic shutdowns have had almost two years to shop around among streamed offerings. They have found preaching, music and a liturgical style that helps their religious life.

While not so good as in-person celebrations of the liturgy, in a sad number of cases it may be better than what is on offer at local churches. Given the choice between un-involving in-person liturgy and moderately involving remote liturgy, people may opt for virtual participation, even if that precludes receiving the Eucharist.

Perhaps that is the reason for emphasizing reinstatement of an obligation. Since so much of people’s Sunday experience has been uninspiring or even repelling, and since many have found more satisfactory alternatives including total non-engagement, bishops feel they must resort to probably futile coercion.

In preparation for the reopening of churches, bishops have an opportunity to raise the quality of liturgical service

What might bishops do instead? Or better, what have we a right to expect from them?

A bishop is responsible for the liturgy in the diocese. For the most part, they seem satisfied so long as there are no egregious violations of rubrics. We rarely hear of a bishop taking action because a preacher is unprofessional or because the liturgy is sloppily performed.

For the most part, so long as the rules are more or less followed, bishops seldom concern themselves with what is actually the core of liturgical worship, bringing the People of God together in the Spirit to offer fitting worship to the Father through the Son.

In preparation for the reopening of churches, bishops have an opportunity to raise the quality of liturgical service. Workshops for clergy on preaching and liturgy can be done remotely while waiting for the resumption of normal activities.

Other professionals are expected and required to engage in updating and continuing education. Why not liturgical ministers?

I served in an area where pastors agreed to videotape our Sunday Masses and then sit on uncomfortable chairs to experience what our parishioners saw and heard. (And felt — are pews designed to keep congregations from falling asleep?) Even that simple exercise made a difference.

If people know that the pandemic period was used to prepare an opportunity for their better return to liturgy, they will be more likely to return. Or at least “check it out.”

Otherwise, we may see Mass attendance go the way of my pillow tag.

William Grimm is a missioner and presbyter in Tokyo and is the publisher of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

Alcohol Consumption Positively Correlates With Cancer Risks

Alcohol use in today’s society  is exceedingly widespread, taking place not only in bars but also in school dorms, households, and a variety of other locations. With alcohol being such a popular means of socializing, people often disregard the dangers that are associated with drinking.

According to a study published in Lancet Oncology, “fewer than one in three Americans recognize alcohol as a cause of cancer”. Harriet Rumgay, a researcher at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, continues, stating that this belief is “similar in other high-income countries, and it’s probably even lower in other parts of the world”.

This assumption was proven false by the study that found that at least 4% of esophageal, mouth, larynx, colon, rectum, liver, and breast cancers diagnosed globally in 2020, which accounted for more than 740,000 people, can be traced back to alcohol consumption. Out of the 740,000 alcohol-related cancer cases diagnosed, men accounted for three-quarters, while the majority of the remaining 172,600 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2019, more than 44,000 people in the U.S. died of alcoholic liver disease, proving the conclusion that alcohol consumption can be lethal if not monitored.

While most people believe that drinking in moderation would not drastically damage their health, researchers found that the amount of alcohol consumed positively correlates with an individual’s cancer risk. Moderate drinking consists of one or two alcoholic drinks per day, which may not seem like a great deal, however, this lifestyle accounted for approximately 14% of alcohol-related cancers.


Cancers develop when there is unregulated cell division causing abnormal growth of tissue, resulting in tumors. Alcohol can induce this irregular growth by increasing hormone levels, such as estrogen, which leads to increased cell division and thereby providing more opportunities for cancers to develop. Alcohol also contains ethanol, an organic compound, which gets broken down into acetaldehyde, a toxic molecule that is known to damage DNA and interferes with cells’ ability to repair the damage.

What seems to be the “responsible” amount of alcohol consumption may actually be an agent for biological damage. Even the concerning evidence presented in the study, which links alcohol to cancer, is considered to be an underestimate. “That’s because we didn’t include former drinkers in our main analysis, even though they may have an increased risk of cancer,” as stated by Rumgay.

Since people don’t recognize alcohol as a potentially harmful substance that can be abused, it opens up more health complications that could have been avoided with the right guidance. Doctors like Amy Justice, a professor of medicine and public health at Yale University, are making an effort to reduce the number of alcohol-related cancers by giving brief motivational information and consultations.

In the future, encouraging health care providers to talk with patients about alcohol use hopefully may reduce the number of alcohol-related cancer cases.

Americans With Higher Net Worth At Midlife Tend To Live Longer

Newswise — EVANSTON, Ill., — One of the keys to a long life may lie in your net worth. In the first wealth and longevity study to incorporate siblings and twin pair data, researchers from Northwestern University analyzed the midlife net worth of adults (mean age 46.7 years) and their mortality rates 24 years later. They discovered those with greater wealth at midlife tended to live longer.

The researchers used data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) project, a longitudinal study on aging. Using data from the first collection wave in 1994-1996 through a censor date of 2018, the researchers used survival models to analyze the association between net worth and longevity. To tease apart factors of genetics and wealth, the full sample was segmented into subsets of siblings and twins. In the full sample of 5,400 adults, higher net worth was associated with lower mortality risk. Within the data set of siblings and twin pairs (n=2,490), they discovered a similar association with a tendency for the sibling or twin with more wealth to live longer than their co-sibling/twin with less. This finding suggests the wealth-longevity connection may be causal, and isn’t simply a reflection of heritable traits or early experiences that cluster in families.

“The within-family association provides strong evidence that an association between wealth accumulation and life expectancy exists, because comparing siblings within the same family to each other controls for all of the life experience and biology that they share,” said corresponding author Eric Finegood, a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern. The researchers also considered the possibility that previous health conditions, such as heart disease or cancer, could impact an individual’s ability to accrue wealth due to activity limitations or healthcare costs — possibly confounding any association between wealth and longevity. To address this, they re-analyzed the data using only individuals without cancer or heart disease. However, even within this sub-group of healthy individuals, the within-family association between wealth and longevity remained.

The study’s senior author is Greg Miller, the Louis W. Menk Professor of Psychology and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern. Co-authors of the study include other Northwestern faculty and trainees (Edith Chen, Daniel Mroczek, Alexa Freedman) as well as researchers from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; West Virginia University; Purdue University; and the University of Minnesota. “Far too many American families are living paycheck to paycheck with little to no financial savings to draw on in times of need, said Miller. “At the same time, wealth inequality has skyrocketed. Our results suggest that building wealth is important for health at the individual level, even after accounting for where one starts out in life. So, from a public health perspective, policies that support and protect individuals’ ability to achieve financial security are needed.”

Studies Examine Different Understandings, Varieties Of Diversity

Newswise — Attitudes toward diversity vary, and its meaning can often be difficult to find consensus about in an increasingly diverse but politically polarized nation such as the United States. In a report published by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, University of Illinois Chicago researchers detail findings from three studies that explore the connection between political ideology, attitudes, and beliefs toward diversity.

“Our studies explored the possibility that atti­tudes toward ‘diversity’ are multidimensional rather than unidimensional and that ideological differences in diversity attitudes vary as a function of diversity subtype,” said the report’s lead author Kathryn Howard, UIC doctoral candidate in psychology. The first study investigated ideological differences in attitudes towards a wide variety of diversity features. Participants rated how much diversity or homogeneity they would desire in 23 different community features that could be considered relevant to diversity.

The study found more conservative participants preferred viewpoint diversity and more liberal participants preferred demographic diversity. The second study assessed participants’ attitudes towards the general concept of diversity without providing a definition of the term.  By investigating whether general attitudes towards diversity actually predict how people feel about specific types of diversity, the findings suggest that demographic features may be central to peoples’ prototypes of diversity and that positive attitudes towards the general concept of diversity predicted demographic diversity preferences for both conservatives and liberals.

According to the researchers, “liberals were more likely than conservatives to endorse the general concept of diversity. Further, general diversity did not predict viewpoint diversity, but did significantly predict demographic diversity preferences. Thus, it may be that when people think of diversity in the abstract, people primarily imagine differences in ethnic and cultural groups, and do not necessarily consider diversity in attitudes.” Because the first two studies found that diversity is multidimensional and contains at least two distinct factors — viewpoint and demographic diversity — the third study aimed to investigate possible variations in the perceived meaning of “diversity” by asking participants to judge the relevance of a set of features to diversity.

Respondents were asked to imagine “a very diverse community,” and to think about “the types of people and places that exist in a very diverse community.” They also had to determine how relevant 29 different community features were to their image of a diverse community. “People do not perceive diversity as a unidimensional or even bi-dimensional construct, but rather likely perceive at least three categories of diversity. Further, people rated demographic features as most relevant to diversity, followed by viewpoint and consumer features. Lastly, conservatives rated viewpoint features as more relevant to diversity than liberals, and liberals rated demographic features as more relevant to diversity than conservatives,” the report states.

“Conservatives and liberals do not differ only in their attitudes toward diversity, but they also differ in their understanding of what ‘diversity’ means.  When asked to think about ‘diversity,’ liberals and conservatives think about different things; different aspects of social life come to mind,” Howard said. The divergent political and social media realms where liberals and conservatives are centered, combined with increased political and affective polarization, likely accounts for the difference of perspective on both sides, according to the researchers, who add that the results provide hope for bridging the liberal-conservative political divide.

“Once you recognize that existence of multiple components of ‘diversity,’ it opens the door to identifying some aspects of diversity on which liberals and conservatives agree,” said Daniel Cervone, UIC professor of psychology and study co-author. “Breaking the concept of ‘diversity’ into parts and identifying those parts on which people agree could be one small step toward reducing political polarization.” (Matt Motyl of Facebook is a co-author on the report.)

How Your Personal Data Is Being Scraped From Social Media

How much personal information do you share on your social media profile pages?Name, location, age, job role, marital status, headshot? The amount of information people are comfortable with posting online varies. But most people accept that whatever we put on our public profile page is out in the public domain.So, how would you feel if all your information was catalogued by a hacker and put into a monster spreadsheet with millions of entries, to be sold online to the highest paying cyber-criminal? That’s what a hacker calling himself Tom Liner did last month “for fun” when he compiled a database of 700 million LinkedIn users from all over the world, which he is selling for around $5,000 (£3,600; €4,200).

The incident, and other similar cases of social media scraping, have sparked a fierce debate about whether or not the basic personal information we share publicly on our profiles should be better protected. In the case of Mr Liner, his latest exploit was announced at 08:57 BST in a post on a notorious hacking forum. It was a strangely civilized hour for hackers, but of course we have no idea which time zone, the hacker who calls himself Tom Liner, lives in.”Hi, I have 700 million 2021 LinkedIn records”, he wrote.

Included in the post was a link to a sample of a million records and an invite for other hackers to contact him privately and make him offers for his database. Understandably the sale caused a stir in the hacking world and Tom tells me he is selling his haul to “multiple” happy customers for around $5,000 (£3,600; €4,200).He won’t say who his customers are, or why they would want this information, but he says the data is likely being used for further malicious hacking campaigns. The news has also set the cyber-security and privacy world alight with arguments about whether or not we should be worried about this growing trend of mega scrapes.

What’s important to understand here is that these databases aren’t being created by breaking into the servers or websites of social networks.They are largely constructed by scraping the public-facing surface of platforms using automatic programs to take whatever information is freely available about users. In theory, most of the data being compiled could be found by simply picking through individual social media profile pages one-by-one. Although of course it would take multiple lifetimes to gather as much data together, as the hackers are able to do. So far this year, there have been at least three other major “scraping” incidents. In April, a hacker sold another database of around 500 million records scraped from LinkedIn.In the same week another hacker posted a database of scraped information from 1.3 million Clubhouse profiles on a forum for free.

Also in April, 533 million Facebook user details were compiled from a mixture of old and new scraping before being given away on a hacking forum with a request for donations.The hacker who says he is responsible for that Facebook database, calls himself Tom Liner. I spoke with Tom over three weeks on Telegram messages, a cloud-based instant messenger app. Some messages and even missed calls were made in the middle of the night, and others during working hours so there was no clue as to his location. The only clues to his normal life were when he said he couldn’t talk on the phone as his wife was sleeping and that he had a daytime job and hacking was his “hobby”.Tom told me he created the 700 million LinkedIn database using “almost the exact same technique” that he used to create the Facebook list. He said: “It took me several months to do. It was very complex. I had to hack the API of LinkedIn. If you do too many requests for user data in one time then the system will permanently ban you.”

API stands for application programming interface and most social networks sell API partnerships, which enable other companies to access their data, perhaps for marketing purposes or for building apps.Tom says he found a way to trick the LinkedIn API software into giving him the huge tranche of records without setting off alarms. Privacy Shark, which first discovered the sale of the database, examined the free sample and found it included full names, email addresses, gender, phone numbers and industry information. LinkedIn insists that Tom Liner did not use their API but confirmed that the dataset “includes information scraped from LinkedIn, as well as information obtained from other sources”. It adds: “This was not a LinkedIn data breach and no private LinkedIn member data was exposed. Scraping data from LinkedIn is a violation of our Terms of Service and we are constantly working to ensure our members’ privacy is protected.”

In response to its April data scare Facebook also brushed off the incident as an old scrape. The press office team even accidentally revealed to a reporter that their strategy is to “frame data scraping as a broad industry issue and normalise the fact that this activity happens regularly”. However, the fact that hackers are making money from these databases is worrying some experts on cyber security.The chief executive and founder of SOS Intelligence, a company which provides firms with threat intelligence, Amir Hadžipašić, sweeps hacker forums on the dark web day and night. As soon as news of the 700 million LinkedIn database spread he and his team began analyzing the data.

MrHadžipašić says the details in this, and other mass-scraping events, are not what most people would expect to be available in the public domain. He thinks API programmes, which give more information about users than the general public can see, should be more tightly controlled. “Large-scale leaks like this are concerning, given the intricate detail, in some cases, of this information – such as geographic locations or private mobile and email addresses. “To most people it will come as a surprise that there’s so much information held by these API enrichment services. This information in the wrong hands could be significantly impacting for some,” he said.Tom Liner says he knows his database is likely to be used for malicious attacks. He says it does “bother him” but would not say why he still continues to carry out scraping operations.

MrHadžipašić, who is based in southern England, says hackers who are buying the LinkedIn data could use it to launch targeted hacking campaigns on high-level targets, like company bosses for example. He also said there is value in the sheer number of active emails in the database that can be used to send out mass email phishing campaigns. ‘No ambiguity’ But cyber-security expert Troy Hunt, who spends most of his working life poring over the contents of hacked databases for his website, is less concerned about the recent scraping incidents and says we need to accept them as part of our public profile-sharing.

“These are definitely not breaches, there’s no ambiguity here. Most of this data is public anyway.The question to ask, in each case though, is how much of this information is by user choice publicly accessible and how much is not expected to be publicly accessible.” Troy agrees with Amir that controls on social network’s API programmes need to be improved and says we can’t brush off these incidents. “I don’t disagree with the stance of Facebook and others but I feel that the response of ‘this isn’t a problem’ is, whilst possibly technically accurate, missing the sentiment of how valuable this user data is and their perhaps downplaying their own roles in the creation of these databases.”

Mr Liner’s actions would be likely to get him sued by social networks for intellectual property theft or copyright infringement. He probably wouldn’t face the full force of the law for his actions if he were ever found but, when asked if he was worried about getting arrested he said “no, anyone can’t find me” and ended our conversation by saying “have a nice time”.

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