Can science tell us how much alcohol you can drink safely?

Humans have been drinking fermented concoctions since the beginning of recorded time. But despite that long relationship with alcohol, we still don't know what exactly the molecule does to our brains to create a feeling of intoxication. Likewise, though the health harms of heavy drinking are fairly obvious, scientists have struggled to identify what negative impacts lesser volumes may lead to. Last September, the prestigious peer-reviewed British medical journal The Lancet published a study that is thought to be the most comprehensive global analysis of the risks of alcohol consumption. Its conclusion, which the media widely reported, sounded unequivocal: "The safest level of drinking is none." Sorting through the latest research on how to optimize your well-being is a constant and confounding feature of modern life. A scientific study becomes a press release becomes a news alert, shedding context at...

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Is there a proper way to shower?

Taking a daily shower is a fairly recent development for Americans. Just 100 years ago, many thought getting their whole body wet at once (instead of taking the sponge baths that were common then) would invite diseases like pneumonia and someone would "catch their death." Nowadays, a long, hot shower is a daily ritual for Many Americans. Most soaps and personal care products have surfactants that, when combined with water, bind to oil and remove the beneficial fats called sebum that naturally protect your skin.1 Generally speaking, the more a product bubbles or lathers, the more surfactants it contains. Many people spend money to buy expensive lotions to restore or replenish the natural skin oils they remove when they shower. The irony is that most of the skin lotions people buy to use after they shower are far inferior to...

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The Healing Power of Gardens: Oliver Sacks on the Psychological and Physiological Consolations of Nature

"In forty years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical 'therapy' to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens." "I work like a gardener," the great painter Joan Miró wrote in his meditation on the proper pace for creative work. It is hardly a coincidence that Virginia Woolf had her electrifying epiphany about what it means to be an artist while walking amid the flower beds in the garden at St. Ives. Indeed, to garden - even merely to be in a garden - is nothing less than a triumph of resistance against the merciless race of modern life, so compulsively focused on productivity at the cost of creativity, of lucidity, of sanity; a reminder that we are creatures enmeshed with the great web of being, in which, as the great...

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What does it mean to suffer consciously?

Nobody wants to suffer. In fact, I think the goal of many people's lives is to stay as far away from suffering as possible. Pain is no fun, because you know...it's pain. When we are in pain we spend most of our energy trying to figure out how to get out of pain. You put your hand in a fire, it burns, the hand moves. That's lesson two in the "Life 101" handbook (unless you like that type of thing then burn on my friend.) Nonetheless, for most of us if we are suffering, or more appropriately, if we are "in suffering" (because we cannot be suffering) it can be a peaceful to practice "conscious suffering". Most of the time when we are suffering it's because we believe we shouldn't be having the experience we are having. "I shouldn't have...

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SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Transformation or Degradation? The Many Faces of Suffering

It appears that every sentient creature experiences pain in one form or another, serving as it does to provide an immediate signal to potentially life-threatening events. As humans we may experience qualitatively different dimensions of pain, from physical illness all the way to moral and spiritual anguish. However, in modern society, whether it's seen as an injustice imposed by the 'elite' or the 'patriarchy', or as the deficiency of one drug or another, all forms of suffering are heaped together and judged as problems that must be remedied. And, more often than not, the remedy is worse than the disease. Numerous teachings speak of the importance of consciously accepting our suffering, transforming it and ourselves in the process of everyday life. However, this leads us to the question - what are the means at our disposal to accomplish such a...

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