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In Elemental. More on Medium.

What makes Okinawa’s longest-living community the healthiest village

Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

While most of us would never think of saying something to someone for their unhealthy choices, people can be oddly critical when it comes to pointing out healthy ones. The person who eats and drinks a lot at parties is fun, the person who decides to have a moderate portion and some water is boring. Oftentimes choosing the healthy choice is equated with being the spoilsport.

It can feel odd to write it out, but these assumptions of how I would be perceived in social situations used to make me very nervous about making healthy choices when I was with…


Here’s how my marriage improved when I learned to do it right — and when to skip the apology altogether

Illustration: Xinmei Liu for Elemental

I stood at the sink and glared at my husband, Paul, who traipsed through the kitchen in his shoes. Again. “I forgot my phone,” he said, creeping back out on tiptoe as if to deposit less dirt on my clean floor. He blew me a kiss before pulling the door shut with a wimpy “Sorry!” on his way out.

Was he?

During our decade-long marriage, conversations about shoes in the house had remained unchanged: He forgot, I reminded him, he apologized, we repeated.

After a while, it wasn’t about the shoes. I wanted to know my requests mattered. If he…

Focusing too narrowly on how things end can hinder one’s ability to make good decisions

Photo: Meng Yiren/Getty Images

Science and Hollywood both have proof that people prefer happy endings. Research shows that people are more likely to repeat experiences that finish on a high note (think: sex, a meal followed by dessert, or your favorite holiday rom-com). But a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that people’s affinity for happy endings could actually hinder one’s ability to make decisions that maximize enjoyment — and it applies to everything from choosing a restaurant to moving on from a breakup.

Consider a tropical vacation (when such a thing was possible): If the weather is lovely throughout but…

How relationships are tested and strengthened over the course of the pandemic

Illustration: Hoi Chan

When people ask how Sunik and I got through Covid-19 together, I usually start by talking about the hospital chair. It was more of a stool really — backless, with wheels that didn’t seem to lock, and Sunik, my partner of five years, sat in it for 10 hours straight while I lay nearby waiting to be hospitalized. I remember, between short bouts of sleep and visits from hospital staff, opening my eyes to see Sunik sitting on that stool, all night long. I remember them leaning against the cement wall and nodding off only to be awakened by the…

For some, Covid-19 has had a negative impact on intimacy and sex

Photo: Dean Mitchell/Getty Images

The global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we interact with others, and that includes the bedroom. Sexologists are increasingly noticing changes to peoples’ sex lives, from shifts in sexual desire and newly developed fantasies to redefining the meaning of solo and partnered sex.

“A lot of people are bored, scared, and sad on a fundamental level, and this is manifesting in their sexual behaviors, interests, relationships, beliefs, and even their bodies,” says California-based sexologist Jill McDevitt. She believes the pandemic has affected many peoples’ mental space, rippling into relationships and sex life.

Elemental spoke with sexologists and researchers about…

My Therapist Says

It’s okay to lose a friendship

Illustration: Kate Dehler

This summer I reached an impasse with a close friend, who is white, over the Black Lives Matter movement. In the decade we’ve known each other, I had always felt comfortable talking to him about my own experience of otherness as an Indian American. But when I pointed to his whiteness as a privilege he ought to examine, he grew defensive, blew up, and ghosted.

I’m not someone who falls out with friends easily or often. The few times it has happened, my instinct is to ask, “How did I get myself into this?” …

Time apart can save your relationship during the pandemic

Photo: track5/Getty Images

For the better part of 2019, my boyfriend of more than seven years and I shared roughly 60 square feet of space, nearly 24 hours a day. We were on a grand adventure, driving around the United States for months in the cargo van we converted into a camper. We discovered pretty quickly that when there’s nowhere to go cool off, and nobody can sleep on the couch for a night, you’ve got to get creative about dealing with tension. …

The pandemic is keeping us at home — but out of the bedroom

A stressed couple lying down on the bed and staring at the ceiling.
A stressed couple lying down on the bed and staring at the ceiling.
Photo: torwai/iStock/Getty Images Plus

During the pandemic, Lola Jean stopped having sex.

That fact alone is not unusual. But given that Jean, on top of being a New York City-based sex educator and mental health professional, also works as a professional domme and had just started a new relationship, it suggests declining libido might be part of a larger trend.

“In general, I would describe myself as a very sexual person with a high sex drive,” she says. “During quarantine, I entered my first relationship, so we’re still in the honeymoon phase and theoretically should be having sex all the time.”

“You can’t be…

My Therapist Says

Social distancing brings the rare opportunity to redefine our communication and relationships

Illustration: Kate Dehler

My relationship with my mother has always been Gilmore Girls–esque: witty dialogue, borderline-TMI communication style, but much less coffee and no Ivy League education. This has existed pretty much all of my life. Case in point: When I was 17, I sat her down to say I was headed to my boyfriend’s house to lose my virginity. A year later, she told me details of her divorce from my then stepdad, including his infidelity. From what I’ve gathered from friends, these aren’t things mothers and daughters openly share.

Personally, I wasn’t expecting to have a daughter — my husband is…

Illustration: Kieran Blakey

The Nuance

They can disrupt our ability to communicate and connect. But there are ways to overcome a mask’s necessary downsides.

In a series of pioneering studies conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles during the 1960s, a psychologist named Albert Mehrabian sought to catalog and quantify the importance of spoken words, voice tone, posture, gestures, facial expressions, and other forms of verbal and nonverbal communication.

The question at the heart of Mehrabian’s studies: What do people rely on most when trying to understand one another? His counterintuitive takeaway was that the stuff a person says seems to matter much less than how that person acts, sounds, gestures, and emotes as they say it.

“A huge percentage of communication is…


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