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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Holidays

In Elemental. More on Medium.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that human beings can forge connections on screens to temporarily replace real face-to-face human interaction. And I’m not just talking about daily Zoom calls with your colleagues. Spending time with fictional characters on television or in movies can mimic the benefits of seeing real-world friends or loved ones, reports science writer Markham Heid in Elemental — especially, if you’re rewatching your favorite shows or movies.

Medium’s Sam Zabell also explains why binge-watching her favorite Christmas movies brings comfort: human brains are conditioned to feel good when we watch our favorite, cheesy…


It’s better not to gather, but here’s how to lower the risk if you do

Photo: Kira auf der Heide/Unsplash

As we head into peak holiday season, the U.S. death toll from Covid-19 has just surpassed 300,000 deaths. The nation is now averaging a daily death toll equivalent to the 9/11 terrorist attacks — every day — with no signs of slowing down. It’s no surprise, then, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that the “safest way to celebrate winter holidays is to celebrate at home with the people who live with you.” They even provide some great ideas on the safest way to celebrate apart from one another.

As we saw with Thanksgiving, however, millions…


Photo: freestocks/Unsplash

Health officials are once again recommending that Americans forgo their holiday travel plans this month in order to quell the rapid spread of Covid-19 nationwide. The recommendation is to celebrate with the people in your household.

The reason for this guidance is that virus cases are spiking to emergency levels. On Wednesday, the United States hit a record of 3,000 deaths from Covid-19 in a single day.

If Thanksgiving travel is any indication, many people likely will still decide to travel to be with families this month. If that’s the case for you, one of the best things you can…


‘We aren’t really in a bubble — we are in a web’

Credit: Tetra Images / Getty Images

This Thanksgiving, many people are making difficult sacrifices. For frontline health care workers, this means long shifts away from loved ones, caring for critically ill people struggling against a deadly illness. For others, it means skipping traditional holiday festivities in favor of quiet celebrations at home.

In a New York Times opinion piece on November 20, Farhad Manjoo discussed his approach to weighing the risks and benefits of traveling for Thanksgiving with his family, ultimately deciding to travel to see loved ones. Manjoo immediately came in for an onslaught of criticism from medical and public health professionals and members of…


Even eight months in, this can still be so touchy

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Back in March, you may have noticed an odd… apathy? complacency? willful ignorance? among family members of a certain age — people who, despite being among the most vulnerable to Covid-19 (we knew this even then!), seemed generally unworried about the whole thing. Whatever has happened in your family in the interim, it’s possible that as the holidays approach, your older relatives’ understandable need for love, connection, and tradition is once again outweighing the many hard lessons these long pandemic months have wrought. (As The Onion put it, Mom Completely Understands That Coming to Thanksgiving Is Risky and That You…


‘The best thing to do is simply not have an extended family gathering, full stop’

Photo: Maren Caruso/Getty Images

We’re now two weeks out from Thanksgiving in the U.S. Do you have a plan?

Given record Covid-19 case numbers across the U.S., the best thing to do is simply not have an extended family gathering, full stop. My family is keeping it to immediate households only this year. We’ll probably video chat with my nephews and nieces, but that’s it for 2020.

If you’re determined to have a larger gathering, today is the day for everyone attending to start quarantining if possible. Have groceries delivered, stay home, and avoid others not in your household if you can. …


Advice and guidelines for Halloween and beyond

Photo: Beth Teutschmann/Unsplash

Co-authored by Kristi McClamroch, PhD, MPH, Alison L. Drake, PhD, MPH, and Ifeoma Udoh, PhD

Fall and winter are normally times for some of our favorite holidays and traditions. Whether you celebrate Dia de los Muertos, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Diwali, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, or many others, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how to plan your holiday activities this year to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission. We have already seen summer holidays linked to increased Covid-19 cases, and we can expect a similar trend this fall and winter. …


How to face the reality and make a plan

Photo: Mark Liddell/Moment/Getty Images

Kristen Carpenter, PhD, comes from a big family in Michigan, and she hasn’t yet decided how to approach the holidays, which traditionally involve road trips for large gatherings. Carpenter, the chief psychologist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, is keeping one eye on the rate of Covid-19 infections in Michigan and the other on the wishes and concerns of her far-flung family.

Whatever they decide to do or not do, “We’ve got to get a lot of people on board,” she says, pointing out that each of her relatives has…


The joy of giving isn’t just a cute by-product of humanity, but rather a fundamental ingredient of what makes us human

Photo: Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty Images

In the field of positive psychology, there is a widely known — and somewhat depressing — phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation. Simply put, it describes a human tendency to experience less joy from our favorite activities, events, and behaviors over time. It’s a concept that’s often directly linked to spending habits and the ways in which we receive. For example, eating the same lunch each day or buying yourself a new piece of clothing from a store you frequent can lose its thrill as time goes on.

The rush of happiness we feel from this kind of “repeated getting” may…


Illustration: Matija Medved

Optimize Me

You could shell out $200 for an IV drip of electrolytes, or you could spend $2 on a Gatorade

Optimize Me is an Elemental column exploring (and fact-checking) the weirdest self-improvement trends. It comes out every Tuesday.

Had a late night at the company holiday party? Feel a tickle in your throat and worried it’s the flu? Or are you suffering from the classic celebrity affliction of “exhaustion”? Hook up your vein to a banana bag, baby, and you’ll feel better in no time!

Concierge IV treatments are among the most extravagant wellness trends of the past few years. For anywhere from $100 to $400, a nurse will come to your home, office, or hotel room to deliver a…

Elemental

Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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