The election season is about to reach its climax and there is hardly any escaping it. With the outcome expected to have an enormous impact on the future of America and the greater world, it can be difficult not to feel the stress with November 3rd around the corner. On Monday, our Optimist emissaries received an article detailing 8 grounding questions you can ask yourself to soothe election anxiety.
Following up on that theme, we want to share 4 strategies to help you cope with the uncertainty and stress that many of us are feeling with Election Day approaching. You can find these coping-strategies below.
Prepare mentally for delayed results: Even though Election Day is less than a week away, it’s important that you prepare for the possibility of delayed results. The fact of the matter is it could be days or a couple of weeks before we have a clear answer. For that reason, you should plan how you will spend the time waiting for results. If watching TV, scanning the news, stresses you out, don’t do it. Instead, do something that brings you joy: for example, taking a physically distanced walk with a friend, going for a bike ride, or reading a book. When we plan ahead, we can reduce uncertainty and maintain a calm mindset until the results arrive.
Double down on stress-reducing habits: Eating healthy, exercising, and enjoying social connections can all work to reduce stress. At a time where stress can be high, double down on these stress-reducing habits to create a buffer between you and election anxiety.
Replace scrolling with something nourishing: We can’t control what’s happening in the news, but we can control how much exposure we have to the news. Instead of trying to keep up with an ever-breaking news story, try putting away the phone and engaging in activities that nourish you such as reading books or listening to music. You’ll probably find yourself much more relaxed when you unplug from the news and your attention-grabbing devices.
Look for signs of hope: We all find signs of hope in different things. In the source article from NPR, the story mentions Dalyn Allen, a data analyst in Baltimore who is Black and finds hope in the recent public outcry against racism, white supremacy, and police brutality. To help you calm election stress, try to find the developments that give you hope for the country moving forward.
Scientists have long argued as to whether there is water on the moon or not. Now, after decades of debate, NASA has solved the mystery: Water has been confirmed on the sunlit surface of the moon, and it’s not just in the form of ice limited to the shadowed surfaces of larger craters as previously thought.
In a couple of papers published by the journal Nature, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) detailed how water is capable of surviving on the moon, even when exposed by the warming radiation of the sun. This was unveiled when the team identified liquid water’s unique fingerprint near the southern pole of the Moon. It’s not there as a “puddle of water,” but as spread out molecules of H20.
As reported in Futurism, it’s not a whole lot of water, with about 12 liquid ounces in a cubic meter of soil. But it does raise new possibilities for human settlement on our natural satellite: if water can survive on the moon, then we might be able to as well.
There are still many questions that need to be answered. For instance, is it possible to extract water that is completely mixed in with soil? And is there enough water to support human settlement?
While we may not have answers now, we can reasonably expect answers relatively soon: after all, NASA wants to establish a permanent human presence on the moon by the end of the decade.
If you love Japanese food and want to spice up your breakfast diet, then we have the perfect thing for you: Natto.
A staple in Japanese cuisine, natto is a notoriously pungent delicacy comprised of heavily fermented soybeans. It’s the ideal dish for vegetarians and vegans who need some extra protein intake, and good for anyone who wants to improve their digestion.
Before we talk about where you can get natto and how to eat it, take a look at the nutritional makeup of this Japanese delicacy. According to Healthline, natto is associated with a number of health benefits.
Being a fermented food, natto is rich in probiotics which help the digestive system and act as a defense mechanism against dangerous bacteria. They can also help combat gas, constipation, and bloating.
The high amounts of calcium also contribute to strong bones, while the vitamin K2 helps your bones absorb the calcium. On top of that, Natto contains vitamin K1, which is said to help with blood clotting and improves cardiovascular health.
So, where can you find natto in the US? The first place you should look is your local Japanese grocery store, which probably carries the fermented food. If you don’t have one nearby, a specialized health food store might have it. Otherwise, Fresh Direct carriers one brand of natto called NYrture New York Natto, which only costs $12.99 per eight-ounce jar.
While natto may not be the most attractive food at first (some say it smells like socks, others say it’a reminiscent of bacon), it’s worth giving a shot considering all the health benefits that come with it!
Previous recordings of Burrunan dolphin communication were broken up with the noise of passing boats traveling across the dolphins’ Gippsland Lakes habitat. During pandemic lockdowns, however, scientists were able to record the uninterrupted sounds of the endangered dolphins for the very first time.
The Gippsland Lakes are located near Melbourne and their Burrunan dolphin population was classified as a unique species of bottlenose in 2011. Scientists from the Marine Mammal Foundation (MMF) have been studying the species for over a decade, but the unprecedented quiet of the pandemic has afforded them the opportunity to capture over 3,000 hours of clear recordings of the dolphins.
Thanks to these recordings, scientists are discovering more and more about the communication patterns of the dolphins. For example, they now know that each Burrunan has a “signature whistle,” like a name, and some form close bonds with each other that last over ten years.
A big chunk of this recording work focuses on correlating sounds with specific organisms to further break down species behavior. This means dropping hydrophones into the water to record sounds and observing behavior to match each sound with a specific animal. The team is recording 24 hours a day in hopes of uncovering new information about mating and feeding that will help them protect this endangered species.
In an interview with Wired, MMF founding director Kate Robb said, “We’re not just trying to understand dolphin communication, we’re also looking at conservation, at the human behaviors that impact the dolphins, so that we can recommend new policies to protect them.”
Image Source: MMF
Time in nature is valuable for children’s physical and mental health, so one daycare in Finland decided to invest in a playground that replicated the forest floor. The results were amazing.
The daycare replaced their sandy playground surface with lawn and added indigenous forest species like dwarf heather and blueberries. They also added planter boxes and allowed children to tend them. After just one month, children at the daycare had healthier microbiomes and stronger immune systems than their counterparts in other urban daycares.
Specifically, the children had increased T-cells, increased immune-boosting gammaproteobacteria microbes, and a reduction in interleukin-17A, a contributor to immune-transmitted disease.
Environmental scientist Marja Roslund from the University of Helsinki said, “We also found that the intestinal microbiota of children who received greenery was similar to the intestinal microbiota of children visiting the forest every day.”
These results demonstrate that loss of biodiversity in urban areas can contribute to poorer health outcomes and that easy environmental manipulation can radically change these health dynamics, especially in young children.
Children living in rural areas tend to have fewer cases of allergies and asthma which seems to be directly tied to time outdoors. More studies are needed to definitively draw the correlation between time in nature and childhood health, but this experiment strengthens the argument for this link.
If you’re raising children in a city, heading outdoors and getting your hands dirty with something as simple as a backyard gardening project is a great solution for boosting mental and physical health. Hopefully, this study will encourage more daycares to incorporate natural spaces into their design.
You’ve now made it through seven months of working from home, but is it feeling like your work and personal life are blending together into one big mess? If you find yourself doing more working at home than anything else, here are nine strategies to restore your work-life balance even when the office is your kitchen table.
- Identify personal habits to reconnect to. Most likely, your commitment to eating healthy, getting outside, and getting good sleep has fluctuated during the pandemic. If you’re feeling like work is getting the best of you, start by focusing on the basics and making sure your personal health and wellness needs are met.
- Leave work at work. It’s tempting to start answering emails on a Sunday morning when your computer is sitting right in front of you, but creating a distinct barrier between work and personal time is key for maintaining a healthy life balance. Set strict “in-office” hours and put away your work materials once you log off for the day to resist the temptation to check in on a project.
- Ask for help. We tend to take on extra tasks to be helpful at work, but if you’re managing too much to realistically get it all done during your workday, it might be time to delegate. Talk to your team and supervisors about your productivity and how much is reasonable to expect to get done each day.
- Find rewarding hobbies. When we’re tired from a day of work, watching TV on the couch can feel like all we have the energy for, but dedicating your free time to a meaningful hobby you genuinely enjoy will help you recharge far more effectively. An exciting activity, like knitting, bird-watching, painting, or gardening will energize you and clear your mind so you’re refreshed and ready when the next workday rolls around.
- Make a self-care plan. When we’re busy with work, family time, and errands, self-care is usually the first thing to take a backseat. This is why it’s important to map out time for personal pampering. Set time in your evening to take a walk, enjoy a hot bath, or cook yourself a delicious meal.
- Talk to family and friends. Stress can cause us to isolate, but connecting with others is one of the most effective ways to release some endorphins and boost our mental health. Plus, your loved ones can offer advice and empathy as they are likely experiencing many of the same work from home challenges as you are.
- Try something new. During the pandemic, it can feel like every day is exactly the same. Spice it up by changing your work station, switching up the order of your daily tasks, trying a new daily walk route, or tasting a new takeout spot for dinner.
- Think about the future. If you’ve put conscious effort into rebalancing your work life and your personal time and are still struggling, it may be time to think about long term changes. Hiring some extra help around the house or seeking a new professional role might be needed to truly give you the personal time you deserve.
- Consider professional help. Lifestyle changes can help us restore balance and find purpose even in a pandemic, but constant burnout and stress could be indicators of larger mental health problems.
Creating a work-life balance is all the more difficult when we’re working and living in the same space. Try some of these great solutions to carve out a clearer line between work hours and me time.
Solar energy is gaining momentum across the globe, but some of the world’s sunniest places have already adopted solar as a primary energy supplier. One of these areas leading by example in the field of renewables is the state of South Australia which just became the world’s largest region to meet all of its energy needs from solar power.
Although the moment was brief, solar power accounted for 100 percent of South Australia’s power needs on October 11 for an hour between noon and 1 pm. To put this in perspective, this means 379,725 square miles of land, an area more than 2 times larger than California, successfully generated enough renewable power to meet all their energy demands.
This achievement is in part due to the fact that one in three homes in South Australia has rooftop solar panels that complement the region’s large-scale solar facilities. Rooftop panels account for three-quarters of the solar energy generated.
Australian Energy Market Operator forecasts that instances of 100% solar power will become more common in the coming year thanks to the continued surge in demand for solar panel installation. A predicted 36,000 new rooftop solar systems will be installed in South Australia in the next 14 months.
Overhauling our energy systems in favor of renewables can seem like an overwhelming task, but South Australia is showing us that this transition is not only feasible but in fact already here.
Autonomous cars may be all the rage now in the world of land transportation but over the course of the last four years, some researchers at MIT have been busy developing a different kind of self-driving vehicle. Enter the Roboat — a smart boat that navigates on its own to transport passengers and goods around waterways.
Since 2016, as part of a joint effort between MIT and a Dutch research institute, a team of scientists has been working on a fleet of autonomous boats to be deployed on canals. Four years later, the device has now gotten an upgrade in both its size and navigation technology, getting it closer to its maiden voyage expected to take place next year.
The new version, called Roboat II, is twice the size of previous models at almost 7 feet long, meaning that the robotic boat is finally big enough to carry passengers. The researchers demonstrated that by piloting the boats on the winding canals of Amsterdam.
Apart from the upgrade in size, the team also created navigation and control algorithms to update the communication and collaboration among the boats, enabling them to dock together in different arrangements and move together like a swarm.
“The development of an autonomous boat system capable of accurate mapping, robust control, and human transport is a crucial step towards having the system implemented in the full-scale Roboat,” says Wei Wang, lead author of the study. “We also hope it will eventually be implemented in other boats in order to make them autonomous.”
The ultimate goal is to have a kind of water-based Uber-like service, where riders could place an order on their phone and have the closest autonomous boat in the area come pick them up.
The residential construction sector is booming during the coronavirus pandemic as more Americans dream of having a bit more space. As developers build new homes, a recent report from a clean energy think tank illustrates how developers can keep energy costs and climate impacts down in these new homes: Go electric.
The think tank, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), compared the cost of building an all-electric single-family home to a home hooked up to the gas system in seven cities around the US. What they found was that all-electric homes saved money and reduced carbon pollution in every case.
As reported in Grist, only one in four homes in the U.S. is fully electric, and the vast majority of them are concentrated in the Southeast where winters are mild. Recent improvements in heat pump technology have made all-electric homes in colder parts of the country more feasible and economical, but adoption has been slow. In 2019, in the northeast, midwest, and west, more than 80 percent of new single-family homes were hooked up to gas.
The new report from RMI shows those homes should have been all-electric. Analyzing seven different cities in seven different climates, RMI found that all-electric single-family homes still won on the basis of both cost and emissions savings over an assumed 15-year equipment lifetime. The cities RMI analyzed were Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; New York, New York; and Seattle, Washington.
Even in bitterly cold Minneapolis, the think tank found that building an all-electric home would save you about $1,900 over a 15-year period. While that isn’t such a great amount, the emissions saved from an all-electric home is massive. When taking into account how Minnesota’s grid is expected to change over the next decade and a half, RMI estimated that the electric home would also prevent 28 tons of CO2 emissions, or about the same as taking 28 round trip flights from New York to London.
It should be noted that most Americans don’t live in new homes, with only 6 percent of US homes built in the last 10 years. RMI doesn’t exactly suggest retrofitting existing homes to switch from gas to electric because it is a more complicated, expensive process than building from scratch. However, the researchers said that quantifying the benefits of new all-electric homes could help push the market in the right direction since one of the big factors holding back electrification is a lack of information among contractors about the technology.
There are a multitude of factors that affect fetal and infant health including access to medical care, socioeconomic status, and environmental factors, but a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health has narrowed down the relationship between reproductive rights and infant health. They found that less restrictive reproductive rights correlate with better infant health outcomes, especially among Black mothers.
The research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed the birth weights of 3,945,875 infants across all 50 states and cross referenced them with states that were categorized as most, moderate, and least restrictive in terms of reproductive rights. They found that 7% more babies are born at healthy birth weights in American states with less restrictive reproductive policies. This number increases to 8% for Black mothers.
Birth weight is a strong indicator of infant health and is linked to a number of longer term health outcomes, such as immunity, growth rate, and neurological development. This, coupled with the fact that nearly all babies in the US have their weight recorded at birth, makes it an effective factor for looking at differences in infant health across regions.
Although the correlation between reproductive rights and infant health was noticeable across all demographics, it isn’t surprising that the most extreme disparities occurred among Black mothers. Systemic racism exacerbates health issues in marginalized communities and it has been long understood that mothers of color face higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.
Although there is much work to be done in the field of maternal and infant health, what this research does show us is the positive outcomes of creating less restrictive reproductive policies which prioritize holistic health, maternal autonomy, and community wellbeing. Research like this is valuable for identifying the most beneficial health solutions so we can focus on implementing them.