Everybody’s working for the weekend—but more and more often, that off-work relief is cut short by a looming sense of dread. A LinkedIn survey found that 80% of people experience these “Sunday scaries,” and that rate climbs to 91% for millennials and 94% for Gen Z. Some experts suggest this Sunday unease is likely even more common lately, as work-life boundaries blur with people working from home. On top of that, the American Psychological Association (APA) says that anxiety rates have soared among US adults, with more than five times the number of people reporting they experience anxiety symptoms than before 2020.

That said, “while the Sunday scaries cause anxiety and sadness, it does not mean you have an anxiety disorder or depression,” explains Angela Ficken, a psychotherapist based in Boston, Massachusetts. Still, the APA warns more than 80% of Americans are more stressed out than ever—so we could all use a little less Sunday stress, and a bit more Sunday funday in our lives.

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What are the “Sunday scaries”?

“The Sunday scaries are when you feel a sense of dread, nervousness, sadness or anxiousness about the upcoming week,” Ficken explains, adding that these feelings might even start bubbling up as early as Saturday. By the time Monday rolls around and you move into your day, the anxiety tends to subside and not return until the following weekend.

In clinical terms, the Sunday scaries are a form of “anticipatory anxiety,” says Briana Severine, MS, LPC, LAC, CPRP, founder of Sanare Psychosocial Rehabilitation. True to the way it sounds, anticipatory anxiety involves feeling anxiety not about what is happening in the present moment, but about a future event or situation.

Yet while this may only happen one or two days a week, the Sunday scaries can come with similar symptoms to anxiety disorders. “[It] can be experienced both mentally and physically,” says Naiylah Warren, LMFT. You might experience psychosomatic symptoms of your worry, such as a heavy feeling throughout your body, obsessive thoughts, and maybe even shallow breathing and tight muscles, she says.

Feel exhausted by one stressful event after another? A resilience expert offers advice to keep your mental wellness strong

Why does Sunday cause anxiety?

Severine says anticipatory anxiety is a natural response that happens in preparation to something we perceive as a “threat” or anything that can cause us pain or discomfort. “In today’s modern world, our fight or flight response is not often triggered by an approaching hungry tiger—but by the pressures and deadlines of our jobs and the financial security they provide.”

What Is Toxic Positivity and Why Can It Be Negative?

Here are some of the common reasons you might experience the Sunday scaries.

“What-if” thinking

Fear of failure or fear of judgment are all-too-common “threats” to the modern American, Severine says. And this high pressure can cook up irrational thought patterns, like entertaining all the what-if’s that can go wrong in the week ahead.

One way to handle these catastrophizing thoughts is to manage perfectionist tendencies. Here’s how some specialists say you can overcome perfectionism.

You had a relaxing weekend

You unplugged from work at 5 o’clock sharp on Friday and spent Saturday absorbed in self-care or time recharging with a loved one. That personal time is a huge—and expert-recommended—way to invest in your mental wellness. Come Sunday afternoon, though, you may notice the un-ticked items from your personal to-do list.

That’s why even if you successfully utilize your weekend to fully recharge and compartmentalize work stress, the Sunday scaries can pop up. “Sunday is a reminder to us that, come the next day, your time will be given mostly to your job,” says Amanda Stemen, a licensed therapist and owner of Fundamental Growth in Los Angeles, CA.

Still, you’ll probably agree: that Saturday “you” time remains essential.

23 Tips for a Truly Restorative, Stress-Free Weekend

You had a busy weekend

Happy hour, brunch, that new fitness class, evening plans out—there’s nothing better than a fun-filled weekend with people who bring the smiles. And while a busy social calendar can be energizing, it can also leave you with a proverbial hangover—even the non-alcohol-induced, just-plain-tired kind.

Spending all your free time around family and friends can leave you feeling depleted, Stemen says. “You may not have even had a moment’s rest [so you] feel dread about jumping back into a hectic schedule.”

Even if you’re enjoying life, you might decide to maintain some balance by keeping next weekend’s calendar a little lighter.

You hate your job

No huge shocker here: the Sunday scaries often stem from not liking a job, a boss or co-workers. “This may be due to a career or work environment that isn’t a good fit for you—or is possibly quite toxic and wholly unpleasant to be in,” Stemen says. “People … dread what they believe is to come on Monday, based on past experiences.”

Fortunately we happen to be in a job market where many candidates can leverage their choices to pick the healthiest environment, as well as a time in society when a harmonious workplace culture has become a bigger focus for many employers.

When—and How—to Talk About Mental Illness On The Job

…or, you love your job

“We experience anxiety regardless of whether a situation is ‘positive’ or ‘negative,'” Severine says. “Even jobs that we love have stressful aspects of them.”

So true, right? In fact, say some experts, the pressure may mount even more if you’re passionate about your work. The fear of judgment, criticism or failure can escalate as a result. Recent May 2022 research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences highlighted how people who are passionate about their work can actually experience more anxiety, stress, and burnout than those who don’t possess such a “bottom-line mentality,” as the researchers who led the study referred to it.

But we live in a time when professional passion can be a slippery slope. Here are nine ways to manage toxic productivity.

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There’s a lot that changed for people since 2020. Things that might have seemed unique are way more common now: people wear masks for their wellness, fewer workers head in to the office…and in terms of our collective intimate lives, even our means and patterns of having sex have transformed in noticeable ways.

“We have seen change,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Erin Rayburn, LMFT, LPC-MHSP, NCC, who adds that this shift “consequently affects [people’s] sexuality and sexual expression.”

While spending more time at home may seem like a blessing for many, the number of sexual encounters people regularly experience has shifted—even if you’re already living with the partner you desire most. Here are a few of the ways Rayburn says sex changed because of the pandemic for individuals who are single or dating, as well as for couples in committed relationships.

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Social distancing results in fewer sexual encounters

Naturally, as the world was actively social distancing from one another, Rayburn says the number of sexual encounters decreased significantly.

Research from around the world backs this up. One 2022 review through the School of Nursing at the University of Hong Kong concluded from a survey of Hong Kong residents that sexual encounters with casual partners, as well as dating app usage, have decreased significantly.

Another 2020 study found that because fewer sexual encounters were happening, people (including adolescents) looked to fill their sexual needs elsewhere, such as through masturbation or connecting with partners through video.

6 Healthy Reasons to Masturbate

More “sexting” is happening

Because fewer people were experiencing in-person sexual encounters, for some, desire steered them to other means of connection. “People’s needs still drove them to connect, so there was an increase in sexting,” says Rayburn.

In a 2021 study called “Love in Quarantine: Sexting, Stress, and Coping During the COVID-19 Lockdown” published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, researchers evaluated 1,929 adults in their early twenties and found that sexting was a coping tool during COVID-19 lockdown due to pandemic-related stress.

Another 2022 study review in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that on average, the more isolated a person was, the greater their willingness to engage in sexting. The study concluded that exchanging intimate information was a way to connect and adapt during difficult circumstances. Living through a pandemic definitely fits that bill.

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Committed partners experience less sex than before

Even for many individuals who lived with their partners, Rayburn explains that it didn’t always result in more sexual encounters taking place. “Consequently, those in committed partnerships may have experienced a decline in their sexual activity if they were experiencing relationship tension due to too much time spent together,” she explains.

A 2020 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research may demonstrate these points, as it found that 22% of study participants reported decreased sexual desire, 41% experienced a decrease in sexual intercourse frequency, and 31% reported deterioration of partner relationships.

Better Sex and More Intimacy: 8 Habits of Connected Couples

Some are more willing to get adventurous

While many people were experiencing less sex during the COVID-19 pandemic—whether due to social distancing, or a decreased sexual desire around their partner—others were using that time to let themselves explore new sexual encounters.

One 2020 research article published in Leisure Sciences reviewed the results of an online survey where one in every five participants said they expanded their sexual repertoire by incorporating new activities and becoming more sexually diverse in their types of encounters. So while nearly half of the study participants said they had less sex, a fifth of participants felt their feelings of stress and loneliness gave them a willingness to try new things.

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There are a lot of questions, or maybe private curiosity, on the length of time a couple should invest in letting things get heated before doing the deed. Just for example: one 2004 Canadian psychology study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Sex Research surveyed 152 heterosexual couples about their perceptions related to foreplay and sex. The researchers found that on average, women tended to feel that longer foreplay is ideal, while men significantly underestimated the amount of foreplay their partners desired. This study might suggest the length of foreplay is a common question in intimate relationships, but one that doesn’t come up for discussion among many couples.

14 Ways to Spice Up Your Sex Life According to Sex Therapists

What is foreplay?

Foreplay might be described as the intimate, physical exchange of gestures that lead up to sex, serving the purposes of increasing arousal and preparing the body (and mind!) for sex. As nationally certified licensed marriage and family therapist Erin Rayburn, LMFT, LPC-MHSP, NCC, explains, “Foreplay is beneficial for warming up the body and mind for sexual chemistry. It also leads to an increased experience of pleasure and intensity.” 

But to experience the greatest effects physical, psychological, and emotional effects from sex, how long should said foreplay last? And, is it always necessary? There are answers…sort of.

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How long should foreplay last?

“Everyone is different when it comes to sex and experiencing pleasure,” Rayburn says. The Canadian study might illustrate her point: “Women and men have different sexual arousal and peak needs,” she says, “so foreplay should not be put on a timeline, but rather be determined through preferences and response.” In the study, the actual timing of foreplay varied from person to person—meaning a specific timeline doesn’t matter when it comes to how long foreplay should last. “Think quality over quantity,” Rayburn says. In other words: don’t get caught up in what others think or do. It’s all about what works for you and your relationship.

8 Budget-Friendly Sex Toys Worth Trying, with Wisdom from Clinical Sex Specialists

Because what makes sex great is authentic connection. Research has suggested that when some couples engage in “proceptive” behaviors, this appears to stoke the flames and makes sex particularly powerful. The American Psychological Association describes proceptivity in a romantic relationship as actions that “actively solicit” sexual engagement from a partner, such as courting, flirting, seducing and eventually foreplay. In one review published in Human Reproductive Biology, couples who’d engaged in proceptive interactions only needed one minute of foreplay before engaging in sex to reach an orgasm, while others needed up to 20 minutes or even more. 

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a young child at A Hospital In Africa

Australia is wrapping up its worst flu season in years. In May, the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care reported that confirmed flu cases were double that of May 2019, which was the country’s worst flu season on record. And with the virus flat out like a lizard drinking—that’s Aussie slang for working hard and fast—experts warn that we should brace for a rough flu season 2022 in the US, too.

“We look very closely at Australia,” says Ryan Maves, MD, professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest School of Medicine and chair of the American College of Chest Physicians’ COVID-19 Task Force. Thanks to similarities like societal behaviors and areas of population density, flu patterns in the Northern hemisphere tend to mirror Australia’s—so their earlier season can offer clues of what’s to come for us. “That being said, it’s not always predictive,” Dr. Maves explains, adding: “But I think we should be prepared for a bad flu season.”

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Will flu season 2022 be bad?

A September 2022 report published in the peer-reviewed international journal, The Lancet, suggested 85% of flu cases in Australia this year were caused by influenza A (H3N2,) a strain of the flu associated with more severe epidemics. By the numbers, the Australian government reports there are 217,898 flu cases year-to-date, creeping back up to levels at this time in 2019. Keep in mind that confirmed flu cases represent just a fraction of the true total because most people don’t get a laboratory test when they’re sick.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly influenza reporting doesn’t swing into gear until the start of October, says Linda Yancey, infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, TX. “Right now we are in the yearly summertime lull—only 40 cases of influenza were reported nationally last week. This is consistent with previous years.”

Given this data, experts suggest we should expect cases to return at least to pre-pandemic levels. But there are several other factors at play that make the prospects of flu season 2022 stand out.

Surprising Ways America’s Health Has Changed During Covid-19

First, flu activity has been historically low since the start of the pandemic. The CDC reported just 1,675 confirmed flu cases during the 2020-2021 season, and 134,683 cases in 2021-2022. For comparison, the agency estimates there were 38 million cases of the flu in 2019. This lack of exposure to the flu over the past few years works to lower our population’s collective immunity—also called “herd immunity”—which can pave the way for more serious waves of the flu virus, according to a 2022 report published in Nature Communications.

So, our natural immunity against the flu waned during the pandemic. But flu vaccination rates are in decline, too. A UCLA study found that after decades of holding more-or-less steady, adult flu vaccinations are dropping in states with low rates of Covid-19 vaccination. And among children, flu vaccinations are decreasing across the board. This is concerning because the flu can affect kids more severely than adults—and in 2019, 78% of children who died from the flu were unvaccinated.

Then there’s expert concern of a “twindemic.” Whether we get a truly bad flu season—Dr. Maves points to 2009-2010’s H1N2 (swine flu) pandemic as an example—or just a regular flu season, he says there will be the additional challenge of having highly-transmissible Covid strains circulating on top of it.

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What month is flu season?

In general, flu season in the US lasts from October to as late as May, peaking between December and February. But “the timing of this influenza season is a bit of a question mark,” Dr. Maves says. “And so the question is, Is influenza going to reassert its normal seasonal patterns?”

The timing of the last two flu seasons has been unusual. For instance, while the 2021-2022 season was mild, it went on for far longer than expected. “[There were] a significant number of cases occurring in April, May, and early June,” explains Edward Telzak, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine at St. Barnabas Hospital Health System. And ordinarily, cases past mid-April are considered atypical.

In addition, reports from Australia indicate that flu season 2022 could start earlier than usual. That’s why CDC health officials urge everyone six months and older to get their flu vaccine by the end of October. This guidance is especially vital for children. Australia’s flu report points to kids as a high-risk group, with children and teenagers having the country’s highest rate of infection and hospitalization in 2022.

Here’s what doctors want you to know about the flu in children

What flu shots are available this year?

“The flu shots this year are called ‘quadrivalent’ because they contain four different flu virus strains,” explains Robert Amler, MD, the Dean of School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College and a former Chief Medical Officer at the CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

For those under age 65, the CDC does not recommend any one type of flu vaccine over another. “They’re all comparably effective,” Dr. Maves explains. So, whatever’s available at your local pharmacy or doctor’s office is likely to do the trick.

But if you’re over age 65, “three different flu vaccines are preferentially recommended this year because they provide an extra measure of protection in that age group,” Dr. Amler says. These include the Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent vaccine, Flublok Quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine, or Fluad Quadrivalent adjuvanted flu vaccine.

Should I get the flu shot?

The flu vaccine is not 100% effective at preventing the flu, but it greatly lowers the risk you’ll catch a bad case or develop serious complications, Dr. Maves says. This is particularly important for people with chronic health conditions. Even if you’re not at high-risk, getting your flu shot is still important. “Many of us don’t have chronic lung disease, don’t smoke, are generally healthy,” Dr. Maves explains. “But unless you live in some extraordinary bubble, you have a parent, a grandparent, a child, a friend, someone you work with who does fit into one of those [high-risk] categories.” By getting your flu shot, you improve their protection, along with your own.

He points to the rubella vaccine as a similar example. This infection causes mild or no symptoms in most people, so getting vaccinated isn’t necessarily about protecting your own health. But the disease can lead to devastating complications in newborns. “So all of us are vaccinated against rubella so that pregnant women don’t get it, preventing catastrophic birth defects.”

This Is Why Parents Need to Be Up-to-Date on All of Their Vaccinations, Too

In terms of timing, the experts say it’s best to get your flu shot this year as early as September or October. They say that’s especially important since we still don’t know when the season will be in full swing. “We are headed into what very well might be the worst flu season in the past five years,” says Dr. Yancey. “We want everyone to get protected as soon as possible.”

As Covid-19 circulates, it’s recommended to top up your protection against that as well. “The new Covid boosters will be available this fall,” Dr. Yancey says. “It’s perfectly safe to get the booster at the same time as the flu vaccine.”

Along with getting your flu shot, here are expert-recommended ways to stay healthy this flu season

What to do if you get the flu

If you do get sick this season, Dr. Amler says that it’s a good idea to get a Covid-19 test as the symptoms can be pretty similar. But if you are down with the flu, aim to stay at home for about five days after your symptoms begin. “As long as people are feeling better, not running fevers, and it has been five days since the start of their illness, they are considered non-infectious,” Dr. Yancey explains.

You should still get a flu shot if you’re unvaccinated after recovering. There is the chance you can catch a different strain of the virus, and you don’t get the same “cross-protection” from having the flu as you get from the vaccine.

And whether you get sick or not, here’s how to handle awkward flu season situations this year

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 94 million Americans ages 20 years and older are dealing with cholesterol levels over the healthy range of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), while 28 million present with numbers over 240 mg/dL. Having high cholesterol numbers means having a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease—and while genetics and hormonal changes can play a role in your levels, the blog for the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University points out that what you eat tends to be the biggest influence.

Norman E. Lepor, MD, FACC, FAHA, FSCAI, is an attending cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles. Lepor says“As a cardiologist, my first point of discussion with a patient … is lifestyle modification, [and] that includes dietary issues as well as exercise.” 

So, adjusting diet is one of Dr. Lepor’s first recommendations. Getting on a good track with nutrition is one major key to lowering cholesterol (and heart disease risk) for the long-term. So what’s a cholesterol-healthy diet…and what isn’t? Get your grocery list handy—here, Dr. Lepor gets very specific about what’s worth adding to your cart.

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The best diet for healthy cholesterol

Dr. Lepor says the best diet for cholesterol is pretty simple advice for most patients: follow a Mediterranean-style diet. “We all like traveling,” this cardiologist says. “We go to Greece and Italy and these countries where there is a Mediterranean diet prevalent, but when we come back to our native land we end up with diets that are high in carbs and fat sources [that] aren’t particularly healthy.”

Continually ranked the best diet for your overall health by U.S. News & World Report, the Mediterranean diet focuses on consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and healthy fats, like olive oil. Fish and seafood are incorporated around twice a week, while other protein sources like eggs, poultry, and dairy are eaten in moderation. Red meat is eaten sparingly. That’s because, as the American Heart Association points out, research shows eating red meat regularly increases cardiovascular disease risk by 22% on average.

Dr. Lepor says incorporating more sources of monounsaturated fats (found in avocados, olive oil and seeds) and polyunsaturated fats (walnuts, flaxseeds, fish) is a good place to start. “We recommend using oils that are not tropical oils, but using canola or high-quality olive oil instead,” Dr. Lepor says. “Eat lots of nuts. And we love blue fruits, like blueberries and blackberries, because they have lots of antioxidants. So those are the kinds of advice that we give patients, along with regular exercise.”

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The worst diet for cholesterol, says this cardiologist

Because consuming a higher amount of saturated fats increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, Dr. Lepor does not recommend the keto diet for coronary vascular health.

11 Hidden Dangers of the Keto Diet

“People tend to say they can lose weight fast on the keto diet, and they eat the types of foods that reduce their appetite, but you’re really increasing the intake of those saturated fats,” he says. “If you’re able to do the keto diet and have your protein intake come from healthier sources, well that’s a different story.”

Here’s How Much Protein You Really Need in a Day, with a Kidney Doctor’s Wisdom

Even outside of the keto diet, Americans are regularly consuming a diet high in saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, sodium and overall calories. These increase cardiovascular disease risk as well as type 2 diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer, says the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as published by the US Department of Agriculture in collaboration with he US Department of Health & Human Services. “We are getting a lot of saturated fat intake, we are eating lots of meat and pork products as sources of our protein and we’re eating lots of bread and starches,” Dr. Lepor adds.

Eating This One Food Every Day Could Damage Your Brain Health, Says New Study

It’s not all about losing weight

While losing excess weight is important for improved cardiovascular health, Dr. Lepor says it’s not the only solution to reducing cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk. “Oftentimes people will lose weight as part of my recommendations—they’ll lose five or 10 or 15 pounds—and then we do their cholesterol levels and their cholesterol levels may not have budged much,” he says. “It’s not just about the loss of pounds, it’s about how you achieve it. There is no strict relationship between pounds lost and cholesterol reduction.”

Drinking This Beloved Juice Could Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

In order to truly take care of your cholesterol levels, Dr. Lepor recommends consuming healthier sources of fats and proteins. While weight loss can come with these dietary changes (and can benefit other weight-related issues like diabetes risk and heart failure), losing weight isn’t the only solution. He says even slender people can be at significant risk of developing coronary vascular disease. “I have patients who are thin who are very active and you know something? They have heart attacks and strokes as well.”

Dr. Lepor says focusing on eating a diet with sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as lean proteins like chicken, seafood and plant-based options such as legumes, can benefit those cholesterol numbers—and your overall health—over time.

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As an actor (NICS: Hawai’i), model and television host (Love Is Blind, The Ultimatum), Vanessa Lachey is used to having eyes on her. But sometimes, even celebs in the limelight struggle with attention.

Since she was young, Vanessa Lachey has battled hivesAccording to New York City board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, up to 20% of people in the U.S. are estimated to suffer from hives at some point in their lives. But despite a fifth of the country experiencing this condition, Lachey says the stigma about it can be almost as uncomfortable as the condition itself. 

In a new partnership with Allegra Hives, Lachey is sharing her message to foster greater acceptance and compassion around chronic skin problems. Lachey recently spoke with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest about her skin health practices, how she deals with the perception around her hives condition, and the one marriage habit she and husband Nick Lachey are mindful about to help them both feel confident and connected.

Here’s What Neil Patrick Harris Ordered on His First Date with David Burtka

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‘Yeah, I got something on my face. What do you want to do about it?’

More than anything, Vanessa Lachey says hives are just uncomfortable. “Imagine having a bite on your ankle, but all over your body,” she says. “It can go from annoying to uncomfortable, to honestly, painful. I specifically have two very core memories of crying tears: one when I was eight, and one after Camden was born in October of 2021.”

“I would get them on my neck or chest, and people are like, ‘Oh, what’s wrong? What’s that?’” Lachey told The Healthy. “I’m like, ‘What? It’s a hive. But wait…is that gross to you?’ Then it started making me think, Gosh, people who have hives, why is it an ‘ew’ thing to some people?

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According to Lachey, that kind of reaction can be a hit to her confidence that she’s learned to push back at. “Especially for someone who’s on camera, as a 41-year-old mother of three, I’ve learned to let that part of it go. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I got something on my face. What do you want to do about it?’” 

Lachey has also found relief in treatments like Allegra Hives, which she says relieves itchiness, reduces the hives’ appearance and is non-drowsy, “which is a win, win, win, win, win” for a working woman like herself. “I can’t take anything that would make me drowsy while I’m on set, because I want to be firing on all cylinders, operating at 100%.” 

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Vanessa Lachey on the key to a healthy relationship

Between starring on NCIS: Hawai’i and co-hosting not one but two reality dating shows with her husband, Nick Lachey, it’s no wonder Vanessa has no interest in staying down. Love Is Blind and The Ultimatum aren’t just jobs for her; they’re a chance to share relationship wisdom. With 15 years and three children together, the Lacheys have worked to cultivate healthy habits. The biggest key, Vanessa says, is communication. “Not only communicating the negatives and needs, but acknowledging the good and thanking your partner for making the kids’ breakfast or making me my cup of coffee in the morning,” Lachey reflects. “Just as much as we like to communicate our issues, we also love to hear and communicate how things are going well.”

She says whether that’s through therapy or over the dinner table, the important part is to make sure both partners feel safe to speak their mind. 

15 Relationship Communication Quotes to Strengthen Your Love

Lachey says both shows she and Nick host are great opportunities for couples to practice and build those skills. “That’s the beauty of Love Is Blind and the pods because we are focusing on the person, taking out the visual senses and all the external senses and just the communication factor to establish the foundation that is proven to be present for a lasting relationship,” she said. “Whether that’s a relationship with your friends, your children or your spouse. For Ultimatum it’s moreso understanding why one partner may be ready while the other isn’t—so it’s about communicating with each other as to why you guys aren’t on the same page.”

Lachey adds that personally, she has given an ultimatum—and that personal experience is exactly why she and Nick were excited to host the show. She says in one particular situation, he had one intention in mind, and she had another: “I think we both had the same goal but a different method on how we would get there,” she says.

 If your relationship reaches that point, Lachey suggests the way you talk about the ultimatum is the most important part. “It goes back to communication,” she says. “Instead of being close-minded, instead of ‘Here’s my ultimatum’ it’s, “Listen, I want to get married, but you’re scared.’ And addressing the why. Discussing what’s important to you, understanding why each other is coming from where they’re coming from. Moving forward will either be about making some sacrifices or deciding maybe we’re not meant to be.”

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A little sexual activity doesn’t just feel good…it is good. Physical pleasure can benefit your health, forge a stronger relationship and even supplement your workout (yep, sex burns calories). But also, as therapist Erin Rayburn, LMFT, LPC-MHSP, NCC, says, enjoying some sexual sensation involves your hormones in a way that can serve your mental health.

“Sex hormones released in the body … like oxytocin and endorphins—activate pleasure centers within the brain and also increase a sense of connectivity and intimacy,” Rayburn, the founder of Evergreen Therapy, tells The Healthy @Reader’s Digest. “Research has shown that this is beneficial for staving off anxiety and depression.”

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How an orgasm affects the brain

Rutgers University houses one of the most prominent research centers for the study of sexual pleasure and orgasms. Through clinical trials, their work examines the complexities of orgasm and how this interplays with the brain. Barry R. Komisaruk, PhD, a psychologist and Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Rutgers, spearheaded many studies looking at sexology, pleasure and sex therapy. In particular, he studies how genital stimulation can gain access to the brain through the spinal cord as well as the vagus nerve, which facilitates communication between the genitalia and the brain.

In one of his studies, published by The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Komisaruk studied the orgasms of 10 different women through an fMRI scanner. He found that when the body is aroused, blood flow will increase in the genitalia area to ignite nerve activity. That causes the orgasm to stimulate multiple brain regions, including sensory, motor, reward, frontal cortex and brainstem.

One review published in European Psychiatry also examined stimulation of the vagal nerve and how it can work as a long-term treatment for chronic or recurrent depression. That’s because, as Rayburn pointed out, when the vagal nerve is stimulated, it releases oxytocin, noradrenaline and serotonin—all organic chemicals that help regulate mood and behavior. This can help to lower stress and depression symptoms.

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Does orgasm frequency matter for reaping these benefits?

Research has yet to determine whether the frequency of orgasms—that is, how often you have one—matters for mental health. In his work, Komisaruk has found that just one orgasm unlocks those pleasure hormones and even boosts cognitive function.

However, as one 2020 psychology study pointed out, some authorities suggest that excessive masturbation can have the opposite effect, creating negative psychological, physical, social and moral effects. In any case, more research needs to be done in order to determine what a standard definition of “excessive masturbation” would be, and how it really would affect an individual over the long term.

Is Masturbation Addiction Real? What Experts Want You to Know

All in all, having an orgasm can boost your mood and positively benefit your mental health. Plus, the type of orgasm is not specified—so whether it’s through masturbation or partnered sex, you might still enjoy not just the act itself…but also those brain-boosting benefits that set in afterward.

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We all know the feeling: when you’ve really got to pee, it can feel impossible to focus on anything else. But when you can’t dash to the restroom right that second, how big of an emergency is it?

According to Gregory Quayle, MD, a urologist certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties, you might be impressed with how well your bladder works to help you hold it. While the bladder’s capacity “varies from individual to individual, depending on his or her anthropometry and genetics,” says Dr. Quayle, “the maximum bladder capacity is up to 24 to 27 ounces (700 to 800 milliliters) in men and 17 to 20 ounces (500 to 600 milliliters) in women.”

Dr. Quayle says it’s around 50% capacity—that’s 250 to 350 milliliters, or 8.5 to 12 ounces—when nerves in your bladder will be activated to alert your brain that you need to urinate. 

So then, how is it that the average bladder can hold around twice as much as you might feel like you can stand? And, is there a need to worry if you’re going somewhat frequently? For some enlightening physiology trivia—as well as key urinary wellness guidance—Dr. Quayle filled us in.

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Here’s how often you should go to the bathroom

According to Dr. Quayle, it’s normal to go between four and 10 times a day, depending on how much fluid you consume. “The average adult … will urinate around six to eight times,” he says. “An athlete who drinks 20 glasses of water can urinate up to 12 times a day. And finally, the frequency of urination is subject to habit and the size of the bladder.”

When the bladder is empty, it’s actually similar in size and shape to a pear. As you consume liquids, the bladder will expand in a way that’s reminiscent of a balloon. Then, when at least a pint of fluid is in the bladder, many adults will feel the urge to urinate. “Holding it” will stop you from urinating on the spot, but it won’t stop the alert from taking place in your brain until you release the liquid later.

This Urine Color Chart Reveals Exactly What Your Pee Color Means

How to ensure your bladder is in good health

“If you urinate four to 10 times a day and don’t have any symptoms such as pain or burning with urination, weird urine smell, or color then you are urinating normally and your bladder is likely to be healthy,” says Dr. Quayle.

However, there are certain conditions that can disrupt the natural urination process. One is an overactive bladder, which can cause an ongoing, urgent need to go to the bathroom—and in some cases, an inability to hold the urine before reaching a toilet. Another is the neurogenic bladder, which causes you to lose control over your need to urinate and can create difficulty to know when your bladder is full or to even release and urinate when you need to. It can also be an early sign of certain diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s.

If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, or feel the need to go more than the average four to 10 times a day that Dr. Quayle suggests, then it may be time to talk to your doctor. “If you have symptoms of urinary incontinence, urodynamic testing can be prescribed,” he says. “Urodynamic testing is a procedure used to assess how well the bladder and urethra are functioning. It is also used to help diagnose the cause of urinary incontinence.”

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Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Heart disease” can include coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrest, and other diagnoses. However, the risk of developing heart disease looks different between men and women when you compare these two genders.

For example, age can be a significant factor. One 2010 Dutch cardiology study suggested women develop cardiovascular disease seven to 10 years later than men do on average, due to female hormones before and after menopause. This gives women an extra level of “protection” for a few years in comparison to men.

Explains Dr. Norman E. Lepor, MD, FACC, FAHA, FSCAI, an attending cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles: for women, this comes down to the way age affects cholesterol levels.

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Estrogen levels in women can affect cholesterol numbers

“Let me start off by saying that dyslipidemia, which is … elevated levels of cholesterol—is a very prevalent issue,” says Dr. Lepor, who estimates “probably nearly 100 million people in the United States” have issues with elevated cholesterol. “Women do tend to be protected during their premenopausal years, generally because the estrogen leads to higher levels of HDL cholesterol, which people call sometimes the ‘good’ cholesterol.”

Studies have found a correlation between estrogen and cholesterol levels for a while now. In 2010, researchers from the National Institutes of Health even found that changing estrogen levels during a woman’s cycle can alter cholesterol levels. Increased estrogen levels resulted in higher levels of HDL cholesterol and decreased amount of LDL “bad” cholesterol.

HDL vs. LDL Cholesterol: What’s the Difference?

Having high levels of LDL cholesterol can clog arteries, building plaque and increasing the risk of developing coronary vascular disease. HDL cholesterol is important for “scavenging” that excess cholesterol and transferring it to the liver in order to be cleared. 

Because the liver is affected by hormones, this in turn can affect the liver’s production of HDL and LDL cholesterol, according to Dr. Lepor. So, while diet does have a significant role in cholesterol levels within the body, genes and hormones also have some control over cholesterol production in the liver.

Read Eating This Fruit Once a Day Can Decrease Bad Cholesterol, Says New Study

Menopause changes hormone levels, creating an increased risk

Nevertheless, while cholesterol levels in younger women get some assistance from relatively higher estrogen levels, that “protective layer” does disappear after a woman goes through menopause. “[It] is protective, of course, until the peri-menopausal years when things change,” says Dr. Lepor. “You will see women having their HDL levels going down significantly and their LDL levels actually going up.”

By age 70, the incidents of developing coronary vascular disease will equal the risk of men, Dr. Lepor explains. According to the American Heart Association, there is an overall increase in heart attack incidences 10 years after menopause, and one in three women end up with some form of cardiovascular disease.

“I think this is particularly important for women in many situations because we underestimate, or we remain in denial, about their risk for heart disease,” says Dr. Lepor, who suggests all patients get a regular coronary calcium screening starting at the age of 40 in order to know the state of your risk. “[It] is a very important test to show if plaque is present. If plaque is present, that means you are at risk. And sometimes women are under-assessed.”

So while the risk might be reduced for women earlier in life, Dr. Lepor suggests getting regularly tested and doing what you can to keep your risk of heart disease down, like eating a Mediterranean-style diet and engaging in regular exercise.

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What we eat doesn’t just impact our weight, hunger levels or energy. Current science suggests that choices you make in your diet can have broad implications for your overall physical and mental health. For example, a 2022 study found a link between ultra-processed foods and depression, and a 2020 study in the European Journal of Human Genetics reported a connection between poor diet and mental health disorders in young people. Food, and our behaviors around it, can impact everything from mood to self-esteem…so protect your mental well-being by avoiding these four harmful eating habits, as outlined by a registered dietitian who specializes in the link between food and psychology.

Into taking care of your mind? Also don’t miss 5 Eating Habits That Benefit Your Mental Health, a Registered Dietitian Says

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Consuming too much sugar

“While the brain prefers glucose as its fuel source, a number of studies show that a high-sugar diet is linked with low mood and depression,” says Kitty Broihier, MS, RD, LD, owner of NutriComm and creator of the Eating Habits Lab. “Sugar consumption increases inflammation in the body, which may also be a factor in the mental response to a sugary diet. It can be pretty easy to pinpoint sugary foods in the diet, but it’s important to consider what you’re drinking, too.”

Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda have been linked to plenty of health concerns, including increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease. It even messes with your neurological health: according to a study in the Frontiers of Psychiatry, drinking sugary beverages regularly has been associated with increased psychological and behavioral problems for adolescents, and has led to negative mental health outcomes for adults.

This Is Your Brain on Sugar: A Dietitian Details How a Love for Sweets May Worsen Your Memory

Following a western diet

Sugar is a major part of what many nutrition professionals refer to as the Standard American Diet (SAD). The abbreviation for this diet is unfortunately on-point: following the SAD also means consuming high amounts of saturated fat and refined or processed foods. Research has shown that consumption of these can increase the risk of depression symptoms, according to the journal PLoS ONE.

However, there is no denying that these foods come with convenience. Sometimes a quick run through the drive-thru is necessary when you’re hungry and trying to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. But you can still try to keep your meals convenient without overdoing it on the saturated fat and refined foods, like choosing these 10 healthy fast food options next time you order.

Tracking everything you eat and drink

Calorie-counting has been one traditional way to try to lose weight and get healthy, but Broihier points out that hyper-fixating on the numbers can negatively affect your mental health over time. “Tracking can be a useful tool, especially when you’re just establishing a new habit or starting to eliminate an un-useful habit,” she says, though adding: “[…B]ut when you do it long-term, that habit can turn into an obsession that ends up running your life.” 

Broihier typically encourages new clients to start off by tracking, then eventually she invites them to forgo the tool in order to set a healthier boundary and overall healthier habits

So instead of counting, she says, many experts recommend incorporating a balance of healthy foods into your diet. Then, pay attention to how you feel as you get more of these.

15 Pictures That Prove Calorie-Counting Won’t Always Help You Lose Weight

Not eating enough anti-inflammatory foods

Research shows how inflammation in the body can increase the risk of depression, and scientists suggest finding ways to decrease it. Your diet can play a major role in increasing inflammation, so choosing to regularly consume anti-inflammatory foods—like vegetables, fruits, and fish—can help reduce the risk of depression, compared to a diet heavy in added sugars, soda, and junk food, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Try incorporating these 18 Anti-Inflammatory Foods into your diet to get the most of their health benefits, while keeping your mental health in a good place.

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Don’t focus on weight loss—focus on your health

“Focusing on ‘whipping yourself into shape’ and cutting out foods puts you in a negative frame of mind and emphasizes restriction,” says Kitty Broihier, MS, RD, LD, owner of NutriComm Inc. “The body perceives constant negative self-talk as stress, [and] a stressed body likes to hang on to its resources“—adding: “Fat is a resource to our bodies.”

5 Ways Stress-Eating Impacts Your Gut Health, Mood, and More, Say Eating Psychology Specialists

Broihier recommends that you “shift toward thinking about what you’ll gain” by eating healthier, “such as improved health, more energy and feeling good. These positive thoughts make it easier to make choices that support your goals, because those choices don’t feel as punishing as food restriction does,” Broihier continues. “Your body won’t feel stressed at the process, it will feel safe. A body that feels safe is more likely to respond better to your healthy food choices and that will help get you closer to your goal.”

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Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables, even the kinds that are processed (such as 100% fruit juice), have been proven to benefit mental health by positively influencing sleep quality, life satisfaction, mood, creativity, self-esteem, stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, and overall mental well-being, according to 2020 research in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients.

“Most people know that eating plenty of fruits and veggies is good for us,” says Broihier. “They deliver nutrients like vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and water. These things are involved in lots of chemical reactions and processes in our bodies that support brain function—including feeding the helpful bacteria in our gut microbiome.”

Eating More of This Can Improve Your Gut Health, Says New Science

Take care of your gut

Properly feeding the gut is important for the gut-brain axis, a communication network within the body that connects the enteric and central nervous systems. Research shows that a disruption to the gastrointestinal tract can alter the gut-brain relationship and can negatively influence mood, cognition, and mental health.

“The gut-brain connection relies on a healthy gut microbiome,” says Broihier. “Colorful produce also contains a wide variety of phytonutrients, that research suggests are linked to improved cognition including memory, mood, and executive function—basically, our abilities to do the mental tasks of daily living.”

One study even found eating up to 30 different kinds of plants a week results in a diverse gut microbiome, meaning the body has a variety of healthy bacteria that benefit digestion and, in turn, mental well-being.

7 Clear Signs You Might Have an Unhealthy Gut

Incorporate fish into your eating plan

Along with eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, research has demonstrated that consuming fish regularly can boost mental health and reduce the risk of dementia. The lipid and essential fatty acids found in fish have been proven to decrease the risk of depression and prevent age-related mental and cognitive decline.

Harvard Health suggests consuming one or two three-ounce servings of fatty fish per week—such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines—will reduce the risk of depression and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as heart disease and stroke.

The 7 Best Fish to Eat—and 5 to Never Eat

Reach for anti-inflammatory foods

According to a review by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, following an anti-inflammatory diet with a high intake of vegetables, fruits, and fish was associated with a reduced risk of depression.

While fish, fruits, and vegetables are important foods in an anti-inflammatory diet, incorporating other anti-inflammatory foods is key for getting a variety of nutrients such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, and olive oil. Many of these foods contain healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids have both been proven to benefit mental health by boosting mood, decreasing depressive symptoms, and reducing the risk of developing neurological diseases like dementia.

Conversely, it’s important to reduce the intake of inflammatory foods that can exacerbate depression symptoms. This includes added sugar, soda, and junk food. Experts typically recommend reducing the intake of these foods in order to benefit mental health. Read Eating This Every Day Could Damage Your Brain Health, Says New Study

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If you’re one who loves to crack open a refreshing can of sparkling water in the afternoon, you’re in good company. According to a 2020 Market Analysis Report, the sparkling water industry at $29.71 billion in 2020, and analysts expect the market value to increase by almost 15% before 2028. With a booming industry that offers a plethora of delicious options on grocery shelves, there’s no wonder people are choosing to hydrate with fizzy water more and more.

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And yet, while sparkling water can be a refreshing way to get the correct amount of water you need in a day, Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices, says that drinking too much sparkling water can cause uncomfortable symptoms for some. “Some people may find when they consume too many fizzy waters, they’re left feeling somewhat bloating and gassy,” Burgess says. “This is likely due to the fact that these waters contain mini air pockets, which contribute to air building up in the stomach. Our bodies will naturally try to get rid of excess air by way of burping or gas.”

9 Ways to Tell if Your Burping Habits Are Normal

Although the research is ongoing, experts at the University of Chicago Medicine suggest drinking fizzy water—and other carbonated beverages—can cause bloating for patients with acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or, yes: gas.

To this, Burgess says, “If you’re experiencing these undesirable effects often, you might try decreasing your fizzy beverage intake or swapping to flat or ‘still’ water.”

While fizzy water can make some gassy or bloated, not everyone is affected by bubbles, making sparkling water a great option for hydration. However, Burgess advises you to be wary of any added calories, added sugars, or artificial sweeteners in your beverage. Studies show consuming too many sugar-sweetened beverages can have a negative impact on your health, including increased cardiovascular risk factors, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

This Is the Healthiest Type of Fizzy Water, Say Doctors (and a Dentist)

Burgess recommends looking for a low-calorie, low-sugar sparkling beverage—or one that is just simply fizzy water in a can. “One of my favorites to enjoy lately has been Richard’s Rainwater, coming in both sparkling and still,” she says. “It’s unique because the water is caught clean before it hits the ground and contains no added chemicals like you might find in other bottled and canned waters.”

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For 32 years (!!!) since Jennie Garth debuted as Kelly Taylor on Beverly Hills, 90210, we’ve associated her persona with youth, exuberance, and often being called to care for others. (Cue the uber-relatable meme that goes, Someone said, “30 years ago,” And my mind went, “Oh, yes! The 1970s” but they meant 1992, and now I need to lie down. Yes. We totally relate.)

Today, the actor—who turned 50 this year—is speaking openly about her diagnosis with osteoarthritis, a chronic pain condition in which the joints gradually lose their cartilage. Osteoarthritis affects an estimated 16 million Americans—and, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), around 50 million Americans, or 20% of the population, are also living with chronic pain.

Now, in partnership with Voltaren Gel, Jennie Garth speaks with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest on finding peace with change…and why—especially for people with pain—it’s important to care for yourself, like you do for others.

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Jennie Garth sitting outside with a mountain landscape in the background

Jennie Garth on managing chronic pain

When Jennie Garth was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, she was living life as a busy working mom (she shares three daughters in their teens and twenties with ex-husband Peter Facinelli) and a caretaker for her father, who has since passed. “It was a tough diagnosis to hear that I was starting to suffer from osteoarthritis,” Garth says. “I just thought, Wow, I’m too young for this. It does do a number on you mentally because there’s such a stigma around arthritis and aging that it made me sort of sort of stop in my tracks and think, Oh, no, I guess I’m getting older. I don’t feel older. I don’t look older when I see myself in the mirror. For me, just the mental acceptance of it was difficult.”

Brooke Shields Exclusive: Her 4 Wellness Must-Haves and the “Extraordinary” Privilege of Aging

But, Garth says, the diagnosis was an invitation to reframe her thinking. “The fact of the matter is people suffer from arthritis at all ages of their life,” she says. “So I think it’s really important to … talk about it and sort of destigmatize it and make it a conversation that we can all have that’s not so based in fear—or, the not wanting to have it.”

Garth says by partnering with Voltaren Gel’s Carewalks initiative, she’s working to be a voice for caregivers, who often are so focused on attending to a loved one that they don’t acknowledge their own pain. “Because so often the people [who] are taking care of [others] are suffering from their own pain. But they sort of do it in silence and it goes unnoticed and it’s something that they just deal with on their own.”

In addition to her work with Voltaren Gel, which she says is “super easy to get, and to use,” Garth explains how she’s learned to manage her own pain day-to-day: “The most important part in alleviating the problem is movement for me—staying mobile and flexible, and just really incorporating movement and stretching into my everyday life. And also following an anti-inflammatory diet, really focusing on staying hydrated.

The 3 Best Hydrating Beverages That Aren’t Water, from a Certified Sports Dietitian

For good measure, she’s also learning new ways to be good to herself. “I’ve taken up golf,” she says. “That’s a new thing for me and, and it’s cool. It gets me out in nature, keeps me mobile and stretching and using my body and mental acuity in different ways now. It’s an awesome sport.”

And, since one way to manage physical pain is to practice all-around self-care, Garth says: “I’m also just really, really focusing right now on my mental health. Honestly, work will come and go. I’ve just sort of let those pressures go for now. And I’m focusing on just being really happy and healthy in my own skin. These are the most important things to me right now.”

Tiffani Thiessen Reflects on Her Grief After Losing 3 Iconic Co-Stars: “Life Is Extremely Precious”

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Keeping your body hydrated is key for so much of what your body does. According to Harvard Health, staying hydrated helps to regulate your body temperature, delivers nutrients to your cells, keeps your organs functioning properly, lubricates your joints, helps to prevent infections and even improves sleep, cognition, and mood. Hydration is also important after a workout, since your body loses fluid as you sweat. Drinking a hydrating beverage post-workout is important for replenishing the body with fluids you just lost, while also maintaining normal body function and assisting with muscle recovery.

While water is usually the go-to when you’re thirsty—and rightfully so, since it’s great for you—it isn’t the only beverage that will hydrate you and benefit your body post-workout. Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics who has worked with teams like the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys (as well as the author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook), shares three alternative hydrating drinks you can enjoy that will also aid your muscles and even give you a nutritional boost.

Here’s How Much Water You Really Need in a Day, with Nutritional Scientists’ Latest Wisdom

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Cow’s milk

“Did you know that milk is approximately 90% water? This makes it an excellent source of hydration,” Goodson says. Milk also contains potassium, which is “an important electrolyte for hydration and muscle function.” (So that explains why sometimes, nothing quenches thirst like a glass of milk does!)

Along with its hydration benefits, milk contains 13 essential nutrients—such as calcium, vitamin D (good for bone health), selenium (a powerful antioxidant), B vitamins, and some very healthy protein“Because of its high-quality protein content, milk and chocolate milk are superior sources of hydration post-workout as well,” Goodson says.

7 Surprising Calcium Sources for People Who Can’t Drink Dairy

Smoothies

Smoothies made with cow’s milk, Greek yogurt, fruit and even vegetables actually provide a variety of sources of hydration,” says Goodson. “[Because] milk provides lots of nutrients, it’s a great base for a smoothie.”

Similar to milk, fruit and vegetables have high water content that amps up the hydration of the smoothie. Smoothies like the ones offered by reHarvest, for example, are loaded with good-for-you, hydrating ingredients such as goji berries and spinach.

“Plus, they’re packed with nutrients and antioxidants,” says Goodson. “Milk, yogurt, Medjool dates, strawberries and bananas are all high in potassium.” Drop ’em in!

7 Tricks to Make a Healthy Smoothie

Sports drinks

“If you are an athlete, a heavy exerciser, or work outside, sports drinks are a great source of hydration for you,” says Goodson. “They provide sodium and potassium, which are the main electrolytes lost in sweat.”

Electrolytes in the body are important for moving water and nutrients to parts of the body where they are needed while maintaining fluid balance within your body’s cells. Sports drinks with electrolytes help to replenish what was lost during a workout, keeping your body hydrated.

“[Sports drinks] also provide carbohydrates, which is necessary for workouts lasting well longer than 90 minutes,” she says. “If you aren’t exerting as much energy, but sweat a lot, choose a lower-calorie sports drink that still contains electrolytes.”

Another tip? Watch out for added sugar—the less, the better. Also beware of a list of synthetic ingredients, as chemicals and dyes aren’t ideal for your wellness.

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If you’ve ever gone down the YouTube rabbit hole watching influencers share their hundred-step skincare routine, trust us: you’re not alone. It’s mesmerizing to watch someone with flawless skin slather on different serums, masks, cleansers and more (which they’ve often received for free). Then by the end—after watching them dabble in ten or 20 different products—who doesn’t feel completely overwhelmed about where to even start with our own skincare? Thankfully, a board-certified dermatologist assures us it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

Dr. Nazanin Saedi, a dermatologist, associate professor, and co-chair of the Laser and Aesthetics Surgery Center at Dermatology Associates of Plymouth Meeting in Pennsylvania, shares a simple, three-step skincare routine with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest that doesn’t require you to buy a million expensive products to achieve dewy, glowing, healthy skin.

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Step one: Gentle cleanser

“Every good skincare routine starts with a clean face,” says Dr. Naz. “Your cleanser doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be gentle.”

To start, Dr. Naz recommends cleansing once or twice a day. Use a gentle cleanser with warm water, and gently wash with your fingers.

“If your skin feels dry or irritated after you cleanse, you are either scrubbing too much or you haven’t picked the right gentle cleanser for your skin,” she says.

The Best Way to Wash Your Face, According to Your Skin Type

Step two: Anti-aging serum

Once the cleansing part is done, Dr. Naz recommends using retinol and vitamin C in order to diminish fine lines, erase any discoloration, and restore that healthy gleam!

After cleansing in the mornings, use a Vitamin C serum. “Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that fights photo-aging. It helps protect our skin from the free radicals that form when we are outside. It also helps with existing hyperpigmentation, which is dark areas in our skin caused by sun damage and aging,” Dr. Naz says. Dermatology Pros Just Listed Their 6 Favorite Vitamin C Serums

After cleansing at night, use retinol. “Retinoids increase your cell turnover to reveal fresher skin. Prescription-strength retinol, prescribed by your dermatologist, is most effective. However, if you are just getting started with retinoids, prescription strength can be a little harsh on your skin. I recommend anyone new to retinoids start with something over the counter,” Dr. Naz says.

While over-the-counter retinoids are gentler and may take a little longer to work, Dr. Naz recommends you stay patient—they will work over time. “Rest assured, with regular use, you will see a more youthful glow.”

The 15 Best Summer Serums to Solve All Your Skin Problems

Step three: Sunscreen

“If there is one anti-aging skincare item to splurge on, it’s sunscreen,” says Dr. Naz. “Remember, sunscreen should be used every day, rain or shine. It should have broad-spectrum protection and be SPF 30 or higher.”

Sunscreen is vital for protecting your face (and the rest of your skin) from ultraviolet light rays. When your skin is exposed to these rays without proper protection, you’re at an increased risk of developing skin cancer. Sunscreen also helps to prevent premature aging including wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots.

But what kind of sunscreen is best for your face? Dr. Naz says there are plenty of options to choose from that are packed with anti-aging ingredients that will improve fine lines and wrinkles, brighten your skin, and protect your face. Two of her favorites include Alastin’s Hyrdratint and Revision’s Intellishade.

However, Dr. Naz says that no matter what, the best sunscreen is the one you will use. “I’ve found that my patients are most compliant when they find a sunscreen that feels nice on their skin and doesn’t make them break out.”

The 5 Best Hormone-Safe Sunscreens, Recommended by Doctors

What products should I use?

With so many skincare options on the market, choosing the right one can seem overwhelming at first. However, Dr. Naz encourages taking your time and being patient with the process. “Real, noticeable results take time,” she says. “Find products you love that work well on your skin and stick with it!”

If you’re stuck on where to start, many dermatologists recommend using CeraVe products given they are highly accessible. CeraVe offers a range of products to address all the steps we’ve listed here. Check out

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Feeling down? One universal habit might be to blame. Consider that moment when you get the alert that monitors how much time you spend on your phone. In June 2022 the market research group, Statista, surveyed a sample of over 2,000 American adults to conclude that almost half of us are spending five to six hours per day on our smart phones. Meanwhile, a new psychiatry study has cited 2021 data that suggested the “global prevalence rate of mobile phone addiction is 28.3%.” That’s right: based on these figures, nearly a third of us are addicted to our phones.

What is mobile phone addiction? Public health researchers in China led the new August 2022 cell phone addiction study, defining this addiction as “the excessive dependence on mobile phones in daily life while engaged in other activities, such as studying, partying, and even driving.” In their report, published in the peer-reviewed BMC Psychiatry, the researchers assessed rates of cell phone use, depression scores, relationship quality, and sleep quality among 450 medical students of which 39% identified as male, and 61% identified as female.

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Cell phone addiction and depression

The researchers who led the study reported their finding “that mobile phone addiction was a significant predictor of depression in medical students.” This point, they say, backs up the findings of “many existing studies.”

Why are cell phones contributing to depression? The researchers point to a small handful of main factors. One is the scientifically demonstrated trend that mobile phone use, especially at night, can disrupt sleep quality. The researchers for the current study cited past cell phone and steep research when they noted:

“The intense stimulation brought by the mobile phone network makes it difficult for students to fall asleep immediately after putting down the mobile phone. The emission of blue light from the mobile phone screen also interferes with the circadian rhythm and affects sleep hygiene. … At the same time, due to poor sleep quality and the physical and psychological effects of this, some students are even more prone to depression, anxiety and other negative emotions.”

To help further explain how a lack of sleep can be a real bummer, a psychology study at the University of California, Berkeley was just published in August 2022 in PLOS Biology. The study sheds more possible light on how not getting enough sleep can contribute to psychological, emotional, and social problems, as it concluded that one night of sleep loss “triggers the withdrawal of help from one individual to another,” and that even just an hour of lost sleep interfered with areas of the brain that facilitate “prosociality,” or authentically relating to others in a way that is kind and helpful. Based on this conclusion, our cell phones are messing with our brains’ abilities to help us connect with others—and this is detrimental to our mental wellness.

Blue light also has another surprising impact—read One Major Effect of Blue Light on Your Skin, Says Research

This point leads to what the Chinese researchers in the current study found was another main cause of depression from cell phone overuse: indeed it seems that incessantly reaching for the phone is getting in the way of many individuals’ knack for forming healthy interpersonal relationships. The researchers reported:

“Students with better peer relationships are more likely to have better sleep quality, and thus, a lower risk of depression. Second, …. It can be inferred that students with good peer relationships release stress effectively through talking, thus reducing the probability of depression. Moreover, students with good peer relationships have higher psychological resiliency in the face of sleep disorders. They have a greater ability to self-regulate and minimize the negative effects of sleep disturbances. Thus, the quality of peer relationships can effectively regulate the association between sleep quality and depression.”

So the moral of these studies may be pretty simple: many of us need to unplug, and connect more.

A Guide to Healthy Relationships (and How to Spot Unhealthy Ones)

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