3 things you already have in your house that are good for your mental health
You can incorporate these science-backed activities into your evening routine tonight.
It's getting dark earlier now, as we head towards the crisp snap of November air. Days at work, as a result, can feel longer: You're leaving the office and it's already nearly nighttime. Those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder begin to experience the effects during the fall, according to the Mayo Clinic. And even if you don't have SAD, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed this time of year, as we begin to think about the holidays ahead. Luckily, science shows us that there are things we can do right in our own homes to increase our happiness and well-being.
These relaxing activities, backed by research, can turn a stressful day into a calm night with minimal time and effort. They utilize common household amenities and take place around the house, too — you can use one of these ideas (or all of them) tonight.
Take a hot bath
This may sound like a familiar recommendation — but it's now backed by science. A small new study by researchers at the University of Freiburg found that a hot afternoon bath just twice a week had a significant, positive effect on depressive symptoms in study participants. The onset of that symptom relief was quicker than the relief provided by a control group, at two weeks compared to eight. The reason for the effect, the study authors postulate, is that a warm bath helps increase core temperature and thus synchronizes circadian rhythm, a struggle for some depression sufferers. Even if you can't follow the study's procedure and get home to bathe in the afternoon, try to take your bath as soon as you get home from work: The study explains that our best sleep happens when core body temperature is low, so practicing circadian-rhythm synchronizing through the heat of the tub is better done farther away from bedtime.
Throw some lavender essential oil in your bath
When I couldn't sleep as a child, my mom used to sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on my pillow — it would, she said, help me relax. The idea, which she brought across the Atlantic from Eastern Europe, isn't unique to my family: lavender pillows and candles abound. Science, this week, has caught up with the popular appeal and relaxing association many of us have with the herb: a new studyreveals that smelling vaporized lavender, or more specifically, the compound linaloo that it contains, has a calming effect. There are plenty of ways to harness this research to help achieve maximum evening relaxation, including my mother's trick of lavender essential oil on your pillow, but a great option is also putting some drops of the oil in your bath — why not double up your benefits?
Listen to the Song "Weightless" by Marconi Union
While research has shown that listening to music in general can have mental health benefits, there's one song that can reduce stress by up to 65 percent, according to reporting by Melanie Curtin. The song was actually formulated with this relaxing effect in mind, through consultation between the band Marconi Union and sound therapists. So queue it up during your lavender-scented bath and enjoy: warm, fragrant, and serenaded, you may find yourself reaching maximum relaxation.
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Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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