YOUR BODY’S CLOCKS

Circadian rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes an organism experiences over a 24-hour cycle. The word stems from the Latin “circum” (approximately) and “diem” (day). Light and dark have the biggest influence on circadian rhythms, but food intake, stress, physical activity, social environment, and temperature also affect them. Most living things have circadian rhythms. In humans, nearly every tissue and organ has its own circadian rhythm—which is why I’m talking about your body’s clocks, plural—and collectively they are tuned to the daily cycle of day and night.

Circadian rhythms influence many functions, such as:

  • Sleep patterns
  • Hormone release
  • Appetite and digestion
  • Temperature

How Long is a Circadian Rhythm?

Early research suggested that most people preferred a day closer to 25 hours when isolated from external stimuli like daylight and timekeeping. However, this research was faulty because it failed to shield the participants from artificial light. Although subjects were shielded from time cues (like clocks) and daylight, the researchers were not aware of the phase-delaying effects of indoor electric lights. The subjects were allowed to turn on light when they were awake and to turn it off when they wanted to sleep. Electric light in the evening delayed their circadian phase.

More recent research has shown some more specific things:

A study by Czeisler et al. at Harvard found the range for normal, healthy adults of all ages to be quite narrow: 24 hours and 11 minutes ± 16 minutes.

In normal subjects in the real world, the body’s “clocks” are reset, primarily by exposure to light, so that they follow the 24-hour light/dark cycle of the Earth’s rotation.

When the Body’s Clocks Break

Circadian rhythms can fall out of sync with the outside world because of factors in the human body or environment. For example

Drowsiness, poor coordination, and difficulty with learning and focus may occur when circadian rhythms fall out of sync short term.

Working swing shifts can also disrupt the body’s clocks. Forcing oneself to wake up and go to sleep at varying intervals from one day to the next leaves the body confused. Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) can cause trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, sleeping deeply, and waking up. People who work as nurses, late-night retail workers, overnight hotel staff, or fire fighters (just to name a few) often experience insomnia, hypersomnia, or both.

Jet lag causes disruptions in the circadian rhythm because modern travel allows the body to cross time zones faster than the body’s clocks can adapt. Earlier methods of travel, even early air travel, were slow enough that the body could keep up with changes in sunrise and sunset times. That’s why you won’t get jet lag on a boat!

Long-term sleep loss and continually shifting circadian rhythms can increase the risks of obesity, diabetes, mood disorders, heart and blood pressure problems, and cancer, and can also worsen existing health issues.

Changes With Age

According to National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information circadian rhythms shift throughout the lifespan, peaking in lateness during adolescence and then gradually shifting back as we age. This shift mirrors the U-shape curve of happiness, which some researchers suggest may be related.

Consistent with the transition to a morning chronotype in older adult humans, the circadian phase of sleep onset and wakening advances with age, whereby older adults (mean age of 68 years) report preferred bedtimes 1 to 2 hours earlier, on average, compared with younger adults (mean age of 23
years) (National Institutes of Health (NIH).

With age, people are less able to recover and recover quickly from disruptions to our circadian clocks. Changes to the circadian rhythm are a common cause of sleep problems in older adults .

Bottom Line: Be aware of your body’s clocks and work with them, not against them, to maximize your physical and mental well-being.

BODY SPEAK

Not body language—facial expressions, gestures, movement, etc. Rather, body parts used in clichés and idioms that mean more than the words. Keep your nose to the grindstone or Have a silver tongue.

Linguists have noticed that English is not the only language with idioms full of body parts. Czech, Korean, Malay, Pashto, Turkish, Igbo, and Vietnamese (just to name a few) are full of body part phrases that mean more than the literal sum of their parts. It seems, no matter what language you speak, your brain reaches for parts of your own body when looking for interesting ways to express yourself.

So, head to toe, here are examples.

Head

  • Hard-headed
  • Soft in the head
  • Bang your head against a brick wall
  • Keeping your head above water
  • Able to do something standing on your head
  • Keep your head down
  • Hold your head high
  • Bite someone’s head off
  • Head in the clouds
  • Head in the sand
  • Bring something to a head
  • Can’t make heads or tails out of something
  • Drum something into someone’s head
  • Head to toe
  • Keep your head in the game
  • Fall head over heels in love
  • Get a head start on something
  • Get someone or something out of one’s head
  • Give someone a head’s start
  • Go over someone’s head
  • Have a good head on your shoulders
  • Head someone or something off
  • Hit the nail on the head
  • In over your head
  • Lose your head
  • Keep your head
  • Off your head
  • Scratching your head over something

Brain

  • Right brain/left brain
  • Brain storm
  • Brain fart
  • Brain buzz
  • Brain freeze
  • Brain dead
  • Braining (to hit someone on the head)

Neck

  • A pain in the neck
  • Stick your neck out
  • Neck and neck
  • Breathe down your neck
  • Dead from the neck up
  • Up to your neck
  • Neck of the woods
  • Millstone round your neck
  • (Competitors are) neck and neck
  • To save your neck
  • Risking your neck
  • Wring his or her neck
  • Rubber necking

Shoulders

  • A chip on your shoulder
  • Come straight from the shoulder
  • Give someone the cold shoulder
  • Put your shoulder to the wheel
  • A shoulder to cry on
  • Stand shoulder to shoulder
  • Shoulder a burden

Arm

  • Arm of the law
  • Cost an arm and a leg
  • Give your right arm
  • Up in arms
  • (Keep) at arm’s length
  • Strong arm someone

Hands

  • Give a hand
  • At hand
  • Out of hand
  • Bite the hand that feeds you
  • Change hands
  • First hand
  • Hands down
  • Have a hand in
  • A firm hand
  • Hand something over
  • Hand in glove
  • Heavy handed
  • Hand holding
  • In your hand
  • Lend a hand
  • Out of your hands
  • Wash your hands of
  • Get your hands dirty
  • Hands full
  • Hands tied
  • Live from hand to mouth
  • All hands on deck

Chest

  • Something will put hair on your chest
  • Get something off your chest
  • Keep your cards close to your chest
  • Chest thumping

Spine

  • Spineless
  • (Send) a shiver down someone’s spine
  • Spine-tingling
  • Spine of steel

Heart

  • Change of heart
  • Heart of gold
  • Eat your heart out
  • Know/learn something by heart
  • After your own heart
  • Cross your heart
  • Lose heart
  • Follow your heart
  • Heart skips/misses a beat
  • Take heart
  • Follow your heart
  • Break your heart
  • Have your heart set on/against something
  • Heartbeat away
  • My heart bleeds
  • Bleeding heart
  • Heart of stone
  • Soft-hearted
  • Young at heart
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve
  • Big-hearted
  • A heavy heart
  • From the bottom of your heart
  • Get to the heart of the matter
  • Be halfhearted about something
  • Have a heart-to-heart talk
  • Heart in the right place
  • Pour your heart out

Guts

  • Gut feeling /reaction
  • Gut punch
  • Beer gut
  • Blood and guts
  • Bust a gut
  • Go with (one’s) gut
  • Gut feeling /instinct
  • Gut it out
  • Gutted
  • Gut-wrenching
  • Hate someone’s guts
  • Have someone’s guts for garters
  • Have the guts (to do something)
  • No guts, no glory
  • Puke (one’s) guts out
  • Slog/sweat/work your guts out
  • Spill your guts
  • Split a gut

Leg

  • Not have a leg to stand on
  • On one’s last legs
  • On the last leg (of a journey)
  • Pull (someone’s) leg
  • Put your pants on one leg at a time
  • Have/find your sea legs
  • Get/give a leg up
  • Break a leg (theater)
  • To have hollow legs
  • To leg it
  • To talk the hind leg off a donkey
  • To pull someone’s leg

Knees

  • Bee’s knees
  • On one’s knees / bring to one’s knees
  • Knee-high to a grasshopper
  • Weak in the knees
  • Take a knee (football)

Feet

  • Cold feet
  • Foot in the door
  • Have two left feet
  • Get off on the wrong foot
  • Have itchy feet
  • Put your foot down
  • Feet on the ground
  • Foot the bill
  • Get back on your feet
  • Feet of clay
  • Get your feet wet
  • Swept off your feet
  • Best foot forward
  • Have a lead foot
  • One foot in the grave
  • Bound hand and foot
  • Dead on my feet
  • Foot in both camps
  • Jump in feet first
  • On the back foot

Heels

  • Achilles heel
  • Bring someone to heel
  • Cool one’s heels
  • Dig in your heels
  • Be a heel

Toes

  • Dip one’s toes in (the water)
  • Keep someone on their toes
  • Step/tread on someone’s toes
  • Toe the mark

Bottom Line: When words about body parts don’t literally mean what they say, they can be used in an infinite number of ways.

LIFE’S SIMPLE PLEASURES

Simple Pleasures

The first thing I’ll say about life’s simple pleasures is that with age I am more conscious of them. That’s probably because I have more time to notice—and this is a good thing! These are among my pleasures, in no particular order.

Weather and seasons affect me daily, and always have. In the past, mostly that’s been for practical reasons: do I need an umbrella? A snow shovel? Extra sunscreen? While those questions are still relevant, now I’m also aware of breezes on my face, and the skyscape—bare branches against “Carolina”
blue sky—seasonal changes, and the varied faces of clouds.

I have stained glass panels hanging in the window over the sink and in my study window. Sunlight through those windows gives me great pleasure, more than either sunlight or colored glass alone. This underscores my preference for daylight over dark.

Drinking many mugs of water every day has made me aware of the pleasure of ice cubes—one of my favorite things! Our old refrigerator wasn’t dispensing ice well for months, so the contrast with the new one is stark.

And speaking of sensory pleasures, I enjoy flannel sheets and down comforters, and lying in bed deciding whether to get up then or later. (It’s usually later.) Even better is turning off the alarm and going back to sleep. And in a similar vein: I like to nap in my recliner in late afternoon.

This is not my bedroom, but it sure looks pleasant!

With the exception of high winds and rain, virtually every breakfast and lunch brings the pleasure of bird and squirrel watching. I’ve now learned the names of our resident bird species: house finches, gold finches, bluebirds, blue jays, titmice, chickadees, robins, mourning doves, mocking birds, cardinals, white-throated sparrows, catbirds, grackles and starlings, and the occasional sharp shinned hawk. I can
usually remember them! But I enjoy them regardless.

The other kitchen table pleasure is watching squirrels. I admire their athleticism. It’s amazing what having back feet that can rotate 180 degrees allows them to do! All the males I call Stanley and all the females, Olive.

Speaking of kitchen pleasures reminds me of coffee—strong, black, and moderately hot. Mocha java, Moka Batak Blend, and Columbian Supremo are among my favorites. Three particular coffee pairings bring pleasure: cranberry-nut bread with plain goat cheese, crusty bread with havarti, and anything chocolate!

Reading. I read every day—sometimes long into the night. Having more books on hand than I’ll have time to read is wonderful. I’ve often said it’s like money in the bank. Should I ever be laid up for three months, I’m prepared!

Read what? It scarcely matters. Mysteries, action/adventure, romance, creative non-fiction, memoirs, popular science… Not much poetry. But a related pleasure is finally allowing myself to not finish a book that is boring or poorly written.

And then there is laughter. It can be any sort of laughter, from giggles to guffaws, tinkling to belly laughs, as long as it comes from joy and pleasure.

Life’s small pleasures are nearly limitless. Blooming plants. Mah Jong tiles, the look as well as the feel of them. Playing computer solitaire. Playing with my jewelry, organizing “sets” of pieces that I find make pleasing combinations.

Rocks, stones, shells, sticks. A completely silent house. This list could run on, but I won’t let it.

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned family, friends, love, good health, writing or other big pleasures—because they are big—but pleasurable they are.

Bottom Line: Stop and smell the honeysuckle. You will be glad you did.

HOW OLD IS TOO OLD?

The United States has no standardized system for food dating, and only 20 states actually require perishable foods have dates on them. Manufacturers put dates on products for their own benefit, not
yours. But how do you know if something is actually too old to be beneficial?

Last week I blogged about expiration dates. In my opinion, the ones that really matter are medicines, cleaning products, and safety gear, such as infant/child carseats, and kevlar vests—anything we count on for health and safety.

But even things without an expiration date can be too old. How are you to know?

Shoes

Running on cement will wear out shoes more quickly than running on grass or trails.

Running shoes can start to lose their cushioning after about 250 miles of running, which means more stress on your joints. Most walking shoes start to break down after 350 to 500 miles.

Shoes for housework, hanging around, gardening, running errands, etc. vary wildly by design and materials. Very fancy, formal shoes may fall apart after one outing. Cheap sandals might keep going for years.

Ballet shoes break down astonishingly quickly.

Advice: For hard runners, get new shoes every 200 to 300 miles. For less strenuous runners, replace workout shoes every six months to a year. Walkers or occasional joggers, pay attention to the feel of your shoes. The wear pattern on the tread of your shoes can be a very good indicator of how much life your shoes have left.

Power Strips

Cheap power strips or ones that have been overworked can be a fire hazard, and use a lot of energy. Only buy surge protectors and power strips with an OSHA rating. But even good-quality surge protectors are designed to last for a certain amount of joules (the amount of excess electrical surges they absorb). They typically do not come with an expiration date, but the product warranty is a good way to gauge how old they are.

If your power strip looks like this, it might be too old for safe use.

Signs of age: If they start to get discolored or hot to the touch, get a new one. It’s generally a good idea to replace them every couple of years just to be safe.

Razors

Please do not give razor blades to babies. Babies are notoriously full of bacteria.

Disposable razors are supposed to be thrown away. But how often? To prevent bacteria buildup and razor burn, you could toss your razors every week, or every three to four shaves.

Alternatively: Don’t cut yourself shaving and get a new razor when the blade begins to drag, requiring several passes to get smooth. Make sure to let it dry between uses.

Fire Extinguishers

Most fire extinguishers don’t expire for five to 15 years, depending on the type. Make sure to recharge (refill) after any use.

Warning signs: Things like cracks in the hose and low pressure can affect how well they work. Check the pressure in the gauge often.

Batteries

Batteries start to expire as soon as they’re made. The shelf life differs between types and sizes of battery, as well as where they are stored.

Store batteries in a dry, room-temperature location. It does not depend on whether they are used.

Signs: Check the date, and discard when there is any sign of corrosion (the white stuff along seams or ends).

Scrubbing Devices

Not to be confused with sponge cake, which should be consumed as soon as possible because it is delicious.

Sponges and natural loofahs can start to breed bacteria in just a couple of weeks. Plastic mesh loofahs are safe for up to eight weeks.

Suggestion: Rinse and dry all your loofahs after each use. Replace natural loofahs every couple weeks, and mesh ones every other month.

Household Danger Alarms

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can stop working after 10 years, even if you replace the batteries. Most have the expiration or manufacture date listed somewhere on them.

Staying safe: If you don’t know the age, it’s safer just to replace them.

Bug Spray

Commercial insect repellent loses effectiveness after about two years from the manufacture date, which should be marked on the bottle. Check the date before you buy to make sure it isn’t already old. Don’t let the bugs bite!

If you make your own insect repellent, the mixture will lose effectiveness at varying times depending on the ingredients.

Advice: Get new spray every couple of years.

Skin Care Products

Most skin care products are safe to use for six months to a year after opening, although maybe a bit less for eye products. Moisturizers in a jar that you use your fingers to apply can become a breeding ground for bacteria in a matter of months. (Wash hands before applying.) Lotions and moisturizers in a tube should be good for a couple of years after opening, and after that will start to dry out and lose effectiveness. Powder makeup can last up to two years before the preservatives in it start to break down. Lipstick that’s exposed to air starts to dry out and change consistency after around two
years.

If your makeup contains lead tablets and was made in the 5th century BCE, it’s probably too old.

Signs that a product has degraded:

  • If it’s an emulsion (a mixture of oil and water), separation is often one of the first signs that a product has past its prime, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Changes in color or texture might signify that a product is no longer effective or safe to use. A good rule to follow before rubbing something on your skin is that if something seems off, don’t use it.
  • If products smell badly or differently than they should, that could be a sign that bacteria or contaminants could be lurking inside. According to Dr. Bruce Brod, a dermatologist at the University of Pennsylvania, “That’s a red flag that a product may not be safe.”

Spirits

Unlike wine, which continues to age even in the bottle, unopened liquors will stay good indefinitely. Keep opened and unopened bottles in a cool place.

Signs of age: An opened bottle of liquor will begin to lose its taste and potency after about a year. But unless you’re a connoisseur, you likely won’t notice a big difference until much later.

Food

And then there is food.

Generally speaking, expiration dates have more to do with the food’s overall quality and texture instead of when it is safe or not safe to eat. According to RealSimple, as long as there are no signs of spoilage, you can eat it, but it might not taste as fresh as it once was.

Fresh Foods

Things like milk, cheese, fresh vegetables, and fruit should not be eaten past their prime because they can harbor bacteria that can be dangerous. This is caused by the natural breakdown of organic matter.

You’ll be able to tell that these foods have gone bad based on their appearance and smell.

A string of murders could be another sign that one of your potatoes is bad.

The common potato and other plants of the nightshade family (like tomatoes and eggplants) contain traces of a toxic chemical called solanine that can be very dangerous and even deadly. The toxin is minimal in raw, unspoiled potatoes, but if sprouted, overexposed to the sun, or stored near other
vegetables that increase spoilage (like onions) for a long period of time, the concentration of this chemical can become harmful. When stored correctly, ripe potatoes should stay good for two to three months. Store potatoes in a cool, dark place.

Solution: Don’t eat green (unripe) or sprouted (overripe) potatoes.

Frozen Foods

Frozen foods do not have the same time limitations for safety as fresh foods.

As Marianne Gravely, Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety says, “Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat. Foods that have been in the freezer for months may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat.”

Shelf-Stable Foods

Some foods have been treated to last indefinitely without needing refrigeration or freezing. Salted, dried, freeze-dried, or cured foods, like nuts, jerky, or oatmeal can last for years as long as they are in moisture-proof, sealed packaging.

Most canned foods are safe indefinitely as long as the can itself is in good condition (no rust, dents, or swelling).

Packaged foods (cereal, pasta, cookies) will eventually become stale or develop an off flavor.

See FSIS’ Shelf-Stable Food Safety fact sheet for more information. Before eating, check the packaging for signs of damage and the food itself for signs of spoilage or contamination.

Seasonings

Dried herbs and spices usually last for two to three years, but it depends on the kind, how they were dried, and how they are stored. You can find charts of how long different herbs and spices last online.

Signs of age: Taste and smell have faded. When they no longer pass the taste test, get rid of them. In the interim, for dried herbs, you can sometimes boost them by adding finely minced fresh parsley.

Salt by itself doesn’t expire; however, when salt includes iodine it may reduce shelf life. Even so, iodized salt has a shelf life of about five years. Keep your salt free of moisture, perhaps going so far as to repackage it in glass jars.

Sweeteners

Sugar does not have an expiration date. White sugar lasts almost indefinitely if properly stored—though pests can contaminate your sugar and spoil it. Brown sugar may become hard as it loses moisture, but a piece of apple or bread in the container will restore softness.

Honey does not expire. It will last indefinitely! Be sure to buy 100% pure honey in glass. A lot of the honey on the market contains stuff other than honey. Honey found in King Tut’s tomb was still edible after more than 3000 years!

Bonus: Raw honey also has antibacterial properties.

Bottom Line: In most cases, you can be guided by your eyes, nose, tongue, and sense of touch.

EXPIRED? REALLY?

After a recent trip to the dentist, I noticed that the little sample size Colgate dental floss has an expiration date of 01/07/2025. Really? Dental floss?

It turns out that dental floss is pretty sturdy stuff, meant to last long. The floss itself does not go bad, though the string might begin to fray a bit. The wax coating of waxed floss might start to break down. Any flavoring agents can start lessening after a long period.

So that made me wonder about the usefulness of other expiration dates.

Please note: what follows is information I found online—i.e., generally available information, not advice or recommendation.

How About Cleaning Products?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all disinfectants to publish expiration date information for all formulations that change significantly over time.

So, yes, cleaning products can expire. “Like many products purchased at the grocery store, cleaning products can degrade over time,” says Brian Sansoni, senior vice president of communications, outreach & membership at the American Cleaning Institute (ACI). “Even if they contain preservatives, that doesn’t mean they last forever. As they begin to break down, it might affect how well the enzymes work or change the pH, resulting in a less effective product,” Sansoni explains. You might need to scrub longer or harder.

Once it has expired, some of the claims a product makes (such as the percentage of germs it kills on a surface) may no longer be valid.

Medicines?

Surely everyone knows they do. Indeed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all medications to have an expiration date.

Manufacturers create over-the-counter and prescription medication dosage instructions that reflect the product’s strength, quality, and purity when stored properly. This is indicated by “Expires: [DATE]” or “EXP: [DATE]” on the bottle or packaging. Think aspirin, neosporin, etc.

Beyond the expiration date, the manufacturer cannot guarantee the product will work effectively when taken as directed, and there is no easy way to determine the potency of the expired medication.

Rarely but more seriously, the drug manufacturer cannot ensure that the product will not degrade and produce toxic compounds that could cause harm.

The FDA has recently begun allowing manufacturers to extend specific medication expiration dates for the purposes of national emergency preparedness. However, you generally shouldn’t take expired medications without consulting a state-licensed, board-certified medical professional like a pharmacist or medical doctor.

The FDA has extended printed expiration dates for at-home COVID tests. Before throwing away an expired test, check with a pharmacist to see if it might still be accurate.

What About Skin Care Products?

Unless the product is classified as a drug, as acne treatments and sunscreen products are, you probably won’t find an expiration date on it, said Dr. Bruce Brod, a dermatologist at Penn Medicine. Still, if you can’t remember when you bought, you should probably toss it. Like cleaning products and medications, the effectiveness of active ingredients in these products can start to break down over time.

And Then There Is Food…

Generally speaking, it is safe to buy food on its expiration date. Expiration dates have more to do with the food’s overall quality and texture rather than whether it is safe or not safe to eat. As long as there are no signs of spoilage, you can eat it (though it might not taste as fresh as it once was).

What Foods Can You Not Eat After the Expiration Date?

ItemMonths
Bacon and sausage1 to 2
Casseroles2 to 3
Egg whites or egg substitutes12
Frozen dinners and entrees3 to 4
Gravy, meat or poultry2 to 3
Ham, hotdogs, and lunchmeats1 to 2
Meat, uncooked roasts4 to 12
Meat, uncooked steaks or chops4 to 12
Meat, uncooked ground3 to 4
Meat, cooked2 to 3
Poultry, uncooked whole12
Poultry, uncooked parts9
Poultry, uncooked giblets3 to 4
Poultry, cooked4
Soups and stews2 to 3
Wild game, uncooked8 to 12
Recommended Freezer Times

Most shelf-stable foods are safe to eat much longer than their expiration date. But things like milk (and other dairy) should not be consumed past its expiration date unless frozen. One can tell that these foods have gone bad based on their appearance and smell.

Posted by Marianne Gravely, Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety: “Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat. Foods that have been in the freezer for months (recommended freezer times chart) may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat. Often seasonings and additional ingredients can make up for loss of flavor.

Before you throw out limp lettuce or brown bananas, consider the possibilities! Wilted herbs can infuse oils. Turn mushy fruit into pie or compote. Almost any vegetable past its prime can still make great soup. Leftover milk or cream make great ricotta or milk jam. Recently expired milk can even substitute for buttermilk in baked goods. You can even use expired food as cleaning agents or skin care ingredients!

While not food per se, baking powder and baking soda both have expiration dates that should be heeded—assuming you want your baked goods to turn out right.

Things You Never Knew Had an Expiration Date

They’re meant to keep you safe or to ensure that the product will still work, so don’t blow them off.

  • Infant/child carseats: every one has an expiration date, usually printed on the bottom of the seat. The longevity of a car seat varies by manufacture date and brand. For example, Graco and Britax car seats tend to expire after six to ten years, depending on the type of seat you have.
  • IOSAT (Potassium Iodide) Nuke Pills expire but have a shelf life of around 5-6 years. They are relatively inexpensive and provide assurance for nuclear accidents and attacks. Be sure to check the expiration date of your supplies of this “must have” if you are prepping for a radiation emergency. Ensure you have one packet for everyone in your household.
  • Kevlar clothing items have an expiration date. Yes, bullet proof vests and motorcycle pants have expiration dates, generally five years for Kevlar.
  • Condoms have an expiration date, usually printed on the package. Generally, a condom expires about five years after manufacture if stored under proper conditions—i.e., in a cool, dry place. Condoms with spermicide will last just two years. Heat, light, and humidity will affect condom integrity.
  • Disposable respirators (the majority, anyway) have expiration dates. The respirator mask should not be used after this date.
  • Bottled water has a date stamped on the bottle, though this is sometimes a sell-by or use-by date rather than an expiration date. Water, of course, does not go bad or expire. However, the bottles can start to break down and leak antimony and microplastics into the water when stored at high temperatures or for a long time.

“Sell By” or “Use By”

Then there are “sell by” and “use by” dates:

  • “Sell by” dates:
    • This is information for the store for their own stock rotation to let the stores know how long to display the food. It helps them keep track: out with the old, and in with the new.
  • “Use by” dates
    • Best if used by dates are for the consumer to advise about the texture, color or quality of the food. This totally voluntary information a manufacturer passes along to protect their brand. Generally, you can stretch the date and still enjoy the food.

Bottom Line: Pay attention to expiration dates, especially on products related to one’s health and well-being.

FAT SHAMING: WORSE THAN JUST RUDE

According to Harvard University School of Public Health, 33% of adults in the U.S. are overweight and 36% are ob⁶ese. Although percentages vary, several sources claim two thirds of American adults are overweight or obese.

With these numbers, one might expect a certain amount of heft to be perceived as acceptable, perhaps even desirable. But not so. Instead, in the United States, labels like fupa, lard, chunker, fatso, and jelly belly are slapped on. And how is this for humor? A collective noun for a group of overweight/obese people: A blubber of fat lads.

Even people who are trying to be polite or helpful say things that sting:

“But you have such great hair!”
  • It’s easy to lose weight …
  • You have such a pretty face
  • You’d be so pretty if you lost weight …
  • I don’t see you as fat …
  • You look great! …
  • I’m so fat (when the speaker isn’t) …
  • It’s not like you’re obese …
  • That (food) looks healthy …
  • I’ve always wanted a bum like yours! …

Where Did the Body Mass Index Come From?

Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, the man responsible for the obesity epidemic (in a way).

Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, a Belgian mathemetician, developed Quetelet’s Index (later called the Body Mass Index or BMI) in the 1842 as a method of determining the average measurements of French and Scottish men. Quetelet prized homogeneity and thought that the ideal person should be as close to the center of the statistical bell curve as possible. At the time of its creation, Quetelet was very clear that “Quetelet’s Index” was useful solely as a means of predicting the average body size of a population, not to measure or predict anything for an individual, including health.

In 1867, Mutual Life Insurance of New York started using an adaptation of Quetelet’s BMI tables to determine how much to charge policy holders. Within a few years, every insurance company in the market was using different BMI tables with wildly varying numbers to define “healthy” weights, which they then used to set prices for clients.

Even when Ancel Keyes adapted Quetelet’s original findings as a way for doctors to use during medical consultations, he admitted that the BMI was only accurate as measure of obesity about half the time. He also included data only from men, almost entirely white men from relatively wealthy countries.

These early limitations of the BMI calculator continue to cause serious challenges for those trying to use it as a diagnostic tool. Women’s bodies store fat differently than men’s bodies. The cut-offs for defining someone as overweight or obese vary widely among ethnic groups. Scientists created the BMI for children by simply extending downward the existing trend lines for small adults, which makes the data for children particularly unreliable. Older adults have different metabolic needs and may benefit from having a higher BMI altogether.

In 1995, the World Health Organization change the definitions of overweight and obese according to BMI. The American National Insitute of Health (NIH) adopted those standards in 1998; overnight, millions of people became overweight or obese without gaining a pound. This marked the start of the “obesity epidemic” and the “war on obesity” (which has not really had any effect on actual health.)

Obesity Today

“It’s not fat. It’s floof!”

Today, the NIH classifies about 1 in 11 adults (9.2%) as having severe obesity.

As a rule of thumb, you are likely morbidly obese if you are more than 100 lbs. over your ideal body weight or have a BMI of over 40.

Women had a higher prevalence of severe obesity (11.5%) than men (6.9%). The prevalence was highest among adults aged 40–59 (11.5%), followed by adults aged 20–39 (9.1%), and adults aged 60 and over (5.8%).

Other obesity data reflect much of the data on other health issues.

Recent national data show that 54.8 percent of Black women and 50.6 percent of Hispanic women are obese compared to 38.0 percent of White women. Rates of obesity are also higher for Hispanic men, in the South and Midwest, in nonmetropolitan counties, and tend to increase with age. However, as discussed above, inherent problems in calculating BMI may misrepresent actual health of people in these populations.

Who Is Fat? Who Is Obese?

Kimberly Truesdale and June Stevens found that perception of one’s own weight may be skewed. Surprisingly, to me, only 22.2% of obese women and 6.7% of obese men correctly classified themselves as obese.

How can this be? Fat people have all kinds of euphemisms for fat. (Curvy, plump, voluptuous, plus-size, zaftig, heavyset, Rubenesque, queen-size, large, thick, plush, stout, hefty, buxom, portly, ample-bodied, curvaceous, puffy, fluffy, etc.)

In the Media

As I reported in an earlier blog (September, 2020) Greenberg et al. reported on their findings of television actors’ BMI after analyzing 5 episodes of the top 10 prime time shows.

“The ears add ten pounds.”
  • In comparing television actors’ BMI to that of the American public, they found that only 25 percent of men on television were overweight or obese, compared to almost 60 percent of American men.
  • Almost 90 percent of women on TV were at or below normal weight, compared to less than 50 percent of American women.

Popular television shows that include people who are obese portray them as comedic, lonely, or freaks.  Rarely if ever are they romantic leads, successful lawyers or doctors, or action stars.

In addition, shows like The Biggest Loser promote the perception that obesity is caused by individual failure rather than a mixture of individual, environmental, and genetic sources.

Weight and Mental Health

“Do these feathers make my bum look big?”

Defensive self-labeling aside, the results of fat shaming are apparent in many correlates of mental health. Societal stigmas and biases mean that carrying extra weight is hard on one’s mental health.

Late-onset or chronic overweight/obesity predicted low general, social, and academic/school-related self-esteem.

Socially competent people using better strategies for solving interpersonal problems are more readily accepted by peers and valued by adults. Obese individuals, especially teenagers, have deficits in several social skills, which lead to damage to relationships, lower self-esteem and devaluation by social agents.

Children with lower social skills are also at a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Many individuals who are obese also struggle with issues related to their mood, self-esteem, quality of life, and body image. This emotional distress likely plays a role in treatment seeking but also can impact successful treatment.

Weight Stigma

“Anti-fat bias kind of turns up the volume on existing systems of oppression,” says Aubrey Gordon, author of You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People.

“Hibernating isn’t easy!”

Obesity is associated with a higher risk of having certain mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders. Often, this relationship is due to the effects of weight discrimination.

People with a weight problem are more likely to feel alone and describe themselves as lonely. They may feel they might not ever meet the ‘right person’, feel uncomfortable with intimacy, feel they are being judged for their weight, and just want to hide sometimes.

Obesity contributes to negative mental health and poor psychological well-being. Society also highly stigmatizes obesity, which negatively affects social and relational health, as well as inhibiting communication about the topic.

Medical professionals are often guilty of fat-shaming. Patients seeking treatment for problems that have nothing to do with size are instead lectured about why they need to lose weight. As Aubrey Gordon says, “It is one of the great fears of my life, that I will die of a totally treatable or preventable thing because my doctor can’t conceive of me having any other health problem than just being a fat person. That is a fear that follows me every time I go into a doctor’s office.”

“Just getting ready for winter.”

The vast majority of people who are overweight or obese according to BMI also have some form of eating disorder, according to Dr. Erin Harrop at Denver University. However, because these patients don’t fit the common perception of looking dangerously thin, the medical establishment classifies thesm as having “atypical anorexia.” This distinction makes it much more difficult to receive an accurate diagnosis. Not only are doctors more reluctant to treat overweight patients with disordered eating, insurance companies are reluctant to cover those treatments.

The social and emotional effects of obesity include discrimination, lower wages, lower quality of life and a likely susceptibility to depression.

To be clear, the mental health issues that are correlated with being overweight or obese are caused by our fat-shaming culture. In societies where people value weight, these stigmas are not prevalent.

Does Personality Cause Obesity?

Who are these overweight and obese people?

In analyses of separate personality traits, openness and conscientiousness were significantly associated with obesity in men, and only agreeableness was associated with obesity in women.

“It’s just feathers. I’m cold!”

Introverts are more likely to be at a healthy weight. They have lower rates of obesity. In one study of nearly 2,000 people over a span of 50 years, extroverts were heavier than introverts, with more body fat, larger waists, and bigger hips.

The BIH has found positive associations between obesity and the personality traits neuroticism (OR: 1.02) and extraversion (OR: 1.01), and negative associations between obesity and openness to experience (OR: 0.97) and agreeableness (OR: 0.98). (Recall, a positive association means as one goes up, so does the other; a negative association means as one goes up, the other goes down.)

“It’s water weight!”

Although there is no single personality type characteristic of the morbidly obese, they differ from the general population as their self-esteem and impulse control is lower. They have passive dependent and passive aggressive personality traits, as well as a trend for somatization and problem denial.

Over-eating may be the result of self-sabotage. A person gets into a cycle of low self-worth and shame, using food to soothe. Obesity can also be seen as a way of showing the world ‘I am worth nothing, stay away, because I am bad.’

Researchers have found four characteristics that typify the ”overweight personality.” You may have low self-esteem, poor self-control (or even eat compulsively), experience mood swings, or be prone to depression and anxiety.

Physical Causes of Obesity

Genes contribute to the causes of obesity in many ways, by affecting appetite, satiety (the sense of fullness), metabolism, food cravings, body-fat distribution, and the tendency to use eating as a way to cope with stress. Some researchers believe they may have identified “missing” genes that potentially contribute to obesity.

It’s important to remember that obesity is a disease, and we shouldn’t blame individuals for it because the causes are not always something they can control. In other words, it’s not your fault if you are obese.

Obese and Healthy

Obesity is definitely a physical health hazard, but poor health is not necessarily inevitable. In a database at McGill University, about 15% or slightly over half a million people were categorized as being obese and metabolically healthy.

If a person is 300 pounds and does not have any other diseases or health complications, then that person is considered healthy. However, the chances of staying healthy with 300 pounds weight are low. Around 99% of individuals weighing this much suffer from several other health complications.

“There is a lot of data that says that fat people generally and fat women in particular postpone care because they know that they are going to be overtly, directly judged by their health care providers and they know that they will get substandard care because of that judgement.”

Aubrey Gordon

Essentially, people with obesity can still be healthy. However, what a McGill University study, and prior research, shows is that obesity even on its own carries a certain cardiovascular risk even in metabolically healthy individuals.

Some People Do Manage to Lose Weight

The annual probability of achieving normal body weight was 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for women with simple obesity. The probability declined with increasing BMI category. In patients with morbid obesity, the annual probability of achieving normal weight was 1 in 1290 for men and 1 in 677 for women.

Good news! Children who successfully reduced weight may have equal levels of self-esteem or even better social self-esteem than those being always underweight/normal weight.

The disease of obesity, no matter what it means for your physical body, is not your whole self or your whole life. Obesity does not define you as a person.

Bottom Line: For many people, too much weight is a fact of life. Be aware of the possible (probable) effects of fat shaming on your mental wellbeing!

The Upside of Procrastination

Procrastination has been my long-term companion, and I’ve got to tell you, it isn’t all bad.  We procrastinate when we voluntarily put off an unpleasant task, often against one’s better judgment.

I have an attack of seasonal procrastination annually, at the end of the year. I have hundreds of carved wood Santas all over the public areas of the house, from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Crating them up again is definitely unpleasant. Procrastination allows me to enjoy my favorites longer!

I never want to see them packed away for another year!

We typically see procrastination as a bad thing. Research indicates that procrastination generally leads to lower-quality work performance reduced feelings of well-being. As a group, students who procrastinate get lower grades. Procrastinators put off a lot of unpleasant tasks, for example, getting medical treatments and diagnostic tests.

Why We Procrastinate

So why do it? (Or why not do it?)

Here are 5 reason for procrastination, according to Psychology Today.

  1. Absence of structure
  2. Unpleasant, boring tasks
  3. Timing: when present activities are rewarding and longer-term outcomes are in the future
  4. Lack of confidence about one’s ability to do the task
  5. Anxiety: postponing getting started because of fear of failure

My personal favorite isn’t on this list: the ego-defensive function of feeling better about oneself.  This related to #5 above. Whatever the outcome, the procrastinator can always say to him/her self, “Not bad for the amount of time I spent on it. Of course, I could do better.”

There is also, as in the case of crating away my Santas after Christmas, not wanting to do a task because we don’t really want it to be done. Packing away holiday decorations means holiday celebrations are well and truly over for the year.

Can Procrastination Be Good?

The universe (or society or fate or something) often rewards exceptionally bright, capable people for procrastination.  Examples include cooks who create fantastic meals from whatever is in the fridge when they’ve forgotten to shop for groceries. Teachers who get good reviews when they lecture spontaneously. Students who get A’s without studying. (I know a young man who defended himself against a plagiarism charge in university by procrastinating. He called on classmates, who testified that they’d seen him frantically typing the assignment in the computer lab an hour before it was due.)

  • It grants you the space to take inventory of your life. Procrastination can give us opportunities to be curious and learn, says life and business coach Lindsey Eynon.
  • It makes you work more efficiently.
  • It gives you a chance to take a break.
  • Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, and to make unexpected leaps.

According to Stephanie Vozza, we tend to give procrastination a bad rap. She listed 6 reasons why procrastination can lead to greater success and happiness.

Procrastination gives you a chance to train your muscles to lift super heavy weights!
  1. Structured procrastinators get more done. While putting off one thing, they do something else.
  2. Procrastinators make better decisions. I’m doubtful about this one, but if while delaying making a decision a person is gathering relevant information, it could be.
  3. Procrastination leads to creativity. When a task seems too hard to do, you might invent a better way.
  4. Unnecessary tasks disappear when you procrastinate.
  5. Procrastination leads to better apologies.
  6. Procrastination reveals what you find important.

As David d’Equainville wrote in his Manifesto for a Day Put Off, it “is urgent to procrastinate against all the trends breathing down our neck. Procrastination is an art that brings doubt and skepticism to unquestioned standards of efficiency.” He has declared March 26 to be International Procrastination Day, a day to rebel against the constant rushing and panic of modern life.

To Procrastinate or To Act?

When considering any deadline, ask yourself, “Whose deadline is this? Where did it come from? What will happen if it isn’t met?” Especially if the answer to the first question is, “self-imposed,” weigh the answer to the last question!

My ultimate criterion for getting something done on schedule—or at all—is this: If small children will not die, it probably isn’t that important. This attitude relieves a lot of stress, anxiety, and self-blame.

Procrastination is certainly not a new phenomenon. This British cartoon from 1789 shows a man bludgeoning Father Time to death with procrastination.

Here are several quotes from Larry Kim, which he originally published on Inc.com:

  • Procrastination breeds efficiency.
    • If you’re the type of person who works more efficiently and can be more productive while under the pressure of the ticking clock, work with it. You’ll still get your work in on time and will be happier than if you’d spent the week mulling over how weak you are.
  • Putting tasks off reduces unnecessary efforts.
    • Putting tasks off until closer to the deadline might just cut out some unnecessary efforts when these things change.
  • You can be open to more enjoyable things.
    • If procrastinating means you get to enjoy something today and can still complete whatever is required of you before it has to be done — even if it’s just hours or minutes before — you’ve still accomplished what you set out to do. And you’ve had fun in the meantime.
  • Procrastination can reduce anxiety. 
    • We often put off things we really, really don’t want to do — things that make us uncomfortable, or anxious, or even afraid. If you can take the time to mentally prepare yourself and tackle it when you’re ready, you can reduce your overall anxiety about the task.
Frank Partnoy wrote a whole book about the upside of procrastination!
  • Time can bring greater ideas or other improvements.
    • University of San Diego professor Frank Partnoy wrote extensively about the benefits of having time to assess issues in his book, Wait. Procrastinating gives your ideas time to percolate; it allows you to sit down and tackle the task after your subconscious has chewed it over. The result just might be a better outcome.
  • It makes you a rebel… sort of.
  • Finally accomplishing the task gives an adrenaline rush. 
    • Whoo-wee! And you’re done, doesn’t that feel great? If you’re hooked on the rush you feel when you’ve finally hammered something out at the very last minute, don’t rob yourself of that pleasure.

I believe that people always choose their perceived best option, even if that choice doesn’t seem rational to an outside observer. By weighing perceived costs and benefits of procrastination in various situations, under various circumstances, people can procrastinate rationally!

BOTTOM LINE: Although there’s sometimes a down side to procrastination, embrace the up—side!

DUST TO DUST

It’s here, it’s there! In the car. Under the china cabinet. On book shelves—and books. Curled into dust bunnies in closet corners. Where on earth does all that dust come from? Short answer? Nearly everywhere!

Wherever it comes from, dust is fine particles of solid matter, heavy enough to see and light enough to be carried by the wind.

What Makes Dust?

Pay no attention to the cuteness – these creatures are dangerous!

Tiny fragments of human skin account for 20-50% of household dust! People are generally aware of dry skin on the scalp and body. Now you know: it doesn’t just disappear! If you sleep on flannel sheets, your bed might look like you have full-body dandruff. (Told to me by a friend!)

Pets also shed skin cells. People who are allergic to cats, dogs, guinea pigs or whatever, are allergic to that pet’s dander. Personally, I have a major anaphylactic response (throat swelling, unable to breathe) to guinea pig dander—even to a room where a guinea pig has been! In Peru, guinea pig meat is a traditional and major source of protein. It turns out, I can eat guinea pig, I just can’t be around them.

BTW, although it is extremely rare, people can be allergic to human dander! And some dogs are allergic to humans!

Hair is usually seen in strands, but can disintegrate into dust, too.

Dangerous Dust

Smoke and ash often go together. You smell smoke because of the particles coming in contact with your nasal membranes. And as you all know, excessive exposure to smoke or ash can be deadly. But don’t forget volcanic ash!

Pollen season where I live washes the world in chartreuse.

Those spring days when your vehicle seems to have been powdered in yellow, you can see pollen dust. But even when you can’t see it, airborne pollen can adversely affect breathing.

Bacteria are dust? Yep. Or at least they are in dust. The most common ones are staphylococcus and streptococcus, both common on human skin and relatively prevalent in our everyday lives.

Dust that is small bits of dirt or rock are hazardous to one’s lungs with long or repeated exposure. Think black lung disease for coal miners. Ditto asbestos used in construction. Even plaster or chalk dust.

Wind moves dust in dry places. A small wind gust can swirl debris almost anywhere, such as the driveway or a city street. A strong, well-formed, relatively short-lived whirlwind makes a dust devil. It can be short or tall, like a swirling cone of dust.

A gigantic dust cloud engulfs a ranch in Boise City, Okla., in 1935.

Big winds, over expansive areas can form dust storms. This happened long-term in the 1930s across the American and Canadian prairie. The result was called the Dust Bowl, and great damage to the ecology and agriculture.

People with asthma or other breathing problems pay close attention to the daily air quality index, which is affected by all these sources of dust pollution.

Useful Dust

Scott Wade turns dusty cars into fantastic works of art!

Is there anything good about dust? I mean apart from children being able to write their names on tables, cars, etc.

Beauty, maybe? You can buy sea salt spray for your hair, purported to offer texture, a natural look, and to counter some of the oil on hair to give you an extra day of good style between washes.

Sea spray (aerosol particles of salt crystals from the ocean) is formed mostly by bursting bubbles where the sea meets the air, transferring matter and energy between the ocean and the atmosphere. It’s most obvious when it dries on surfaces.

Dust particles help in pollination of plants.

Then, too, individual dust particles are a major part of rain. Water vapor in clouds condenses (turns to liquid) around invisible dust particles. A “grain” of dust is likely at the center of every raindrop.

In agriculture, dust can enhance soil fertility and improve crop growth. Adding rock dust to fields can also help to capture carbon in the atmosphere, potentially helping to reverse climate change.

In industry, dust can be used in the production of such materials as concrete and ceramics.

During Holi, celebrants throw colored dust (typically made of corn starch and dye) on each other to celebrate spring, love, and the triumph of good over evil.

Among the benefits of dust is that it reduces the air temperature, as well as reduces the risk of toxic gases in the atmosphere.

Exposing children to dust through gardens and dust in the child’s natural surroundings enhances children’s immunity.

Household dust actually purifies the air by neutralizing ozone that can harm our lungs—because one of the major components of house dust is human skin, which contains the ozone-eliminating component squalene.

Dust is important for survival because it plays a role in a range of physical, chemical, and bio-geological processes, and interacts with the cycles of energy, nitrogen, carbon, and water that are necessary for Earth system functions.

Bottom Line: Like so many things, dust is good for you—in moderation.

In Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series of fantasy novels, “dust” is actually an elemental particle responsible for consciousness.

BE A WRITER IN 2024!

In a 1958 interview, William Faulkner said, “Don’t be ‘a writer’ but instead be writing.”

“Don’t be ‘a writer’ but instead be writing. Being ‘a writer’ means being stagnant. The act of writing shows movement, activity, life. When you stop moving, you’re dead. It’s never too soon to start writing, as soon as you learn to read.” (from an interview excerpted in The Daily Princetonian, 1958)

I have no quibble with the latter. Action is absolutely essential. But I beg to differ on the former. Being a writer—identifying oneself as a writer—is a mind-set with profound implications.

Benefits of Being a Writer I’ve Observed

For one thing, you become more aware of the nuances of language—for example, the difference between mopping up the water and sopping up the water. It goes beyond dictionary definitions, punctuation, and grammar, necessary as those are.

Being a writer may not be terribly beneficial to your spine…

You become a more observant person, noticing what people say and how they say it. You realize that saying something is beautiful, scary, dull, etc. really doesn’t communicate much. It tells the speaker’s emotional response, but does nothing to allow the listener to share the experience. What caused that emotional response?

Then, too, writers are life-long learners. Writers need to—want to—“get it right.” If the story is set during the Great Depression, and you write that ham was ten cents a pound or gas was ten cents a gallon, it needs to be accurate. Readers can’t trust a writer to get anything right if they don’t get basic, verifiable facts right.

Writers meet other writers, in classes, critique groups, at conferences, online, in all sorts of interesting places. The result is a confluence of interesting people. I never met a boring writer (though some writers are married to remarkably boring spouses).

Being a writer is great for your abs and hip flexors…

Other writers sometimes become friends, friends who really care about what you are doing, who are willing and eager to talk about it. I have a whole circle of friends and relatives who are happy when I publish something (mostly short stories these days). But they don’t ask about my writing otherwise, seldom ask the title, never ask where it is published, don’t really want to hear about plot, structure, or getting stuck.

Writing has allowed me to know myself better. The recurrence of themes—whether struggles, outcomes, or family relationships—shows me what is (and probably always was) important to me.

I once wrote a story of a childhood event vivid in my memory from the perspective of my mother. It gave me a new appreciation for her life situation, marriage, and goals.

Speaking personally, writing is the most intellectually engaging thing I do. It feeds my soul.

Benefits of Being a Writer Researchers Have Observed

There isn’t a lot of research on soul food, but there’s quite a bit of research on the benefits of writing.

Being a writer may cause oddly patterned hair loss…

Psychiatrist and life coach Dr. Erwin Kwun has described five benefits of writing:

  • Build resilience
  • Sharpen the mind
  • Boost your happiness
  • Communicate complex ideas clearly
  • Learn about yourself

For one thing, writing is good for one’s cognitive skills. According to a review of relevant research by M. Cecil Smith, Ph.D. (published by Northern Illinois University), writing seems to be beneficial to cognitive skills because it requires focusing attention, planning and forethought, organization of one’s thinking, and reflective thought, among other abilities – thereby sharpening these skills through practice and reinforcement. Writing may, indeed, be beneficial to intellectual vitality, creativity, and thinking abilities.

The National Institutes of Health agrees, being a writer is good for one’s emotional well-being. “Writing allows individuals to observe, monitor, and evaluate how they express and control their emotions. The sense of control over emotions that is a direct result of writing helps the writer improve their well-being and reduces negative emotions.”

Being a writer carries a distinct risk of introspection and fabulous fashion sense…

English teachers and writing teachers know very well the benefits of being a writer. Not only is writing practice critical to develop good reading skills, it is also a crucial job skill. Because so much communication today takes place online, being able to write clearly and directly has become a necessary skill for social connection.

  • Writing equips us with communication and thinking skills.
  • Writing expresses who we are as people.
  • Writing makes our thinking and learning visible and permanent.
  • Writing fosters our ability to explain and refine our idea.
  • Writing allows us to process and understand our own experiences.
  • Writing gives us better empathy and understanding of people different from us.
  • Writing creates entertainment for ourselves and others.
  • Writing provides others with a sense of who we are and how we think.

Writing is an important and powerful tool in everyday life. Writing allows us to store information, to make a permanent record. The appeal of this function of writing is evidenced by the popularity of keeping diaries (records of daily events) and journaling (with more focus of the meaning of events, making it more internal and personal).

Bottom Line: Be a writer in 2024. It’s good for you!

Happy Holidays!

I’m celebrating lots of things on this December 26th!

Kwanzaa (USA)

Mummer’s Day (Cornwall)

Boxing Day (UK, Australia, Canada)

Junkanoo (Caribbean Diaspora, see image above)

South African Day of Goodwill

Poya (Sri Lanka)

Candy Cane Day (USA)

Zartosht No-Diso (Ancient Persia and Zoroastrianism)

Slovenian Independence Day

Feast of Our Lady of Andacollo (Chile)

Family Day (Vanuatu)

Saint Stephen’s Day (Ireland)

The beginning of the Decembrist Uprising against Tsar Nicholas II (1825, Russia)

Lá an Dreoilín, Hunt the Wren Day (Ireland)

First exhibition of wood pulp paper (1854, Buffalo NY)

National Whiner’s Day (USA)

Quviasukvik (Inuit, Upik, Aleut, Chukchi, and Iñupiat)

Grant of patent for FM radio (1933, USA)

Second Day of Christmas

Proclamation Day (South Australia)

Dionysia ta kat’ agrous (Rural Festival of Dionysius, Ancient Greece)

Father’s Day (Bulgaria)

Howdy Doody Day Eve

And NO VIVIAN LAWRY BLOG DAY!