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.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

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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Reprinted with permission of Thrive Global. Read the original article.


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Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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