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

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When I walk, my body loosens and my posture improves

Person in black jacket and beige shorts walking under a grey sky
Person in black jacket and beige shorts walking under a grey sky
Photo: Laura adai/Unsplash

When I was in my mid-twenties, I developed back problems. They’d started in my early teens, but after years of managing with yoga (and massage when I could afford it), I found that regular strategies for keeping the pain at bay were suddenly ineffective.

These days, I am in pain all the time — from where my skull cradles my spine all the way down to my heels. I usually can’t move my head much to the right. …


The Nuance

Roughing it now and then may be the secret to a more contented life

Photo: Anna Kubiak/Unsplash

The journalist Michael Easter once spent a month in the Arctic Circle, tracking a herd of caribou for a national magazine story.

After 33 days in the backcountry — lugging an 80-pound pack through forests and tundra, spending each night outdoors in a tent — Easter says that his reunion with running water almost brought him to tears.

“I was in this little bathroom at an airfield in Kotzebue, Alaska,” he recalls. “When that warm water hit my face, it was like, oh my god. I think I let it run over my hands for about 20 minutes.”

In his…


The evolutionary argument for happy hour

Photo by Caro Sheridan

Did you find yourself drinking too much during Covid shutdown? You’re not alone. Well, metaphorically at least. From mid-March to mid-May 2020, during the initial phase of the pandemic, alcohol sales around the world skyrocketed, increasing anywhere from 40% to 60% over pre-pandemic levels, with distilled liquor sales increasing more rapidly than sales of wine and beer. Some analysts argued that this retail surge merely reflected a shift from drinking at bars and restaurants to imbibing at home, but this in itself is a serious concern.

That is because, even if we were not alone in drinking more or drinking…


Illustration: Matija Medved for Elemental

The truth about the new class of hair care products

In 2006, Sachajuan, the cult Stockholm hair care brand, debuted a scalp shampoo, expecting it to be a niche product. But in recent years, the shampoo — made with a scalp-tingling peppermint and packaged in an apothecary-like bottle to evoke medicine for hair — has become the brand’s top seller, says co-founder Sacha Mitic. Little wonder, then, that Sachajuan subsequently released a scalp treatment, a scalp conditioner, and, last month, a scalp scrub and scalp brush, the latter of which sold out almost instantly.

“It’s very important to clean the scalp,” says Mitic, who has also been a hairdresser since…


GOOD QUESTION

Probably. But first, consider the risks.

Photo illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Karsten Jipp/EyeEm/Getty Images

The internet makes quite a fuss about the ways we arrange our bodies in repose.

Googling “best sleep position” turns up a cool 765 million results, and some of the top hits maintain that how you sleep — back, stomach, left or right side, fetal — has profound implications for your spine, heart, breathing, appearance, and much else. There’s even some Freudian pseudoscience linking certain sleep positions to personality traits, which seems to have about as much solid scientific backing as palmistry.

All of these claims are somewhat confounded by the fact that we all tend to sleep in a…


How pharma weaseled its way into the bedroom and left us wanting

Animation: Julia Moburg/Medium; Source: Getty Images

Female sexual desire has always been suspended on a tricky societal tightrope. In the past, it was something to be repressed and undiscussed. Violate these norms — or just appear to — and the consequences were grim. Today, for many women, the pendulum has swung in the other direction: Wanting and having a lot of sex is frequently portrayed as an integral part of leading a healthy, balanced, modern life.

Despite these complex expectations, female sexuality remains under-researched and little-understood. This extends to common sexual issues, including a drop-off or complete disappearance of sexual desire, which most women experience at…


Observations from a reluctant exerciser, in a pandemic

Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

I have always been a sporadic exerciser. And, yes, that’s euphemistic. My periods of regular exercise historically come in fits and starts, then disappear as quickly as they arrive — replaced with dark chocolate and binge-watching.

In fact, years ago, I pitched and was hired to write a “reluctant exerciser” column for a popular women’s magazine, which wound up being a bit more reluctant than the editors had hoped. Sure enough, the stories quickly became about what lipgloss and cute headbands to wear while hiking, instead of about climbing mountains.

Most of the times when I’ve successfully maintained an exercise…


Experiment with props, try new classes, and maybe even ditch your screen

Photo courtesy of the author

Yoga is an ever-evolving, ancient practice with South Asian origins. But for many people living in the West, yoga has meant something very specific for the past several decades: thin, lithe, usually white women bending in spandex in a minimalist hardwood floor studio.

The past year has thankfully changed some of that perception.

For the first time, people who want to practice yoga have had no choice but to do so from home. Luckily, there has been no shortage of Zoom classes, YouTube videos, and fitness apps for both experienced practitioners and eager pandemic beginners. And beautifully, many people have…


MONDAY MOVE

You’ll be so glad you tried this

Photography: Andi Elloway

I was not an active kid — always picked last for dodgeball teams, terribly uncoordinated, self-conscious about my knobbly knees in gym shorts. In eighth grade, I broke my pinkie finger playing kickball (figure that one out). But in my twenties, a pathetic-sounding reason arose to kickstart me into a regular exercise routine: I kept throwing out my back. A weird stretch after too much time on the couch, a sudden turn of the head, even a sneeze could do it. …


My Therapist Says

After receiving a reading that sent me spiraling, my therapist reminded me that I need to learn to trust myself

Illustration by Kate Dehler for Elemental

The astrologer appeared stricken as she looked at the zodiac-based tarot card before her. After pausing to digest it, she told me, “There are many people who enjoy it when you fail.”

At the time of that astrology session, which was several years ago, I had just broken up with a girlfriend. I was in court with business partners, navigating a stalled career and watching my savings dwindle. The reading was an impulsive visit I made while walking up Amsterdam Avenue in New York City one night after a first date that wasn’t going to lead to another.

An elderly…

Elemental

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