The 25 Most-Read Inverse Culture Stories of 2017


Looking back on 2017 is probably not something most of us are prepared to do just yet. That being said, taking a glance at the year’s most-read Culture stories definitely reads like a greatest hits on what captivated our attention in this most crazy of years.

Above the cacophony of Trump gaffs and Twitter feuds, Inverse readers gravitated towards stories that could satisfy their curiosities about this big weird world. From the political (can you legally punch a Nazi?) to the whimsical (what is tentacle porn?), Inverse readers had a lot of questions in 2017. And as technology continues to move at a speed that we can barely keep up with, readers also wanted to know about how apps, AI and the internet at large is affecting our social lives — and our sex lives.

Here are the 25 Culture stories that Inverse readers loved in 2017.

25. Why the Internet Turned on Vine and YouTube Star Jake Paul

By Emily Gaudette

An adult’s guide to the young Vine star who has matured into a weird — and problematic — Youtube celebrity.

24. 8 Surprising Images That Were Banned From Instagram

By Grace Scott

When it comes to what imagery is too sexual or explicit for Instagram, female bodies seem to get caught in the crossfire of the debate over what’s appropriate to post online. These images, many of which appear to be quite benign, were still too controversial for the social media platform.

23. A 95-Year-Old “Real Life Tomb Raider” Isn’t a Hero, She’s a Thief

By Rae Paoletta

Joan Howard spent the ‘60s and ‘70s pilfering historical artifacts from the Middle East. Several archaeologists told Rae Paoletta about why Howard’s activities were highly unethical, likely illegal, and deeply offensive.

Artist Isaac Kariuki had this portrait of a woman with a cellphone taken down from his Instagram.

22. ‘Get Out’ Fans Will Love Jordan Peele’s Viral Tweet About Trump

By Paige Leskin

Jordan Peele made a perfectly-meta dig at Donald Trump over Twitter.

21.How to (Legally) Punch a Nazi Who’s Threatening You

By Katie Way

Civil rights lawyer and activist Dan Siegel spoke to Inverse about the legal parameters of self-defense and Nazis.

20. The Librarian Behind This Tough Topics Poster Says It Will Hang Indefinitely

By Nick Lucchesi

The person responsible for a sign directing teens to books on tricky topics, from abusive relationships to acne, tells us why it’s important that kids get the information they’re sometimes afraid to ask for.

19. Why Google is Celebrating 131 Years of the ‘Essential’ Hole Punch

By Mike Brown

When Google chose to highlight Dutch designer Gerben Steenks in a November doodle, it gave us the perfect excuse to school readers on the fascinating history of the hole punch. It’s actually very interesting!

This poster that helps young people find literature on the more awkward of topics went viral on Reddit.

18. States and Cities Where Weed Won This November

By Sarah Sloat

The November election was a game-changer for marijuana activists, as legislators in favor of legalization were voted in across the board.

17. The Right Hates That Vogue Cover Because They Still Own Patriotic Imagery

By Emily Gaudette

Jennifer Lawrence’s Vogue cover caused a stir back in August as hardline conservatives argued that the background use of the Statue of Liberty was a cryptic dig at President Trump’s immigration reform. Yes, really.

16. New Study Reveals Bartenders, Casino Workers Most Likely to Get Divorced

By Emily Gaudette

Unfortunately, data tends not to lie.

15. Sex Doll Brothel Opens Up in Barcelona

By Cory Scarola

Claiming to be the first of its kind, a sex doll brothel opened up in Spain early in the year. Obviously we decided to write about this, as well as expound upon whether you can get an STI from a sex doll.

LumiDolls, the world’s first sex doll brothel, captured readers’ attentions in 2017.

14. Most Americans Still Lie About How They Want Their Steak

After it was revealed that Donald Trump likes his steak disturbingly well done, we decided to look into how the rest of America enjoys their sirloin. It turns out we don’t like it on the rare side either.

13. The White House Website Under Trump No Longer Has a Spanish Option

By Nick Lucchesi

As the Trump presidency dawned upon America back in January of 2017, people were paying close attention to how government websites might change under new hands. It didn’t take long for the Spanish language option to disappear from WhiteHouse.gov.

12. Watch the Founding Fathers’ Descendants Gather in One Room

By Emily Gaudette

In honor of Independence Day, Ancestry.com gathered living descendants of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence together. For a commercial. Emily Gaudette explores the complicated — and problematic — history behind the advertisement.

11. The Latest Optical Illusion Stumping the Internet Is This Photo of Strawberries

By Gabe Bergado

It didn’t end with the dress. Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a professor of psychology at Ritsumeikan University in Japan, created an image that got the internet seeing red.

This strawberry image boggled minds across the internet in February.

10. JFK Conspiracy Theorists Are About to Receive the Motherlode

By Emily Gaudette

When it was announced that the remainder of the JFK files were to be released, conspiracy theorists had a hey day. We theorized on what new information might come to light — and what probably wouldn’t.

9. Power Outages Coincide in LA, New York, and San Francisco

By Cory Scarola

The trippy coincidence occurred back in April and captured the nation’s attention. We investigated.

2018? 2019? Place your bets.

8. Trump Impeachment Odds Now at 60 Percent

By Jame Grebey

Well, at least as far as an Irish betting house is concerned. Betting odds favoring Trump’s impeachment skyrocketed after Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey and became embroiled in the investigation into Russian meddling.

7. When and How Do Most Americans Lose Their Virginity?

By Emily Gaudette

It’s actually a pretty loaded question and depends very much on what you personally define as virginity. We parsed through the data.

6. The 21 Best Subreddits for Free, Creative Porn

By Emily Gaudette

Reddit is the go-to place to talk about and share just pretty much anything, including porn. Emily Guadette details some of the best subreddits out there.

Tentacle porn made a splash on Twitter thanks to Kurt Eichenwald.

5. A Helping Hand for Finding Great Tentacle Porn Online

By Emily Gaudette

A deep dive (no pun intended) into the slimy, sexy world of tentacle porn, including its origin and history. Inspired by an “accidental” tweet from Vanity Fair’sKurt Eichenwald of tentacle porn, we felt the internet could use a primer on the genre as Eichenwald’s tweet subsequently went viral.

4. Trump’s Tweets Just Went From Bad to Unconstitutional: Here’s Why

By Monica Hunter-Hart

Back in the summer it looked as if President Trump’s bombastic twitter habits were about to land him in the legal hot seat. It didn’t exactly happen, but as we enter 2018 with the President still glued to his feed, anything is possible.

3. What is Saraha?

By Katie Way

In 2017, we had a lot of questions about the app that seemed to go viral overnight, Saraha. Deriving its name from the Arabic word sarahah, which translates to “honesty” or “candor,” the app lets its brave users send and receive messages anonymously, for better or for worse.

Netflix’s Dear White People.

2. People Are Canceling Their Netflix Accounts Because of ‘Dear White People’

By Gabe Bergado

Oh brother. Throughout a year of outrage, the trailer for Dear White Peopleprompted white supremacists to decry Netflix’s “anti-white agenda.” The reason? The trailer showcases the show’s protagonist, black college student Sam White, stating that white students shouldn’t dress up in blackface on Halloween.

1. Pornhub Released a Detailed Map of the World’s Porn Interests

By Cory Scarola

Inverse readers seem to be really curious about porn, because this story was read more than any other in 2017. So where in the world do women watch the most porn? And why do Americans want to watch sexy videos that are Overwatch-themed? We don’t know… but Pornhub has dug up the data, along with so much more about our carnal interests.

The 25 Most-Read Inverse Science Stories of 2017: Wild, Wonderful & Strange


This year will be remembered for its immense cultural and social upheavals, both good and unbelievably, Earth-shatteringly bad. But what appears to have remained consistent, at least judging by the science stories that Inverse fans read, interacted with, and shared, is a healthy curiosity about the the weird and wonderful, the science of our own bodies and minds, and scientific discoveries that push the limits of what we currently consider reality. That, and an obsession with whatever Neil deGrasse Tyson has to say about anything.

To celebrate a strange and sensational year in science, here are the 25 science stories that Inverse readers loved the most.

A Hamer individual from Ethiopia who took part in the study. Many alleles associated with light skin originated in Africa, not in Europe.

25. Genetics Researchers Just Disproved a Long-Held Racist Assumption

As racial tensions escalated this year in America and around the world, scientists found hard evidence that many of the assumptions people make about people with dark skin are completely, utterly unfounded. Many people still act as if people born with dark skin are less human, a behavior inherited from Middle-Age Europeans who believed the African people they encountered were not the same species as them. In October, scientists revealed they — and the people who continue to promote those beliefs — were completely wrong, showing that the human genes for dark and light skin all originated in Africa.

Read more about the racist theory debunked by science.

24. Drake Equation Revision Hugely Ups Odds of Intelligent Alien Life

The Drake Equation, written in 1961 for the first meeting of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), is a seven-variable equation that calculates the odds that there are any active civilizations beyond Earth. In 2016, scientists decided it was a bit outdated, and so they updated it to include new data on exoplanets collected in the 50+ years since the equation was written. The new probability that there isn’t any other intelligent life out there is 10 billion trillion — making it extremely likely that there is something else out there.

Read more about your chances of meeting aliens in this lifetime.

23. Science Explains the Marijuana Hangover

The marijuana hangover — replete with headache, fatigue, fogginess, and dehydration, — has long confused pot users, who are more likely to associate the symptoms with alcohol. Scientists chalk the tired feeling up to the restless sleep that ensues when you get too high, and the dehydration you feel is caused by weed shutting down saliva production, which is what also causes the dreaded “dry mouth” while smoking.

Read more about the psychological and physical downside of a pot brownie binge.

22. Humans Have Been Having the Same Nightmare for Thousands of Years

Over the centuries, humans have come up with countless, often absurd, explanations for the phenomenon known as sleep paralysis. When it strikes, sleepers find themselves suddenly awake but unable to move, pinned to their bed as if a heavy weight is sitting on their chest. Scientists think the phenomenon has its roots in our brains, which actively paralyze us during REM sleep so that we don’t act out our dreams. If we’re suddenly interrupted during that phase, our brains sometimes “wake up” before our bodies do, leading to the terrifying nightmare-like experience.

Read more about sleep paralysis, which led to the evolution of the “Night Hag”.

Fossils found in submerged tunnels in Mexico might be the oldest human artifacts found in the Americas.

21. A Stolen Human Skeleton Might Be America’s Oldest

An investigation of the spoils from a plundered underwater cave in Tulum, Mexico, turned up an unlikely guest: the most ancient human skeleton ever found in the Americas. The Chan Hol II skeleton, which was first discovered in February 2012 and was actually stolen shortly after photos of it went public, was recovered by scientists who showed, using carbon dating, that it was 13,000 years old.

Read more about the very first Americans, who were actually in Mexico.

20. Diarrhea Is Evolution’s Immune System Drain-O

Poop will never not be funny for readers. It’ll also never not be interesting to scientists. This June, they discovered that diarrhea serves a critical purpose for animals, having evolved over millennia of evolution. As much as it sucks to get the runs while traveling or after eating an adventurous meal, having to rush to the can is much better than not getting diarrhea. The uncomfortable bowel movement, the scientists reported, is your body’s way of flushing out all of the potentially life-threatening toxins in your gut before they get into the rest of your body.

Read more about the biological reason diarrhea is good for you.

19. 20 Years After the Great Lego Spill, They’re Still Washing Ashore

In 1997, a container ship called the Tokio Express bound for New York was hit by a wave so huge that it knocked an enormous container full of 4.8 million pieces of Lego into the water. While at the time it didn’t seem like the miniature blocks would ever make it to their final destination, in July of this year residents of Cornwall, United Kingdom reported that the pieces are still washing up on the beach, suggesting there’s still a chance they may float to the other side of the Atlantic.

Read more about Lego pieces posing a hazard to barefoot British beach-goers.

18. Reddit Study on Ideal Penis Size Consistent With Dick Science

Despite all the changes that took place this year, our fascination with penis size did not waver. In July, the results of a small Reddit survey on penis size were presented in graph form, showing an upside-down U-shaped curve spanning lengths from four to ten inches. While this survey only incorporated self-reported data from 761 users, the results actually matched up well with what scientists already know about average peen size: like Reddit’s dicks, most dongs are about six and seven inches long and five to six inches around.

Read more about the average penis size and girth, on Reddit and elsewhere.

17. Neuroscience Reveals How the Brain Changes as it Watches Porn

We’re watching porn at record-breaking rates, and all that visual, er, stimulation has scientists wondering what it’s doing to us on an individual and a societal level. So far, we’ve learned that porn acts in many ways like a drug, causing our brains to release the pleasure-tr iggering neurotransmitter dopamine, and it may also activate the amygdala, the part of the brain linked to emotional behavior and motivation. Word’s still out on whether casual porn watching is problematic, but some scientists worry that very frequent porn viewing might be linked to certain psychological issues.

Read more about what all those late-night Pornhub visits do to your brain cells.

16. The Real Story Behind ‘Roanoke’ Is Creepier Than ‘AHS’

The sixth season of American Horror Story, centered on the historical real-life tragedy of the lost American colony at Roanoke, premiered in 2016, but it continued to intrigue Inverse readers well into 2017. Scientists have used lasers, magnometers, and radar to uncover rare objects that survived the 400 years since the colony was founded, but these still haven’t cleared up whether the colonists succumbed to disease, a violent uprising, or something even more sinister.

Read more about American Horror Story and the even more horrific Roanoke legend behind it.

15. China Transmits Data Into Space Using Quantum Entanglement

Around the world, scientists are making huge leaps in the field of quantum teleportation, which could revolutionize quantum computer security. China’s researchers are leading the pack, this year succeeding in transporting a quantum particle 870 miles into space — breaking the former distance record of 62 miles.

Read more about China’s supremacy in the quantum teleportation race.

14. Human Mini-Brains Growing Inside Rat Bodies Are Integrating

We’re living in the age of farmed organs, but scientists are still working out the kinks. These days, they’re growing human mini-organs inside animal bodies using stem cells that can be coerced into turning into livers, hearts, and brains. The brains are proving to be a bit problematic: in November, scientists reported that human brain cells grown inside rats are starting to transfer blood and nerve signals, giving the researchers pause: might these rat-brain hybrids become conscious?

Read more about whether hybrid rat-human brains will ever wake up.

13. Conspiracy Theorists Have a Basic Cognitive Issue, Say Scientists

Conspiracy theories abounded this year, which is perhaps not surprising, as previous studies have shown that increases in such beliefs tend to correlate with rising mistrust in authority structures. In October, scientists discovered what’s different about the way that people with these beliefs actually think: people who tend to believe in conspiracy theories, they explained, see patterns that don’t actually exist, and it’s this “illusory pattern perception” that causes them to believe in bizarre explanations for those imaginary patterns.

Read more about what’s different about the brains of conspiracy theorists.

12. Here’s Scientist Bill Richards’s Playlist for Tripping on Mushrooms

Psychedelic researchers have had a big year, using mind-altering drugs to treat psychological illness and thereby mitigating decades of stigma against them. Studies on the effects of the drugs, however, must be meticulously designed so that they will be considered legitimate, and so Bill Richards, Ph.D., a Johns Hopkins University researcher, used science to create a seven-hour playlist to maximize the experience of a psychedelic trip.

Read more about how to listen to music during a mushroom trip like a psychedelic scientist.

11. The Crazy Flat Earthers’ Theory That Trees Don’t Exist Isn’t Completely Crazy

The Flat Earth Movement drew criticism from Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and pretty much every other rational mind out there, but one of their bizarre theories actually kind of made sense. Kind of. Some Flat Earthers believe that what we call trees are actually just the tiny remnants of a world where trees were as wide as mountains and were so tall they scraped the sky. In the “no forests” theory, the present-day world represents the sad, small remains of what the Earth once was — which, as Inverse argued, is not altogether untrue.

Read more about the flat-Earther “no forest” theory and its somewhat compelling argument.

10. Indonesia Sea Monster Has Been Identified (It’s Not a Giant Squid)

In May, our appetite for the grotesque was satiated when news broke about a “sea monster” that had washed up on the shore of Indonesia’s Maluku Islands. This 50-foot-long blob of flesh was so badly decomposed that it was unidentifiable, and the giant bones that pierced through it only deepened its mystery. But about a week after it washed up, experts finally determined that it was the corpse of a type of baleen whale, misshapen because of the hot gases that bloated up inside it during decomposition.

Read more about the huge, dead sea animals mistaken for sea monsters.

9. Genetic Analysis Shows Early Humans Avoided Inbreeding, Incest

This year marked the penultimate season of Game of Thrones, which was as rife with incestuous themes as any other season. A study published in October echoed those themes, suggesting that our ancient human ancestors were a lot less genetically reckless than the inhabitants of Westeros. In the Science study, archaeologists showed evidence that humans buried together in Russia 34,000 years ago were no closer than second cousins, suggesting that even these humans knew not to bone their closest relations.

Read more about why incest is best left to the characters on Game of Thrones.

8. Scientists Discover Super-Massive Black Holes Just Outside Our Own Galaxy

We’re comfortable making movies about black holes because they’ve long seemed so far removed from real life, but a study published in January suggested that they’re a lot closer to us than we think. In an announcement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists reported that they’d found evidence of two super-massive black holes in two of the Milky Way’s neighboring galaxies, 39 million and 176 million light years away from us.

Read more about your friendly neighborhood super-massive black holes.

7. Long-Term Marijuana Use Changes Brain at the Cellular Level, say Scientists

Weed smokers have long noticed, anecdotally, that long-term marijuana use tends to change people’s behavior, but it wasn’t until October of this year that scientists started to notice the cellular changes underlying those behavioral shifts. Using rats that were administered daily doses of marijuana, researchers publishing in JNeurosci showed that the GABA neurons in the brain were unable to properly regulate the amount of dopamine swimming around, causing abnormally drawn-out good feelings of reward — which is the mechanism that’s thought to lead to addiction.

Read more about marijuana’s long-term effects on your brain.

6. Upper Body Strength Is Biggest Factor in Male Attractiveness

Scientists behind a controversial study, published in December, used the results of a questionably designed experiment to argue that women, by and large, find strong-looking men attractive because those men look like they can fight. The ability to fight, in turn, is said to be appealing because ancient women needed men to protect them, and some vestige of that preference remains today. The researchers’ explanation, however, didn’t take into account the fact that perhaps the women involved in the study were not necessarily hard-wired to find those men attractive and rather were subject to a number of other influences, including their own personal choice.

Read more about why male attractiveness isn’t all about being swole.

5. Neil deGrasse Tyson Slams Flat Earth Theory With a Single Picture

Astrophysicist and notorious know-it-all Neil deGrasse Tyson could not resist sharing his thoughts on the rising Flat Earth conspiracy theorist movement, tweeting a sick eclipse-related riddle in November that was guaranteed to stump even the staunchest “globalist” truther.

Read more about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s admittedly clever addition to the flat Earth debate.

4. What Never Leaving Your Hometown Does to Your Brain

Written in 2015, this scientific investigation on the psychological effect of staying in one’s hometown remains a perpetual Inverse Science favorite. It’s not surprising, considering that migration rates among American youth are at a historic low and that more and more people are choosing to put down roots in the states where they were born.

Read more about the psychological effect of never leaving home.

3. Nanoparticle Scientists Warn Tattooed Folks: Ink Doesn’t Stay Put

A report from nanoparticle scientists in September, published in Scientific Reports, cast doubt on the permanence of ink tattoos, revealing that tiny particles from certain kinds of inks actually swim away from the skin and wind up in the lymph nodes. In particular, they found elevated levels of titanium dioxide, a white compound that’s often added to other pigments, in the lymph nodes of the four cadavers they used in their small study. It’s not clear yet whether the escaped compounds pose any danger to people with tattoos, but it’s certainly something scientists must consider.

Read more about the troubling impermanence of seemingly “permament” tattoos.

2. Surgeons Remove Over 28 Pounds of Feces From a Constipated Man

It was hard for readers to resist the horrific photo of an enormous colon, clogged with nearly 29 pounds of feces, cradled like a small animal in the arms of a surgeon. It belonged to a 22-year-old Chinese man in Shanghai who, suffering from an ailment called Hirschsprung’s disease, was unable to expel the majority of waste in his body for his entire life. He’s fine now, thanks to a team of surgeons who removed 30 inches of his swollen colon during a 3-hour operation.

Read more about what happens to a body when it never gets to poop.

1. Scientists Have Found the ‘Holy Grail’ of Physics, Metallic Hydrogen

Kicking off the year, in January, was a monumental announcement by Harvard physicist Isaac Silvera, Ph.D., who claimed to have created metallic hydrogen — a theoretical state of matter that scientists never thought would be possible. Silvera reported in Science that he had forced elemental hydrogen into that state using immense amounts of pressure and extremely cold temperatures, noting that, if produced in large enough amounts, metallic hydrogen could be used as a form of fuel for deep space travel. Other scientists in the narrow field, however, did not mince words when the time came to publicly criticize Silvera’s work.

30 years after Prozac arrived, we still buy the lie that chemical imbalances cause depression


Some 2,000 years ago, the Ancient Greek scholar Hippocrates argued that all ailments, including mental illnesses such as melancholia, could be explained by imbalances in the four bodily fluids, or “humors.” Today, most of us like to think we know better: Depression—our term for melancholia—is caused by an imbalance, sure, but a chemical imbalance, in the brain.

Prozac%20bottle%20on%20a%20table

This explanation, widely cited as empirical truth, is false. It was once a tentatively-posed hypothesis in the sciences, but no evidence for it has been found, and so it has been discarded by physicians and researchers. Yet the idea of chemical imbalances has remained stubbornly embedded in the public understanding of depression.

Prozac, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration 30 years ago today, on Dec. 29, 1987, marked the first in a wave of widely prescribed antidepressants that built on and capitalized off this theory. No wonder: Taking a drug to tweak the biological chemical imbalances in the brain makes intuitive sense. But depression isn’t caused by a chemical imbalance, we don’t know how Prozac works, and we don’t even know for sure if it’s an effective treatment for the majority of people with depression.

 The theory fits in with psychiatry’s attempt, over the past half century, to portray depression as a disease of the brain, instead of an illness of the mind. One reason the theory of chemical imbalances won’t die is that it fits in with psychiatry’s attempt, over the past half century, to portray depression as a disease of the brain, instead of an illness of the mind. This narrative, which depicts depression as a biological condition that afflicts the material substance of the body, much like cancer, divorces depression from the self. It also casts aside the social factors that contribute to depression, such as isolation, poverty, or tragic events, as secondary concerns. Non-pharmaceutical treatments, such as therapy and exercise, often play second fiddle to drugs.

In the three decades since Prozac went on the market, antidepressants have propagated, which has further fed into the myths and false narratives we tell about mental illnesses. In that time, these trends have shifted not just our understanding, but our actual experiences of depression.

In the two millennia since Hippocrates founded medicine, society has embraced then rejected many theories of mental illness. Each hypothesis has struggled to reconcile how the subjective psychological symptoms of depression map onto physical malfunctions in the brain. The intractable relationship between the two has never been satisfactorily addressed.

Hippocrates’ humor-based notion of medicine, much like contemporary psychiatry, portrayed mental illness as rooted in biological malfunctions. But the evolution from Hippocrates to today has been far from smooth: In the centuries between, there was widespread belief in superstition and the supernatural, and symptoms that we would today call “depression” were often attributed to witchcraft, magic, or the devil.

The brain became the primary focus of depression in the 19th century, thanks to phrenologists. The field of phrenology, which took the shape of the skull as determinant of features of the underlying brain and psychological tendencies, was used by bigots to justify eugenics and has rightly been dismissed. But, though highly flawed, it did advance ideas of the brain still believed today. Whereas other physicians of the timebelieved organs like the heart and liver were connected to emotional passions, phrenologists held that the brain is the only “organ of the mind.” Phrenologists were also the first to argue that different areas of the brain have distinct, specialized roles and, based on this belief, posited that depression could be linked to a particular brain region.

 “Beginning with Freud’s influence, through the first half of the 20th century, the brain almost disappeared from psychiatry. When it came back, it came back with a vengeance.” The attention on the brain faded in the 20th century, when phrenology was supplanted by Freudian psychoanalysts, who argued that the unconscious mind (rather than brain) is the predominant cause of mental illness. Psychoanalysis considered environmental factors such as family and early childhood experiences as the key determinants of the characteristics of the adult mind, and of any mental illness.

“Beginning with Freud’s influence, through the first half of the 20th century, the brain almost disappeared from psychiatry,” says Allan Horwitz, a sociology professor at Rutgers University who has written on the social construction of mental disorders. “When it came back, it came back with a vengeance.”

A conglomeration of factors, beginning in the 1960s but having the largest effects in the ‘70s and ‘80s, contributed to psychiatry’s renewed emphasis on the brain. Firstly, in the US, conservative presidents disparaged as liberal causes any political efforts to alleviate social conditions that contribute to mental health, such as poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination. “Biologically-based approaches became more politically palatable,” says Horwitz, noting that the National Institute of Mental Health largely abandoned its research on the social causes of depression under president Richard Nixon.

 Conservative presidents disparaged as liberal causes any political efforts to alleviate social conditions that contribute to mental health, such as poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination. There was also growing interest in the role of drugs, for good reason: Newly developed antidepressants showed early success in treating mental illnesses. Though Freudian psychoanalysts did use the drugs alongside their therapy, the medication didn’t neatly fit with their theories. And while individuals had previously paid for mental health care themselves in the US, the 1960s saw private insurance companies and public programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, increasingly take on those costs. These groups were impatient to see results from their investment, notes Horwitz—and drugs were clearly both faster and cheaper than years of psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis also rapidly went out of fashion in that time. Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which advocated for the interests of those affected by mental illness and their families, were distrustful of psychoanalysis’ blame on parental figures. There was also a growing distaste for psychoanalysis among those on the left side of the political spectrum who believed psychoanalytic theories upheld conservative bourgeois values.

 “Psychiatry has always had a tenuous position in the prestige hierarchy of medicine.” At the time, psychoanalysis was deeply entwined with the field of psychiatry (the medical specialty that treats mental disorders.) Until 1992, psychoanalysts wererequired to have medical degrees (paywall) to practice in the US—and most had MDs in psychiatry. “Psychiatry has always had a tenuous position in the prestige hierarchy of medicine,” says Horwitz. “They weren’t regarded by doctors and other specialties as being very medical. They were seen more as storytellers as opposed to having a scientific basis.” As Freudian psychoanalysis became increasingly rejected as a pseudoscience, the entire field of psychiatry was tarnished by association—and so it pivoted, creating a new framework for diagnosing and treating mental health, founded on the role of the physical brain.

The theory of chemical imbalances was a neat way of explaining just how brain malfunctions could cause mental illness. It was first hypothesized by scientists in academic papers in the mid-to-late 1960s, after the seeming early success of drugs thought to adjust chemicals in the brain. Though the evidence never materialized, it became a popular theory and was repeated so often it became accepted truth.

It’s not hard to see why the theory caught on: It suited psychiatrists’ newfound attempt to create a system of mental health that mirrored diagnostic models used in other fields of medicine. The focus on a clear biological cause for depression gave practicing physicians a neat, easily understandable theory to tell patients about how their disease was being treated.

“The fact that practicing physicians and leaders of science bought that idea, to me, is so disturbing,” says Steve Hyman, director of the Stanley Center for psychiatric research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

The shifting language of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—widely and deferentially referred to as the Bible of contemporary psychiatry—clearly shows the evolution of field’s portrayal of mental illness. The second edition (pdf), published in 1968 (the DSM II), still showed the influence of Freud; conditions are broadly divided into more serious psychoses—with symptoms including delusional thinking, hallucinations, and breaks from reality—and less severe neuroses—such as hysterical, phobic, obsessive compulsive, and depressive neuroses. The neuroses are not clearly differentiated from “normal” behaviors. Importantly, anxiety—which Freud believed was foundational to human psyche and inextricably linked with societal repression—was portrayed as the underlying condition of all neuroses.

The DSM II also says depressive neurosis could be “due to an internal conflict or to an identifiable event such as the loss of a loved object or cherished possession.” The notion of “internal conflict” is explicitly drawn from Freud’s work, which posited that internal psychological conflicts drive irrational thinking and behaviors.

The third edition of the DSM (pdf), published in 1980, uses language far closer to contemporary professional depictions of mental illness. It does not suggest “internal conflicts” cause depression, anxiety is no longer portrayed as the underlying cause of all mental illnesses, and the manual focuses on creating a checklist of symptoms (whereas, in DSM II, none were listed for depressive neurosis.)

 “The fact that practicing physicians and leaders of science bought that idea, to me, is so disturbing” Today, the DSM-5 (pdf) lists various kinds of depressive disorders, such as “depressive disorder due to another medical condition,” “substance/medication-induced depressive disorder,” and “major depressive disorder.” Each of these disorders is distinguished by typical duration and its link to various causes, but the listed symptoms are broadly the same. Or, as the DSM-5 says: “The common feature of all of these disorders is the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function. What differs among them are issues of duration, timing, or presumed etiology.”

The problem is that, though various people could be classed as suffering from a distinct depressive disorder according to their life events, there aren’t clearly defined treatments for each disorder. Patients from all groups are treated with the same drugs, though they are unlikely to be experiencing the same underlying biological condition, despite sharing some symptoms. Currently, a hugely heterogeneous group of people are prescribed the same antidepressants, adding to the difficulty of figuring out who responds best to which treatment.

Before antidepressants became mainstream, drugs that treated various symptoms of depression were depicted as “tonics which could ease people through the ups and downs of normal, everyday existence,” write Jeffrey Lacasse, a Florida State University professor specializing in psychiatric medications, and Jonathan Leo, a professor of anatomy at Lincoln Memorial University, in a 2007 paper on the history of the chemical imbalance theory.

In the 1950s, Bayer marketed Butisol (a barbiturate) as “the ‘daytime sedative’ for everyday emotional stress”; in the 1970s, Roche advertised Valium (diazepam) as a treatment for the “unremitting buildup of everyday emotional stress resulting in disabling tension.”

Both the narrative and the use of drugs to treat symptoms of depression transformed after Prozac—the brand name for fluoxetine—was released. “Prozac was unique when it came out in terms of side effects compared to the antidepressants available at the time (tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors),” Anthony Rothschild, psychiatry professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, writes in an email. “It was the first of the newer antidepressants with less side effects.”

Even the minimum therapeutic dose of commonly prescribed tricyclics like amitriptyline (Elavil) could cause intolerable side effects, says Hyman. “Also these drugs were potentially lethal in overdose, which terrified prescribers.” The market for early antidepressants, as a result, was small.

 Deciding which antidepressant to prescribe to which patient has been described as a “flip of a coin.” Prozac changed everything. It was the first major success in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of drugs, designed to target serotonin, a neurotransmitter. It was followed by many more SSRIs, which came to dominate the antidepressant market. The variety affords choice, which means that anyone who experiences a problematic side effect from one drug can simply opt for another. (Each antidepressant causes variable and unpredictable side effects in some patients. Deciding which antidepressant to prescribe to which patient has been described as a “flip of a coin.”)

Rothschild notes that all existing antidepressant have similar efficacy. “No drug today is more efficacious that the very first antidepressants such as the tricyclic imipramine,” agrees Hyman. Three decades since Prozac arrived, there are many more antidepressant options, but no improvement in efficacy of treatment.

Meanwhile, as Lacasse and Leo note in a 2005 paper, manufacturers typically marketed these drugs with references to chemical imbalances in the brain. For example, a 2001 television ad for sertraline (another SSRI) said, “While the causes are unknown, depression may be related to an imbalance of natural chemicals between nerve cells in the brain. Prescription Zoloft works to correct this imbalance.”

Another advertisement, this one in 2005, for the drug paroxetine, said, “With continued treatment, Paxil can help restore the balance of serotonin,” a neurotransmitter.

“[T]he serotonin hypothesis is typically presented as a collective scientific belief,” write Lacasse and Leo, though, as they note: “There is not a single peer-reviewed article that can be accurately cited to directly support claims of serotonin deficiency in any mental disorder, while there are many articles that present counterevidence.”

Despite the lack of evidence, the theory has saturated society. In their 2007 paper, Lacasse and Leo point to dozens of articles in mainstream publications that refer to chemical imbalances as the unquestioned cause of depression. One New York Times article on Joseph Schildkraut, the psychiatrist who first put forward the theory in 1965, states that his hypothesis “proved to be right.” When Lacasse and Leo asked the reporter for evidence to support this unfounded claim, they did not get a response. A decade on, there are still dozens of articles published every month in which depression is unquestionably described as the result of a chemical imbalance, and many people explain their ownsymptoms by referring to the myth.

Meanwhile, 30 years after Prozac was released, rates of depression are higher than ever.

* * *

Hyman responds succinctly when I ask him to discuss the causes of depression: “No one has a clue,” he says.

There’s not “an iota of direct evidence” for the theory that a chemical imbalance causes depression, Hyman adds. Early papers that put forward the chemical imbalance theory did so only tentatively, but, “the world quickly forgot their cautions,” he says.

 “Neuroscientists don’t have a good way of separating when brains are functioning normally or abnormally.” Depression, according to current studies, has an estimated heritability of around 37%, so genetics and biology certainly play a significant role. Brain activity corresponds with experiences of depression, just as it corresponds with all mental experiences. This, says Horwitz, “has been known for thousands of years.” Beyond that, knowledge is precarious. “Neuroscientists don’t have a good way of separating when brains are functioning normally or abnormally,” says Horwitz.

If depression was a simple matter of adjusting serotonin levels, SSRIs should work immediately, rather than taking weeks to have an effect. Reducing serotonin levels in the brain should create a state of depression, when research has found that this isn’t the caseOne drug, tianeptine (a non-SSRI sold under the brand names Stablon and Coaxil across Europe, South America, and Asia, though not the UK or US), has the opposite effect of most antidepressants and decreases levels of serotonin.

This doesn’t mean that antidepressants that affect levels of serotonin definitively don’t work—it simply means that we don’t know if they’re affecting the root cause of depression. A drug’s effect on serotonin could be a relatively inconsequential side effect, rather than the crucial treatment.

History is filled with treatments that work but fundamentally misunderstand the causes of the illness. In the 19th century, for example, miasma theory held that infectious diseases such as cholera were caused by noxious smells contributing “bad air.” To get rid of these smells, cleaning up waste became a priority—which was ultimately beneficial, but because waste feeds the microorganisms that actually transmit infectious disease, rather than because of the smells.

It’s possible our current medical categorization and inaccurate cultural perception of “depression” is actually causing more and more people to suffer from depression. There are plenty of historical examples of mental health symptoms that shift alongside cultural expectations: Hysteria has declined as women’s agency has increased, for example, while symptoms of anorexia in Hong Kong changed as the region became more aware of western notions of the illness.

At its core, severe depression has likely retained the same symptoms over the centuries. “When it’s severe, whether you read the ancient Greeks, Shakespeare, [Robert] Burton on [The Anatomy of] Melancholy, it looks just like today,” says Hyman. “The condition is the same; it’s part of being human.” John Stuart Mill’s 19th century description of his mental breakdown is eminently familiar to a contemporary reader.

But less severe cases, in the past, may have been chalked up to simply being “justifiably sad,” even by those experiencing them, whereas they’d be considered a health condition today. And so, psychiatry “reframes ordinary distress as mental illness,” says Horwitz. This framework doesn’t simply label sadness depression, but could lead people to experience depressive symptoms where they would have previously been simply unhappy. The impact of this shift is impossible to track: Mental illness is now recognized as a legitimate health issue, and so many more people are comfortable admitting to their symptoms than ever before. How many more people are truly experiencing depression for the first time, versus those who are acknowledging their symptoms once kept secret? “The prevalence is difficult to determine,” acknowledges Hyman.

* * *

Perhaps unraveling the true causes of depression and exactly how antidepressants treat the symptoms would be a less pressing concern if we knew, with confidence, that antidepressants worked well for the majority of patients. Unfortunately, we don’t.

 “They’re slightly more effective than placebo. The difference is so small, it’s not of any clinical importance.” The work of Irving Kirsch, associate director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School, including several meta-analyses of the trials of all approved antidepressants, makes a compelling case that there’s very little difference between antidepressants and placebos. “They’re slightly more effective than placebo. The difference is so small, it’s not of any clinical importance,” he says. Kirsch advocates non-drug-based treatments for depression. Studies show that while drugs and therapy are similarly effective in the short-term, in the long-term those who don’t take medication seem to do better and have a lower risk of relapse.

Others like Peter Kramer, a professor at Brown University’s medical school, are strongly in favor of leaning on the drugs. Kramer is skeptical about the quality of many studies on alternative therapies for depression; people with debilitating depression are unlikely to sign up for anything that require them to do frequent exercise or therapy, for example, and so are often excluded from studies that eventually purport to show exercise is as effective a treatment as drugs. And, as he writes in an email, antidepressants “are as effective as most treatments doctors rely on, in the middle range overall, about as likely to work as Excedrin” for a headache.

 “Some people really respond, some don’t respond at all, and everything in between.” Others are more circumspect. Hyman acknowledges that, when taken in aggregate, all the trials for approved antidepressants show little difference between the drugs and placebo. But that, he says, obscures individual differences in responses to antidepressants. “Some people really respond, some don’t respond at all, and everything in between,” Hyman adds.

There are currently no known biomarkers to definitely show who will respond to what antidepressants. Severely depressed patients who don’t have the energy or interest to go to therapy should certainly be prescribed drugs. For those who are healthy enough to make it to therapy—well, opinions differ. Some psychiatrists believe in a combination of drugs and therapy; some believe antidepressants can be effective for all levels of depression and no therapy is needed; and others believe therapy alone is the best treatment option for all but the most severely depressed. Unfortunately, says Hyman, there’s little evidence on the best treatment plan for each patient.

Clearly, many people respond well to antidepressants. The drugs became so popular in large part because many patients benefited from the treatment and experienced significantly reduced depressive symptoms. Such patients needn’t question why their symptoms have improved or whether they should seek alternative forms of treatment.

On the other hand, the drugs simply do not work for others. Further, there’s evidence to suggest framing depression as a biological disease reduces agency, and makes people feel less capable of overcoming their symptoms. It effectively divorces depression from a sense of self. “It’s not me as a person experiencing depression. It’s my neurochemicals or my brain experiencing depression. It’s a way of othering the experience,” says Horwitz.

It’s nearly impossible to get good data to explain why depression treatments work for some and not others. Psychiatrists largely evaluate the effects of drugs by subjective self-reports; clinical trials usually include only patients that meet a rarefied set of criteria; and it’s hard to know whether those who respond well to therapy benefitted from another, unmeasured factor, such as mood resilience. And when it comes to the subjective experience of mental health, there’s no meaningful difference between what feels like effective treatment and what is effective treatment.

There’s also no clear data on whether, when antidepressants work, they actually cause symptoms to fully dissipate long-term. Do antidepressants cure depression, or simply make it more bearable? We don’t know.

Depression is now a global health epidemic, affecting one in four peopleworldwide. Treating it as an individual medical disorder, primarily with drugs, and failing to consider the environmental factors that underlie the epidemic—such as isolation and povertybereavement, job loss,long-term unemployment, and sexual abuse—is comparable to asking citizens to live in a smog-ridden city and using medication to treat the diseases that result instead of regulating pollution.

Investing in substantive societal changes could help prevent the onset of widespread mental illness; we could attempt to prevent the depressive health epidemic, rather than treating it once it’s already prevalent. The conditions that engender a higher quality of life—safe and affordable housing, counsellors in schools, meaningful employment, strong local communities to combat loneliness—are not necessarily easy or cheap to create. But all would lead to a population that has fewer mental health issues, and would be, ultimately, far more productive for society.

Similarly, though therapy may be a more expensive treatment plan than drugs, evidence suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is at least as effective as antidepressants, and so deserves considerable investment. Much as physical therapy can strengthen the body’s muscles, some patients effectively use CBT to build coping mechanisms and healthy thought habits that prevent further depressive episodes.

 “It doesn’t make heart attacks less real that we want to do exercise and see a dietician.” In the current context, where psychiatry’s system of diagnosing mental health mimics other medical fields, the role of medicine in treating mental illness is often presented as evidence to skeptics that depression is indeed a real disease. Some might worry that a mental health condition treated partly with therapy, exercise, and societal changes could be seen as less serious or less legitimate. Though this line of thinking reflects a well-meaning attempt to reduce stigma around mental health, it panders to faulty logic. After all, many bodily illnesses are massively affected by lifestyle. “It doesn’t make heart attacks less real that we want to do exercise and see a dietician,” says Hyman. No illness needs to be entirely dependent on biological malfunctions for it to be considered “real.” Depression is real. The theory that it’s caused by chemical imbalances is false. Three decades since the antidepressants that helped spread this theory arrived on the market, we need to remodel both our understanding and treatment of depression.

Guided Meditation for Forgiveness: Forgive Yourself and Others


Guided Meditation for Forgiveness: Forgive Yourself and Others

THE HEALING POWER OF FORGIVENESS

Forgivness is not a sign of weakness. Forgivness is a sign of strength.

When you forgive, you free ourselves from the toxic energies that have been poisoning your mind, body, and spirit for all this time – by letting go of the pain of the past, you allow the healing process to take its natural course…

If there is something or someone you feel you need to forgive, this guided meditation for forgiveness will help you break the chains that have been keeping you prisoner to the past for all these years so that you can heal your heart and be free again. 

Before you begin, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for the next 25 minutes. Second, find a comfortable position to sit – it can be in a chair, crossed legged or on your knees, or lay down and when you’re ready to press play. Once the meditation session is over, you can share your experience with all of us by commenting below.

Enjoy 🙂

Guided Meditation for Forgiveness

 

How to Set Your Intention For a New Year


As the New Year approaches, resolutions are ubiquitous and, quite often, plain stressful. The idea that once a year we have to throw our wellness, work and personal routines into upheaval for the sake of being [fill in the blank here- better, fitter, thinner, less stressed, more put together…] is enough to make us close the curtains and pretend that ball will never drop.

This year, let’s do ourselves a favor and take a hint from the practice of yoga. Rather then fashioning audacious resolutions, let’s set intentions. Whether or not you’ve ever done a Down Dog, creating intentions is an accessible and stress-free way to support a mindful and fulfilled 2018.

Within the boundaries of a yoga mat, the purpose of an intention is to choose an action, feeling or state of mind we wish to cultivate over the duration of our practice. Some days, simplicity serves us, perhaps in a clear-cut word to remind us what we’d like to foster. Breath. JoyGratitude. Other days, it’s more complex as we dig beneath the surface in an effort to purge or restore. Commencing anything with this type of conscious purpose soon gains magnitude. Eventually, intentional beginnings drift off our mat and infiltrate other areas of our lives.

The purpose of an intention is to choose an action, feeling or state of mind we wish to cultivate over the duration of our practice.

Typically, New Year’s resolutions are external actions or desired outcomes. They stem from what we believe is missing from our lives. Intentions, on the other hand, are not external. They do not live outside our mind or souls, yet they often need to be resurrected. This is why intentions can be much more accessible and fulfilling than resolutions. There is no striving, no hustling and no reaching, only recognizing and rediscovering those splendid pieces of us.

new year intentions

As we seek an intention for the coming year, a question we need to ask ourselves is, What do we need more of in our lives? And then we need to go deeper, beyond what would traditionally spark a standard resolution. We need to dig all the way down to the root of that desire.

Does this yearning stem from a distorted sense of self-worth? From feeling like we are never enough, regardless of what we accomplish? Do we possess a dry well of self-love? Is there guilt? Shame? In summation, where is the pain point in our life? These are big questions to answer and it’s normal for them to evoke discomfort or vulnerability.

To support this quest, take note of these sample intentions:

For those of us who go, go, go, Simplicity might be our keyword for next year. Not for the sole purpose of doing less, but for the sake of enjoying what we do more.

Self-compassion might be an appropriate intention. When we go down the rabbit hole of shaming, we can gently remind ourselves that our flaws make us relatable, human and beautifully one-of-a-kind, and we are simply doing the best we can.

If we constantly close up like a clamshell under siege, Be vulnerable might be a relevant phrase to inspire the coming months. By continually reminding ourselves to stay open amidst the hard stuff, we will be ready to embrace all that is good, the moment it graces our doorstep.

A few more intentions that may echo significance include I am enough, exactly as I am. Share my unique gifts. Take a chance. Keep an open heart. Harness courage. Say yes. Honor my worthiness…

The list is infinite and oh, so personal. If we can quiet our mind enough to listen to our gut, it will tell us exactly which word or phrase can fruitfully inspire our upcoming year.

When you find an intention that resonates with your current state, write it where you will see it. Make it the lock screen on your phone. Put a sticky note in your car. Doodle it on a piece of paper and then tape it to the inside of your medicine cabinet or pantry. Amidst these ordinary places, you’ll find the surprise reminder. Most importantly, remember this isn’t a gamble — you cannot pass or fail. Instead, it is an accessible state of mind and these notes are simply friendly nudges to enhance each day.

New Year’s resolutions will forever have a time and place, though an intention will fuel your life with inner wisdom and purpose. Take the time to find one and then dig it up, set it ablaze and let it burn like a sparkler through 2018.

WHAT FAILURE HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT BEING SUCCESSFUL


Two months ago, I was sitting in the JFK airport in New York City, and I heard a notification go off on my phone.  There it was — a message letting me know that my kickstarter project had officially been funded.  I had just successfully raised over $8,300 in 30 days.

I was waiting to board my flight to Paris on that evening, and it all started to sink in.  And man, did I feel like a success for that entire eight-hour, wifi-less solo plane ride to Europe.

 

 

My dream of photographing the terrifying and beautiful waves around the world while being able to share my personal story of overcoming my fears — was closer to becoming that much of a reality.

But I knew that I now had a lot of work to do.

Ten days later, I found myself settling in Portugal — selecting photographs, editing and designing my very first photography book.

 

 

The thing is — I was, and still am, absolutely new to this.  I have never published a book.  I do not have a publisher.  I have never designed a book before.  I am a total noob.  But this kickstarter project allowed me to dive into the process head first, with the opportunity to realize a dream that I’ve had since I was a child.

“I didn’t think about what could have gone wrong, I solely focused on what was going to be the most beautiful piece of work I’ve ever created.”

I spent countless hours selecting, editing and laying out photographs, hoping to share the most authentic story of my eleven-month unplanned journey around the world — packaged in a hardcover book, entitled “Eleven Tides.

 

 

I decided to partner with a small printing shop in New Jersey, who I believed was the right company to carry out my vision for printing and producing this book.  I was overseas at the time, with a looming deadline hanging over my head — I needed to get these books finished, printed and shipped by January 2018.

Despite feeling rushed while facing a project I had never executed before, I put my heart and soul into this process every step of the way.  But the funny thing about life is — it will always surprise you.

 

 

After two proofs, shipping delays and almost three months of back and forth, I made a two-hour commute on a cold December day into New Jersey to pick up the finished books.

Ask anyone who has lived in the New York City area, and they’ll most likely tell you that they don’t remember what it’s like to own a car.

I haven’t had a car in almost eight years.  But public transportation is not an option when attempting to head into suburban New Jersey to bring back forty hardcover photography books.

So I called an Uber using Scheduled Rides to pick me up and take me to meet my beautiful new books.

(With Scheduled Rides, you can set a pick up 30 days to 15 minutes ahead of time.  When the time comes, Uber requests a car on your behalf to be ready and waiting when it’s time to go, so you don’t have to rush to call one last minute.)

 

 

 

I was excited, but my nerves had also made their way up to the back of my throat.   I was ready to have all of my hard work finally pay off, and arrive to find the photography book of my dreams — one that I could call my own.  A forty-minute cozy UberX ride later, I arrived at the printer and met my photography books for the first time.  Unfortunately, they were just not what I had envisioned.

 

 

But I spent some time with them to give them a chance. I flipped through the pages. I held them and felt the weight of the work in my hands. I combed through every single section of every single page. I tried to envision it sitting on your coffee table or window sill, and I wondered if it would make people proud.

 

 

But if I were going to be honest with myself, and you — this book was simply was not a true reflection of my work.  And I could not find solace in the thought of sending this book in its current state to the people who ordered it.   Because they believed in me enough to support my project and my journey.  And I do not take that lightly.

Feeling panicked, scatterbrained and a bit defeated, I called an Uber to take me back home with the books that did not feel as though they were mine.  My driver pulled up, we got in, and I spent that next hour in the car listening to classical music (thanks to my driver), and reflecting on this entire book-publishing process while quietly facing my disappointment.

 

 

I realized that there are things that I did not anticipate about this process.  It is exciting, time-consuming, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time.  And as disheartening as the outcome was, I knew that I needed to accept that it was a learning experience.  Because life is full of little lessons that sometimes we did not ask for.

After getting back home, I struggled with the idea of having to send out a book that didn’t feel right with me.  It didn’t sit well with me.  Even if it meant that my wallet, my pride and my deadline would be negatively impacted my decision not to.

“Because I strive to only share and present work that I am absolutely proud of. It is more important and rewarding than making a profit.”

So after much thought, I decided that I was going to do this right. I am going to invest more time, more effort and more funds into producing a book that I feel people truly deserve. I am going to take what I’ve learned throughout this process and apply it to create something that I am unbelievably proud of.  So yes, that means that I am not going to be able to send out the book by January.  But I decided that I will keep everyone updated throughout the entire process, from (re) start to finish.

 

 

Failure is and always will be a part of your life. There are moments when we run on highs, our hair blowing wild and free, sun shining with not a worry in the world — and then there are moments that make us feel disheartened, forcing us to face disappointment head on, wondering what we’ve done to have things turn out the way they have. But failure is not permanent.

Instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?” – we should ask ourselves, “What is this situation trying to teach me?

Failure has taught me more lessons than any pat on the back, handed-on-a-silver-platter opportunity – more than any fleeting love interest or second of success. It is humbling, rewarding, and full of purpose.  And the reason why the most successful people in the world are where and who they are today – is because they were never too afraid to try.

50 New Year’s Resolution Ideas for a Fulfilling 2018


new year's resolution ideas

 

In my opinion, it’s never too early to start thinking about New Year’s resolution ideas for yourself—in fact, I set mine in November to start working out a few times a week again coming off of a knee injury. Specifically, I’m getting back into the swing of things at Physique 57—literally my favorite workout class ever/the only exercise I really like at the moment beyond twirling my fork around pasta. But let’s be honest: Everyone is different, and you don’t need to have the same 2018 goals as me.

New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be just activities, and they can range from the professional to the personal and everything in between. From helping others (giving back) to being kinder to yourself (practicing gratitude daily), there are so many possibilities to choose from. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 50 New Year’s resolution ideas to get you looking forward to 2018. Choose one—or more—and then get started.

  1. Be more mindful of what you’re eating: We’re not saying that you need to cut certain foods out of your die—that’s not necessarily a good end goal. It can be cutting down on sweets, loading your meals up with more veggies, or having a salad two days a week for lunch. Craft your own definition of “healthy.”
  2. Do something just for you: For me, that was all about taking singing classes and getting over the fear of performing in front of others last year (I’m still not 100% there). When you feel like you have tons of commitments that aren’t always for you, carve out some time to try a new hobby or pick up an old one. It can be anything from cooking to drawing or even reading a good book.
  3. Make new friends: It can be hard to make new friends when you get older, but there’s no reason you should ever stop. Join a group on Meetup, or become a member of a volunteer organization—others in these situations are often trying to meet new people, too, so it takes some of the pressure off.
  4. Start budgeting—or continue to do so: Budgeting is not always the most fun thing to do, but at the end of the month when you don’t know where your cash has gone, you’re going to wish you’d kept up with it sooner. The trick is not to make your budget too stringent (I’ve done that and wasn’t able to stick to the plan). Instead, allot for social gatherings and incidentals (e.g., a locksmith visit, an unexpected meal out, new clothing).
  5. Revamp your professional identity: Even if you’re not looking for a new job at the moment, it’s wise to prepare yourself for when a good posting catches your eye. Get a new headshot for LinkedIn, update your resume, and start networking in your free time. When you’re not in a rush to do these things, you’re able to go over them with a fine-tooth comb.
  6. Declutter your place: We’ve long talked about the benefits of a tidy space and our appreciation for Marie Kondo. Even if you’re just tackling a messy drawer or one closet a week, start getting your place in order. Seriously—a clean home is a happy home.
  7. Learn how to cope with stress: Stress is one of those things that can lurk unnoticed for a while, and then it rears its ugly head and you’re in trouble. Instead of waiting for anxiety to show up to tackle it, learn which methods of reducing and managing your stress work best for you. Some people prefer meditation, others yoga, and some like having a support system to lean on.
  8. Decide to be happy now: I’ve spent a good portion of my life saying “I’ll be happy when…” More recently, I’ve learned to focus on trying to be happier in the moment, even if that means acknowledging there are still other goals I want to attain.
  9. Call your family more: Chances are you don’t live right down the street from your family. Make it a point to call those close to you, especially those that are older. It will completely make your grandparents’ or great-aunt’s day when you call them to catch up.
  10. Stop having FOMO: When I first moved to New York, I thought that if I was home on a Saturday night, I was most definitely missing out on something. Now I’ve finally learned to realize that some nights I need to stay in and regroup for the week, and that my glass of wine in bed (yes, I do that) is totally worth it.
  11. Start prioritizing the people that matter most: Having a ton of acquaintances is great until you realize they won’t be there through thick and thin. Stop saying yes to doing everything, and reserve spending your free time with people you really care about (and who care about you, too).
  12. Make more time for your relationship: Carve out a few extra date nights each month with your partner, even if you just end up staying in and hanging out together (it’s all about the quality time). If you want some fun date ideas that help you get closer, try out The Modern Love Box, a monthly subscription service for couples created by a relationship expert and her husband.
  13. Begin giving back: Whether you decide to volunteer once a week or once a year, it still matters. Increase your charitable endeavors and realize that you’re not just making a positive impact—you’re being positively impacted, too.
  14. Satisfy your wanderlust: If all we do is wait until we hit the lotto to go on a dream trip, we’ll never go anywhere. Pick a destination you’ve been dying to visit and make plans to go. Whether it’s a solo excursion, a girls’ trip, or a romantic getaway, you’ll come back feeling refreshed and with memories you’ll never forget.
  15. Stay on top of your health: There are so many doctors’ appointments we should make that it can be overwhelming. Some to prioritize each year: your yearly physical, pap smear, dermatologist visit, and teeth cleanings.
  16. Get a side hustle: Whether it’s for extra cash or to spark some passion you don’t get at your day job, a side hustle can be a fun way to challenge yourself. At the very least, you’ll learn about balance and time management.
  17. Take in more of the arts: Seek out fun exhibits near you, go see a play or the ballet, or listen to an orchestra perform. These types of events will help inspire a little creativity in you, too. Plus, there are tons of free events if you take the time to do a little digging.
  18. Kick your social media habit: Too much social media can be a bad thing—especially when you start comparing your real life to someone’s seemingly picture-perfect online life. Take a step back from social media, whether it’s taking a day (or more) off or limiting how many times you check your apps.
  19. Do the one thing you keep meaning to do: This can be anything that you’ve been putting off because you don’t want to or because you simply keep forgetting. Mine happens to be responding to a few emails I didn’t tend to fast enough (sigh).
  20. Practice gratitude daily: Whether you say a few things you’re grateful for aloud each day, meditate on them in silence, or put them in a journal, this is a great new daily habit. It allows you to keep everything in perspective, which we can all use a little more of.
  21. Do little acts of kindness: Buy the person behind you their coffee, or hold a door open (it doesn’t have to be something big). If everyone did more of these things, the world would be a better place.
  22. Experiment with a new workout: Getting stuck in a rut can be the reason we stop making exercise a regular part of our lives. Seek out a new workout at the gym, or try a new class you’ve heard good things about. Worst-case scenario? You didn’t love it—but you still got your heart rate up.
  23. Accept change: This is not an easy task, especially when you feel like everyone in your life is changing around you and you feel stagnant (by the way, that’s not true). Remember that change is what allows us to grow and become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  24. Acknowledge important dates: Do you have a friend who just never misses a birthday or anniversary or even the start date of your new job? Start taking note of important days to people around you and acknowledge them with a sweet text, phone call, or even a handwritten note (everyone loves getting snail mail).
  25. Drink more water: We’ve finally determined how much water you should technically be drinking each day, so you have a rough estimate. If you’re not a huge fan of plain H20, try some infused waters so you feel like you’re at the spa.
  26. Become more productive: Having a few productive hours go a long way. The next time you have a task at hand, power off your phone and learn how to force yourself to hunker down and get something done. What makes you most productive is different for each person, but once you find your thing or things, you can get into a real groove.
  27. Be kind to yourself: You are going to make mistakes and have bad days—it’s inevitable. But instead of feeling bad about it or making yourself feel worse, you need to treat yourself kindly. If I’m having a particularly bad day, I allow myself to go to bed earlier than normal, since a little sleep goes a long way and I can wake up refreshed to start the next day.
  28. Dream bigger: Never stop dreaming and working toward big goals. In order to make them real, write them down in a journal or put them on sticky notes in a visible spot in your home. Or even better, share them with someone close to you so you can be held accountable in a good way. Now start making those dreams come true.
  29. Start meditating: I know it seems a little ridiculous that this simple act could really give you inner calm, but it’s worked for me. If you’re always crunched for time, an app like Buddhify can totally help (it even lulls me to sleep when I’m up in the middle of the night).
  30. Learn how to cook: And we don’t mean call Seamless. Not only will whipping up a few meals save you major cash, you’ll also have pretty amazing leftovers to spice up your weekday lunches.
  31. Follow a skincare routine: You don’t just get glowing skin—it comes from years of taking proper care of it. Work with a dermatologist or skin expert to create your own personalized routine… and follow it. And hey, long days happen: Just keep makeup wipes on the counter so you don’t go to bed with a full face of makeup on.
  32. Conquer a fear: Mine used to be singing in public. That’s what prompted me to take voice lessons last year (see above). And even though I’ll never be the next Mariah Carey, I can (sort of) hold a tune and won’t turn down invitations to karaoke night.
  33. Have more compassion: Isn’t it true that we never really know what’s going on in someone’s life? Before you get mad at a friend for canceling plans or mutter under your breath when a stranger does something to annoy you, remember that it’s probably not really about you at all.
  34. Start reading more: When we get busy, reading a good book can be the first thing that falls off. Make time to catch up on the content you enjoy most—poetry, nonfiction, even thrillers.
  35. Make use of your commute time: Instead of letting this time go to waste, download podcasts and listen to them when you’re driving or catch up on some reading if you’re on public transportation. I’ve actually gone as far as to write a whole article with laptop in hand on the New York City subway, so no excuses.
  36. Learn to make decisions: You know when someone asks you things like: “Where do you want to go to dinner?” or “What do you want to do today?” and you just say “I don’t know, what do you feel like?” Learn how to express yourself, and become more decisive—it will get you further in all of your relationships (including the one you have with yourself).
  37. Be more playful: Channel your inner child and inject a little more fun into life. It can be something as simple as dancing around while you’re getting ready to go out or sending a friend a funny greeting card. Overall, playful people are more creative, which is a great quality to have.
  38. Get moving: Don’t worry—this doesn’t have to be a workout class (which we mentioned above). Walk a few blocks rather than getting in the car or try to hit your daily goal of steps on your Fitbit. Moving is inherently good for your body and will make you feel better inside and out.
  39. Sleep better (and more): It’s not just how long you sleep but also the quality of your rest. Vow to develop better sleep hygiene so the z’s you catch get you ready for the day ahead.
  40. Give up a vice: We all have one thing we want to stop doing. Take the time to finally quit that bad habit for good.
  41. Learn how to be alone: It’s easy to be content when you have company, not so simple when you have to keep yourself company. Whether you’re coupled up or alone, learn how to make yourself happy (and do things on your own, too).
  42. Take care of something that’s not yourself: Whether it’s a pet or even a plant, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of being dependable. Start small at first.
  43. Get better at keeping in touch: It’s inevitable that friends and loved ones move. Get used to setting up a regular phone or FaceTime date and plan visits so you’re not just pen pals.
  44. Be okay just “being”: Become comfortable just being in the present moment as you are. It’s a tough feeling to be okay with—but once you get used to it, you’re golden.
  45. Consider the haves, not just the have-nots: So often it’s about keeping up with the Jones’s. Switch your way of thinking so you’re able to acknowledge and appreciate all the things you do have, rather than just focusing on those that you don’t.
  46. Learn patience: As they say, patience is a virtue and it’s definitely a skill you want to have up your sleeve. This isn’t going to happen overnight, so take the time to work on it.
  47. Stop saying you’re sorry all the time: A lot of us have this habit of apologizing when something isn’t our fault. Learn to save the “I’m sorry” statements for when they’re necessary (and for when you mean it).
  48. Be more optimistic: It’s not just what happens to you but how you handle it. Teach yourself to always see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  49. Put yourself out there: Take a chance by applying for a high-level job or tell someone how you care without expecting anything in return. Live without fear.
  50. Learn to love yourself. As you are, not for who you will be one day.

Here’s How You Can Guarantee Great Sleep in 2018


Best sleep app: woman in bed stretching

Next time you find yourself tossing and turning on a Sunday night, struggling to get to sleep, know that you’re not alone. In fact, Mintel reports that half of all Brits say they typically have trouble drifting off. It’s likely ‘get more sleep’ will be topping many a New Year’s resolutions list, but how do you actually go about achieving those elusive seven hours of undisturbed rest?

It sounds counter-intuitive, but technology can actually give you a little help here. While it’s wise to steer clear of any Instagram browsing just before you go to bed, tapping into the very best sleep apps can help you keep track of the habits that are detrimental to you catching Z’s, and even send you into a drowsy state on a restless nights.

The question is, which app is right for you? To save you precious time (better spent sleeping), we’ve put in the research to reveal the best sleep apps out there. Keep scrolling to make 2018 the year you finally remedy your sleepless ways…

1. SLEEP BETTER

It’s a bit Big Brother, but Sleep Better tracks every moment in your day to day life. By day, you use it to keep a record of your daily habits, such as alcohol and caffeine consumption, and by night, the app monitors your sleep duration, efficiency and cycle. Pretty quickly, it’s easy to draw links between the kinds of food you eat (or the Sunday afternoon naps you have) and your struggles with switching off.

2. AUTOSLEEP

This clever, popular app works through your Apple Watch. It automatically tracks your sleep, wherever and whenever you drift off, so you can see how much rest you’re really getting. It’s especially handy for figuring out how long it takes you to fully drift off, so you know how early you need to go to bed in order to get proper rest.

3. RELAX & SLEEP WELL BY GLENN HARROLD

Like a bedtime story for grown-ups, this app draws on the expertise of hypnotherapist, Glenn Harrold, to soothe you to sleep with free hypnotherapy and meditation recordings. You might think that a stranger chatting away through your earphones could be distracting, but that’s because you haven’t tried it yet. You’d be surprised at how quickly Relax & Sleep Well brings on that (more than welcome) drowsy feeling.

4. SLEEPTIME+

If you don’t identify as a ‘morning person’, you honestly need this app. While it won’t help you sleep, it will ensure that getting out of bed every day is just that little bit less painful. Place your phone by your bed, SleepTime+ will analyse your individual sleeping pattern, then a smart alarm will wake you up when your sleep is at its lightest. Genius.

5. TWILIGHT

If you’re in the habit of Googling ways to get a better nights’ sleep, you’ll have probably heard about the link between using your phone before bed and struggling to drift off. Research suggests that exposure to blue light can heighten feelings of restlessness, and Apple has the problem covered with Night Shift; a built-in iPhone setting that shifts the colours on your screen to the warmer end of the spectrum. Android phones don’t yet have this function, but Twilight does the trick. It adapts the light on your phone according to the time of day, filtering out blue light after sunset.

Sudden Deafness May Flag CVD Risk


Interrupted vascular supply to the cochlea suggested as contributor

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss may be a risk factor for future cerebrovascular events, Korean researchers suggested.

Patients who experienced this dysfunction of the inner ear were more likely to develop cardiocerebrovascular disease over an 11-year follow-up period (13.5 versus 7.5 cases per 1,000 person-years, adjusted HR 2.18, 95% CI 1.20 to 3.96), particularly strokes (12.0 versus 6.2 cases per 1,000 person-years, adjusted HR 2.02, 95% CI 1.16 to 3.51).

However, this group was not at greater risk for acute MI, Dong-Kyu Kim, MD, PhD, of Korea’s Chuncheon Sacred Heart Hospital, and colleagues reported in a study in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

“This finding suggests that sudden sensorineural hearing loss may be a risk factor for the development of cardiocerebrovascular disease; therefore, clinicians should consider patients with sudden sensorineural hearing loss to be at an increased risk of developing cardiocerebrovascular disease, and take specific precautions to reduce their risk of stroke,” they concluded.

“Although the exact mechanism of sudden sensorineural hearing loss development remains unclear, interruption of the vascular supply to the cochlea is thought to be a contributing factor,” they said. In addition, this kind of hearing loss shares several risk factors with cardiocerebrovascular disease, including smoking, alcohol consumption, and thromboembolic events.

For this retrospective study, Kim’s group utilized National Sample Cohort from the Korea National Health Insurance Service with data spanning 2002 through 2013. Hearing loss patients (n=154) were matched 1:4 to controls by propensity score.

The study population was half women, and half were between the ages of 45 and 64 years.

Although nationally representative, the database provided no information on other baseline health data, such as BMI, smoking, or alcohol consumption by the patients, leaving room for possible confounding. Nor was mortality data available.

Metformin Found Safe in Pregnant Women With Diabetes


Pregnant women who took metformin for pregestational diabetes had a higher risk for adverse outcomes, but this risk was linked to the diabetes, not the drug, researchers reported.

Pregnant women on metformin for other indications, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), had no significantly increased risk for poor outcomes, Alice Panchaud, PhD, of the University of Geneva in Switzerland, and colleagues wrote online in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Compared with a matched reference group of pregnant women not taking metformin, metformin users with diabetes were nearly four times more likely to give birth to an infant with major birth defects (odds ratio 3.95; 95% CI 1.77 to 9.41). However, there was no significantly increased risk for pregnant women on metformin for other reasons (OR 0.83; 95% CI 0.18 to 2.81), the study found.

Similarly, women taking metformin for pre-gestational diabetes had more than twice the risk for spontaneous abortion or stillbirth (OR 2.51; 95% CI 1.44 to 4.36), but women taking metformin for other indications had no significant risk increase (OR 1.38; 95% CI 0.74 to 2.59).

The results were similar for other pregnancy outcomes the study examined, including the risk for pre-term birth and assisted delivery.

“Metformin controls glycemia in pregnant women with gestational diabetes, and it has been shown to prevent adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes associated with hyperglycemia,” Panchaud et al said. “However, evidence regarding its safety and effectiveness to achieve glycemic targets in the management of type 2 diabetes in pregnancy is limited. Moreover, since metformin, as do most other drugs, crosses the placental barrier, embryological and fetal risks need to be considered when exposure occurs early in pregnancy.”

The researchers explained that the aim of the observational cohort study was to better characterize the safety of metformin use early in pregnancy, and to evaluate the risk of birth defects and pregnancy losses after first trimester exposure to metformin. “We took advantage of the several potential indications to disentangle the effect of metformin from the known effects of diabetes on pregnancy outcomes,” the team said.

At the time of the study, Panchaud was a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “Our findings provide the first reassuring evidence that metformin might offer a cheaper and simpler alternative to insulin for the management of pregestational diabetes in pregnancy when effective,” she said in a statement.

The multi-center, prospective study included 471 pregnant women who were taking metformin, enrolled from 1993 to 2015. The vast majority (97%) started metformin before pregnancy and took the drug during their first trimester. The median dose was 1,325 mg. A total of 63% of participants were taking metformin for pregestational diabetes; 12% were taking the drug for PCOS; and the remainder, for other indications such as obesity, ovary stimulation, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and hyperglycemia.

For a reference group, the study included 497 randomly selected pregnant women matched to the treatment group in terms of study center, maternal age, and week of gestational age at enrollment. These women had not used metformin, insulin, or any other hypoglycemic agent at any time during their pregnancy.

The team used multivariate logistic regression analysis to look for associations between metformin use and pregnancy outcomes, and importantly, distinguished between women who were taking metformin for pregestational diabetes and those taking it for other indications.

“Whether diabetes increases a woman’s risk of having a spontaneous abortion has been under debate for a long time,” the researchers wrote. “Overall, studies suggest that poor metabolic control may be at increased risk of spontaneous abortion. Similarly, in our study the risk of pregnancy losses was higher (21%) in the group exposed to metformin with a diagnostic of pregestational diabetes than in the metformin-exposed group without pregestational diabetes (17%).”

The main limitation of the study, the authors said, was the lack of a reference group of pregnant women being treated for pregestational diabetes with other drugs, especially insulin. In addition, “although this is the largest study published to date, the sample size is still too small and follow-up duration too short to reach a final assessment on the safety and risks associated with the use of metformin in pregnancy. Future studies comparing metformin-exposed pregnancies with women with the same indication and treated with alternative therapies — e.g., on insulin — are warranted.”