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    How to Make Food Your First Line of Defense Against Depression

    In June 2020, depression and anxiety were up threefold across America compared to the same time last year, reports the CDC. The knee-jerk reaction is too often popping a pill. What if we looked at food more methodically to engineer homeostasis within? Eating healthier can improve symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and nausea, says psychiatrist Leela Magavi. Feeling more alert and energetic can domino into other mood-boosting behaviors like exercise and self-care. What’s more, a growing body of research suggests certain nutrients may help rein in anxious feelings and curb depression.

    Fatten Up Your Diet
    People who eat a Mediterranean-like diet—high in omega-3-rich fish, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, but low in meat and dairy—are the least likely to develop anxiety. Healthy fats lower inflammation (linked to depressive symptoms) and boost production of a specific brain protein (BDNF) that influences neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to form new connections and communicate effectively, says Jody Bergeron, RN.
    Try it: Eat fatty fish, flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, and avocados, or take a supple-ment with EPA and DHA to get up to 2,000 milligrams of omega-3 per day.

    The Whole of It
    Twelve key vitamins and minerals—including iron, omega-3s, magnesium, zinc, plus vitamin C, B6 and 12—help prevent and treat depressive disorders. An international meta-analysis concluded that ingesting a full spectrum (30+) can ease mood dysregulation, ADHD, aggression, and anxiety. Your gut and brain have a direct line of communication, so micronutrients impact inflammation levels and mood, Bergeron says. Vegetables and whole grains keep your gut microbiome diverse and healthy—necessary since nearly 90 percent of the happiness hormone serotonin is produced in the GI tract, she adds.
    Try it: Every day, load up on leafy greens, fresh herbs, whole grains (oats, farro, wild rice), quinoa, beans, nuts, cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage), berries, and other colorful produce. Get more probiotic foods like miso, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurt, too.
    Ditch the Sugar to Dampen Depression
    Men who consume a lot of sugar are nearly a quarter more likely to develop anxiety or depression over five years, while the low-sugar DASH diet helps older adults stave off depression. Too much sweet stuff creates insulin resistance, which increases inflammation and releases chronic stress hormones, Magavi explains. Higher glucose levels slow brain cell growth and lower overall connectivity.
    Try it: Cut back on added sugar, at least to the RDA of 6 percent of daily calories.

    The Nutrition Plan to Boost Mood and Fight Depression
    Breakfast: Green tea, half a grapefruit, an omelet with sautéed veggies, fresh herbs, a small amount of cheese, and olive oil, plus a side of whole-grain toast.
    Mid-Morning Snack: Cottage cheese and blueberries topped with honey crunch wheat germ.
    Lunch: Mexican bowl with black beans, farro, corn, red cabbage, leafy greens, avocado, salsa, and cheese.
    Afternoon Snack: A few squares of 60 percent dark chocolate with almonds.
    Dinner: Broiled wild sockeye salmon or steamed mussels with a side of brown rice and steamed asparagus or broccoli.
    Dessert: Plain Greek yogurt topped with berries and whole-grain granola.

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    If Your Commute Is This Long, You Could Be Exposed to Cancer-Causing Chemicals

    Feel like your commute is killing you? It’s not just the side effects of being sedentary for so long, or the mental fatigue of slogging through traffic. A new study published in Environment International found California commuters are likely inhaling alarmingly high amounts of chemicals that can increase the risk of cancer and birth defects. And here’s the kicker: It’s not from air pollution or exhaust.

    Researchers gave 90 study participants silicone bracelets to wear for five days. The molecular structure of silicone is ideal for capturing airborne contaminants. The goal was to test peoples’ exposure to chemicals typically found in vehicle interiors. Participants’ commute times ranged from 15 minutes to over two hours.

    Ultimately, researchers found benzene and formaldehyde in unsustainably high levels within vehicle interiors. Benzene is used in the production of synthetic fibers in automobile manufacturing, while formaldehyde is a binder in plastics. Both chemicals are carcinogens (known for causing cancer), and benzene carries additional risks for reproductive and developmental toxicity.
    “These chemicals are very volatile, moving easily from plastics and textiles to the air that you breathe,” explains study co-author David Volz, UCR professor of environmental toxicology.
    One concern raised by the study was that participants with the longest commutes had the greatest amount of chemical exposure.
    “Of course, there is a range of exposure that depends on how long you’re in the car, and how much of the compounds your car is emitting,” says Aalekhya Reddam, lead study author.

    For Volz, the results of the study were not expected—but highly alarming.
    “I went into this rather skeptical because I didn’t think we’d pick up a significant concentration in that short a time frame, let alone pick up an association with commute time. We did both, which was really surprising.”
    As for what can be done to address the problem, Reddam suggests commuters dilute the concentration of airborne chemicals by opening windows, while Volz says car manufacturers need to find alternatives to dangerous chemicals.
    In the long run, Volz says that the study provokes further questions on the effects of airborne contaminants and a more dangerous form of car sickness.
    “If we picked up this relationship in five days, what does that mean for chronic, long-term exposure, for people who commute most weeks out of the year, year over year for decades?”
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    This Might Be the Hardest Dumbbell Workout You Ever Try

    Expert Tip: To up the intensity if you don’t have adjustable dumbbells, add a heavy band, do more reps, slow the movement down to create more time under tension, or hold the contracted position of the exercise.
    Directions: Add this dumbbell workout to your weekly regimen once per week; do it twice per week with cardio on opposing days if you need a new program. Complete the exercises in Part 1 for the prescribed number of reps, taking 20 to 30 seconds rest between moves, and 30 to 45 seconds between sets. Once you’ve completed all 3 sets in Part A, rest for 60 to 90 seconds, then complete the triset in Part 2. Complete the exercises for the prescribed number of reps, taking 20 to 30 seconds rest between moves, and 30 to 45 seconds between sets for 3 total sets. Beginners should use 20- to 25-pound dumbbells, intermediate lifters can do 30- to 40-pound dumbbells, and advanced can go 45 pounds and higher.

    The Most Effective Dumbbell Workout of All Time
    A. Single-Arm Eccentric Push Press
    Stand with feet at shoulder width, holding a dumbbell in right hand with a neutral grip at shoulder height, elbow bent at 90 degrees. Lower into a quarter-squat, then explode up, driving through legs to press the dumbbell overhead. Pause, then slowly lower to start position. Complete 4-5 reps, then switch sides.
    Single-Leg Renegade Row With Eccentric Isometrics Marius Bugge for Men’s Journal
    B. Single-Leg Renegade Row With Eccentric Isometrics More

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    Experts Share the Best Natural Sleep Aids and Apps That'll Knock You Out Cold

    You’re stressed. You’re on edge. And as icing on the socially distant, candle-less cake, you’re beyond exhausted all the damn time. But…you want to change that. That’s the good news. The better news: There’s a variety of research-backed natural sleep aids on the market designed to improve your shuteye—you just may not know about them. Yet.

    To help you get a leg up and the ZZZs down, we tapped sleep docs for the gadgets and gizmos they depend on to usher them into a restorative night’s sleep. See you in dreamland.

    11 Natural Sleep Aids and Apps That’ll Knock You Out Cold
    1. Flume DRIFT
    Naturopath Taryn Forrelli, N.D., co-founded Flume, a line of plant-based supplements geared toward athletes and adventurers (the collection also includes preworkout and recovery blends). “Stress, or an overactive mind, is one of the most common causes of sleeplessness,” Forrelli says. “But an overactive body that results in muscle soreness can also stand in the way of a good night’s rest. DRIFT was uniquely formulated to soothe both the mind and body.” Each ingredient is backed by science to improve one of the various sleep-regulation pathways. Ashwagandha, for instance, “is an adaptogenic botanical that modulates the stress hormone, cortisol, which can interfere with the sleep cycle.” DRIFT also contains California poppy, hops, and ocean-sourced magnesium. “An increase in inflammation is associated with a deficiency in magnesium, so ensuring adequate intake is important to keep the body balanced,” she explains. “This is especially important for individuals with an active lifestyle as magnesium is lost in sweat during exercise.”
    Get it Insight Timer Courtesy Image
    2. Insight Timer
    Abhinav Singh, M.D., medical director at Indiana Sleep Center and medical review panelist for Sleep Foundation always recommends Insight Timer to his patients, seeing as he uses it himself too. The free app lets you choose the duration of the audio meditations (five, 15, 25 minutes, whatever you want), and whether you prefer strictly voice, voice plus music, or audio with music. “The app supplement the concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness—two prominent, evidence-based techniques proven to improve sleep, especially as treatments for insomnia,” Singh says. To improve your sleep hygiene, create a wind-down routine: shower, journal, read, then breathe. “It’s based on classical conditioning, where you do a set of repetitive behaviors over and over again, which end in sleep onset,” Singh adds. “By the time the breathing meditation is done, you’re sleeping. It’s like when you see a glass of ice water and you know it’s going to be cold and refreshing.” Try using Insight Timer in the middle of the day too, for 10 or 15 minutes, to stay sharp if your focus is waning. Just don’t pick the sleep meditations…
    [Free or premium for $60/year;]
    Get it Ebb CoolDrift Courtesy Image
    3. Ebb CoolDrift
    Psychiatrist and sleep doctor Eric Nofzinger, M.D., wasn’t satisfied with the natural sleep aids for patients suffering from disrupted sleep, a common side effect of some mental conditions and disorders. “Their minds won’t turn off when they try to go to sleep—and not getting a good night’s rest makes it very difficult to function the next day,” Nofzinger says. “The brain needs to settle down in order to get healthy, restorative sleep, especially in an area of the brain called the frontal cortex, which sits right behind the forehead.” This led him to create Ebb Therapeutics, a line of FDA-cleared cooling headbands that help quell racing thoughts: “The precise, controlled cooling of the forehead before and during sleep creates a distinct calming sensation. Brain imaging studies show this relaxes brain tissue in the very regions where individuals have the most problems,” he adds.
    [From $249;]
    Get it Hästens Restore app Courtesy Image
    4. Hästens Restore
    “Sleep and mindfulness apps are great for those who have problems clearing their mind before bed, and Hästens Restore is by far one of the more unique and revolutionary ones out there,” says Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a.k.a. “The Sleep Doctor,” an American Board of Sleep Medicine diplomate and fellow at The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Hästens worked with cardiologist-turned-mathematician Jussi Eerikäinen to transform his scientifically proven methods into an accessible, free app that combines frequency tones and music to help people improve concentration, gratitude, creativity, productivity, stress management, and relaxation in order to enhance sleep quality.”
    Get it

    MUTE Snoring Courtesy Image
    5. MUTE Snoring
    “When I drink scotch my wife says, ‘Go put your nose thingy in!’ ” quips Breus. “That nose thingy she’s referring to is the MUTE internal nasal dilator. It may seem a bit weird, but the small device goes inside your nose (after 30 seconds you don’t feel it). It opens up your nasal passages to help reduce airspeed and snoring. It also comes in various sizes and each opening can be sized to each nostril (gross but important). “This may have saved my marriage, and sleep, on more than one occasion,” Breus says. Natural sleep aids like this will take getting used to, but it works.
    [$27.95, 3-pack;]
    Get it Calm app Courtesy Image
    6. Calm app
    Consistently ranked as one of the top apps for sleep, “Calm provides great sleep hygiene and meditation/mindfulness content for adults,” says Azizi Seixas, Ph.D., an assistant professor at New York University’s Langone Health Center. “It also uses acoustic science, such as the different color of sounds to induce sleep. The vast amount of content allows for customer personalization, and they also have an extremely robust educational framework,” he continues, noting there’s growing research that links Calm with improved sleep, anxiety, and stress.
    [$69.99/year after 7-day free trial;]
    Get it Dagsmejan Stay Cool Collection Sleep Shorts Courtesy Image
    7. Dagsmejan Stay Cool Collection Sleep Shorts
    Didn’t think a solid pair of PJs could do it for ya on the sleep-enhancement front? Think again. “As the body’s nighttime temperature is critical to achieving optimal sleep, changing your sleepwear can be a quick fix,” says Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., sleep researcher and co-author of Sleep for Success! (Disclaimer: She’s on the Dagsmejan Scientific Advisory Board.) While some materials are restrictive and can increase your body temperature, choosing highly breathable sleepwear with natural fibers, like Tencel from eucalyptus, can go a long way toward healthier sleep.” These shorts are approximately eight times more breathable than cotton.
    Get it L-theanine Courtesy Image
    8. L-theanine
    “L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea associated with the drink’s calming and mind-clearing qualities,” Forrelli says. “While not a sedative, science shows that L-theanine works quickly to boost alpha waves in the brain, which promotes relaxation and improves sleep quality. In a recent placebo-controlled study, when healthy adults took 200 mg of L-theanine, they fell asleep faster, had fewer sleep disturbances, and used less sleep medication,” she adds, noting most of the research has been done on a branded version of the ingredient called Suntheanine, which is widely available in various sleep products. Natural sleep aids like this are worth a try.
    [$17.95, 60 liquid soft gels;]
    Get it EyeJust Blue Light Blocking Screen Protector Courtesy Image
    9. EyeJust Blue Light Blocking Screen Protector for iPhone
    Whether you’re doomscrolling or video chatting with a loved one, we’ve all been especially glued to tech devices as of late. Needless to say, that’s no good for counting sheep. “The light emitted by the displays might trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime and bedtime isn’t close,” says Roy Raymann, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at SleepScore Labs. “Using EyeJust screen protectors will reduce your exposure to unneeded and unwanted blue light after sunset, which is easier on your eyes and limits the negative effects of screen illumination on sleep.” (FYI: The product is third-party tested at UC Irvine and ophthalmologist-approved.) A recent SleepScore study found 71 percent of participants using EyeJust slept better and 92 percent reported reduced eye strain. Not bad for a $35 investment. (Screen protectors for iPads and laptops cost a bit more.)
    [From $35;]
    Get it Moshi sleep app for kids Courtesy Image
    10. Moshi app
    You know the drill: Kids up all night mean you don’t sleep either. Seixas knows that all too well in his role as a biomedical researcher and scientist. That’s why he partnered with Moshi, the audio-only (no screens!) sleeping app for children. “While downloads of popular adult mindfulness apps skyrocketed during the pandemic, one size does not fit all. Mindfulness and sleep apps made especially for kids like Moshi—using stories, sound, and music to capture and hold attention—are a must.” On Moshi, the stories are narrated in a calming voice and feature white, blue, and velvet noise (a special kind of random noise), all to serve as a sleep-promoting DJ of sorts. “From the mindful exercises that children can participate in during the day to the bedtime stories at night, an audio app like Moshi helps ground children and gives them a sense of calm. With Moshi, kids begin to look forward to bedtime, which is half the battle for parents,” says Seixas. NYU Grossman School of Medicine experimental findings indicate the app helped kids of all ages fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and improve parents’ sleep. “Kids fell asleep 28 minutes earlier on average and slept for 22 minutes longer with night wakings decreasing by 50 percent,” he adds.
    Get it DrLullaby Courtesy Image
    11. DrLullaby app
    Another excellent option if you’re dealing with kiddos who can’t hit the hay is DrLullaby, an evidence-based digital sleep solution, created by Lisa Medalie, Psy.D., a board-certified adult and pediatric insomnia specialist. It takes a two-pronged approach by addressing the needs of both children (4 months to 18 years) and their guardians. With personalized nightly plans, a progress tracker, and one-on-one video coaching sessions from doctorate-level experts, your household vibe is about to get a lot dreamier.
    [$9.99/month subscription plus $59 for first coaching session;]
    Get it

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    How to Be a Better Man in Every Facet of Life

    You know the drill: Move more, eat your greens, and take it easy on the booze. For 2021, we wanted to give you a better blueprint to become a well-rounded man where it counts—’cus at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter how many pushups you can do.

    Here’s how to develop a stronger mental fortitude, be a more engaged citizen, a better partner, and stop blowing your lid with simple steps on conquering conflict. In short, this is your guide on achieving peace of mind this year (and beyond).

    Expert Tips on Becoming a Better Man in Every Facet of Life
    1. How to Overcome Mental and Physical Adversity When You Want to Give Up
    Adventure racer Jason Magness attests that certain wilderness survival skills are applicable to the everyman, too. You might not be faced with extreme physical stress or life-threatening conditions, but these tips will serve you just the same.
    Read It
    2. How to Make Your Great (Socially Distanced) Escape
    The best places to visit in 2021 are remote locales across America. Thanks to COVID-19, we saw the return of the great American road trip. Here, we highlight where to go to get away from it all.
    Read It
    3. How to Argue Better and Cope With Conflict—Without Losing Your Cool
    Perhaps you had a few conversations in the past year you regret. Maybe your friend, neighbor, or family member went apocalyptic, and you matched the intensity. Rosalie Puiman, leadership coach and author of The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution, says that doesn’t have to be the case.
    Read it
    4. How to Break the Barrier to Therapy
    Not comfortable talking about yourself? Like to learn from listening and observing others? Currently missing that feeling of community support? Group therapy may be the most approachable form of talk therapy for you then, says Rachel Kazez, therapist and founder of All Along, a consulting firm that pairs people with therapists. Without any of the personal pressure, it’s like having a beer with your buddies, except some people talk about their feelings.
    Read it
    5. How to Build Intimacy in Your Relationship and Be a Better Partner
    If months of working, eating, breathing, and spiraling into pits of despair with your partner has left you feeling more like roommates than lovers, you might need to zero in on your intimacy, says Dana McNeil, licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of The Relationship Place. These tips will help you hone your sexual and emotional intimacy.
    Read It
    6. How to Get Smarter and Be a More Informed Citizen
    With each year, your habits, beliefs, hell, even your vocabulary can seem to grow stagnant. But with a little effort, you can keep your mind malleable, get smarter, and be a more informed citizen. Try these strategies and apps.
    Read it
    7. How to Be More Efficient With Your Time and Energy
    People are apt to dawdle away gained time. It takes a lot of work to be efficient with your time and energy. “The biggest mistake is not having a plan,” says Craig Jarrow, founder of Time Management Ninja. Consider this yours.
    Read it

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    Tips on Overcoming Mental and Physical Adversity

    Adventure racer Jason Magness attests that certain wilderness survival skills are applicable to the everyman, too. You might not be faced with extreme physical stress or life-threatening conditions, but these tips will serve you just the same should you need to overcome adversity.

    Tips on Overcoming Mental and Physical Adversity
    1. Lean Into Discomfort
    “Once you get comfortable with being uncomfortable, you open up your possibilities,” Magness says. “Often we react too early and rob ourselves of an opportunity to grow and adapt.” Instead of quitting and reacting rashly, give yourself a block of time—like 24 hours—to process if you’re really hitting your limit, or if you can persevere. The time period itself is arbitrary. It just acts as a structured mechanism to allow your mind and body to process the circumstances and determine your limits.

    2. Celebrate Small Successes
    “You have to see yourself winning,” Magness says. When he does group adventure races, he and his team set tiny goals so they have a steady stream of successes. If you drop out when things get hard, you set a neurological pattern. But if your default is to hone in on small checkpoints, then that makes a daunting project, situation, or event seem doable. It becomes a driving mental force that makes you unstoppable. With each new accomplishment, you set the expectation that you’ll find a way to finish the overall endeavor.

    3. Write Your Own Epic
    In any hero’s tale, people overcome overwhelming odds. Look at obstacles as part of your character development. “When I survive something, I let it become larger than life in my mind. Those are the moments you want to imprint on your soul. It’s empowering to choose your own narrative.” You can go over a mountain or around a mountain, but no matter the outcome you keep moving forward.”

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    How to Argue Better and Cope With Conflict—Without Losing Your Cool

    Perhaps you had a few conversations in the past year you regret. Maybe your friend, neighbor, or family member went apocalyptic, and you matched the intensity. Rosalie Puiman, leadership coach and author of The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution, says that doesn’t have to be the case. Here are her top tips on how to argue better and cope with conflict.

    1. Drop Your Ego
    “If you’re having a tough discussion, especially around politics—and you want to be constructive—let go of the old paradigm of winning and losing,” Puiman says. Don’t argue to win, but rather to explore the intricacies of another person’s perspective. Shifting the narrative lowers the stakes.
    2. Be Curious
    “A great way in is to ask what the other person’s experiences have been. Be sincere, and share yours, too.” When you disclose something personal and make yourself vulnerable, it can make a divisive topic feel like less of a debate on moral mandates of right and wrong.

    3. Tap Into Unsaid Emotions
    Polarizing issues can automatically trigger anxiety and defensiveness. “The other person might be scared, angry, hurt, or they don’t feel seen. Identify that and say: ‘Wow, I sense so much pain in your words.’ ” Empathy can steer dialogue into neutral territory.

    4. Know When to Walk
    It’s okay to cut bait when things aren’t going well. “Say, ‘I think we’re touching on subjects we absolutely disagree on, and I don’t think it’s helpful to our relationship if we continue this.’ ” Changing the topic isn’t copping out.
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