The City of Lights could be the City of Lights Out tomorrow as temperatures approach a record of 107 degrees. And Paris isn’t the only place sweltering in this week’s heat. Cyclists in the Tour de France are wearing stretchy sacks of ice around their necks as they race toward the Alps, while commuters on the London Underground carry spare water bottles, and Spanish firefighters battle wildfires—all thanks to torrid air from the Sahara that got trapped between storm systems over the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Europe, forming a “heat dome” over the entire continent. It’s similar to the extreme heat that lingered over the eastern United States for a 12-day stretch in July, breaking records and warming the Potomac River to 94 degrees.
The ability to predict the next heat wave is a big deal to meteorologists. That’s because more warning means extra time to prepare cooling centers and swimming pools, shore up the electric grid, and put supplies in place for heat-vulnerable populations and machines. As you might expect, climate change is making heat waves longer and more common. Scientists say that the number of heat waves in 50 major American cities has tripled since the 1960s. Last month was the hottest since record-keeping began 140 years ago.
Today, meteorologists are pretty good at giving us an accurate 10-day weather forecast, but now they’re peering farther into the future by examining an atmospheric phenomenon called the Madden-Julian Oscillation. The MJO erupts over the Indian Ocean every so often and moves eastward across the globe, spreading trouble through the tropics over the course of 30 to 60 days. The oscillation behaves like a high-altitude wave that either amplifies or squelches existing conditions closer to the ground. Think of it as El Niño at 18,000 feet.
According to a recent study in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, the oscillation contributed to heat waves in California’s Central Valley from 1979 to 2010. “The MJO is an influencer rather than a creator,” says Richard Grotjahn, an author on the paper and a professor in UC Davis’ Department of Land, Air and Water Resources.
Using computer simulations and weather observations from ships, satellites, and roofs, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder are developing a short-term forecast model for extreme summertime heat. For now, they’re looking back in time, working to see how accurately their model captures heat waves globally and in the various seasons, and whether it accurately represents the high- and low-pressure systems created by the MJO.
In North America, says Julie Caron, an associate scientist at the center’s Climate and Global Dynamics Lab, the oscillation causes high-pressure systems that block the movement of cooler air from the Arctic or the Pacific Ocean. “It’s like a traffic jam where the weather systems are stalled out behind,” she says.
One question Caron and her colleagues are wrestling with is how exactly to define a heat wave. Not only do conditions vary from the tropics to the temperate zones, but average temperatures keep creeping upward as the planet warms under heat-trapping greenhouse gases. She is hoping that, by the end of the year, the model will be able to predict the likelihood of extreme heat three or four weeks in advance. But that’s just for research purposes, she cautions, not for local TV weather forecasts.
Officials at the National Weather Service have also been pushing forward their predictions of heat waves in recent years. They’re aiming for the same three- to four-week outlook, according to Jon Gottschalck, operational prediction chief at the NWS Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. “Right now, on average, we can do pretty well two weeks out,” Gottschalck says.
Eastern wisdom traditions, psychology, and neuroscience
Hanson’s approach to happiness
How neuroplasticity works inside the brain
The negativity bias
The power of acceptance
The mind–body connection
Seven practices to awaken your consciousness
Hey, everybody, this is Chris Kresser. Welcome to another episode of Revolution Health Radio. This week, I’m really excited to welcome Dr. Rick Hanson as my guest on the podcast. He’s a psychologist, the senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley and a New York Times best-selling author.
Dr. Hanson’s work focuses on helping people turn everyday experiences into lasting happiness, love, and inner peace hardwired into the brain. He really brings together neuroplasticity, mindfulness, meditation, and psychology in a unique approach that I’ve been really looking forward to talking with him about. I’m a huge fan of his books and his work, and if you’ve been listening to this podcast for any length of time, you know that I have a deep interest in neuroplasticity and mindfulness and psychology.
So this is a conversation that I am really excited about, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Let’s dive in.
Chris Kresser: Dr. Rick Hanson, thank you so much for joining us. I’ve really been looking forward to this.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Well, Chris, it’s an honor and a privilege to be here. And please call me Rick.
Chris Kresser: Okay, Rick. So how did you become interested in the intersection of Buddhist practice, psychology, and neuroplasticity? I’m really curious to hear a little bit more about your story.
Eastern Wisdom Traditions, Psychology, and Neuroscience
Dr. Rick Hanson: Oh, thank you. Well, I think it happened in stages, like a lot of things in life. So, honestly, the beginning was this very poignant sense that I can see in my very earliest memories going back to age three and maybe two, this feeling, this knowing that I had as a kid that there was a lot of unnecessary unhappiness all around me.
Among the other kids, I would watch the grown-ups, I would see grown-ups with kids. I saw it in my family, which was a loving and decent family, and still, lots of unnecessary hassles, stress, fear, worry, shame, bickering, conflict.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: As a little kid, even a little, little kid, you know things you can’t put into words, but they’re still true. So that was kind of the beginning of my journey of this poignant, wistful recognition of suffering and also a yearning to understand it and do something about it. And then kind of a second stage that happened for me was in my mid-teens. I was about 15 when this happened. I was so very unhappy and kind of twisted in my own mind. Really neurotic, socially anxious, contracted, awkward, very young for grade. I was a very young going through school kind of kid. And just was sort of despairing because it all just seemed hopeless.
And then I suddenly realized that no matter how bad it had been or no matter how bad it was in the moment, I could always grow a little bit from here. I could learn a little bit everyday about myself and other people. I could become a little more released from the bricks in my backpack. I could learn how to talk to girls. So, I could learn how to deal with my parents. It was very hopeful, the future, the so-called undiscovered country. I could learn and grow. And therefore, it was actually really important to learn how to learn. In other words, to get good at growing. And that really, really set me on my way. The notion of that growth itself is the superpower of superpowers because it is the one that grows the rest of it.
Chris Kresser: Absolutely. Do you attribute that epiphany or realization to anything in particular? Or was it something that was just grace?
Dr. Rick Hanson: I think a lot was coalescing, and part of it was that I was reading this science fiction novel Dune at that time, and I therefore mark, I was 15. Because Paul Muad’Dib, if you’ve read this classic fantastic novel …
Chris Kresser: Yeah, several times.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Personal training, personal training and a kind of old-school self-reliance really landed for me. And who knows what role grace has played? But that was there, very, very real for me, and it was so hopeful. And then to kind of third stage, it … in the last one, as I got into college in the late 60s, early 70s, I caught the wave of the human potential movement. Eastern wisdom traditions were coming strongly into the West at that time, as well as a lot of other countercultural and human potential and humanistic psychology things.
And it all sort of coalesced for me at the end of college, when I stumbled into meditation and the Eastern wisdom traditions. And then, click, it all just kind of came together for me that there were these three very, very deep, profound ways of understanding ourselves. Because that goes back to that early inquiry as a little kid. What’s causing this suffering and what can we do about it? So, the combination of Western psychology, the Eastern contemplative traditions, and the growing understanding, even then, in the mid-seventies of the brain and the nervous system and the body and how they all work together, just struck me as a very potent brew. If you imagine the intersection of those three circles—psychology, contemplative wisdom, and neuroscience—I think of what I do in a funny kind of way is applied neurodharma. Now that will not be a book title. That will sell nothing. But anyway, that’s a lot of what I do.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: So that really sent me on my way. And then the rest was a lot of human potential activities, a lot of contemplative training, a lot of clinical psychology. I became a clinical psychologist, really a neuropsychologist, with my knowledge base at this point.
And then ended up as you know, after writing a book about mothers and couples after kids come along, which I think is a vastly important and underrated topic, then I wrote Buddha’s Brain, which came out in 2009, and whoosh! I’ve caught a good ride ever since.
Chris Kresser: Yeah. So, did you go right from college into clinical psychology study at that point?
Dr. Rick Hanson: No, I wandered in the wilderness for a while. Although there were a lot of great lessons there. I’ve delved deeply into wild and crazy human potential things. And I also actually spent a year working for a mathematician who was doing probabilistic risk analyses of things like nuclear power plants melting down, what are the odds or the likely cost of a huge construction project. And that actually taught me a lot about how to think about uncertainty, which is really central, as you know, to clinical practice.
Chris Kresser: Absolutely.
Dr. Rick Hanson: How do we weigh these different factors? Or yeah, yeah, exactly. And then optimize using base theorem or whatever. Update our priors about what would be the best possible course for a particular individual given what we know about the population in general.
H2 – Dr. Hanson’s Approach to Happiness
Chris Kresser: Fascinating. I’m always really interested to learn about people’s journey and how they arrived where they are now. And we’re going to talk about all of these topics in a lot more detail as we go through the show. But maybe just from a 30,000-foot view, you outline the triangle of contemplative practice in clinical psychology and neuroscience, and in particular neuroplasticity. Can you give the listeners just an overview of how each of these perspectives informs your approach to developing resilience and what you’ve called “hardwiring happiness”?
Dr. Rick Hanson: Thank you. So, I worked backwards. I’m a methods guy, I’m a clinician like you. I’m in the trenches. I’m deeply interested in the science and even the philosophy of it all. But I’m really most focused on practical application. So, as a methods person, you see a problem, let’s say. As you know, there’s this fundamental model in healthcare and psychology too, the stress diathesis model, in which basically a person’s course, for better or worse, is a function of three factors:
And the greater the challenges and the greater the vulnerabilities that a person has, psychologically, physically, or environmentally, the more important it is to grow resources inside the body, out in the world, and in particular in my case, inside the mind. So, I’ve summarized a lot of stuff right there. So, I worked backwards from the problem—where does it hurt?—and then focus on what resources, especially psychological, mental resources, because I’m a psychologist, I’m a software guy. What psychological resources would be most useful to develop for this person, for this issue, at this time? And psychological resources like grit, gratitude, mindfulness, self-compassion, self-confidence, skillfulness of various kinds, motivation, etc., etc., those resources have a particular power because one, we can always be developing them. We can always be growing things inside our own minds, and second, we take the fruits of our efforts with us wherever we go.
Chris Kresser: Right.
Dr. Rick Hanson: So, resources, right? And then how do you grow those resources? You want to jump in here?
Chris Kresser: Well, yeah, I might add that to me that’s a really useful framework because we have varying levels of control over each of those factors, right?
Dr. Rick Hanson: Correct.
Chris Kresser: We don’t always have control over what the challenges are. Especially the modern world. I find that … Sorry, that’s my seven-year-old. It’s the summer, so she’s banging around upstairs.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Oh, great. I spent a lot of time working with kids, by the way.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, this is a summertime podcast reality here in my home office. So, my listeners are used to it. Yeah, so I was saying with challenges being one of those three variables in the modern world, it seems to me that we have a growing number of challenges that are often outside of individual control. So, for example, if someone is living in an area with significant amounts of air pollution, they may not be able to directly influence that. Or if they move into a house with mold.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yes.
Chris Kresser: Which is something you and I were both chatting about before we started recording, there is some level of control over that. But depending on someone’s socioeconomic circumstances and whether they’re renting or owning, there may not be full control over that. The influence of technology and maybe someone has a job where they’re forced to, not forced, but where they have to work with technology, and that impacts our brains, and then vulnerability.
People of varying, again, if someone’s living in poverty and they don’t have access to healthy food, that’s going to make them vulnerable to illness in a way that they can’t immediately change. So, I love that framework because it makes it even more clear how important it is. Like, developing resources is the one thing of those three variables that we have the most control over.
Dr. Rick Hanson: You are wonderfully accurate, and I would add even that inside the resources category, without speaking against the importance of growing resources out in the world, right? Everything from fixing a dripping faucet to getting your neighbor to control their dogs so they don’t keep barking all night and keeping you awake, let alone building a universal healthcare system, let’s say, in your country. And also, you need to build resources in your body, which I have enormous respect for the work you do, Chris.
Chris Kresser: Thank you.
Dr. Rick Hanson: And also, people in this territory, my wife included, frankly. And it’s really important to do what you can with the hardware, right? With the body. That said, it’s so often slow to grow resources out in the world, and the body takes a while. And then as you age, you just sort of slowly break down. I’m getting toward the last third or so of my life. But in your mind, you can always keep developing things there.
Chris Kresser: Yes.
Dr. Rick Hanson: In your own psyche. So yeah, so anyway, so I got very interested in resources in the mind as a key factor, as you say, not against any of those other things. It’s not either/or, put a field of opportunity. So, then the practical question is how you grow the good inside yourself of every kind.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Growing the good of healing and growing the good of cultivation and development. That takes us into a word you used earlier, neuroplasticity, as you know, the capacity of the nervous system to be changed by our experiences. And so, if we’re going to develop a resource like self-compassion or grit or, let’s say, happiness in the midst of our difficulties, fundamentally we need to change the body. Otherwise there’s no lasting shift from state to trait. And that’s been very much my focus.
How do you actually shift from experiences of one kind or another, which are impermanent and come and go, how do you help them leave lasting physical traces behind, endurable changes of neural structure and function? Thus, hardwired, as you said earlier, into your own body. How do you turn experiences of gratitude into trait gratitude? How do you turn experiences of self-worth in trait self-worth?
So that’s been very, very much my focus. And that has taken me into a deep dive and into how a neuroplastic change occurs in the nervous system and in particular, how our engagement with the experiences that we’re having as they’re occurring, how we protect them and sustain them and embody them and absorb them and focus on what’s rewarding about them and other factors in our relationships with the experiences that we’re having. How that can super turbocharge the growth process and really steep in your growth curve through life.
How Neuroplasticity Works inside the Brain
Chris Kresser: I want to dive a little deeper into the science here. Not perhaps too deeply, because … I sometimes have to catch myself because I love to geek out on this stuff.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yeah.
Chris Kresser: And I’m sure you do. But I think this is quite a revolutionary concept for some people who are not familiar with it. And I’ve talked quite a bit about neuroplasticity on the show, and I’ve had other guests on to discuss it. But to me it’s just a paradigm shift in our understanding of how we can cultivate happiness and relieve things like depression and anxiety. And this shift from believing that we have to control and change our circumstances to, as you put it, cultivating our inner resources so that we can maintain these states, not regardless of the circumstances.
It’s not like circumstances won’t affect us in some way. But that we’re not subject to the, completely to the whims of life and we have some ability to actually hardwire, to use your term, happiness into the brain. So just from a neuroscience perspective, can you tell us a little bit about how this actually works in the brain? How does neuroplasticity work and how is this different than our prior understanding of states like depression and the qualities like happiness?
Dr. Rick Hanson: Right. Well I would say we’ve all experienced neuroplasticity from the inside out in the experiences we’ve had of healing, growing, learning, developing, changing for the better in any way. From crawling to walking. Walking to driving a car. Learning how to be more effective in business meetings. Learning how to be more patient.
Let’s say with your seven-year-old, or in my case, my 31- and 28-year-olds, that’s learning. That’s change. And if there’s any kind of psychological change, any kind of mental change, there must have also been some underlying physical change. Otherwise you’re left with magic. Now, I do believe in magic, and kind of outside the natural frame, the territory, the supernatural and the transcendental, but staying inside the natural frame, where I think most of the action is, at least, perhaps, all of the action. Inside the natural frame, the brain had to change for the kid to learn to walk instead of crawl or the adult to learn how to be more patient with in-laws over the holidays. What’s breaking news, though, is the vast number of mechanisms whereby those neuroplastic changes occur. And that’s where the paradigm shift, I think, is exactly right that you’re saying.
I think a wonderful summary phrase for this is given in the same from the work of the Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb, who did groundbreaking work in the 1940s and 1950s, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” In other words, repeated and sustained patterns of neural mental activation co-occurring together leave lasting physical changes behind in neural structure and function. The mechanisms of this are very physical and they, to summarize a handful, include new connections forming between neurons.
Right now, people, listening inside your head, ballpark, are about 200 billion cells, roughly half of which are neurons. The other half are support cells. The neurons, let’s say, 85 to 100 billion or so on average, are making several thousand connections with each other, which gives us several hundred trillion synapses, those little microprocessors between each of the neurons inside our head right now. It’s an extraordinarily complex organ. And so, if you want to improve your psychological resources, that means changing the brain. So, one way that happens, as I said, is neurons start forming new connections with each other. Also, existing connections become weakened or strengthened.
There are also ebbs and flows of neurotransmitters like serotonin or dopamine or GABA or norepinephrine. And also, you have different coordinated activity between different regions of the brain that form functional connections more effectively together. For example, the prefrontal cortex right behind the forehead becomes more able to calm down or regulate the alarm bell of the brain, the amygdala. So, this process is really occurring. It’s biased negatively. That’s the negativity bias of the brain. I say gives us a brand like Velcro for bad experiences, but Teflon for good ones.
On the other hand, to finish, we can help the process occur of positive neuroplasticity, positive neuroplastic change, by helping our experiences when they’re beneficial to us. When they’re useful, authentic, useful, usually enjoyable experiences. We can help them leave more change behind in a variety of ways. One of the fundamental key ways to do it is to help them keep firing together rather than scurrying on to the next experience when something useful is occurring. Slow down for a breath or two, or longer, to help it really sink in.
The Negativity Bias
Chris Kresser: I think this is, I’d love to talk a little bit more about the negativity bias. In my work, we look at things through the ancestral lens very often, whether we’re looking at what the right diet is for humans or sleep patterns or physical activity. And the negativity bias is another thing that we can look at through an ancestral lens. I think it’s really interesting when people first learn about this because on the surface, why would it make sense for us not to, to enjoy and cultivate positive experiences? Why do you have to work hard to do that? It seems sort of counterintuitive unless you understand this ancestral perspective, that the negativity bias actually served us in a natural environment. So, can you say more, a little bit about that and how it predisposes us to things like depression and anxiety?
Dr. Rick Hanson: Oh, yeah. I think your framing is wonderfully correct, and I find myself, like, for example, right now I live in Northern California on the edge of open space. And I’m looking out into the open space on the other side of my backyard. And I know that 3,000 years ago native people were walking through this land. And it’s really useful to realize that our natural template, as you say, the ancestral template is a hunter–gatherer band.
Humans, anatomically modern, have lived for around 300,000 years. And then another two million or so years before that our ancestors, hominid ancestors, who could manufacture tools, they used tools to make tools, were also walking around in small bands, and their ancestors before that. So, to me, that’s really the frame of reference through which to look at the utterly artificial and constructed modern lives we have. Which have many wonderful features, including the capacity to have a podcast, right? Or I’m a fan of, let’s say, ESPN or refrigerators. I’m okay with all of that.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: On the other hand, even though I love wilderness and I spend a lot of time there. So that’s the lens. So, to cut to the chase, if you imagine our ancestors, they basically had two missions, get carrots and avoid sticks. Carrots like food, sticks like predators and aggression inside their bands. Well, they both were important. But if you don’t get a carrot today, you’ll have a chance for one tomorrow. If you fail to avoid that stick today, no more carrots forever. So negative experiences from a survival standpoint over the 600-million-year evolution of the nervous system, have more urgency and impact typically than positive experiences do.
So today we have a brain—and I could go into the detail of it all—I’ll do it real fast here. You can watch your own mind doing this. It does five things automatically.
One, looks for bad news out in the world, in the body, in the mind.
Two, when it finds it, when it finds that one tile in the mosaic of reality flashing red, it overfocuses upon it.
Three, overreacts to it. Lots of evidence that people react more to pain than pleasure, more to loss than to gain.
Fourth, the whole package is fast-tracked into memory, especially somatic memory, emotional memory, body memory. The residues of lived experience sinking into us. Once burned, twice shy.
And then fifth, the stress hormone cortisol that’s released when we’re stressed or irritated, frazzled, pressured, lonely or blue, that goes up into the brain, crosses the blood–brain barrier and turbocharges the amygdala.
So now that alarm bell rings more readily, and cortisol weakens the nearby part of the brain, the hippocampus, that calms down the amygdala, puts things in context, and tells the hypothalamus to quit calling for stress hormones. This creates a vicious cycle. Stress today makes us just a little more vulnerable to stress tomorrow, which increases the stress tomorrow, which then makes us even more vulnerable for the day after that. That’s the negativity bias in a nutshell.
Chris Kresser: Right. And the thing that’s always fun for me to think about is, like, if your ancestor didn’t have that bias, they probably didn’t survive to pass on their genes.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Oh yeah.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: The ones who were cranky and paranoid.
Chris Kresser: Exactly, exactly.
Dr. Rick Hanson: They had grandchildren.
Chris Kresser: They’re our distant ancestors.
Dr. Rick Hanson: That’s right.
Chris Kresser: Because in a natural environment where things are trying to kill us, often having that kind of negativity bias and also, I talk about this in the context of technology addiction, a tendency for distractibility.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yep.
Chris Kresser: Constantly scanning the periphery and being able to shift your attention quickly to something else, that would serve us in a natural, hostile, natural environment. But in our modern environment it’s a prescription for depression and anxiety and also technology addiction. Because our focus can be so easily hijacked, especially when you have technology companies that employ brain hackers that understand all of this and actually purposely design their technology to exploit those human vulnerabilities. But that’s another topic.
Dr. Rick Hanson: But very important. So, can I say something practical about this?
Chris Kresser: Please, please do.
The Power of Acceptance
Dr. Rick Hanson: Okay, great. So, three things. First, there’s nothing in what we’re talking about here that’s about positive thinking or suppressing or resisting what’s painful and difficult. In other words, whether it’s driven by the negativity bias or not, when we’re feeling anxious or physical pain or hurt or sad, whatever it might be, the first and foremost thing is to be with it. Is to be with it mindfully, hopefully, stepping back from it a bit. Hopefully relating to it with self-compassion and acceptance. But most fundamentally we be with it.
That’s the foundational practice. But that’s not the only practice. And I think sometimes people get stuck in a kind of passive, receptive, be-with-it orientation to their own experience. And even sometimes think that that’s the only form of spiritual or contemplative or psychological practice. We also need to be able to let go. We need to be able to disengage from the “negative material” in our mind and not feed or follow it. Suzuki Roshi had this great line, said, “Yeah, well let the sadness, let the anger, let the thoughts come into your mind, but don’t offer them tea.”
Chris Kresser: Yeah, I love that one.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Tea and cookies, probably.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yeah. So, don’t ruminate, as best you can. As soon as you watch your mind getting caught up in resentment or rehashing conversations, or in my case, writing emails in your mind at three in the morning, you know, pull out. Just don’t feed it or follow it. And then third, when you are having opportunities to experience something beneficial, that’s authentic and real, not chasing positive experiences, but appreciating beneficial ones when they occur, a moment of feeling strong inside, a moment of letting go, a moment of feeling cared about by other people, a moment, let’s say, of recognizing how to be more skillful with your partner or your kid or your boss. Whenever it might be, slowing it down to help your brain actually convert that passing experience, that momentary state, to some kind of lasting change in neural structure and function. And when you do this is you gradually fill yourself up and you grow what I called the unshakable core of resilient well-being, hardwired into your own body. As you do fill yourself up in these ways, craving diminishes. Because if you think about it, craving, probably defined, is a drive state based on an underlying felt sense of something missing and something longed.
But when you repeatedly internalize the felt sense of needs sufficiently met, enough safety or satisfaction or connection in the moment, and as you grow in a growing sense of peace, contentment, and love inside yourself, then you’re a lot harder to manipulate by advertisers and fearmongers and those who would try to breed us against them grievances and rivalries. And so, to me, that’s the essence of the process.
You can see a lot more about it on my website. I have tons of freely offered meditations, scientific papers, slide sets, talks, all kinds of good stuff there. But the essence is really simple. Have it, enjoy it. When you have the beneficial experience, don’t waste it on your brain. Stay with it for a breath or longer. Feel it in your body and focus on what’s rewarding about it. And in that way, bit by bit, synapse by synapse, you’ll be growing the good inside yourself.
Chris Kresser: This is such fertile ground, and I can, my own experience with chronic illness, and then having a teacher, Darlene Cohen, who we were chatting about a little before the show, who had severe chronic illness for most of her life, and a lot of her practice was oriented around how to be with that. How to be with challenge and pain and difficulty and how to transform that into happiness and joy. And for me, I really love the framework that you introduced there because what I learned in my own experience with chronic illness and my practice with Darlene is that acceptance is not the same as submission.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Right.
Chris Kresser: People often confuse, we have a tendency to confuse those two things. Like, acceptance is giving up. If I accept something, it means that I can never change it and I’m just stuck with it. But really, acceptance is the necessary precondition to responding in an appropriate way. So, for me, it was like really coming to terms with, “Okay, this is happening. I don’t like it. I’m in my mid-20s. I would prefer not to have this severe chronic illness. I would prefer to be living my life as I thought it would unfold. But this is actually happening now. And I’m accepting that it’s happening.” And fully letting that in was the first step for me in being able to actually start moving to that second stage that you outlined.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Right.
Chris Kresser: And making the changes that were necessary to be able to be with it in a more productive way and to start making those shifts in my brain and in my body. And then in my practice with Darlene, her really major focus of her practice was being fully sinking into those moments of pleasure, even of the very small pleasures in life that she was able to have, because she was in so much pain for so much of the time. Just feeling the sun on your arm as it rests on the open window of the car as you’re driving. Or feeling that feeling of the wind against your skin as you sit outside. Or having the tea in the morning, that first sip, and really fully experiencing those things was like, really for her because of the extent of her pain, it was a lifesaving and life-enhancing approach.
And so, what’s interesting to me about this is that that’s all amplified in a situation like Darlene’s, where she was in so much pain and so much difficulty, but we all have pain. It may not be to that extent, but we all spend so much time trying to avoid the pain that we have and then skipping over those moments of joy and happiness because of this negativity bias. So, it’s so profound and I’m so grateful for the work you’re doing in this area, because it’s really, for me, has been the thing that has transformed my life more than anything, everything that we’re talking about today.
Dr. Rick Hanson: That’s really beautiful, and I would, if I could just say two things quickly about related to what you’re saying. First, it’s so ironic isn’t it, that our ostensibly hedonistic culture, pleasure-seeking Western cultures, is more like the hell realm of the hungry ghosts.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yeah, you see people. They’re chasing pleasure and yet they’re actually not experiencing it when it lands. First point. And second point, I want to really emphasize that when we’re talking about growing mental resources to deal with our challenges and vulnerabilities, a small fraction of that is smelling the roses along the way. That’s an important part.
Feeling the pleasure, let’s say of the sun on your arm as you’re sitting in the car. That’s crucially important and it’s especially important if we’re in chronic pain, because positive emotions and wholesome pleasures are analgesic, including the feeling of being loved and supported by other people. Very, very important. But most of what I think the opportunity is in terms of growing psychological resources is to experience a resource like understanding how to be more skillful with your wife. I’m speaking to myself personally here.
Or learning how to disengage from outrage about politics and find that sweet spot where you’re strong about what’s going on, but you don’t feel overwhelmed and preoccupied and burdened.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Or yeah, or maybe in the subtle way you’re meditating, and you realize, “Oh, I can open even one step further in the letting go in impermanence, and it’s all right.” Whatever it might be. Those are really, really, really lots of the opportunities for growing resources inside ourselves. Not just ones that are flagged by kind of the ordinary pleasures of life. Not that there’s anything wrong with those.
Chris Kresser: Yeah. And again, returning to the evolutionary perspective, so much of this for me comes down to a mismatch. We have hardware and software that was designed for a particular environment. And now that environment has changed pretty much beyond recognition. If you took one of our hunter–gatherer ancestors and dropped them into the San Francisco Bay area here in 2019, it would just be, they would feel like they had been transported to another planet.
Dr. Rick Hanson: I’ve got to say that my kind of science-fiction mind thinks about transporting a Neanderthal shaman into the passenger seat of my car.
Chris Kresser: Right.
Dr. Rick Hanson: So suddenly, let’s say it’s a man. That guy has shifted from, let’s say, 40,000 years ago in southern France, whoosh into my car.
Chris Kresser: Your car.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Oh yeah, it would be almost …
Chris Kresser: Or the top of the new Salesforce Tower in San Francisco or something. I mean what the heck. Like, it’s so bizarre, and I think we’re like the frogs in the boiling water. This is the only reality that we’ve known. And it’s the body and the mind that we have, so we don’t recognize how significant that mismatch is. And in the case of, for example, our negativity bias, I think it’s really easy for us to just assume that the negative thoughts that we have or the negative perceptions that we have or the bad things that happen are more real than the good things.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yeah.
Chris Kresser: Because they feel that way to us and we don’t recognize that that feeling is actually something very biological. It’s hardwired and it’s part of our evolutionary programming. And for me, like, learning that and really understanding the biomechanics makes it less personal and takes it out of the realm of “This is an individual weakness or failing” to, “Wow, this is some hardwired biological programming that I actually have to work to overcome in order to feel the way I want to feel and accomplish the goals that I have.”
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yeah.
Chris Kresser: It’s a really big shift.
Dr. Rick Hanson: It is really, and I like the teaching that it’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility to deal with.
Chris Kresser: Right. “Response, ability.” That word, when you break it down, it really makes it clear. Like we have the ability to respond here. That’s all that that means.
The Mind–Body Connection
Dr. Rick Hanson: You must deal with this, Chris, in your own work. I’m just thinking that. I see this. People who have at bottom physiological issue inside their bodies, let’s say an immune system issue or something, or something, let’s say, in their G.I. system. And the body goes into understandable alarm about it.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Here are all these systems in the body that are monitoring states and then shifting into alarm when they go out of range and equilibriums shift into a place that’s not good.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: So bubbling up, basically, from bottom up, these alarm signals that are really about the body come into the mind, and then people start looking for something outside themselves for an explanation as to why they feel anxious or their mood has slumped or they feel irritable. But really the fundamental source of that is physiological inside their own body.
Chris Kresser: Right. And then it becomes also, there’s the vicious cycle of the chicken and egg, because that alarm response can then tend to produce more physiological symptoms or exacerbate the ones that started it in the first place. And, I mean, that’s where my interest has gone recently. I had, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with DNRS, or the dynamic neural retraining system.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yeah.
Chris Kresser: Annie Hopper, I had her on the show recently, and I’m fascinated by that approach because it’s using the techniques that we’ve been talking about today of neuroplasticity to rewire the brain and change gene expression, which then in turn can actually shift those physiological patterns, even if the trigger of those patterns in the body was not initially something going on in the mind. And that’s where it gets really interesting because we can use these techniques not only to change our mind and our mental state, but actually to physically change our body.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Oh yeah. The flows of causality really go in both directions. In a sense, the example I was giving—and I’ve seen this with a lot of people—is that they overinterpret their body sensations, understandably, and they look outside themselves, or they blame themselves for the slump in mood or the sense of alarm or uneasiness or contraction.
Chris Kresser: Right.
Dr. Rick Hanson: And it’s really useful to kind of look at it, as you were saying, in a much more impersonal way. It is a body. It’s not me. I’ve got to deal with it, but it doesn’t mean necessarily that, let’s say, my partner is a jerk, just because I’m irritable. I’m irritable because my body is irritated by something, for example.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: That was really helpful. And in the same way, to realize that you have the power to rest your state of being repeatedly and authentically over the day in ways that are calming and soothing psychologically and happy psychologically. And because we’re so social, such profoundly social primates, mammals feeling loving and loved.
As we rest there, that really does, as you know, affect gene expression, and it really does exert regulatory influence over our internal physiological systems in ways that are really, really, really far reaching. And I find for myself that there’s a lot of old-school appreciation here for self-reliance.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: For doing what you can every day and taking responsibility for doing what you can inside your own mind every day, which will then feed into your body and help it as well.
Chris Kresser: Yeah. This is really where my attention has been over the past year, I would say, is in this cyclical and circular relationship between these rather artificial categories that we’ve come up with, of body and mind. Even to, I think we struggle with our language, even to talk about this because we talk about there is the body, as if there is a body that’s apart from the mind.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yes.
Chris Kresser: And a mind as if there’s a mind apart from the body, which of course there isn’t. And if you look at traditional medicine, like Chinese medicine, which I studied, Ayurveda, they didn’t really even have in their medical terminology a way of talking about the body and the mind separately. But we often do that today. And you mentioned that the symptoms in the body can cause changes in mental state. And I certainly see that all the time.
I mean, using gastrointestinal problems as an example, it’s not unusual for us to treat someone for SIBO, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, or a parasite or something like that, and then they’ll come back and say, “Well, my gut’s a lot better, but also my anxiety is gone.”
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yes.
Chris Kresser: “I had no idea that this was connected, and I for years was thinking that there was, I was just an anxious person. And now I realize that had nothing to do with me as a person. It had to do with this parasite or whatever else.” And the flipside of that is, as you pointed out, if you spend more time in the parasympathetic state, which is the state that you’re likely to enter into when you’re more relaxed and at ease and you’re more present and you’re more accepting of what’s happening, then that causes a whole cascade of changes in the gut.
It creates a more hospitable environment for healthy bacteria, it improves peristalsis, the cleansing action wave of the gut. It helps release stomach acid and enzymes. There’s such a large body of research on how different nervous system states affect the gut because the gut is just one big nervous system, essentially. And all of that can actually promote a self-healing response that can lead, could potentially lead to the resolution of SIBO, and even a parasite infection. So that’s what’s really fascinating to me is we can choose these levers that lead to healing, even if those levers are not the source, or the same lever, that caused the problem in the first place.
Dr. Rick Hanson: I think you’re exactly right, and how I kind of loosely think of it is that there are physical issues and mental issues. There are physical factors and mental factors that make things better. And the key takeaway here is that just because the issue is physical doesn’t mean only physical interventions could help it. Flipped the other way, just because something is mental, like anxiety or depression, an experience that a person is having, doesn’t mean that only mental factors can address it. And that goes to what you said in the very beginning, which is that, which I thought was so important that we have little influence over many things.
So, it’s really important to be able to look around for where we could have influence and then go to work there. Like, for example, frankly pragmatically I see people in therapy sometimes who they’re just not going to work with their mind very much, but you know, they’ll do something, they’ll start taking probiotics because that’s something concrete and physical they can do. And then, whoa, just like you said, lo and behold, they’re less anxious and cranky a few weeks later.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Fine. Then there are other people, I would love it if they would do a serious Functional Medicine protocol like you talk about, and they just don’t do it. On the other hand, they will do a gratitude practice every night before they go to sleep, where they’ll focus on three blessings, let’s say, that they had over the day. That’s their form of intervention.
Chris Kresser: Yeah.
Dr. Rick Hanson: And I love that fact that there’s so many different places where we can kind of pull the levers or push the buttons that can make things better.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, there’s no right or wrong way. It’s according to your inclination. Many paths to the top of the mountain, right?
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yeah, that’s right. There’s humility in it for me where first you have that kind of horrifying recognition that you’re really utterly dependent on so many processes. So many processes in your body, so many processes that extend out into nature. You’re so affected by biological evolution, even affected by culture and other people.
It’s almost alarming to realize how vulnerable we are interdependently to all these causes. But then in the next stage, you kind of accept that and you release into it, which itself relieves a lot of suffering because then you’re not really struggling against reality. You drop into, “Yeah, it is really like this.” And then after that, you start seeing that life as a field full of opportunity. Because much as we are interdependently affected by all these factors negatively, because of that fact, there are all these factors we can intervene in to help our lives be better.
Chris Kresser: Yeah, yeah. We’re remarkably resilient as well as vulnerable.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yeah.
Seven Practices to Awaken Your Consciousness
Chris Kresser: And I love that focus of your work. And tell us a little bit more. You mentioned resources before. I’ve read and loved Hardwiring Happiness and Resilient, your two most recent books. And then you have another book, I understand, that’s coming out. Tell us a little bit more about that, and then where can people go to learn more about this? You have some wonderful online classes and resources. I’d love to hear more about those.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Well, the best place to find out about this is simply to go to my website, RickHanson.net. And you’re right, we’ve now developed a lot of online programs because that’s a wonderful way to reach a lot of people who can then engage these programs at their own pace and very affordably. So, I love online things. I mean for me, I think about, I don’t know. Honestly, the way I think about it is that someone in any part of the world in the middle of the night has an argument with their partner or is dealing with something and then can click a few links and boom, suddenly get access to a wealth of resources.
So, I have these great online programs of different kinds. People can check them out. One of the foundational ones is called The Foundations of Well-Being, and also most recently, going back to this neurodharma territory, if you will, I’ve pulled together the material for my next book, The Seven Fundamental Steps of Awakening that Are Grounded in the Body, that I taught in a retreat a year ago that we’ve now turned into an online program that we’re starting to offer. It’s called Neurodharma, The Deepest Roots of the Highest Happiness. And that material itself is fantastic, and it’s the basis for the next book I’m doing, which is coming out in May next year, and I’m thoroughly stoked about it.
My working title is Growth and Grace, A Neuropsychology of Awakening. And it pulls together seven of the most profound qualities of awakened consciousness that we can also find deep inside ourselves. I’ll just name them, actually, if I could. And that’s what the book’s about, including the underlying neuropsychology of this and how to use that information to turbocharge your own growth process. So, the seven practices are, and people can do them in their own lives right now. It’s just so amazing:
Steady your mind
Warm your heart
Rest in fullness
Open into allness
So, the book’s about that, the online program that we’re now offering, the Neurodharma, Deepest Roots of the Highest Happiness program, is about that. And I love the fact that on the foundation of the first three, steadiness of mind, warmth, lovingness of heart and equanimity and well-being together in resting and fullness, then you go out into the deep end of the pool: being wholeness, accepting yourself fully, being mindness of whole, really coming into the present moment, the front edge of now. Receiving nowness. Then opening out into everything with allness. And then the transcendental. The unconditioned. Finding timelessness. That’s really where a lot of grace is. Anyway, that’s the—
Chris Kresser: Beautiful, we look forward to it.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Yeah.
Chris Kresser: And Dr. Rick Hanson, thank you so much for this conversation. It was a real pleasure, and I know my listeners are going to get a lot out of it. And definitely go check out Rick’s work. RickHanson.net, is that right?
Dr. Rick Hanson: That’s right.
Chris Kresser: Right. And I highly recommend his books and his online courses, and thank you again for doing the work that you’re doing. It’s so important and transformative.
Dr. Rick Hanson: Well, Chris, really back at you. Your work is exemplary. I really mean that. And it’s an honor to be here. And I wish everyone listening the best.
Chris Kresser: Thanks, Rick, take care.
What’s your approach to happiness, and what have you discovered during your journey to find it? Comment below and share your wisdom.
Just days after the three newest crew members arrived on the
International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule is set to launch
on a resupply mission.
At about 6:24 p.m. EDT on July 24, a Falcon 9 rocket with
the attached Dragon capsule are scheduled to blast off from the Space Launch
Complex at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. Dragon is supposed to reach the ISS
for docking on Friday.
On this mission, Dragon will be delivering supplies, science investigations and the new International Docking Adapter. With this new docking adapter, other spacecraft created by Boeing and SpaceX, along with international spacecraft, will be able to dock at the ISS easier. This will be an asset in the future as the Commercial Crew Program starts coming into focus for the ISS.
As of right now, the conditions are only 30 percent
favorable for a launch on Wednesday, with possible lightning in the forecast,
according to NASA. The supply mission was originally planned to blast off on July
21 but was moved back over the weekend.
The last Dragon cargo mission docked at the ISS back in May. This particular capsule will be making its third trip, a first in private spaceflight, as the spacecraft already reached orbit in 2015 and 2017. SpaceX is aiming to launch a crewed version of Dragon by the end of 2019.
This next launch is also happening on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s splashdown.
NASA TV will broadcast the launch beginning with a press conference at 10 a.m. EDT.
Hives are never an easy condition to deal with. It’s a rash that can appear anywhere on your body and is usually triggered by an allergic reaction from a number of things like stress, foods, and even medications. Regardless of your situation, hives are a huge inconvenience.
To complicate the situation, the number one remedy for hives is identifying the root cause of your allergic reaction, but the potential causes seem endless. Not to mention, there are home remedies and you start to wonder which natural approach is the most effective?
Watch below or read on to learn some of the top causes and remedies we recommend for your hives.
Recommendations for Chronic Hives | Dr. Group
Length: 7 minutes
How to Identify Signs & Symptoms
Any skin condition is usually associated with poor gut health. Conditions like acne, psoriasis, eczema, urticaria, skin lesions, hives, are nothing more than your body giving you a sign that something’s wrong and something needs to be addressed.
You know, we are not taught from an early age to recognize symptoms, but your body will always give you a sign that it needs help. It’s just that we don’t pay attention to it.
So, let’s say you have a headache. That’s your body saying hello, I’m giving you a headache so you can track back what you put in your body or what you were exposed to over the last 24 hours. Your body wants to you ask questions like:
Did you have titanium dioxide? (Titanium dioxide is known to cause migraines and chronic headaches.)
Are you using sunblock? (Sunblock has chemicals that are extremely damaging to the brain tissue and venous system and can cause headaches.)
Are you spraying on insect repellent?
There are a million things that it could be.
But, when you are talking about hives, and having to take antihistamines, what you really have to be looking at is not what you need to take to reduce the hives, but what are you doing that’s causing the hives?
Causes of Hives
Now, usually, that means that you have a gut, liver, and harmful organism situation. When the gut is out of balance, you’re usually eating the wrong foods. Whenever your immune system gets low, your self-healing mechanism drops to a certain level, or you have leaky gut syndrome in the bowel, you cannot process all these foods and break down all the foods. That’s the number one reason why people get skin conditions.
Natural Remedies for Hives
I recommend cleansing as the first remedy for hives. You can start cleaning the body and reactivating the body’s self-healing mechanism by getting on good probiotics and something that’s going to clean your intestinal lining, such as Oxy-Powder®. Once you begin cleansing the body, you start healing from the inside. Try going into intermittent fasting, eating all organic, and eliminating dairy to continue cleaning the body.
Dairy is a mucus-producing, allergen-producing compound. Some people don’t have an allergy or reaction. I try to avoid dairy, but I will have raw goat cheese and raw sheep cheese. I do feel a reaction when I have any cow cheese or any regular dairy. I know a lot of people that can eat raw goat cheese and raw sheep cheese and not have a reaction like they do with any type of cow dairy. It has to do with the fact that it’s pasteurized and heated, and there’s hormones, toxins, puss, and blood particles in most of the milk products out there.
So really, if I was dealing with hives, the first thing I would do is look at my diet. Then I would ask myself a series of questions.
When is the last time I’ve completely cleansed my intestines and loaded up on probiotics?
When is the last time I’ve done a harmful organism cleanse?
When’s the last time I’ve done a chemical and heavy metal cleanse?
In other words, you know, we have to be proactive at keeping our bodies clean. I mean, what happens if you leave a plate with some food out in your kitchen? What happens two days later? You have mold and it’s nasty.
People are not cleansing their bodies as much as they should. They’re not eating raw foods that naturally cleanse your body. Fruit, really anything that’s raw, is going to naturally have a cleansing effect on your system.
So, the first thing you need to do is always ask yourself, what is the root cause of my hives? Why am I getting these skin breakouts? And the reason why you’re getting the skin breakouts is you’re not eating the right foods. You’re putting allergens in your system. You’re not cleansing your body on a regular basis. Your immune system might be down. You might be under a chronic state of stress. You might be not sleeping enough. You might have situations in your life where you’re living in a toxic environment. You might have a smart meter near you. You know, there’s multiple things that people need to look at to determine how clean, effective, sanitary, and pure that they’re living and the things that they’re putting in their body.
The Power of Cleansing
I’ve never seen a case of hives, in my history of working with people, that hasn’t improved after going into a health and wellness program. People change their diet, eat organic foods, begin intermittent fasting, and complete cleansing programs. You also need to look at all those different factors along the way, to determine what you are putting in your body. It’s all about reducing the chemicals and toxins that you’re putting into your body or you’re exposed to on a regular basis. That goes for every single condition; not only hives, but also for everything that you’re dealing with.
Points to Remember
I mean the thing that I’m trying to get out to people, is that you have the power to heal yourself. All you need to do is figure out the root cause of what’s causing your situation, the chemicals and toxins, stress, and all those things. So, if you just start working on those and eliminating all those things, then everything else comes into place and your body starts healing itself. You have the power to heal any condition known to man, or any condition that you might ever get. Your body is the strongest healing mechanism out there.
And all I’m doing is just sharing with you the simplest ways to do it, which is just cleansing and detoxifying with a clean, plant-based diet, probiotic supplements like Latero-Flora™, and an intestinal cleanser like Oxy-Powder®. I mean it’s really not rocket science. It’s so easy, but the hardest part is actually changing your diet, changing your lifestyle, but you can do that in slow, baby steps. Nothing has to be done super fast.
What home remedies have you tried for your hives? Share your story below!
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.
For the origin of life on Earth, ancient puddles or coastlines may have had a major ripple effect.
A new study shows that a simple class of molecules called alpha hydroxy acids forms microdroplets when dried and rewetted, as could have taken place at the edges of water sources. These cell-sized compartments can trap RNA, and can merge and break apart — behavior that could have encouraged inanimate molecules in the primordial soup to give rise to life, researchers report July 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Besides giving clues to how life may have gotten started on the planet, the work might have additional applications in both medicine and the search for extraterrestrial life.
Present-day biology relies on cells to concentrate nutrients and protect genetic information, so many scientists think that compartments could have been important for life to begin. But no one knows whether the first microenclosures on Earth were related to modern cells.
“The early Earth was certainly a messy place chemically,” with nonbiological molecules such as alpha hydroxy acids potentially having roles in the emergence of life alongside biomolecules like RNA and their precursors, says biochemist Tony Jia of Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Earth-Life Science Institute.
Jia’s team focused on mixtures of alpha hydroxy acids, some of which are common in skin-care cosmetics. Though not as prominent as their chemical relatives amino acids, alpha hydroxy acids are plausible players in origin-of-life happenings because they frequently show up in meteorites as well as in experiments mimicking early Earth chemistry.
In 2018, a team led by geochemists Kuhan Chandru of the Earth-Life Science Institute and the National University of Malaysia at Bangi and H. James Cleaves, also of the Earth-Life Science Institute, demonstrated that, just though drying, alpha hydroxy acids form repeating chains of molecules called polymers. In the new study, the pair along with Jia and their colleagues found that rewetting the polymers led to the formation of microdroplets about the same diameter as modern red blood cells or cheek cells.
Prior studies have shown that simple molecules can form droplets (SN: 4/15/17, p. 11). The new work goes further in showing “that possibly prebiotically relevant molecules can form droplets,” says artificial cell expert Dora Tang of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, who wasn’t involved with the work.
In the lab, the team demonstrated that the droplets could trap and host molecules essential to life as we know it, such as RNA. The researchers also observed that a protein retained its function within the droplets and that fatty acids could assemble around the droplets.
Still, those findings don’t mean the microdroplets were Earth’s first cells or ancestors of them, Chandru cautions. Instead, he suggests that the droplets could have helped reactions along in emerging biochemical systems in the lead-up to the origin of life.
Though the team’s focus is origin-of-life studies, Jia points out that these microdroplets could potentially be engineered to deliver medications. The researchers note in their study that they may apply for a patent related to the work within the next year but have not specified an application.
The new research may also hold an important lesson for the search for extraterrestrial life (SN: 4/30/16, p. 28). “We need to not only focus on detection of modern biomolecules and their precursors, but also other relevant nonbiomolecules” that, like alpha hydroxy acids, might have played supporting roles in the emergence of life, on Earth or elsewhere, Jia says.
I’m a bit biased about the positive effects of seeing a therapist, but I often have a new client come to me and say, “I was so scared to come here today,” or, “Well, that wasn’t really so bad. I thought it was going to suck!” The truth is, seeing a therapist doesn’t have to suck, and if going to therapy does suck for you, find a new therapist.
There are so many people to choose from, so continue looking until you find someone who resonates with you, someone you respect and would want to have as a friend. Being very clear though, this person can never be considered a friend in any social settings, outside of the therapy office.
It’s a boundary violation and an ethical issue, but if you like him or her, as you would a friend, you’ll be more willing to talk and trust, to open up as a whole. Find someone you like and respect, and then start talking!
And why should you turn to therapy instead of your friends? Here are 7 reasons why, despite misconceptions, seeing a therapist is actually wonderful for you and your mental health.
1. You Get One Full Hour (Sometimes Two, If You Ask Nicely) to Talk About Yourself.
Not to mention, you get to do so without worrying about judgment or having to see your therapist in the drop-off line at your kid’s school after a session. The best part, though? You don’t have to worry if you’re giving your therapist enough time to discuss herself, because she won’t talk about herself.
You don’t have to worry if you sound crazy, selfish or even if you go into a full-blown “ugly cry.” Go for it! This is your time. Therapists always have plenty of tissue on hand to mop up your tears. It’s exactly the place to feel and experience all of your emotions.
You can get mad, storm out, and the therapist will still be there the next week, wanting to talk about your experience. Where else can you get that kind of dedication and attention?
2. You Can Go to Your Dark Places and Remain Safe.
A good therapist won’t react to your “dark places” or “hard things” with discomfort. And, unlike a friend might, they wouldn’t dare say, “Um, you’re just too dark for this ‘friendship’ to work.”
Therapists provide a container for you to bounce around in. In a good therapeutic relationship, the therapist allows you to go to the edge of your fear or darkness and, at times, sanity, without actually going over.
The therapist helps guide you and allows you to become more enlightened along your path to self-discovery and/or recovery. The therapist will not let you crash, but walk with you right up to the crash scene and emotionally hold your hand; they will facilitate your arrival on the other end, through the dark places.
3. You Get Someone Who Actually Keeps Your Secrets.
In fact, the law requires therapists to hold secrets and not divulge them to anyone. Unless you’re going to hurt yourself or someone else — then, okay, they legally have to tell.
But that’s a good thing, right? Otherwise, secretly jealous of your best friend? Secretly resentful of your brother? Secretly worried whether you should or shouldn’t marry your partner? Your therapist keeps those secrets and, even better, provides space for you to explore what’s really going on behind those feelings you feel uncomfortable admitting or sharing elsewhere.
4. Therapy Can Be Fun…at Times.
A good therapist is able to help you laugh at some of your issues, in a loving and productive way. We all take ourselves and our lives so seriously, but sometimes, it’s truly helpful to have someone in your life who helps you find the levity in an otherwise ridiculous or challenging situation.
5. Therapy Provides Unbiased Insights Into Your Behavior.
Most everybody else in the world gives you their opinion about your life, your choices, or your challenges, based on their own experiences. However, a therapist’s experience doesn’t really matter, because he or she is not your BFF.
A therapist shows you the pros and cons of a situation, helping you make the best decision for yourself.
That regular, weekly appointment becomes a place of refuge and relief when everything else in your world seems like it’s coming unhinged. Hopefully, your therapist’s office is the one place where things make sense and you feel safe.
7. A Good Therapist Plays Many Roles for You Along the Way.
Sometimes you might need a good swift kick in the pants, other times you need a steadfast cheerleader, other times you’ll require (if nothing else) a good, strong, silent shoulder to cry on. Your therapist, if you see them for a period of time — truly allowing yourself to trust and be vulnerable — becomes all of those things to you as your unique journey of self-exploration warrants.
So go to therapy! With so many different kinds of therapeutic interventions, techniques, theories, and practices, “going to therapy” seems stressful and confusing. But actually, much of that stuff doesn’t really matter.
In fact, studies on the outcomes of a positive therapeutic relationship found that the true test of success in therapy is if you have a positive, trusting and friendly therapeutic relationship with your therapist. Find a fun therapist you trust. Then, therapy becomes an awesome to support and enhance your life.
I recently noticed something about myself. Whenever I am thinking about the nature of living systems (as happens a lot in the field of astrobiology), and reading or studying work done on evolutionary biology, I have to refresh my mind constantly about the central tenets of Darwinian selection. This is not because they are particularly complex. Indeed, their remarkable simplicity is what makes the ideas so powerful. Instead it is because of what my mind wants to do with these ideas.
Putting aside the specifics of phenomena like DNA and genetics, the most critical element of Darwinian evolution is that biological forms exist, species emerge, change, persist or go extinct, entirely because they can. In a purely probabilistic sense. We look around at the world and perhaps marvel at the exquisite adaptations of an organism, but in truth those adaptations are just the result of a very refined winnowing out of other experimental possibilities that don’t increase the probability of reproduction and survival in the same way. And it is almost certainly a temporary victory amidst the turbulence of change and interaction that life deals with every millisecond of every day.
All that we see of life in a given moment, including the finer details of instinct and behavior, cooperation and competition, is here because in each and every part the present configuration of heritable traits and their underlying genetic material has offered a statistical opportunity for existence. Without wading too far into the debates about individual selection versus multi-level selection it’s also easy to see that social rules and structures can also be an emergent piece of the selective environment.
Critically, there need be no decision making – at least not in the human sense. The decisions, if you still want to call them that, are made by probabilities. What you see is what has for now won the probabilistic battle, the traits that increase the odds of propagation of themselves into the future.
But it is so hard to think this way (for me at least). The English language doesn’t help. We talk about how organisms do things a certain way in order to survive, or how decisions are made to conserve energy or to ‘plan’ for seasonal change and future options. The truth though is that we might be the only species that, at least sometimes, really works this way. Instinctual behaviors have been selected for by the simple mechanism that alternate behaviors lower the chances of those individuals or groups propagating their genes further. Herein lays the essence of something like Hamilton’s Rule of kin selection.
To phrase this differently; it’s very easy to conflate agency (intentional action) with Darwinian selection, yet the latter requires no agency in that sense. This is undoubtedly a naïve thing to say, but I suspect that it’s not just me that struggles with keeping this straight in my head.
All of which makes me wonder about our continuing efforts to understand the origins and nature of life (a full 160 years after Darwin’s Origins of Species), and our efforts to imagine the nature of life elsewhere, beyond the Earth. Is our own agency, and conscious awareness, perhaps clouding some of our vision?
The problem is that our own agency is so precious to us. The idea that everything we see of life, and everything that we are, is entirely directionless, driven only by the fact that it exists because it can, is still disturbing even to the most rational scientific mind. Even as we recognize that fact we still seek rules and categorizations for the mechanisms of life. From the flow and dissipation of energy to the specifics of biochemistry. But doing so is itself one of our traits that has helped us exist in a far larger environment. It does not follow that the phenomenon of life will actually be entirely reducible in that way. Our sense of agency drives us along a particular path of analysis that may or may not work so well.
There is, however, a way in which we might circumvent our limitations. That is through the use of machines – not necessarily deep learning with its neuron-inspired components, but with some form of agency-free, consciousness-free engine. In other words, and perhaps rather ironically, if we really want to understand the world of evolutionary biology we need to build intelligences that are as different from us as possible.
I have been fascinated by dental health for a very long time, so you can imagine my excitement when I had the chance to interview the legendary holistic dentist Dr. Steven Lin on the podcast. He specializes in root causes and solutions for common dental problems… even crooked teeth!
Dr. Lin confirmed many of the things that I am already doing as alternatives to braces for my kids and taught me some new things as well. A lot of this advice isn’t being shared in conventional dentist offices (yet), but that is starting to change!
A Holistic Approach to Dental Health
When I was getting braces as a kid I remember asking my orthodontist what made my teeth crooked to begin with. He said it was genetics. If that were true then many of my ancestors would have had crooked teeth (and the same goes for any family who has crooked teeth in their genetics).
But if you ask anthropologists about crooked teeth, they’ll laugh. People just didn’t have crooked teeth until around the Industrial Revolution. As Dr. Steven Lin mentions in the podcast, genetics has something to do with it, but our modern diets may be the biggest culprit.
As far as the link between food and dental health goes, conventional wisdom tells us that sugar causes cavities and that’s the extent of the connection. But food is much more connected to oral health than that.
Dr. Steven Lin explains in his book The Dental Diet how food is directly related to dental issues. Dr. Weston A. Price began the research in the 1930s and others have come to the same conclusions:
Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 are essential for proper jaw and facial development
Healthy fats are essential for acquiring and absorbing these vitamins
Unfortunately, modern diets are especially poor in these important nutrients, resulting in malformed jaws, snoring, and crooked teeth.
How Fat-Soluble Vitamins Make Teeth Straight (or Not)
Dr. Price found that communities that stuck to their traditional diets (which were as much as 20 times higher in fat-soluble vitamins than the standard Western diet today) had beautiful, straight teeth. These traditional cultures also rarely used toothbrushes or toothpaste either.
Vitamin A is important for bone building cells and facial growth signals. The body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium. Vitamin K2 has been recently understood to activate proteins that help carry minerals to bones and teeth. Yet with modern diets, we often don’t get enough of these important nutrients.
These vitamins work together and without them, the jaw can’t form properly. If the jaw and mouth are too small for all of the teeth to come in properly, they can become crowded and crooked.
Clues Your Child Is Prone to Crooked Teeth
It’s been thought that kids either get crooked teeth or they don’t, and you won’t know until they get their adult teeth. Dr. Lin suggests that there are signs that parents can look out for that may cause crooked teeth as early as infanthood. The earlier we spot an issue the better chance of correcting it.
Here’s what to look out for:
Tongue ties – The tongue should sit at top of the palate and there should be no frenulum visible. To check for a tongue tie have your child open his mouth and try to touch the tip of the tongue to just behind the upper teeth. If he can’t touch it, he may have a tongue tie. However, being able to touch doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no tongue tie, but it’s a good place to start.
Thin, high palate – Kids should have a flat U-shaped palate (not V-shaped or high). Check by tipping their head back and looking at the palate. Chewing hard fibrous vegetables and meat on the bone can help build a better palate shape.
Mouth breathing – The child should be able to breathe through their nose comfortably. If your child breathes through their mouth, their jaw growth may be stunted. Just getting them to breathe through the nose can help reform the jaw. Mouth breathing is also not ideal because the nasal passages prepare air for the lungs by moistening and warming the air. Nitric oxide is synthesized in the nasal passages which helps distribute oxygen. Nitric oxide also plays a role in platelet function, immunity, the nervous system, homeostasis, and the regulation of mitochondrial function. What to try: Have the child place the tongue at the roof of the mouth with lips closed. This opens airways, helps form the arch properly, and activates the neuromuscular pathways that train the airway to stay open during sleep. It’s important too to consult with a doctor if you have any concerns.
Snoring and teeth clenching/grinding – Grinding teeth is a signal from the brain that the airway is closing. No child should snore. It’s a sign that their airway is not clear. If your child grinds his teeth or snores, try using a saline spray before bed.
Throat check – You want to be able to see all the way back to the back of the throat when your child opens his mouth. If the tongue is in the way or tonsils are inflamed, that’s a sign that the airway is impeded.
Natural Alternatives to Braces (What I Do)
As Dr. Lin mentions, there is hope in avoiding (and even reversing) crooked teeth and other dental issues. Here’s what Dr. Lin and the research I’ve done suggests to reduce the chance of needing braces:
I realize that no one can go back in time, and even if we could there are many reasons that moms may have not been able to breastfeed. But if it’s at all possible, the American Dental Association says breastfeeding is a great first step toward healthy jaw and teeth. The act of removing milk from the breast helps form the arch of the palate. Breastfeeding supports proper tongue posture as well. In fact, breastfeeding trouble is one of the most common ways of discovering a tongue posture issue (tongue tie). Breastmilk also contains live enzymes and probiotics that help seal the digestive tract and build the immune system.
Eat a Traditional Diet
Consume plenty of fat-soluble vitamins along with healthy fat! This means eating plenty of fermented foods, pastured organ meats, pastured butter, coconut oil, avocados, and fish.
Feed Textured Foods
When babies reach about six months old and show signs of readiness for solid foods, choose foods that are nutrient dense and have texture. The act of chewing and moving food around in the mouth helps develop the jaw. Meat, liver, and egg yolks are ideal first foods for babies. Rice and oatmeal are best to wait on (or rethink all together).
Keep an Eye on Mouth Proportions
As Dr. Lin mentions in the podcast, the earlier we (as parents) notice signs of malfunctioning or malformed jaw, the easier it is to correct. Paying attention to how a child breathes at night or their usual facial posture can give us important clues. I would also get help from an ear, nose, throat (ENT) doctor, chiropractor, osteopath, holistic dentist, or craniosacral therapist if needed.
Our family is using Vivos to optimize our kids’ palates while they sleep. As an alternative to braces, this device is only worn at night and helps the maxilla expand naturally. We’ve noticed a reduction in mouth breathing and an increase in sleep, and their jaws seem to be expanding as their adult teeth come in. We’re hopeful we will avoid braces!
Can Teens and Adults Reverse Crooked Teeth?
Conventional wisdom says that the upper palate of the mouth fuses in adulthood and can’t be easily changed. According to Dr. Lin, this is untrue (great news!). Dr. Lin says that there are actually stem cells in the palate, so it can expand. For adults and teens it may take longer to see changes (6 months to 2 years) but the recommendations above can help adults and teens gain straighter teeth, too, not to mention better health overall.
Natural Alternatives to Braces: Bottom Line
We don’t have to wait until our kids are 10 or 12 years old before finding the problem and correcting it. Diet and paying attention to the signs can go a long way to improving dental health and stopping problems before they start. And that’s something to smile about!
Did you have braces as a kid? What was your experience?
Ikävalko, T., Närhi, M., Eloranta, A., Lintu, N., Myllykangas, R., Vierola, A., . . . Pahkala, R. (2018, May 25). Predictors of sleep disordered breathing in children: The PANIC study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29016983
Varela-López, A., Giampieri, F., Bullón, P., Battino, M., & Quiles, J. L. (2016, September 07). A systematic review on the implication of minerals in the onset, severity and treatment of periodontal disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27617985
Trees and shrubs are classified as either evergreen or deciduous. A deciduous tree loses its leaves in the fall and new leaves appear in the spring. The term “evergreen” describes trees that retain their color throughout the year, and are often able to endure cold weather and dry seasons.
Evergreen trees can be either broadleaf or needled. Although called evergreen, the leaves or needles of these trees are not always green. The Colorado blue spruce, for example, is classified as an evergreen but its needles are a silvery blue color. Conifer trees may be evergreen, but some are deciduous.1
The variety in these trees makes them a perfect addition to your garden as they retain the architectural lines defining the structure of your garden year-round. Evergreens are found on every continent except Antarctica and are valuable resources, providing lumber, medicinal ingredients and food.2
While a leaf may remain on an evergreen tree for two years or longer, they do eventually fall off and are replaced. This may happen during any season of the year. Evergreens are important to birds, which use them for cover during the cold winter months.
Birds also seek shelter in warmer climates on unusually cold nights. The dense needles or leaves on the evergreen offer protection from rain, wind and snow. Since evergreens come in all sizes and shapes, you’ll likely find something that fits well in your garden.
Choose your tree to match your needs
Most evergreens require very little care. But before going out to purchase trees or shrubs for your garden, it’s important to determine the purpose in your landscape. Do you want a windbreak for your house to reduce your electric bill? Would you like screening and privacy from the neighbors? Or will these trees be decorative, providing an anchor for your garden?3
Since the trees come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and leaf types, understanding the purpose for which they’ll be used will help determine the tree types that will work best in your yard. Although they survive in a wide variety of growing zones, most thrive in specific zones.
Your trees are part of your landscape, so you’ll likely want rich, full trees or shrubs, and not spindly plants that appear to just be hanging on. The nursery where you purchase your evergreen trees will likely have a good understanding of the hardiness zones where the trees you choose will thrive.
If purchasing online, be sure to do your own research on the hardiness zones. You’ll find the hardiness zone where you live on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map.4
Consider your soil
As you choose your evergreen trees or shrubs, remember some may tolerate dry soils while others need a moist environment. Some trees prefer acidic soil, whereas others require a more alkaline type. Interestingly, trees that thrive in dry soil also enjoy alkaline soil, so if your area has dry soil and tests alkaline, it’s best to consider drought-resistant trees.5
On the other hand, acidic soil tends to hold more moisture, so evergreens that grow best in acidic soil must also like it moist. However, if you have your heart set on a specific tree that prefers an environment opposite to what you have in your garden, you might consider changing your soil’s pH to adjust for your tree or shrub.6
The pH is a measurement of alkalinity or acidity and the scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral, below which is acidic and above is alkaline. The soil pH affects the availability of nutrients to the plant, and most essential nutrients are best available between a pH of 6 to 7.5.
Before attempting to change your soil pH, it’s best to have it tested. If it’s alkaline, you may increase the acidity by adding elemental sulfur, organic mulch or sphagnum peat. If your pH is highly acidic, you may raise it by incorporating limestone into the soil. Be careful not to add too much of either, though, as it may damage your plants.
Wood ash also raises your soil’s pH. Modifying the pH is a process often requiring repeated treatments over time. It may also be necessary to treat the soil around your trees each year after they’ve been planted, but remember to test first to avoid damaging them.7
How much care will your tree require?
Most varieties thrive in full sun to partial sunlight. Some have a higher tolerance than others for sun exposure, extreme weather conditions, and pests and insects. Your trees will require regular watering through the summer, especially during dry seasons. They also appreciate mulching to fortify the roots from injury during winter or from the drying effects of wind and sun.8
Evergreen trees don’t usually require fertilization, but if new growth is showing slowly, you may find fertilizing to be beneficial. Purchase and plant your tree or shrub in the spring, summer or very early fall, so it will have time to establish roots. This will also reduce the risk of injury during the winter.
When you bring your evergreen home, it will likely come with the roots balled in a burlap bag or in a pot. The hole you dig should be as deep as the root ball and at least two to three times wider.9 After planting, regularly water the tree during the first year. A good soaking once a week, especially during dry periods, is usually enough.
The tree will appreciate 1 to 3 inches of water every week when it doesn’t rain.10 It’s important to soak the soil once or twice a week to encourage the roots to go deep rather than to irrigate on a daily basis.
Use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose to allow the soil to absorb as much water as possible through the watering. Dumping large amounts of water on the soil only encourages runoff. Evergreen trees could be watered at night with a soaker hose to avoid moisture loss due to evaporation during the day.11
Prune your trees for best results
Most evergreen trees and shrubs will require yearly pruning to keep them in good condition and in your desired size or shape. Most have a strong central branch that requires pruning only to control the height, trim into shapes or increase the density of the remainder of the tree or shrub.12
It’s important to identify your evergreen species to understand the growth habits before pruning or you may lose the natural shape and beauty. For the most part, new growth will extend from buds formed during the previous year at the tips of the branches and twigs.
However, there are a few species capable of producing new growth on old wood. Most types of evergreen may be pruned in the early spring before growth starts, or during the semi-dormant period in the middle of the summer.
It is ideal to follow the natural shape of other evergreen trees or shrubs, remove any dead or diseased branches and allow the cuts on the branches to heal to form buds for the following year. Unless you have an evergreen you’re using as a hedge, selectively pruning one branch at a time is better than shearing.13
Pine trees have different pruning requirements.14 Most pine trees will produce buds at the end of the shoots and not along the stems. To produce a compact pine or maintain a shape, one-third to one-half of each new shoot may be cut off as it grows in the spring. Don’t prune back into the wood as new growth will not develop from this area. It’s not recommended to shear pine trees.15
Large evergreens — Screening, privacy and decoration in one tree
Evergreen trees add color and visual interest to your garden during the winter when everything else has died off. You’ll find evergreen trees in almost every region of the world and some have become garden favorites.
Conifers are likely the type of evergreen tree you would most readily recognize. There are nearly 630 species of conifer trees, several dozen of which are popular in the garden. When most people think about an evergreen tree, a conifer likely springs to mind. They range in size from dwarf fir trees to massive Scotch Pines, reaching over 150 feet high.
Conifers are identified by cones, which are an elaborate system of protecting their seeds. The leaves are often in the form of needles or scales. While they may be less efficient in producing nutrients for the plant, they are better able to withstand cold and hot, dry weather. Some of the most common Conifer trees include:16
Hemlock trees — These trees are easily distinguished by their furrowed, cinnamon-colored bark. The foliage is flat and the branches come out horizontally and then bend downward.
Cypress trees — These grow in the shape of a pyramid with small, round woody cones. Their leaves range from yellow green to a grayish color and may reach heights of up to 60 feet. Cypress trees enjoy full to partial light and are grown well in hardiness zones 4 to 11.
Spruce trees — These also grow in a pyramid shape and are best known for their whorled branches and needles attached in a spiral formation. They may grow from 5 feet to 60-plus feet and are usually thought of as Christmas trees, especially the Blue and Norway spruce.
Redwoods — These are officially among the oldest living trees. Old growth redwoods may be seen at Big Basin Redwood State Park in California and in the Santa Cruz mountains.17
Pine — There are approximately 120 species of pine trees distributed throughout the world, but most are native to northern temperate regions.18 Pine trees are sources of turpentine, rosin, paper products and wood tars. Pine leaf oil has been used medicinally as an antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial.
While most varieties of broadleaf trees are deciduous, some stay green all year round. The leaves will be smaller and have adapted to resist the cold. Many species of holly are deciduous, but the European Holly is evergreen.
It became popular as a Christmas decoration when Roman soldiers wanted to celebrate the New Year with traditional green branches. Although it easily grows in Italy’s warmer climate, holly was a substitute in northern Europe.19 Rhododendrons also have species including evergreen varieties.
Dwarf varieties may help develop strong lines for your garden
As you create your garden, consider using dwarf evergreen trees to add color throughout the year and to define the architectural bones. These low-to-the-ground, always-green shrubs may be a feature of their own or may help to move your eye from one area of the garden to the next.
The recent growth in popularity has likely been from the variety now available in dwarf size shrubs and trees. These trees mature to a height of 12 feet or less and grow slowly. The ideal time to plant is while they’re dormant in October through March. Most will prefer full sun and a slightly acidic soil. Breeders are developing new varieties every year. Here are a few described by The Spruce:20
Hudsonia — This slow-growing balsam fir tops out at 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide and is perfect for small gardens. It is among the most pleasantly aromatic evergreens, thriving in hardiness zones 3 to 7.
Hertz Midget — This is one of the smallest evergreens, growing as a tight round ball 1 foot tall and wide. It is a smart choice for a small garden and easily tolerates some shade. It grows in hardiness zones 2 to 8.
Pendula — This Canadian hemlock tree is hardy, growing 3 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Given the opportunity it may drape over a wall. It grows well in hardiness zones 3 to 7.
Minnima Aurea — This bright yellow, false cypress grows 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide in a pyramidal shape, lending a bit of height to your garden. It is easy to grow and care for but doesn’t like exposure to strong winds. It grows well in hardiness zones 4 to 8.
Rheingold — This evergreen has a rich gold color, mellowing to copper in the fall. It grows 3 feet tall and wide, and as the branches grow straight up it has a more conical appearance than a round shrub. It grows in hardiness zones 3 to 8.
Natural pest and disease control strategies
Evergreen trees are relatively easy to care for. However, they are also vulnerable to insect attacks. The best way to treat the condition is to identify the problem and use a specific, natural control to eliminate the problem without damaging the remainder of your garden. Some of the more common insect problems include:21
Aphids — These appear mostly on spruce and pine trees and usually in groups. They secrete a shiny, sticky material present on the leaves or beneath the tree. A blast of water from your hose helps dislodge them to the dirt where they ultimately will die.22
For a large population of aphids, dust the plant with flour as it constipates the insects. You may also try spraying the plant with a mild solution of water and a few drops of dish soap every two to three days for two weeks. You may help prevent them by planting catnip nearby or attracting their natural predators — lady beetles and parasitic wasps.
Bagworm — These appear on red cedar, juniper, spruce and pine trees. You’ll notice the foliage begins turning brown or is missing. Bags covered with dead foliage up to 2 inches long will be hanging from the branches of your tree. These are actually caterpillars from a variety of moth species.23
Control is most effective in the early spring or late fall. Add 2 tablespoons of dish soap to 1 gallon of water. Pour the solution into a garden sprayer. Find a long stick to puncture the bag open and then saturate the inside with the soap mixture.24
Spruce spider mite — These appear on spruce, pine, juniper and other conifer trees. You’ll notice a yellow speckling along the needles, more commonly on the base of the needle in early summer. The mites are usually present in early spring and late fall but not in the summer months.
They live on the underside of the leaves. Use a strong spray from your hose, or spray the leaves with a garden sprayer loaded with 3 tablespoons of dish soap to 1 gallon of water, being sure to soak the underside of the foliage.25
More than 90 per cent of pornography sites leak data on people browsing them to third party companies, including Google and Facebook.
Elena Maris at Microsoft Research and her colleagues analysed 22,500 pornography sites around the world found that tracking of users was “endemic” and posed “wide-scale privacy and security risks”. Tracking by advertising companies and other firms is widespread on many websites, but the team warn that the addresses of pornography sites could reveal uniquely compromising information about a user’s sexual preferences to companies without consent.
“The consequences of just the URLs you’ve visited being revealed without your consent could be dire,” says Maris. “Imagine the consequences for, perhaps, a conservative religious leader who regularly views gay porn having these interests revealed to his community.”
Almost 45 per cent of the addresses gave an idea of the site’s content, sexual orientation and preferences, the team found after analysing the URLs for 378 of the total 22,484 sites.
Pornography site pages on average leaked data to seven different domains, and in total 230 different companies and services. Most of those companies were non-pornography specific ones. Google tracked 74 per cent of sites, US tech giant Oracle 24 per cent and Facebook 10 per cent. The top pornography-specific tracker was Exoclick, which tracked people on 40 per cent of sites.
Less than a fifth of the sites had privacy policies that the team could extract. Of those with a policy, they listed only a tenth of the third parties tracking people, which the researchers say means users have no way to learn which firms have “troves of data” on their pornography use. “The big take home is tech companies know they are collecting this data and are responsible for gaining user consent,” says Tim Libert of Carnegie Mellon University.
As well as unwittingly sharing data with third parties, people browsing pornography risk their personal data being exposed because of poor security on the sites – only 17 per cent of the sites were encrypted, raising the possibility of log-in and password details being intercepted.
“Incognito” or “private” browsing is no defence against the tracking, though tracking-blocking plugins can help to a degree, the researchers say. “I would like the public to more clearly realize the extent to which their activities are tracked online and the implications this tracking has for safety, security and privacy,” says Jennifer Henrichsen of the University of Pennsylvania. The burden should be on regulators and societies to tackle wide-spread tracking, not individuals, she says.