A new study found that high school students aren’t getting enough produce.
Nearly eight years ago, the fitness trainer Chris Jordan published a simple sequence of 12 exercises in a medical journal.
It was notable because it combined aerobic and resistance training into a single bout of exercise that lasted just seven minutes. “As body weight provides the only form of resistance, the program can be done anywhere,” wrote Mr. Jordan, who has a master’s degree in exercise physiology from Leeds Metropolitan University (now known as Leeds Beckett University) and has provided fitness advice to both the British Army and the United States Air Force.
After The New York Times Magazine wrote about the research, under the headline “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout,” the exercise routine became nothing less than a global phenomenon. Dozens of exercise videos and apps followed.
The original seven-minute workout was based on a training program that Mr. Jordan had developed while working as a civilian fitness program consultant for U.S. Air Force personnel stationed in Europe. Later, while training executives at what is now the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla., he fine-tuned the exercises into what he called a “hotel room workout” for the busy executives who complained they didn’t have the time or equipment to exercise while traveling.
Mr. Jordan, who is the director of exercise physiology at the institute, said he has never made money on the workout and insisted that the Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout app be free of charge. “Many people cannot afford to buy a dumbbell or go to a gym,” Mr. Jordan said. “As time goes by, I’ve felt a greater desire and passion around making exercise as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.”
Mr. Jordan created several variations to the workout, so it could be useful to both “my triathlete elder brother and my 82-year-old mother.” But as popular as the workout became, a number of people, particularly those who are overweight, older or have knee and hip problems, found it too difficult to complete. Among the biggest obstacles for some people were five exercises that require getting on the floor — push-ups, planks, abdominal crunches, side planks and a tricky push-up with rotation.
To make the workout accessible to more people, Mr. Jordan recently created the Standing 7-Minute Workout, suited to bodies of any age, size or fitness level. Like the original workout, the standing workout includes exercises for cardio fitness, the lower body, the upper body and the core muscles — in that order. Each exercise lasts just 30 seconds with just five seconds of rest in between. (You can find a video of the workout at nytimes.com/well.) To get the most out of the workout, do each exercise at a relatively high intensity — about a 7 or 8 or on a scale of 1 to 10. But go at your own pace, and stop if you hurt. Always see a doctor before starting a new exercise program.
(30 sec.) March in place: The goal is to get your heart rate up. Raise your knees and pump your arms. Pick up the pace if you can.
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Chair-assist squat: Stand with your back to the chair. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Now squat by bending your knees and lowering yourself toward the chair and back up. (Don’t sit down!) Keep your arms outstretched to counterbalance you. If you can’t go into a deep squat, just go halfway. (The chair is there for safety in case you lose your balance.)
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Wall push-up: Place your hands against the wall and walk your feet back so you’re leaning at a comfortable angle. Keep your body straight from head to heel, and lower yourself toward the wall and push up against it. If it’s too hard, scoot your feet closer to the wall. If it’s too easy, move your feet farther from the wall.
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Standing bicycle crunch: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands behind your head, elbows out. Lift your right knee and twist to meet it with your left elbow. Now do the opposite — touching your right elbow to your raised knee on the left. As you twist your upper body, crunch the abs. If you can’t touch your knee with your opposite elbow just get as close as you can, bringing the upper body toward the lower body.
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Stand and box. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Now raise your fists and punch and jab the air like a boxer. The goal here is to get your heart rate up. Punch a bit faster and add a squat if you’d like to make it harder.
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Chair-assist split squat: Stand next to the chair with one leg forward and one leg back. Drop the back leg to the ground and use the chair for balance if you need it. Keep the front knee behind your toes. Switch legs after 15 seconds.
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Chair-assist push-up: Place hands on the chair and walk your feet back so your body is at a 45-degree angle and straight head to heel. Bend your arms and lower yourself as close to the chair as you can. Push back up to the starting position. If it’s too hard, go back to the wall push-up.
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Wall plank: Place your forearms against the wall to take the pressure off your wrists. Walk your feet back to a comfortable angle. Keep your body straight from head to heel, hold the position and feel your abs work. To make it harder, scoot your feet back further from the wall.
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Stepping jacks: This is a jumping jack in slow motion — without the jump! Start from a standing position with your arms at your sides. Step to the left and lift both of your arms over your head to touch. Return to starting position. Now repeat, stepping to the right. If it’s too easy, pick up the pace or try a regular jumping jack.
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Wall sit: Place your back flat against the wall and slide down into a sitting position with your knees directly above your ankles. Fold your arms. If it’s too difficult, just slide up a little bit. If it’s too easy, lower yourself. You should feel the muscles in your upper legs working hard.
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Wall push-up: Repeat the wall push-up, or if you prefer, you can repeat the chair push-up. You should feel the arms, shoulders and chest working hard as you push away and lower yourself back toward the wall. Keep breathing!
(5 sec.) Rest.
(30 sec.) Standing side crunch: Places your hands behind your head. Now lean to the right, raising your right knee to touch your right elbow. Now lean to the left and repeat, stretching to bring your left elbow to your raised left knee. You’ll feel this exercise in your side abdominal muscles.
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Many of us who watched the inauguration this week were delighted by the fashion on display — the colorful matching coat and mask ensembles worn by the first lady, Jill Biden, and the Biden granddaughters, the power purple worn by Vice President Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, and of course, Senator Bernie Sanders’s delightful mittens made of recycled wool sweaters.
But the fashion trend that most excited me was the double mask! Double-masking is a sensible and easy way to lower your risk, especially if circumstances require you to spend more time around others — like in a taxi, on a train or plane, or at an inauguration. Pete Buttigieg, the former presidential candidate and now the nominee for secretary of transportation, was spotted double-masking. It appears he was wearing a high-quality medical mask underneath a black cloth mask. His husband, Chasten, was sporting a similar double-masked look, but with a fashionable plaid cloth mask that coordinated with his winter scarf.
We should all be thinking about the quality of our masks right now. New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge, and one in particular is cause for pressing concern in the United States because it’s so contagious and spreading fast. I wrote about the steps you can take to better protect yourself.
The bottom line is that you should keep taking the same pandemic precautions you always have, but do a little better. The new variant spreading in the United States appears to latch onto our cells more efficiently. (You can find a detailed look inside the variant here.) The mutation in the virus may mean it could take less virus and less time in the same room with an infected person for someone to become ill. People infected with the variant may also shed larger quantities of virus, which increases the risk to people around them.
That’s why the quality of your mask is more important than ever. You can read about the latest research urging a well-fitted two- or three-layer mask. Or you can keep the masks you’ve been using and just double-mask when you go to the store or find yourself spending time with people from outside your household. You can read more about double-masking here.
One big advantage of double-masking that I’ve found is that it creates a better fit and closes the gaps around the edge of your mask. I like layering my masks. When I walk the dog or exercise outdoors, I wear a regular mask to comply with area mask rules. When I want more protection for short errands, I wear a better mask. When I’m in a taxi or on a train, I double-mask.
I’ve just bought a new set of masks called KF94s that I really like. They fit well, have added flaps to close gaps around the face and include a moldable band to tighten the fit around the bridge of the nose. Now I wear a KF94, a type of mask made in South Korea that can be purchased easily online, covered by a cloth mask. I recently learned about the KF94 from Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Jha notes that the gold-standard N95 masks are still hard to find, and we should save them for health workers. The KF94 mask resembles an N95, with some differences. It’s made of a similar nonwoven material that blocks 94 percent of the hardest-to-trap viral particles. But the KF94 has ear loops, instead of elastic head bands, so it won’t fit as snugly as an N95 — although double-masking can help close any gaps.
The KF94 is also disposable — you can buy a pack of 20 for about $40 on Amazon. While you can let a KF94 mask air dry and reuse it several times, it can’t be laundered and won’t last as long as a cloth mask. One solution is to save your KF94 mask for higher-risk situations — like riding a subway, spending time in a store or going to a doctor’s appointment.
And speaking of masks: If you, like me, shouted at your television when you saw Chief Justice John Roberts’s mask slipping below his nose at the inauguration, then you’ll enjoy this story from my colleague James Gorman on the Science desk: Is Mask-Slipping the New Manspreading?
Distractions: The nation was captivated this week by Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, who read “The Hill We Climb.” You can watch the video of her appearance and learn more about the back story in “Amanda Gorman Captures the Moment, in Verse.” The Times wrote about Ms. Gorman in 2017 when she was named “America’s First Youth Poet Laureate.” But the best interview with Ms. Gorman was with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in the hours after the inauguration. It’s an eight-minute chat about the research she did before writing the poem, the mantra she says to herself before every reading and how Twitter, the musical “Hamilton” and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol all influenced the final work. Watch the full interview here, which left Mr. Cooper at a loss for words, other than to tell the young poet, “Wow! You’re awesome.”
As usual, the Well team has been hard at work sharing the latest advice for living well everyday. Jane Brody has exciting developments in hip replacement surgery. Gretchen Reynolds weighs in on the benefits of moderate exercise. And here’s some big news! We now have a shareable link for those of you who want to do the Standing 7-Minute Workout more often!
Double-masking is a sensible and easy way to lower your risk when you have to spend more time around others — in a taxi, on a train or plane, or at an inauguration.
New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge. But one in particular has caused concern in the United States because it’s so contagious and spreading fast. To avoid it, you’ll need to double down on the same pandemic precautions that have kept you safe so far.
The variant known as B.1.1.7., which was first identified in Britain, doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease, but it has the potential to infect an estimated 50 percent more people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that this variant could become the dominant source of infection in the United States by March. Variants with the same mutation have been reported in Brazil and South Africa, and now scientists are studying whether a variant with a different mutation, and first found in Denmark, has caused a surge in cases in California.
The new variant spreading in the United States appears to latch onto our cells more efficiently. (You can find a detailed look inside the variant here.) The change suggests it could take less virus and less time in the same room with an infected person for someone to become ill. People infected with the variant may also shed larger quantities of virus, which increases the risk to people around them.
“The exact mechanism in which it’s more transmissible isn’t entirely known,” said Nathan D. Grubaugh, assistant professor and epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health. “It might just be that when you’re infected, you’re exhaling more infectious virus.”
So how do you avoid a more-contagious version of the coronavirus? I spoke with some of the leading virus and infectious disease experts about what makes the new variant so worrisome and what we can do about it. Here’s what they had to say.
How can I protect myself from the new coronavirus variant?
The variant spreads the same way the coronavirus has always spread. You’re most likely to contract the virus if you spend time in an enclosed space breathing the air of an infected person. The same things that have protected you from the original strain should help protect you from the variant, although you may need to be more rigorous. Wear a two- or three-layer mask. Don’t spend time indoors with people not from your household. Avoid crowds, and keep your distance. Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face.
“The first thing I say to people is that it’s not a different virus. All the things we have learned about this virus still apply,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “It’s not like this variant is somehow magically spreading through other means. Anything risky under the normal strain just becomes riskier with the variant.”
And let’s face it, after months of pandemic living, many of us have become lax about our Covid safety precautions. Maybe you’ve let down your guard, and you’re spending time indoors and unmasked with trusted friends. Or perhaps you’ve been dining in restaurants or making more trips to the grocery store each week than you did at the start of lockdowns. The arrival of the variant means you should try to cut back on potential exposures where you can and double down on basic precautions for the next few months until you and the people around you get vaccinated.
“The more I hear about the new variants, the more concerned I am,” said Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading aerosol scientists. “I think there is no room for error or sloppiness in following precautions, whereas before, we might have been able to get away with letting one slide.”
Should I upgrade my mask?
You should be wearing a high-quality mask when you run errands, go shopping or find yourself in a situation where you’re spending time indoors with people who don’t live with you, Dr. Marr said. “I am now wearing my best mask when I go to the grocery store,” she said. “The last thing I want to do is get Covid-19 in the month before I get vaccinated.”
Dr. Marr’s lab recently tested 11 mask materials and found that the right cloth mask, properly fitted, does a good job of filtering viral particles of the size most likely to cause infection. The best mask has three layers — two cloth layers with a filter sandwiched in between. Masks should be fitted around the bridge of the nose and made of flexible material to reduce gaps. Head ties create a better fit than ear loops.
While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.
Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.
Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that will potentially get authorized this month clearly protect people from getting sick with Covid-19. But the clinical trials that delivered these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected by the coronavirus can spread it while they’re not experiencing any cough or other symptoms. Researchers will be intensely studying this question as the vaccines roll out. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will need to think of themselves as possible spreaders.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection won’t be any different from ones you’ve gotten before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. But some of them have felt short-lived discomfort, including aches and flu-like symptoms that typically last a day. It’s possible that people may need to plan to take a day off work or school after the second shot. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system encountering the vaccine and mounting a potent response that will provide long-lasting immunity.
No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.
If you don’t want to buy a new mask, a simple solution is to wear an additional mask when you find yourself in closer proximity to strangers. I wear a single mask when I walk my dog or exercise outdoors. But if I’m going to a store, taking a taxi or getting in the subway, I double mask by using a disposable surgical mask and covering it with my cloth mask.
Do I need an N95 medical mask?
While medical workers who come into close contact with sick patients rely on the gold-standard N95 masks, you don’t need that level of protection if you’re avoiding group gatherings, limiting shopping trips and keeping your distance from others.
“N95s are hard to get,” said Dr. Jha. “I don’t think people should think that’s what they need. Certainly there are a lot of masks out in the marketplace that are pretty good.”
If you’re working in an office or grocery store, or find yourself in a situation where you want added mask protection, you can get an alternative to the N95. Dr. Jha suggested using a KF94 mask, a type of mask made in South Korea that can be purchased easily online. It resembles an N95, with some differences. It’s made of a similar nonwoven material that blocks 94 percent of the hardest-to-trap viral particles. But the KF94 has ear loops, instead of elastic head bands, so it won’t fit as snugly as an N95.
The KF94 is also disposable — you can buy a pack of 20 for about $40 on Amazon. While you can let a KF94 mask air dry and reuse it a few times, it can’t be laundered and won’t last as long as a cloth mask. One solution is to save your KF94 mask for higher risk situations — like riding a subway, spending time in a store or going to a doctor’s appointment. Use your cloth mask for outdoor errands, exercise or walking the dog.
Are there additional ways to reduce my risk?
Getting the vaccine is the ultimate way to reduce risk. But until then, take a look at your activities and try reducing the time and number of exposures to other people.
For instance, if you now go to the store two or three times a week, cut back to just once a week. If you’ve been spending 30 to 45 minutes in the grocery store, cut your time down to 15 or 20 minutes. If the store is crowded, come back later. If you’re waiting in line, be mindful of staying at least six feet apart from the people ahead of you and behind you. Try delivery or curbside pickup, if that’s an option for you.
If you’ve been spending time indoors with other people who aren’t from your household, consider skipping those events until you and your friends get vaccinated. If you must spend time with others, wear your best mask, make sure the space is well ventilated (open windows and doors) and keep the visit as short as possible. It’s still safest to take your social plans outdoors. And if you are thinking about air travel, it’s a good idea to reschedule given the high number of cases around the country and the emergence of the more contagious variant.
“The new variants are making me think twice about my plan to teach in-person, which would have been with masks and with good ventilation anyway,” Dr. Marr said. “They’re making me think twice about getting on an airplane.”
Will the current Covid vaccines work against the new variants?
Experts are cautiously optimistic that the current generation of vaccines will be mostly effective against the emerging coronavirus variants. Earlier this month, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their Covid vaccine works against one of the key mutations present in some of the variants. That’s good news, but the variants have other potentially risky mutations that haven’t been studied yet.
Some data also suggest that variants with certain mutations may be more resistant to the vaccines, but far more study is needed and those variants haven’t yet been detected in the United States. While the data are concerning, experts said the current vaccines generate extremely high levels of antibodies, and they are likely to at least prevent serious illness in people who are immunized and get infected.
“The reason why I’m cautiously optimistic is that from what we know about how vaccines work, it’s not just one antibody that provides all the protection,” said Dr. Adam Lauring, associate professor of infectious disease at the University of Michigan. “When you get vaccinated you generate antibodies all over the spike protein. That makes it less likely that one mutation here or there is going to leave you completely unprotected. That’s what gives me reason for optimism that this is going to be OK in terms of the vaccine, but there’s more work to be done.”
If I catch Covid-19, will I know if I have the new variant?
Probably not. If you test positive for Covid-19, the standard PCR test can’t definitively determine if you have the variant or the original strain. While some PCR test results can signal if a person is likely to be infected with a variant, that information probably won’t be shared with patients. The only way to know for sure which variant is circulating is to use gene sequencing technology, but that technology is not used to alert individuals of their status. While some public health and university laboratories are using genomic surveillance to track the prevalence of variants in a community, the United States doesn’t yet have a large-scale, nationwide system for checking coronavirus genomes for new mutations.
Treatment for Covid-19 is the same whether you have the original strain or the variant. You can read more about what to do if you get infected here.
Are children more at risk from the new variant?
Children appear to get infected with the variant at about the same rate as the original strain. A large study by health officials in Britain found that young children are only about half as likely as adults to transmit the variant to others. While that’s good news, the highly contagious nature of the variant means more children will get the virus, even if they are still proportionately less contagious and less prone to getting infected than adults. You can learn more here.
If I’ve already had Covid-19, am I likely to have the same level of immunity to the new strain?
Most experts agree that once you’ve had Covid-19, your body has some level of natural immunity to help fight off a second infection — although it’s not known how long the protection lasts. The variants circulating in Brazil and South Africa appear to have mutations that allow the virus to evade natural antibodies and reinfect someone who has already had the virus. The concern is based on lab tests using antibodies of people with a previous infection, so whether that translates to more reinfections in the real world isn’t known. The effect of the vaccine against these variants isn’t known yet either. While all of this sounds frightening, scientists are hopeful that even if the vaccines don’t fully protect against new variations of the virus, the antibodies generated by the vaccine still will protect people from more serious illness.
It’s more contagious than the original and spreading quickly. Upgrade your mask and double down on precautions to protect yourself.
Seven years ago, Laura McKowen started a drinking journal. She knew alcohol was an issue for her — she knew it when her 4-year-old daughter helped her clean up the morning after a blackout, and she knew it the 10th time she drove to work hung over — but she needed to see it.
“Something very interesting happens when we put things on paper,” Ms. McKowen said, “because we have a lot of cognitive dissonance around drinking.” She couldn’t deflect around what she saw on the page, though: two bottles of wine a night. She got sober, and went on to help others do the same through coaching and teaching workshops.
Last January, Ms. McKowen published “We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life” and in March, she began hosting free sobriety support meetings on Zoom. By May, she had 12 employees and a company called The Luckiest Club, which offers classes and access to its community.
It’s no surprise Ms. McKowen found an eager client base. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 14 million American adults suffer from alcohol use disorder (A.U.D.), which is a term medical professionals prefer to alcoholism.
You don’t need an A.U.D. diagnosis to find your drinking problematic, though. Alcohol can impair sleep, cause weight gain, exacerbate anxiety, or subtly change your personality. A study conducted by the RAND Corporation in September suggests Americans are drinking 14 percent more often in response to pandemic-related stress, especially women, whose heavy drinking days increased by 41 percent in 2020.
When we go to work every day during non-pandemic times and don’t have an inordinate amount of stress, it’s fairly easy” to limit drinking to Friday nights, said James G. Murphy, a psychology professor and researcher at the University of Memphis who published a paper in November about alcohol and drug use during the pandemic. “When all of that structure is ripped away — when you’re worried about finances and your kids’ home-schooling and you don’t have to be anywhere in the morning, so no one will see if you’re hung over — alcohol can be way more difficult to manage.”
This is one reason you might be seeing more Dry January hashtags in your social media feeds this year. One month off from drinking can be an opportunity for the sober-curious to examine their alcohol use.
If any of this sounds familiar, here are some suggestions to help you navigate your relationship with alcohol or bring it to an end.
Take note of how much you’re drinking, as well as the pros and cons of that consumption. Are you opening that bottle of Riesling because it pairs well with your Chinese takeout, or are you hoping the third glass will drown out those voices in your head that are telling you you’re mediocre? Study your own habits — and be honest about them.
To give you some perspective, the federal government’s 2020-2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than one drink per day for women or two for men (though some suggest fewer), and Dr. Murphy suggests the free alcohol screener at the website CheckUp & Choices. Take the questionnaire, which is used by health care providers, and use the score to assess your drinking. Similarly, Drinks Meter is an app with a daily calculator that helps put your own behavior into perspective using an anonymous database of over 6,000 people’s drinking habits worldwide.
“You don’t have to have things figured out, aside from wanting to make a change,” said Holly Whitaker, the author of “Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol” and creator of an online A.U.D. recovery program called Tempest. “You’re doing it right now, by being brave enough to read this article.”
Clear out the alcohol.
If you’ve decided alcohol is having a negative impact on your life, try distancing yourself from it for a while. Remove bottles from your physical spaces and booze-related content from your virtual ones. Cleanse your phone and computer of anything that might tempt you to drink.
It’s not about having a siloed existence or avoiding anything that creates an urge to drink, said Ms. McKowen, it’s about dismantling the myth that drinking is what makes life fun. “You want your online world to reflect the energy of where you’re going,” she said.
Then try not to drink for a month. Pick a date and stick with it. Experts say this is the best way to evaluate your alcohol use, and it’s a jump start on reducing your consumption, if that’s what you decide to do.
“Detoxification literally means removing the toxin,” said George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This can be done on your own unless you have moderate to severe A.U.D., in which case you should seek medical help. Untreated severe alcohol withdrawal can be fatal.
But fill the space with something else.
Alcohol does have positive effects: It squashes tension and lowers inhibitions. Remove it and you will miss it, at least initially.
So, identify other activities you love and increase them. Whether it’s exercise or spending time with friends, “we need another outlet to fill the void that alcohol leaves,” Dr. Murphy said.
Find your people.
You’re more likely to successfully abstain from alcohol if you have support. “Tell as many of your friends and family members who feel safe as you can about this,” Dr. Murphy said.
It also helps to connect with others who share your goal. In-person support meetings have become difficult to access in the pandemic, but help has proliferated online. Free sobriety support communities with virtual meetings include Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, SheRecovers, In the Rooms, Eight Step Recovery, Refuge Recovery, Recovery Dharma, and LifeRing, among others. Neither good lighting nor charisma is required or expected; join from your phone while walking in a park or sitting in your car.
“I go to two meetings a day now,” said Braunwyn Windham-Burke, a reality TV star whose sobriety journey is currently playing out on season 15 of “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” “It’s so easy, because it’s in my bedroom.”
One Tempest member, Valentine Darling, 32, of Olympia, Wash., finds virtual meetings to be more L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly as well. “I feel safe sitting next to my house plants, so I’m more fully present and I’m also more authentically me: I wear dresses and express my gender queerness without worrying that anyone will follow me home.”
Many organizations have meetings specifically for people of color, certain age groups or even professions. Ben’s Friends is a sobriety support group geared toward restaurant workers. “We speak a common language in restaurants,” said co-founder Steve Palmer. “You find out that, ‘OK, he’s a line cook. She’s a bartender. These are my people.’”
Understand what recovery means for you.
If your month of sobriety was relatively easy to accomplish, then simply consider it a reset. But if you’re having trouble sticking to your plan, you might need more than group meetings. You may have A.U.D., which is a disease, not a moral failing, and it requires treatment like any illness. The most effective form of recovery usually involves long-term behavioral therapies and community support as well as medication, if needed.
The N.I.A.A.A. navigator can help you find the right treatment for you. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also has an online treatment locator.
If you decide you want to maintain your sobriety long-term, understand that treatment plans may vary over time. “The same practices that helped you quit drinking might not keep you sober later on,” Ms. Whitaker said. Maybe you’ve unlocked a trauma along the way, maybe you’re going through a divorce or maybe you’re living in the midst of a pandemic.
You haven’t done anything wrong; you just need a fresh set of tools.
Dr. Murphy recommends continuing to keep a log of alcohol use. Apps like Drink Control and Drinks Meter can help, but even using a pen and paper, make note of any benefits you see, to keep your momentum going. When you backslide, make note of that — and how you feel about it.
It probably took a long time to develop your current relationship with alcohol. Changing that relationship, then, will require sustained effort — and it might take several attempts. If the first one doesn’t last, Dr. Koob said, don’t judge yourself harshly. Just try again.
Beginning Jan. 26, international travelers bound for the United States must show negative coronavirus test results before boarding their flights. Here’s what you need to know.
When my 80-year-old father recently died, coronavirus restrictions meant that our family, like many others, could not safely gather for a funeral. My mother, brother and sister-in-law in New York, along with me in Berkeley, Calif., hastily organized a memorial service on Zoom.
What could have been a disaster or fodder for an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” ended up being incredibly moving. Rather than diminishing the experience or getting in the way, videoconferencing facilitated an event filled with emotion, humor and love. During a difficult time for our family — in a devastating year for the entire world — that was an unexpected blessing.
Despite our fatigue with remote work meetings, we all were struck by how well-suited it turned out to be for a memorial.
Families who are opting for video memorials are probably doing so because of pandemic restrictions limiting the number of people who can attend an indoor gathering. Since you can join a virtual event from anywhere — and with minimal planning — more people are likely to attend than if they needed to travel to an in-person event.
In our case, the immediate family was on both coasts, one grandchild was in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the rabbi, Jeff Salkin of Temple Israel West Palm Beach, a longtime friend and former student of my dad, was in Florida.
With a videoconferencing service, you can style your memorial as you like. While we did not include photos, videos or music, nothing prevents you from doing so. In addition, a virtual memorial costs much less than an in-person event, where you’d have to pay for the brick-and-mortar venue and perhaps catered food. And you can easily record the event to share and save for posterity.
A virtual memorial also might accommodate more speakers than an in-person event. Ours began with moving eulogies by Rabbi Salkin, followed by my brother and me, then morphed into an impromptu shiva, as numerous guests offered wonderful remembrances and reflections about my dad. The event lasted two and a half hours; many people remained the entire time.
My father’s was not Rabbi Salkin’s first Zoom memorial service. He was skeptical before he led a Zoom gathering after his stepmother died of Covid-19 in April.
“I feared that such funerals would be alienating,” he said. “I was wrong. Wi-Fi carries the love quite effectively. In person, you can hold people’s hands and embrace them. On Zoom, it’s more about holding people’s eyes and simply being with them, in every way that matters.”
At the beginning of lockdown, Zoom ran into security issues. As the technology writer Brian X. Chen detailed in a column in April, weak privacy protections resulted in uninvited “Zoombombers” crashing meetings in embarrassing fashion.
That happened when my kids’ school district started distance learning: A nude man entered a virtual class and used racial slurs. It was a lesson for our family to be sure our event was password protected.
Even Jonathan Leitschuh, a software engineer and security researcher who identified flaws in Zoom’s security protocols that allowed hackers to take over Mac users’ webcams in 2019, turned to Zoom to plan a funeral for his mother who died in April.
“I went in terrified about a Zoombombing,” Mr. Leitschuh said. “I’d seen the same media coverage everyone else did.” But he said: “For this use case, I wasn’t aware of a better platform.”
Funeral homes are also offering livestreamed services, in conjunction with limited in-person memorials. Chris Robinson, a fourth-generation funeral director in Easley, S.C., and spokesman for the National Funeral Directors Association, said his funeral home has been livestreaming services via its website, allowing anyone to attend without the need to download software or register for a videoconferencing platform.
“It’s important to go ahead and put together a virtual service,” he said, “rather than wait until the pandemic is over, because it could be a long time, and delaying indefinitely can be an ongoing trauma.”
In my family’s case, we were truly impressed by how videoconferencing, which can be so enervating in our daily work lives, enabled us to celebrate my dad’s full life in a beautiful and moving way.
If you have to arrange a memorial service on a video platform, here are some tips.
We purchased a one-month subscription to Zoom Pro (right now it’s $14.99 a month and you can cancel at any time). It allows for up to 100 participants (other plans allow for more, at additional cost), with unlimited meeting time, and stores a recording in the cloud. We’re glad we did. If we had had to limit the time of the event, we would have missed many moving contributions from participants.
Identify Someone to Handle Logistics
Because I created the account, I was the de facto meeting host. In hindsight I wish I had handed the role to my 17-year-old daughter, a digital native. Responsibilities include admitting people from the waiting room; muting all mics as appropriate; unmuting the officiant or other speakers; troubleshooting technical issues; providing assistance to guests; and passing messages along to family members in the chat box. Introduce the tech host at the beginning of the service, so people know whom to contact for help.
Familiarize Yourself With Platform Settings
The back end of video platforms have settings that can be tricky if you are new to them, especially if it is an emotional event. The host can go through the “toggle” switches in advance to figure out how to mute people upon entry or enable the waiting room, a security feature that keeps guests in a queue until the host admits them.
Who Will Lead?
Our virtual memorial succeeded, in part, because the rabbi wasn’t thrown off by the difficulties inexperienced Zoomers had muting themselves at the start. When the service segued into the shiva, my mother moderated — greeting people and making sure everyone who wanted to offer a remembrance had the chance to do so.
Plan a Dry Run to Anticipate Issues
Schedule one or more short practice sessions to work out kinks and make sure you’re on the same page about various roles. Some participants at our event were complete Zoom novices, fearful of missing the eulogy, and self-conscious about holding up the program as they attempted to mute as requested. We recommend offering tips to guests about logging on and off; muting and unmuting; switching screen views; and using the chat function — either along with the invitation, or on request ahead of the event. Don’t assume that everyone will be joining with up-to-date devices.
We sent an email to notify friends and relatives of my dad’s death and of the Zoom event, including a link and password. Each of our family members compiled and distributed our own lists. You can also use Zoom to send email invitations.
You’re on TV (Sort of)
Without being obsessive, think about your on-screen appearance, makeup, lighting, camera height and angle and backdrop.
Beware of Tech Gremlins
While we were spared technical disruptions, the specter lurked in our minds. Many parts of the country experienced power outages this summer, and we’ve all had our internet connections go down or struggled with microphones and screens that freeze at just the wrong time. Although impossible to predict, be mindful of what could go wrong and how you’d handle it.
Ultimately, you want to make sure the virtual event accomplishes the same things an in-person funeral or memorial service would, honoring the life of the deceased and comforting the survivors. As it turned out, many more of my parents’ circle — friends and family in their 70s and 80s — were able to attend the funeral than would have been able to, even without Covid restrictions. Likewise, more people spoke than would have stepped to the lectern at an in-person funeral service. And the video we have is a blessing, which will enable my family to keep my father’s memory alive and hold on to vivid memories of those who so loved him.
Steven Birenbaum is senior communications officer at the California Health Care Foundation in Oakland, Calif.
This year has already proved to be the emotional equivalent of an ultramarathon. To help you hit the reset button, it’s key to know some quick, efficient stress-reducing strategies.
Here are a few ideas from an assistant clinical professor in psychiatry →
My 4-year-old daughter is pretty tough when it comes to medical procedures. The flu shot? Not even a flinch. Stitches in her forehead? No big deal. Years earlier, she calmly watched as a nurse pricked her finger and squeezed the blood, drop by drop, into a tiny vial to test it for lead.
But the Covid test was different.
In early September, just before her preschool reopened, she began sneezing and had a sore throat. When her congestion worsened, we knew that she needed to get a coronavirus test. But as the nurse approached her, holding a long stick with a brush on the end resembling a pipe cleaner, she covered her face and backed away. In the end, two people had to hold her down. She screamed as the swab activated her lacrimal reflex, bringing tears to her eyes. It was over quickly, but she cried for half an hour afterward and insisted that she would never visit another doctor again. She now refers to that probe as “the needle.”
In late December she needed another test for her preschool, but this time she wasn’t sick. With the memory of her last experience still fresh in my mind, I immediately started researching. Were there less invasive tests to consider? If so, how would we find one? Would it be accurate enough? And was there an ideal way to prepare a squeamish young child who was averse to getting tested?
As it turned out, none of these questions had simple answers. So I consulted with five doctors and two of the largest urgent care providers in the United States to learn more.
How do I know if my child needs a test?
There are four main reasons a child might need to be tested:
They have symptoms
They have been exposed to someone infected with the virus
Their school, day care or a hospital requires it
They need it as a precaution before and after traveling
If your child has any symptoms of Covid — even mild ones like a runny nose or a sore throat — it’s a good idea for them to get tested and stay home, said Dr. Stanley Spinner, chief medical officer and vice president of Texas Children’s Pediatrics, the largest pediatric primary care group in the country, and Texas Children’s Urgent Care.
“We have seen, time and time again, kids with very mild symptoms with no known exposures who get tested with our very accurate PCR and sure enough, they come back positive,” Dr. Spinner said.
If your child has been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 — even if your child does not have any symptoms — they should get tested, the experts said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define close contact as spending at least 15 minutes within six feet of someone who has the coronavirus, or having any type of direct physical contact with an infected person, including kissing or hugging.
If your child is in school or day care, those institutions may have rules on when they must be tested, and how.
It’s safest to stay home, but if you and your children must travel, the C.D.C. recommends getting tested one to three days before your trip and then again three to five days after your trip.
If you’re still unsure if your child needs a test, call their pediatrician, said Dr. Kristin Moffitt, an infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital. You can also take the C.D.C.’s clinical assessment tool, which can be used for any family member, including children.
Which types of tests are available for kids?
Virus testing for children is, for the most part, the same as it is for adults. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the emergency use of two basic categories of diagnostic test. The most sensitive ones are the molecular PCR tests, which detect the genetic material of the virus and can take days to deliver results (some locations offer results in as little as a day). The second type of test, the antigen test, hunts for fragments of proteins that are found on or within the coronavirus. Antigen tests typically yield results quickly, within 15 minutes, but can be less sensitive than the molecular tests.
The way your provider collects your sample can vary. For instance, regardless of whether you get a PCR test or an antigen test, the collection method could be any of the following: nasopharyngeal swab (the long swab with a brush at the end that reaches all the way up the nose toward the throat); a shorter swab that is inserted about an inch into the nostrils; a long swab of the tonsils at the back of the throat; or a short swab swizzled on the gums and cheeks. The new saliva tests, which are still being vetted, require you to drool into a sterilized container, which could be difficult for young children.
FastMed Urgent Care, which has a network of more than 100 clinics in Arizona, North Carolina and Texas, currently uses a long swab to perform the rapid antigen test and a short swab for the PCR test, said Dr. Lane Tassin, one of the company’s chief medical officers. But MedExpress, a different urgent care group with clinics in 16 states, tests all patients with the shorter nasal swab when doing either PCR or antigen tests at its nearly 200 urgent care centers, said Jane Trombetta, the company’s chief clinical officer.
Which diagnostic test should my child get?
The type of test that your child gets will largely depend on what is available in your area, how long it takes to get the results back and why the child needs it, the experts said.
Some day care centers and schools will only accept PCR results for clearance to return to school, so it is best to double check their rules beforehand.
The long-swab molecular test is considered the “gold standard,” but other less-invasive testing methods are also reliable. For routine testing, Dr. Jay K. Varma, senior advisor for public health at the Office of the Mayor of New York City, said the shorter swab “performs basically as well as the longer, deeper swab does. That’s true in both adults and children.” In fact, he added, New York City’s public hospital testing sites began switching from the long swab to the short swab during the summer.
Dr. Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Health, said she likes the antigen tests because they can quickly identify Covid-positive kids when they are contagious. Antigen tests are most accurate when the amount of virus in the sample is highest — typically around the day that symptoms start.
If you have a preference on which test you’d like your child to get, call your pediatrician’s office first and ask what kinds of tests they perform and how they collect the samples. Clarify whether they use the shallow (anterior) swab or the long (nasopharyngeal) swab. If you want the more comfortable, shallow PCR test but your pediatrician’s office does not offer it, try other testing centers in your area, including pediatric urgent care centers.
Some tests are now available for home use. But if you’re using a home test, check the label. Some aren’t indicated for children.
Confused by the terms about coronavirus testing? Let us help:
- Antibody: A protein produced by the immune system that can recognize and attach precisely to specific kinds of viruses, bacteria, or other invaders.
- Antibody test/serology test: A test that detects antibodies specific to the coronavirus. Antibodies begin to appear in the blood about a week after the coronavirus has infected the body. Because antibodies take so long to develop, an antibody test can’t reliably diagnose an ongoing infection. But it can identify people who have been exposed to the coronavirus in the past.
- Antigen test: This test detects bits of coronavirus proteins called antigens. Antigen tests are fast, taking as little as five minutes, but are less accurate than tests that detect genetic material from the virus.
- Coronavirus: Any virus that belongs to the Orthocoronavirinae family of viruses. The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is known as SARS-CoV-2.
- Covid-19: The disease caused by the new coronavirus. The name is short for coronavirus disease 2019.
- Isolation and quarantine: Isolation is the separation of people who know they are sick with a contagious disease from those who are not sick. Quarantine refers to restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to a virus.
- Nasopharyngeal swab: A long, flexible stick, tipped with a soft swab, that is inserted deep into the nose to get samples from the space where the nasal cavity meets the throat. Samples for coronavirus tests can also be collected with swabs that do not go as deep into the nose — sometimes called nasal swabs — or oral or throat swabs.
- Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR): Scientists use PCR to make millions of copies of genetic material in a sample. Tests that use PCR enable researchers to detect the coronavirus even when it is scarce.
- Viral load: The amount of virus in a person’s body. In people infected by the coronavirus, the viral load may peak before they start to show symptoms, if symptoms appear at all.
Are there any downsides to getting my kid tested? Is it safe?
Many testing sites offer drive-through services where you don’t need to leave your car. But if you must walk into a clinic, the experts I spoke with said that the risk of getting Covid while you’re there is low.
“In my experience, everyone that is delivering health care now is being incredibly careful with infection control,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, the vice chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases. “The risk of going into a health care facility is probably pretty low relative to a lot of the other things people are currently engaging in in the U.S.”
Testing facilities require people to wear masks and to maintain physical distancing, he added.
The experts also said that the tests themselves are not harmful for young children, including infants, even if done repeatedly. The long swab may produce discomfort for a brief period — Dr. O’Leary jokingly calls it the “brain biopsy” — but he is not aware of any long-term risk to the nose or throat.
How can I prepare my child for the test?
To avoid any surprises, ask your provider about which types of tests they offer and how they collect the samples ahead of time.
It’s usually best to be straightforward with your kid about what to expect. For short nasal swabs, explain that a doctor will tickle the inside of their nose with a cotton swab to collect their boogers, and that it won’t hurt.
For the long swab, you may want to prepare your child by explaining that the swab might feel a little uncomfortable, but that it will be over quickly. You can also share that kids of all ages are getting the test, even babies.
Over all, convey that it’s no big deal and it’s something that simply needs to get done, Dr. Lighter said.
“Kids are only as anxious as the information that’s coming to them,” she added.
If your child might be intimidated by the protective gowns, masks and face shields that health providers wear, explain that they wear that clothing to stay safe — kind of like how people wear cloth masks when they go outside.
Some hospitals have created videos like this one from the Children’s Hospital Colorado that show how the Covid test works and what families can expect. If your child is old enough to understand, it might be helpful to watch a video like this together and then talk about it afterward.
Try to find out how long you might need to wait. Many areas have long lines at testing sites, so consider bringing water, snacks and entertainment (crayons, storybooks) for your kids.
If your child’s pediatrician is administering Covid tests, it might be reassuring for your child to have the test performed by someone they are already familiar with. But if not, “try and go somewhere that has experience working with children,” Dr. O’Leary said. Doctors and nurses who test children regularly will most likely know what to do if your child is nervous or scared.
Last month, Warner Bros. released the coronavirus-delayed “Wonder Woman 1984,” a sequel to the 2017 hit “Wonder Woman.” The action-adventure movie has done relatively well at the box office (in places where theaters are open), even though it’s also available for a limited time on the streaming service HBO Max. But compared with the enthusiastic response to the first “Wonder Woman” movie, the sequel has drawn a mixed reaction, with some critics and comic book fans complaining about the film’s unlikely plot and lengthy running time.
So for those who felt let down by “Wonder Woman 1984,” here are six other superhero options to stream — from the widely beloved and popular to films that have never received the big audiences they deserved.
The moviegoing public was still developing a taste for superheroes back in 1991, when Walt Disney’s Buena Vista Pictures failed to draw crowds for this charmingly old-fashioned pulp exercise. Based on a little-known comic by the illustrator Dave Stevens, “The Rocketeer” is a fast-paced potboiler set in a 1930s Hollywood filled with glamorous swells and optimistic go-getters — including a bombshell actress Jenny (Jennifer Connelly) and her stunt-pilot boyfriend (Billy Campbell). The director Joe Johnston brings light and zip to the film’s Nazi-fighting plot — something he’d do again 20 years later with the mighty “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
A little over a decade before the director Sam Raimi was entrusted with the 2002 blockbuster “Spider-Man,” he made his own twisted, R-rated version of a Marvel Comics movie, about a mad scientist driven by tragedy to become a vigilante, disguised in an artificial skin that dissolves in sunlight. Anchored by a zesty Liam Neeson performance (getting an early start on the “capable hero, out for blood” screen persona he’s mastered in recent years), “Darkman” combines elements of old Universal monster movies, gritty 1970s superhero comics and slapstick comedy. Though it’s rated R and not appropriate for younger viewers, the movie is a true original.
In some of the most haunting superhero stories, the powerful dwell among us in the ordinary world, devoid of costumes or code names. One of the best-known of these is M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable.” Film buffs who love that film should definitely catch up with the writer-director Julia Hart’s similarly low-boil “Fast Color,” about a family of women who hide their extraordinary abilities from a government agency that wants to exploit them. Hart and her co-writer/producer Jordan Horowitz add their own spin on this classic genre premise by focusing on human relationships and small moments of wonder.
‘X-Men: First Class’
The X-Men movie franchise and its Deadpool and Wolverine offshoots have been hugely popular but inconsistent. “X-Men: First Class” is the best of the bunch because it isn’t bogged down by complicated mythology. Instead, the story starts at the beginning, in 1962, as two young mutant chums with different ideologies work together to recruit more of their own kind. The director Matthew Vaughn gives the picture the polish of a James Bond film, while James McAvoy (as Professor Charles Xavier) and Michael Fassbender (as Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr) lead an ace cast in an adventure filled with international intrigue.
‘Big Hero 6’
Given that the superhero genre became a phenomenon thanks to the ink-stained medium of comic books, it’s too bad there haven’t been more big-budget animated superhero movies. The Oscar-winning “Big Hero 6” is a fine example of how the exaggerated, cartoony illustrations common to animation lend themselves well to kinetic, fantastical action. The film is also kid-friendly, telling the story of a moody teenage genius who assembles a group of tech-savvy nerds to help him, along with his adorably squishy super-robot Baymax, unravel a conspiracy. At once cute and visually dazzling, “Big Hero 6” is an old-fashioned superhero tale suffused with positivity.
‘Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)’
Comic book connoisseurs disappointed in “Wonder Woman 1984” had an excellent alternative last year for their DC Comics superheroine fix. In the “Suicide Squad” spinoff “Birds of Prey,” Margot Robbie reprises her role as the delightfully daffy Gotham City rogue Harley Quinn, who joins forces with some slightly more virtuous ladies in an explosive standoff with a local mob boss. The director Cathy Yan and screenwriter Christina Hodson load their movie up with foul language, bloody violence and self-referential humor, making the case that while strong female heroes are great, strong female antiheroes may be more fun.
If you want to make positive changes in your life, try building on a lesson many of us learned in 2020: Hold yourself accountable.
The notion of accountability — to yourself and to others — has been an important part of pandemic living. To avoid spreading the virus, we’ve needed to be accountable for wearing a mask, limiting our contacts and keeping our distance.
But accountability can also help you achieve your health goals. Gretchen Rubin, author of “Better Than Before,” a book about forming healthy habits, says that accountability is an important tool for making and breaking habits.
Accountability works best when it comes from the outside. You can create accountability by checking in with a friend every day to talk about healthful eating. You’re more likely to exercise if you’ve made a plan to walk with a friend or scheduled a workout with a personal trainer. You can create public accountability by declaring your intention on social media.
If you prefer to stay accountable only to yourself, you can create accountability by using an app that sends you daily reminders or by wearing a Fitbit or smart watch to track your exercise habits. You can even hold yourself accountable through a daily journal entry.
“We do better when someone’s watching,” Ms. Rubin said. “Even when we’re the ones doing the watching!”
A 2018 North Carolina State University study of 704 people enrolled in a 15-week online weight-loss program found that participants with buddies lost more weight and waist inches than those who took the course without buddy support.
So for today’s Well challenge, think about a health goal you want to achieve and focus on how you can hold yourself accountable. I’ve included a few suggestions for how to do it. Sign up for the Well newsletter to get the 7-Day Well Challenge in your inbox.
Create an Accountability Plan
What is your goal for 2021? Do you want to improve your eating habits, lose weight or exercise more? Or maybe you just want to finish that screenplay you’ve been working on? You’re more likely to succeed if you get some help.
Find an accountability buddy. Choose a friend who wants to achieve a similar goal and make a plan. Accountability might mean meeting each other once or twice a week for a walking date. Or it could be a daily text check-in to see how you’re doing on a diet or a Zoom call to work on a decluttering project together.
“Some people are very accountable to themselves, but not most people,” said Dr. Tim Church, a well-known exercise and obesity expert and chief medical officer for Naturally Slim, an app-based behavioral health program in Dallas. “In my years of working with thousands of people, there’s one thing that drives accountability more than anything else: If you want to keep people doing a behavior, get a buddy.”
While the presence of an accountability buddy adds some gentle peer pressure, the key is to focus on the behavior, not success or failure. For instance, if a person is trying to lose weight, don’t focus on the scale. Instead, check in and remind them to log what they ate, encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables and remind them of the benefits of a regular weigh-in (but you don’t need to ask them the result). If they’re beating themselves up for eating two desserts, talk about what might have triggered an emotional eating binge.
“An accountability partner is there to support you, to problem-solve and to celebrate even the small victories,” Dr. Church said. “Judgment is the quickest way to destroy all that. People are so hard on themselves. You don’t need to be hard on them.”
Use an app. An app is a great way to add accountability to your day. Meditation apps like Headspace and Calm will send daily reminders and track your progress. The weight-loss app Noom asks you to check in for a few minutes each day, complete mini-health courses and track what you’ve eaten. The Fitbit app counts your steps, will sync with your smart scale and vibrates to remind you to get up and move.
Set reminders. Once you set a health goal, hold yourself accountable by creating calendar reminders to help you achieve it. Schedule walk breaks or daily or weekly check-ins with your accountability buddy.
Declare it on social media. Telling your friends on social media that you’re cutting back on packaged foods, or sending a tweet every time you finish a class on your exercise bike creates virtual accountability. Commit to posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or another platform every time you complete a goal, or share your feelings on days you’re struggling. When you declare your goals on social media, you’re likely to find a like-minded friend who will want to join your journey and offer words of support.
Like many of us, I stood speechless yesterday as I watched rioters storm the nation’s Capitol. My daughters, ages 10 and 17, watched alongside me and were shocked, too. Feeling rattled and helpless, I wanted someone to look after me much more than I wanted to do any parenting myself.
As a psychologist, I’m used to staying levelheaded in chaotic situations. Last night was different; I was pretty much useless. I left my girls in the care of my calm and capable spouse, and spent the evening on the phone and then Twitter seeking assurance that order would be restored. I wanted the sense that there was, or would soon be, a grown-up in the room.
Today, I remembered: I am a grown-up in the room, at least around here. And focusing on that sphere is making it possible for me to join my husband in being the parent my daughters need and deserve.
I don’t need to be responsible for fixing everything; helping my girls process their sense that everything seems broken is enough. Over breakfast, I asked my 10-year-old what she was thinking about yesterday’s events and reassured her that, even though things got out of control, calmer heads have prevailed and I now feel hopeful that things might be moving in the right direction.
Being the grown-up in the room means making space for my girls’ confusion and their questions. Tonight, I will ask both of them what they heard from their teachers and classmates at school, what they wonder, what they think. I know that I won’t have all the answers to their questions, so I’ll just be honest about what I do and don’t know and everything I am still struggling to understand.
It means I have apologized for checking out last night. Had I alarmed them by reacting to yesterday’s chaos strongly or loudly, I would have apologized for that as well.
Being a grown-up means setting aside my misguided belief that compulsively checking social media or broadcast news reports will help me feel better. I have reminded myself that doing so only unsettles me and pulls me away from what I want to be present for: my kids, my spouse, my own work, myself.
It means that I need to be mindful of what media my daughters are taking in as events continue to unfold. My younger daughter gets most of her news from us or with us. We can and will limit her exposure to graphic images and frightening information. If there is something upsetting she needs to know, we should be the ones to tell her so that we can choose the right moment, share the news in age-appropriate language and be prepared to address her reaction.
My older daughter gets her news from us, with us, and also from a vast, complex and largely opaque-to-adults adolescent discourse that unfolds over social media. With her, we will do more listening than talking, seeking to make sure that she’s a critical consumer of what she’s taking in, that she’s working with facts and that she’s thinking for herself.
Yesterday, we watched TV news together as a family, pausing at one point to ask my younger daughter if the reports felt like too much. She insisted that they weren’t, and that she wanted to see what was happening. We deferred to what she knows about herself, and what we know about her and continued to watch together until we switched the television off to have dinner.
Trying to be an up-to-the-job parent as historical events unfold can leave us feeling doubly overwhelmed. Our own sense of, “Oh my God, what is happening?” quickly gives way to other worrisome questions: “How can I possibly explain all of this and fix it for my kids?”
Well, we can’t — at least not today. But to be good parents, we don’t need to. We just have to remind ourselves of the territory we control right now and be the grown-ups there.
Despite President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s plea to let our “better angels prevail” and the comedian Dave Chappelle’s “Saturday Night Live” monologue where he told Americans, “We have to forgive each other,” reconciliation and forgiveness can be a long, difficult process. I learned that the hard way when the person who hurt me most wouldn’t apologize or express any remorse.
I’d always thought I was the type who could forgive anyone anything. But when the mentor I’d trusted for 15 years lied to me and refused to explain or atone, I was inconsolable.
Then I took a cross-country trip to try to heal our rift, hoping to learn more about forgiveness along the way by writing a book about it. As research, I interviewed therapists, experts from different religions, and people who had suffered terrible wrongs who taught me there are many ways to find repentance and resolution.
Here are some of the strategies they used, which may also help you get the apology you seek.
Explore what really happened and why
“Before reacting, calmly ask questions and gather more information about what occurred, which can be illuminating,” said Patricia Gross, a Manhattan therapist.
“Oftentimes a rupture is caused by miscommunication or misunderstandings that can be clarified and fixed.”
Express your hurt in a letter
Deborah Copaken, a Brooklyn journalist, wrote to the man who had raped her 30 years before, reminding him of what he did and how hard it’s been for her to overcome. He responded immediately by confessing he didn’t remember it. He’d blacked out that night from excessive drinking and had entered Alcoholics Anonymous. As he kept saying he was sorry, “Thirty years of pain and grief fell out of me,” she wrote.
Decide if something else can compensate
Emanuel Mandel, an 84-year-old Washington therapist and Holocaust survivor, never accepted the German government’s apology on behalf of the Nazis who wiped out his grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. Yet he admitted that $1,000 payments in war reparations his father negotiated through the Claims Conference helped his parents reestablish themselves in America and have better lives. This is why compensatory damages are awarded in legal cases, though money isn’t the only way to make amends.
Suggest alternative reparations
Admitting that you feel wounded or insulted is a better strategy than using combative rhetoric accusing the other person of inflicting pain, according to Dr. Vatsal G. Thakkar, a psychiatrist in Connecticut.
Bernard Mokam, who recently graduated from New York University, said that after the killing of George Floyd, a fellow Black man in Minneapolis, by a white police officer last May, a white classmate sent him $30 over Venmo. She may have meant to show compassion, but he was comfortable financially and was offended by what felt to him like a misguided gesture. He returned her money, and recommended instead that she join a local Black Lives Matter protest, call local representatives to complain about police brutality and read work by anti-racist writers such as Colson Whitehead, Toni Morrison and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
See if kind actions can substitute for words
Emillio Mesa, a San Francisco events planner, always harbored resentment that his mother had left him with his grandparents in the Dominican Republic for six years when he was a child. Though he joined her in New York, she never really explained what happened or apologized for leaving him. He kept his distance. Decades later, after he was beaten up in a robbery, he moved back into his mother’s Bronx house, where she took care of him for six months. He decided to allow the love she showed him as an adult to make up for her early absence and lack of explanation, and they were able to get close again.
Take it public
Kenan Trebincevic, a Muslim Bosnian war survivor, was dismayed that the Serbian government never issued an official apology for its genocide against his people during the Balkan War. Chronicling the atrocities he witnessed, he wrote the apology he felt he deserved and published it. A few Serbs his age contacted him to express their remorse. Becoming a spokesman for a younger generation of Bosnians was how he met his Sarajevan wife. By confronting people from his past, he found his future.
Express your forgiveness
Gary Weinstein, a Michigan jeweler, forgave the drunken driver who killed his wife and children, reading a statement aloud in court. When Mr. Weinstein arranged to meet him in prison, the driver expressed his deep remorse. That helped Mr. Weinstein move on. He became a spokesman for forgiveness, which was empowering.
Enlist a forgiveness surrogate
Rabbi Joseph Krakoff asked an estranged father to recite this prayer with his daughter on his deathbed: “You are forgiven. I forgive you. Please forgive me. I love you.” The father told his child, “I still don’t think I did anything wrong, but I’ll say the prayer because the rabbi says it’s a better way to leave the world.” Even the begrudging words helped her. Religious leaders or therapists may be able to intervene on your behalf.
Ask advice from mutual friends
In the case of my estrangement from my mentor, he was upset that I had let mutual acquaintances know what had happened, because it threatened his reputation. When he eventually wanted to get together to talk about it, I asked “Are you doing this to make me shut up?” He said, “Yes! Shut up already!” half-jokingly — or maybe not. I didn’t necessarily care what his motives were — I wanted him to acknowledge he’d been wrong, which he did. Seeing the negative reactions of others in the community spurred him to wake up and reach out to discuss it.
Try to view the offense as a mystery
Drawing on the Hindu outlook he grew up with, Dr. Thakkar suggested searching for a larger view of your falling out. He shared a metaphor: “A commuter was enraged when a woman in an SUV stopped abruptly to get something in the back seat, almost causing an accident. He didn’t know the driver’s infant was choking. Similarly, there is something you don’t know about your mentor’s life that will shed light on his insensitive actions.”
It turned out that something tragic had happened to my mentor’s family. “I’m so sorry, I had no idea,” I wound up telling him, apologizing profusely myself.
Susan Shapiro, a writing professor at The New School, is the author of “The Byline Bible” and the new book “The Forgiveness Tour: How to Find The Perfect Apology.”
Early in the pandemic, I wondered what might happen if I came down with a serious case of Covid-19 and had to be hospitalized. My biggest concern was my dog and cat! I made a pact with a friend to look after them.
But then I thought more about it. Who would pay the bills while I was away? Would I want doctors to take extreme measures, or even, God forbid, put me on a ventilator? How would my family make decisions about my health? I realized that I had failed to do the most basic planning to prepare my college-age daughter, an only child, for the responsibilities she would face if I became ill.
While there is no silver lining in the pandemic crisis, 2020 has shown all of us the value of being prepared. In the early days of the pandemic, we panicked, hoarded toilet paper and packed our pantries to deal with the uncertainty of shutdowns. But planning for uncertainty is a better strategy. Perhaps the greatest gift you can give to your family is a binder of legal documents that will make sure everyone is prepared for an emergency.
And here’s a surprise: When I sat down to imagine a serious health crisis, and the guidance I would want to offer my daughter, it wasn’t depressing. In fact, it was joyful! I used the process of writing my advance directive and living will as an opportunity to think about my values, my hopes for aging well and what makes life worth living. It was like time traveling to the future and helping my daughter through what will be one of the most difficult moments of her life.
It takes quiet reflection and a little time to complete these forms. As I wrote my instructions for making health decisions, I wanted to offer guidance for the situations I might not imagine now. I thought the best way to do that was to include my thoughts about what I value in the life I have lived so far, and what I want my daughter to think about as she’s making hard choices about quality of life. It was an uplifting exercise that reminded me of my good fortune. Here’s an excerpt:
For me, life is wonderful with the ability to read, write and enjoy the world around me. If life after treatment would leave me confined indefinitely to a bed or require round-the-clock care, that is not a life I want to live. As you are making these decisions for me, I’m sorry you are in this position, but know that I have lived a wonderful and happy life with much love, joy and adventure!
So for today’s Well challenge, I encourage you to embrace the opportunity to be prepared by creating an advance health directive and gathering other documents to support your family in a time of crisis. I’ve mapped out six simple steps and the links you need to do it. Sign up for the Well newsletter to get the 7-Day Well Challenge in your inbox.
Create a Crisis Notebook
Pick a binder: While you should create a digital copy of all your important documents, having a physical binder that your loved ones can grab quickly in a crisis is a good idea. I chose an attractive three-ring binder that looks nice on my bookshelf! It’s out in the open so it will be easy to find if someone needs it. You may also want to put backup copies in a fireproof lockbox, give a set to a trusted friend or lawyer and scan copies to put in an online folder.
Use a checklist: The first pages in my binder are from this AARP worksheet, which is the best checklist I’ve found to help identify everything a loved one might need in a crisis. It includes space to list medical, insurance, financial and end-of-life information and answers the most important question for your loved ones: “Where is it kept?” Many of the documents you need vary by state, and some require witnesses and possibly a notary. They all require some thoughtful contemplation on how you want to be cared for during an illness or at the end of life.
Write your advance directive: You can find the forms for your state on the AARP website. An advance directive should designate someone to make medical decisions for you if you’re not able and offer specific guidance about your wishes if you become critically ill and require life support. If you don’t complete these forms in advance, your immediate family will be in charge of your care in a crisis, even if that is not whom you would have picked. In addition to putting a copy in your home binder, you can ask to have it put on file with your medical provider and your lawyer, if you have one.
Have the talk: Have a conversation with your backup decision maker about your wishes and make sure they know where to find the document. A Kaiser Family Foundation study reported that only 56 percent of adult Americans have had a serious conversation about health care preferences, 27 percent wrote down their preferences, and just one in 10 discussed them with a health care provider. For additional guidance, read The Time for ‘The Talk’ Is Now by Dr. Laura Schellenberg Johnson, a physician at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, Wash. To give your loved ones additional support, consider adding a “last letter” to your binder.
Gather legal documents: Add important legal documents to your binder so they’re easy for your family to find. (Keep the originals in a safe deposit box, with your lawyer or in a fireproof box.) If you die without a will, the courts will decide how to distribute your estate. Various online services offer simple wills. The Wealth Matters column in The New York Times recently talked about this in Making Wills Easier and Cheaper With Do-It-Yourself Options. My colleague John Schwartz shared his experience in What It Was Like to Finally Write My Will. A durable power of attorney for finance allows a designated person to access your finances. You can find free forms online, or sites like LegalZoom or Nolo will offer guidance for a fee.
Don’t forget your online accounts and passwords. About half of caregivers say they don’t have legal authorization or passwords to access online accounts like utility accounts, banks, credit cards and social media accounts. The solution is to create a digital estate plan now. Think about what you want your online friends (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to know if you should become incapacitated. Learn more about creating a digital estate plan from this AARP guide.
The pandemic taught us that when you take care of yourself, you’re also taking care of your family, friends and community. The 7-Day Well Challenge will show you how to focus on self-care in 2021.
Inactive people started moving more if they received daily step targets that exceeded their usual number by about 500 steps.
Every morning around 7 a.m., as she prepares to film a live workout for her 237,000 Instagram followers from her New York City apartment, Megan Roup sips on warm water with a squeeze of lemon while her French press coffee brews. It’s a ritual she has followed for years, the origin of which she can’t quite remember.
“It just get things moving and grooving in the morning,” said Ms. Roup, a fitness instructor in her 30s who founded the Sculpt Society workout beloved by many models. “Along with a probiotic, it’s really helped my overall digestion.”
Ms. Roup is one of many influential figures who swear by the drink, which counts Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Gisele Bündchen as devotees. In interviews with models and on fitness feeds, the tip has become commonplace, almost a given at this point. Melissa Wood-Tepperberg, the founder of the Pilates-centric Melissa Wood Health Method, is another believer, posting about it almost daily on social media.
The reasoning behind the ritual varies. Some share Ms. Roup’s belief that it aids digestion, lessening bloat and constipation; others point to its benefits for skin health, believing it wards off the formation of wrinkles and clears up acne. And, for the dehydrated among us, it’s simply a way to make drinking water more enticing.
“I can’t really say if I notice a difference in my skin or digestion, but I do consume more water when I put lemon in it,” said Laura Lajiness, 32, a freelance writer in New York who has been drinking two 16-ounce glasses of lukewarm water with lemon on and off for years. “Maybe there’s a placebo effect?”
The popularity of water with lemon has reached a fever pitch this year, as people stuck at home have channeled their boredom into boosting their wellness routines, hoping to emerge from quarantine with a little more glow, and more fit, than before. Google searches for “lemon and water” peaked in April and are growing overall, up 24.2 percent since this time last year, according to data from the consumer intelligence firm Spate.
Hydration in general is trending, becoming the latest lucrative frontier in the wellness boom. Liquid I.V., which sells electrolyte packets that claim to provide two to three times the hydration of one glass of water, was acquired by Unilever in September.
A company called 8Greens — its effervescent green tablets are said to promote skin elasticity — has raised $10 million in funding and has been spotted on the social feeds of Drew Barrymore and Zac Efron. Beauty Water Drops, from the meal-delivery service Sakara Life, which “transform your water and deeply hydrate your cells with 72 naturally occurring ionic trace minerals,” according to the company, have become a best seller for the brand.
But it’s best to tread lightly with what you buy into. “There’s a lot of pseudoscience out there that’s well intentioned but often misses the mark,” says Dr. Panta Rouhani Schaffer, a dermatologist in New York. Water with lemon, at least, is considered fairly harmless and, unlike the myriad branded hydration options easily accessible. A pack of 30 8Greens tablets and a two-ounce bottle of Sakara Life Beauty Water Drops each cost $39; Liquid I.V. charges $25 to $120 for packets of 16 to 96 hydration sticks.
Like many American wellness remedies, the drink is actually a repackaged ritual from another country — in this case, Italy. Known to some Italian natives as “canarino,” or canary, the drink is one of the country’s many “nonna’s remedies” that are used as a post-meal digestif, upset-stomach soother or cold killer, depending on who you ask.
Prepared by combining boiling water with a lemon peel, bay leaf and, occasionally, a drop of honey, the mixture is “an ancient remedy used by Italian grandmas to bring immediate relief to their loved ones,” said Francesco Lucatorto, a 31-year-old chef who lives in Genoa.
But in recent years, younger Italians have followed America’s footsteps and reframed it as a detox drink, often imbibed after an overindulgent night of eating and drinking. Some proponents add ginger, mint or turmeric to deepen its flavor and boost its perceived benefits.
As for what the concoction actually does … well, it’s complicated.
From a gut health standpoint, vitamin C is considered important for overall digestion and aids in the absorption of crucial vitamins like iron, said Dr. Niket Sonpal, a gastroenterologist in New York. It can also act as a laxative, meaning that if daily lemon water drinkers feel lighter, it’s probably not all in their heads.
“They’re consuming a lot of ascorbic acid and softening their stools with the hydration, so instead of going to the bathroom once every two days, they’re going every day,” Dr. Sonpal said. “Over all, that’s a good thing — better out than in.”
When it comes to skin health, there is some science to support the benefits of consuming lemon, but the details are important. Researchers are increasingly studying the impact of certain foods on glycation, a key cause of skin aging that involves sugar molecules attaching to and deteriorating proteins like collagen, according to Dr. Schaffer.
In one such study of 28 healthy Japanese subjects, 31 to 65 years old, who drank leaf balm extract in their tea, researchers found improved elasticity (which decreases with age) of the subjects’ facial skin.
Still, Dr. Schaffer said, more research needs to be done to determine what part of the lemon is beneficial. Is it the root, the leaf, the stem, the bark or the seed? While the citrus drink won’t hurt your skin, you may be better off lessening your refined sugar intake if aging is a concern, she said.
Hoping that a daily dose of lemon water will detox or clear up your skin is a lost cause, however. “There are no toxins in the skin to detox,” Dr. Schaffer said, echoing a message that many doctors have tried to get across amid the rise of juice cleanses, which are predicated on this faulty concept of detoxification.
At most, lemon’s antioxidant properties can protect against free radicals, which have been shown to speed up aging, Dr. Schaffer said. But acne sufferers would be better off drinking two cups of spearmint tea daily. The tea has been shown to have anti-androgen effects that can lessen male hormones like testosterone, which can cause acne.
One expert who won’t be signing off on the craze is your dentist. “I knew hot water and lemon had become really popular when our family dentist mentioned to us the harm of citric acid on tooth enamel,” Dr. Schaffer said. “He had seen so many patients with new onset erosion from the drink that he began to warn everyone he saw.” People with heart or kidney conditions should also hold off, according to Dr. Sonpal, the gastroenterologist, as excess fluids are often contraindicated in their treatment.
But if you can put aside visions of supermodel skin or reverse aging, incorporating water with lemon into your weekly routine is an easy, expert-approved way to raise your water intake and reap the digestive benefits without spending much money.
For now, Ms. Roup, who is quick to tell her followers that she’s not a nutritionist when sharing her dietary habits, has more faith in this route than other options on the market that make outsize claims.
“Everyone’s always trying to sell you something in the health-and-wellness world, but it doesn’t need to be complicated,” she said.
Make 2021 the year of the exercise snack.
Just as you might grab a handful of chips or nuts to break the monotony of your day, an exercise “snack” is a short burst of movement you can enjoy at home or in the office or outdoors. It can last for mere seconds or for several minutes. You can do it while talking on the phone or just because you want to take an hourly break from sitting in your chair. You don’t even have to change your clothes.
A number of scientific studies show that exercise snacking several times a day leads to meaningful gains in fitness and overall health. A recent study concluded that even just 4-second bursts of exercise have been shown to improve fitness.
“We’ve sort of been conditioned that exercise is this thing you do in a special place once you change into spandex, and it’s very daunting for people,” said Martin Gibala, professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, whose lab has conducted several studies of exercise snacking. “Let’s get people out of the mind-set that exercise is this special thing we do. You can just be active, even if it means setting your watch to trigger you to do some squats or wall sits for one minute after an hour of sitting.”
For many of us, the exercise snack has already become a part of pandemic life, even if we haven’t been aware of it. Studies have shown that pandemic restrictions have slowed many people down. Average daily steps declined by about 5.5 percent during the first 10 days of a nation’s pandemic lockdowns and by about 27 percent by the end of the first month, according to data from more than 450,000 users of a smartphone step-counting app.
But to compensate, many people found ways to keep moving in their homes. An April study by Yelp, the local search and reviewing site, found that interest in fitness equipment had risen by 500 percent between March and April in the United States. Workout bands, kettle bells and exercise bikes sold out in stores and online, and exercisers found workout apps and videos to help them keep moving while stuck at home. Some people took short walks to make up for losing the morning commute. Others did jumping jacks or wall push-ups to break up hours of sitting at the laptop.
Several studies show that these small bursts of exercise can have a big impact on health. One recent study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, recruited 11 overweight men and women who were asked to sit for nine hours a day in cozy recliners, where they worked or watched television. They were all served three meals while sitting in their chairs. One day the participants never left the chair except to go to the bathroom. On another day, they left the chair just once an hour to race up three flights of stairs, which took about 20 seconds. Among the overweight participants, adding a 20-second burst of stair climbing to an otherwise sedentary day led to improvements in insulin sensitivity, a sign of metabolic health.
“We’re better able to process nutrients if we break up our sitting with these short bursts of exercise once every hour,” said Jonathan Little, associate professor in the school of health and exercise sciences at the University of British Columbia. “I don’t think it replaces regular exercise, but we think you can get some bang for your buck with a small amount of these exercise bursts. Working from home could make these exercise snacks a lot easier. If you have an exercise bike, you theoretically don’t need to change into exercise gear — in a 20-second burst, you’re not going to sweat.”
The study built on similar research at McMaster University that showed exercise snacks can lead to meaningful improvements in fitness. In that study, a dozen exercisers raced up three flights of stairs just three times a day for three days a week. After six weeks of these 20-second snacks of exercise, the exercisers had increased their aerobic fitness by about 5 percent. They also showed improvements in leg power and could generate more power while cycling.
Dr. Gibala said the lesson from the research is that with a little effort, we can stay active anywhere under almost any circumstances — no matter how busy we are. The key to getting the benefit of brief exercise is to pick up the pace.
“You need to push it a little bit,” said Dr. Gibala. “Get out of your comfort zone. If your normal exercise is walking around the block, pick it up a little bit. As you go about your day, as you’re playing with grandchildren, as you’re walking to the bus; the key is to encourage people to do it in a vigorous manner, and that may lead to some real health benefits.”
To learn how to add exercise snacks into your day, try the second day of our 7-Day Well Challenge. Sign up for the Well newsletter to get each day’s challenge in your inbox.
Try an Exercise Snack
This week, try one or more of these exercise challenges to add short bursts of exercise throughout your day.
Add exercise to your phone call: A work or social call is a great time to add some activity to your day — and the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t have to know about it. Just get up and start walking around your home as you talk. If you have hand weights, do some arm exercises. Do a yoga pose or a wall sit while you chat.
Add music to your movement break: Every hour or few hours, turn on a favorite song, and dance or do jumping jacks or another physical activity. If you’ve got children or another adult at home, ask them to join you. Adding music to a walk or just taking a short dance break will enhance the restorative benefits of exercise, said Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University and author of “The Joy of Movement.”
“Moving to music is one of the best ways to increase positive emotions and to connect with other people,” said Dr. McGonigal. “Think about something like a movement break to music if you need more energy, or if you need a big emotional reset.”
Do the 7-Minute Standing Workout: Take a 7-minute break during your day to try our new standing workout video. All you need is a wall, a chair for balance and sturdy shoes. The workout was designed by Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and creator of the original scientific 7-minute workout. The standing workout was designed for newcomers to exercise, older people, pregnant women or anyone with an ache or injury that keeps them from easily getting down on the floor or back up. But anyone can take advantage of the benefits of this exercise snack.
Video by Ruru Kuo, Rob Dozier, Jaspal Riyait and Tara Parker-Pope. Workout created and performed by Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.
If it feels as if you’ve already explored every last nook and cranny of your cramped lockdown life know this: Right under your nose, there’s a hidden world operating entirely out of view.
That world is geocaching, a no-contact game of hide-and-seek between hundreds of thousands of strangers. Players hide caches — waterproof containers, usually small plastic boxes — in out-of-sight spots for others to discover using GPS technology.
How has this world remained totally hidden from you? The first rule of geocaching is to try to keep your searching a secret. If a runner jogs by, players may pretend to be deeply engrossed in plant identification. (Once you know about geocaching, you may realize just how many other folks are pretending to be fascinated by that patch of ivy.)
Geocaching began in earnest in 2000, when the U.S. military adjusted its GPS satellites to improve accuracy for recreational GPS users. An enthusiast in Oregon hid the first cache, said Bryan Roth, president and co-founder of Geocaching HQ, which runs Geocaching.com. Since then, the community has grown steadily, with the pandemic spurring a considerable increase in participation.
“At a time when people are looking for some distraction, getting outside really works well,” said Mr. Roth, who noted that sign-ups for the Geocaching app are up 70 percent compared with last year.
To get started, download an app on your phone, like Geocaching HQ (free download and some free caches, but the $30 annual membership unlocks more); Cachly ($4.99 and free caches, iPhone only); or c:geo (free download and free caches, Android only). You can also geocache with a hand-held GPS device, using online databases like NaviCache.com to find cache coordinates.
Caches are rated 1 to 5 by their difficulty; beginners may want to start with a 1 and work up from there. GPS will usually get you within 30 feet of the cache, and instructions like “look to the north of the roadway” can clue you in on exactly where you should be searching.
Then the real hunt begins.
When you find the cache — be it hidden under a tree, tucked into a log pile or taped to the back of a sign — you can check it off on the app. Most caches have a logbook tucked inside which shows everyone who was there before you, while others will contain a trinket as a treasure. (Putting a few tiny objects in your pocket before you head out gives you options if you think you might want to swap with the trinkets inside.)
One particularly nice benefit of geocaching is that it gets screen-addicted kids outside. And even though geocaching happens outdoors, you needn’t be outdoorsy.
When a friend first suggested that Katie Sweeney and her husband try geocaching in 2007, “I was like, I don’t really like hiking,” she remembered. Ms. Sweeney, a copywriter based in the Netherlands, soon found many caches within a few blocks of her home, in Philadelphia at the time. Today, she takes her 6-year-old daughter out to geocache on their way to or from the grocery store or other errands.
“We’re always discovering new places near where we live,” Ms. Sweeney said, adding that children can really be an asset. Their different vantage points often helps them see things adults might overlook.
Nick Geidner, a University of Tennessee journalism professor, doesn’t mind if a hunt is a bust.
“We don’t always find them,” he said. “But if we fail, we can come back and we can try again.” Henry, his 7-year-old son, wasn’t quite so sure. When asked how he felt after giving up on a recent hunt, he said, “I’m not like angry, but I’m not like happy.”
The thrill of finding a tricky or unique cache, though, far outweighs those not-happy moments. In September, Ms. Sweeney and her daughter found a once-in-a-lifetime cache, which had a gamelike opening with a maze, magnetic ball and secret code.
“It was this little joy,” said Ms. Sweeney, recalling opening the cache. “We’re all just looking for little moments of joy.”
For many people, 2020 was not a year for saving money. Even those who remained employed suddenly found themselves shelling out for unforeseen expenses: A used car because public transport suddenly seemed unsafe. A salary for a pod tutor to help their children with remote learning. Subscriptions to multiple streaming services to make life at home more tolerable.
And that’s the best-case scenario. Spending choices were more fraught if you or yours lost a job, fell behind on your rent or mortgage, or endured a health bill. Congress passed a sweeping stimulus bill (and a second) to help, but the influx of cash and debt relief also provoked a sense of whiplash: money coming in and money going out at uncertain times, and in unknown amounts.
Here’s how to get a handle on your finances in the new year, and employ a few tricks to help keep your spending down.
Save with purpose.
Many Americans start the year with a frugal turn after a bout of holiday gift-giving: About half of those making New Year’s resolutions want to save more. A top financial New Year’s resolution is often paying down credit-card debt, which for the country was on the rise at the end of 2020.
The trouble is that most people are not terribly successful at adopting thrift and are soon back to their old spending patterns.
Brent Weiss, a co-founder of the financial planning firm Facet Wealth, thinks we’re being too vague with our money goals. Saving more or spending less are laudable aims, but you should “focus on what you are trying to achieve,” he said.
Do you want to pay down debt? Build up a depleted emergency savings fund? Plan an end-of-Covid trip with your closest friends? By identifying why you want to trim your sails and where you want that money to go, you’ll give yourself a tangible target.
Give your goal a name, estimate how much you need to save, and by when. Those details are key, Mr. Weiss said, to keeping on going as the dreary winter months slog on and your resolve weakens.
Buy what you like.
Last year offered a kind of natural experiment: Your ability to spend was curtailed, and so you gained a sense of what you really wanted and what you didn’t really need.
Maybe you learned you enjoyed driving to the beach more than flying with your toddlers for a vacation. Maybe ordering out a few more nights a week was a lifesaver after a busy day. Maybe you want to keep contributing to a charity you came across.
“Heading into 2021, we can use this information to reshape our budget into a template that prioritizes the spending we most enjoy,” said Kevin Mahoney, a financial planner based in Washington, D.C., who focuses on millennial money issues. “And we can continue to minimize or forgo those expenses that we’ve learned we can live without, diverting them instead to higher value uses.”
By carving out space for the items you like, you’ll end up spending less on what you don’t need.
Allocate your spending.
The idea of a “budgeting system” can sound off-putting or intimidating to even the most well intentioned. To take the edge off, employ a strategy that jibes with your tastes.
For instance, households used to take their paychecks and divide the money into envelopes earmarked for certain purposes (groceries, mortgage, insurance). The point was to make the best use of every dollar as soon as it came into your possession and not to overspend.
Such fastidiousness, though, can be exhausting, so others improvised. One saver interviewed in a 1959 book, “Workingman’s Wife: Her Personality, World and Life Style” described her “silly little system,” in which she would divide her husband’s paycheck into two piles: one for groceries (which went into a kitchen drawer) and one for everything else (which went into a tin can).
As saving tools, envelopes and tin cans are pretty much obsolete but the principle still holds: You want to have some sense of where you’re spending so you don’t overdo it, but the plan should make sense to you.
There are many avenues to explore.Most major cards will allow you to see on your account page just how much you’ve spent and on what. Free apps (like Mint) will track all expenses across all of your accounts if you happen to spread out your spending. You could also get creative and keep a spending journal for a month or two, documenting each transaction and subtracting it from the amount you expect to earn that particular month. Or toss your credit cards in the night stand for a month and pay for as much as you can in cash; research shows you’ll spend less.
Try out a few different options over the next few months; set up the digital equivalent of the tin can and the kitchen drawer, being more mindful of spending and allocating money into a savings account if you can, and see what sticks.
In December, Congress passed a $900 billion relief bill that includes federal unemployment assistance and direct payments to individuals and families. Depending on your eligibility and family size, those dollars should be hitting your bank account soon.
For federal student-loan borrowers, payments had already been paused until January, and the Biden administration may yet provide more assistance. Plus you can soon file your taxes, which for some people may result in a refund of hundreds or thousands more.
Before you get used to the idea of the money sitting in your bank account, making it harder to part with, identify which one of your goals you plan to put the cash toward, and do so immediately. Not only will you jump-start your savings goal, but a burst of sudden progress will make the entire task seem more doable.
Where should you start? Sam Brownell, founder of the wealth advisory firm Stratus Capital Management, recommends your emergency savings fund, which experts say should contain enough to cover three to six months worth of essential expenses. Prioritize your savings before debt, he said. The relief bills offered help to homeowners and renters who can’t make payments, and even if student loan payments resume in February, you might apply for deferment or forbearance if you’re having trouble paying. Credit card debt can be, in effect, refinanced through a balance-transfer or a personal loan.
Having a chunk of cash in tow can be a beachhead against tough times.
Make it hard to cheat.
You can still slip up.
Digital walls are permeable and you can all too easily, say, raid your newfound savings for a last-minute post-vaccine getaway. Do that a few times too many and you’ll revert to your spendthrift instincts.
The key is to protect you from yourself. Meir Statman, a professor of finance at Santa Clara Universityin California, recommends making your savings functionally difficult to access.
“One way is to place the emergency fund in a bank that is at least an hour’s drive away, and cut the A.T.M. card,” he said. “Another is to place the money with Mom, who is good at tough love. You’ll have to beg for your money, and perhaps be too embarrassed to beg.”
The same rule applies to spending. When you’re online shopping, disable your credit card from any store accounts so that you’ll have to track down your wallet if you want to buy something. Or make a deal with your spouse to discuss any purchase over a certain amount. Perhaps you’ll make the extra effort, but you may only do so for something you really want.
Last year is mercifully behind us. With a little luck, and some considered spending, a more prosperous one may lie ahead.
As the holiday season retreats and the long slog of the winter months looms, you can fight the mood or embrace it. Here’s a playlist of cold-weather podcasts, some fiction, some nonfiction, all well-told and produced, and all set in the snow.
For musical-theater nerds:
Audio dramas — podcast-industry lingo for fictional podcasts — can sometimes get in trouble if a show is too well done. If a work of fiction presented in the style of true crime is too perfect in its mimicry, audiences can feel duped (see: the furious reviewers of the “The Heads of Sierra Blanca”). While “In Strange Woods” starts with your standard true-crime reporter’s narration of the disappearance of a teenage boy in the snowy woods of Minnesota, within a few minutes any question of vérité is completely removed when the characters break into song. If you don’t love musical theater, you may want to skip it. But the vocal performances are beautiful;, the songs add drama in a way that manages not to be annoying; and the show’s protagonist, a little sister grieving for her brother, makes for a compelling story that is still unfolding — so far, three “chapters” of the five-episode limited series have been released.
For storytelling lovers:
The magic of live-storytelling podcasts like “The Moth” and “Snap Judgment” is the way they collapse the space between your headphones and the speaker onstage. “Dark Winter Nights” began in 2014 with the goal of bringing Alaskan stories to whomever would listen. These live-event recordings are designed to transport you into “the stories we tell up here in Alaska, on dark winter nights,” according to the host and creator, Robert Prince, a professor of documentary filmmaking at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The tales range from the magnificent to the mundane, like a blind Alaskan finally “seeing” a whale on a trip with her family, or another running from unseasonably awake bears.
For sports fans:
‘30 for 30’: ‘On the Ice’
When it comes to cold weather athletics and a beautifully sound-designed story, most podheads likely think of the audio maker Rose Eveleth’s “On the Ice” episode for ESPN’s “30 for 30” podcast series. In this classic piece of sports journalism, Eveleth shares the story of the women who led the first all-female trek to the North Pole in 1997 (“no expedition experience necessary” read the classified ad that drew them). While the challenge at the center of the story seems the cruel conditions of the Arctic, the beauty in it comes not just from the women’s journey to the top of the world, but also from the lives they left behind. For those who miss the Winter Olympics and stories of female athletes triumphing against impossible odds, try the “Out of the Woods” episode by Bonnie Ford, about the 1984 kidnapping of the Olympic biathlete Kari Swenson.
For true-crime freaks:
Wondery became a major podcast player by churning out buzzy and bingeable series, and it has one thing down pat: true crime. And as all good true-crime fans know, there is nothing quite as enticing as cracking open a cold case. With Wondery as a partner, the Salt Lake TV station KSL did just that in the case of Susan Powell, a Utahan mother of two who vanished on a blizzardy evening in December 2009. After her husband, Josh, the main suspect, killed himself and their sons in a fire two years later, local police declared the case closed. But with the help of Wondery, the KSL reporter Dave Cawley sifts through the evidence, conducts new interviews and unearths the dark legacy of psychological and emotional abuse within the Powell family in this well-told and, of course, bingeworthy 18-episode series.
Children (and their adults) who love the X-Men and other tales of youths with innate powers will get lost in this fictional saga. “Six Minutes” tells the story of Holiday, an 11-year-old with total amnesia who is found adrift in icy Alaskan waters by the Anders family. They adopt her immediately, telling Holiday that she is their own. But Holiday’s shrouded past slowly reveals itself, along with some superhuman abilities. The story is told in six -minute-long increments, and adds up to an epic, 200-episode adventure.
Join The New York Times Podcast Club on Facebook for more suggestions and discussions about all things audio.
It’s a hibernation season like no other: It’s colder and darker, and you’re still inside. Which makes it all the more important (and all the harder) to keep yourself moving. As 2021 begins, here are some ideas to get you out of the house, or at least off the couch for a bit.
Running Audio Guides
A massive running boom began in the spring as many people returned to the simplest exercise: one foot in front of the other until you’ve spent an adequate amount of time away from your seemingly shrinking home.
If you need a new boost to get back outside, or back on the treadmill, try an app like Nike Run Club or Asics Studio that offers free, guided runs. These are usually accompanied by music and a coach supplying instruction and motivation. Both apps have runs for beginners and more advanced runners looking for speed workouts or intervals. A little extra motivation can go a long way.
Indoor Biking Apps
Miss biking outdoors and not looking to buy a stationary bike? You can purchase bike rollers or an indoor bike trainer, allowing you to safely ride your outdoor bike indoors. Add an app to make things more entertaining than starting at your living room wall. Rouvy has virtual routes and challenges like riding the Ironman Australia route, complete with elevation maps and video from the course. You can also join a virtual world and ride with Zwift, with “live” rides in which you can join athletes from across the globe. Rouvy charges $12 per month, while Zwift costs $14.99 per month.
Yoga With Adriene
If you are looking for a no-frills yoga class that feels like it’s tailored to you, look no further than Yoga with Adriene, from Adriene Mishler, who The New York Times Magazine called “the reigning queen of pandemic yoga.” On YouTube, Mishler has created free yoga for writers and yoga for chefs, yoga for runners and yoga for travelers, yoga for equestrians and yoga for surfers, and a recent video titled “Yoga for When You Feel Dead Inside.” She also has 30-day yoga “journeys.”
Peloton — With or Without Equipment
Sure, you’ve heard of Peloton’s bike and treadmill. But the company also has a slate of classes and programs on its app for those looking to stay in shape at home without a big investment in hardware. You can sort through strength programs for those that require specific equipment (classes that use resistance bands, for example) or choose ones that don’t require any equipment whatsoever. The app offers a $12.99 monthly digital membership.
Peloton is one of the largest and most-established players in the at-home fitness industry, and its teachers understand the challenges of working out wherever you can find the space. It’s not uncommon to hear an instructor remind participants to find a spot where they can stretch their arms out safely, without knocking anything (or anyone) over.
Miss being able to sample boutique fitness classes? The Obé Fitness app has numerous classes available on demand, but one of its greatest strengths is the diversity of live classes. The classes, taught by many instructors recognized by devotees of New York City’s boutique fitness scene, are filmed in pastel studios that resemble squares of an Instagram page. On any given day, there’s some combination of Pilates classes and dance classes, cardio boxing, yoga sculpt, barre and strength. There app offers both annual subscriptions ($199) and monthly ones ($29.99).
Have a Workout Type in Mind? Turn to YouTube
If you have an idea of what you are looking for — be it a 10-minute core workout, a 15-minute prenatal stretching routine or a 30 minute body-weight class — many of your best options can be found for free on YouTube. The hard part is sorting through the embarrassment of riches, so be prepared to find thousands of results that could prove effective.
Twenty-twenty was a hard year for many people. Drawing is one way to remind yourself of some of the positive things that happened, the things that brought you joy, as well as the stuff you could do without in 2021. An illustrated More/Less list is a relaxed version of the classic New Year’s resolution list, and a way to envision the things you would like more of in your life, and the things you would like to dropf. Here’s how to do it:
Draw a line down the center of the space at righ. On the left, write the word “More”at the top. On the right, write the word “Less.” Now think of the things that you enjoyed this year (you can also imagine things that would bring you joy in the future). Once you have an idea, draw a simple icon to represent it and draw it in the More column. If you want more jogging in your life, maybe draw a sneaker. Do the same for the Less side: If you want less social media, maybe draw a phone .
These drawings don’t have to be realistic or well-rendered; they just have to be recognizable to you. Think of them as secret symbols that remind you of your intention. If you worry you might forget what you meant, you can label them with a few letters to remind yourself. It’s OK to make your symbols simple (a heart, a plus sign) or abstract (a scribble, an x). This is the year ahead for you!