If You Struggle to Find Time for Self-Care, These Clever Apps Can Help

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Finding time for self-care can be tricky, especially in the always-on, digitally connected world we live in. Even when we mean to relax, there are often distractions like work emails or Facebook messages at our fingertips. But believe it or not, your phone can also be a tool to help you prioritize self-care—as long as you know how to make it work for you.

We’ve rounded up the best apps and tech for promoting personal health and making time to recharge your batteries, so you can fill your phone with tools that deliver good vibes only. Because, hey, if you’re going to have your phone around 24/7, it might as well help you take care of yourself.

RELATED: 9 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Care This Week

Happify (free; iTunes and Google Play)

This app lets you select the mental health and wellbeing goals you want to focus on (think reducing stress or building confidence), and then gives you quick games and activities to help you move the needle on these goals. You’ll track your overall happiness and how it changes with time on the app, too.

Shine Text (free; shinetext.com)

Sign up for Shine Text to receive a daily text message with motivational quotes, affirmations, positive psychology articles, and tips for how to start your morning in an optimistic mood. The company claims that 93% of people who use Shine Text report feeling more confident and happy than they were before. Also cool: If you refer 10 friends, you can score free swag.

Gratitude Journal (free; iTunes and Google Play)

Think of this app as a virtual journal that reminds you to record what you’re grateful for each day, with the option to share it with friends if you want. You can also take photos and tag friends and locations so you can look back on the people and places that made you smile. Practicing gratitude has been shown to make people happier, and having the ability to journal on your phone makes it even easier to find time to reflect on the stuff you’re thankful for.

Headspace (free for first 10 sessions; iTunes and Google Play)

This meditation app gets rave reviews for its short guided audio meditations on different themes, ranging from “learning to meditate” to “falling asleep.” The first 10 sessions are free, and after that you can access more meditations by subscribing for $13 a month or $96 a year. Meditation has been shown to help decrease stress and improve focus, and with this app, you can learn to meditate anywhere, at any time—you just need a few minutes a day.

Acupressure: Heal Yourself ($1.99; iTunes and Amazon)

Self-massage is a great way to relive tension and stress, and this app can help improve your skills. The easy-to-use app shows you how to massage various pressure points on the body with illustrated instructions.

Sleep Cycle (free; iTunes and Google Play)

This app functions as a smart alarm that tracks your sleep habits and wakes you up at the optimal time (during your lightest sleep phase) so you feel more rested. Your phone doesn't have to be in bed with you, though; it uses sound analysis to track your sleep. To make sure you're getting the best rest possible, you can also monitor snoring and other sleep stats.

Offtime ($2.99; iTunes and Google Play)

Your phone can actually help you stay on it (when you decide you want to) with Offtime. The app analyzes how you spend time on your phone to deliver honest insight, then you can set barriers to certain apps or features you find distracting, or block texts and calls (while allowing certain numbers to get through). Offtime gives you more control over how you use your phone, allowing you to have undistracted downtime, family time, or work time.

Yoga Studio (free; iTunes and Google Play)

This app allows you to practice yoga literally anywhere—you download classes instead of streaming them so you can watch without an Internet connection. Plus, if you’re a beginner yogi, you'll learn basic moves and can even piece together your own classes with your favorite poses and flows (the app turns them into a seamless video for you). As a bonus, you can also easily schedule classes from the app onto your phone calendar to make sure you're fitting in time for your practice.

Clue (free; iTunes) or Glow (free; iTunes and Google Play)

Keep track of your monthly cycle with Clue. This period tracker app allows you to monitor how you’re feeling, skin problems, and sexual activity, so you can notice any patterns in your cycle. This can give you the info you need to prioritize self-care before you’re in desperate need of it. Glow is another great period tracker that syncs with many fitness watches and apps, so it can help you find patterns in activity levels and your cycle.

Talkspace ($32 a week; iTunes)

If you’re ever felt too busy for therapy, this app is for you. Talkspace matches you with a licensed therapist through a free consultation. Once you've connected with a therapist, you can text them daily (they usually respond once or twice a day, depending on an agreement you set up with them). Even better: Couples can use it, too.

Source: Mind and Body

Picking This Seat on a Flight Means You’re Selfish, Psychologists Say

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“Window or aisle?” is the question. The answer could reveal something about your personality.

While some passengers prefer the window — for the views and the relative privacy of a cabin wall to lean against, others prioritize the freedom (again, relative) of the aisle, being able to get up and stretch or head to the lavatory without disturbing any seatmates.

But according to two psychologists interviewed by The Telegraph, there could be more to it: Passengers who prefer the window seat may be more selfish, while those who prefer the aisle may be more reserved.

RELATED: The Best Seat on the Airplane, According to Anthony Bourdain

“Passengers who favor the window seat like to be in control, tend to take an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude towards life, and are often more easily irritable,” Dr. Becky Spelman, chief psychologist at Harley Street’s Private Therapy Clinic, told The Telegraph. “They also like to ‘nest’ and prefer to exist in their own bubble.”

Behavioral psychologist Jo Hemmings agreed.

“Aisle passengers are often more sociable and definitely more amenable as people; they are also more likely to be restless fliers and less adept at sleeping on planes,” Hemmings added.

Of course, seat selection has to do with more than just one factor.

According to a survey by Quartz in 2014, the more people fly, the more they prefer the aisle. Preference for the window also decreased as household income increased.

Overall, however, a majority of fliers prefer the window.

Source: Mind and Body

Why You Should Never Feel Bad for Daydreaming During a Boring Work Meeting

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We've all been there: You're at a dull work meeting or presentation, and your mind keeps wandering—to what to eat for lunch, your weekend plans, or what's going on with the new season of Stranger Things.

Don’t feel so bad about all your daydreaming. Mind-wandering may be a sign of intelligence and creativity, according to a new study in the journal Neuropsychologia. And as long as your performance at work or wherever you are doesn't suffer when your mind drifts, daydreaming may not be such a bad thing after all, the study authors say.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology wanted to study what happens to people’s brain patterns when they’re told to lie still and do nothing—a prime opportunity for mind-wandering. So they asked 112 study participants to do just that: lie in an MRI machine while starting at a fixed point for five minutes.

RELATED: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

The research team used those readings to identify which parts of the brain worked together during this type of awake but resting state, and they also compared the readings to tests the participants took to measure their creative and intellectual abilities. In addition, the participants filled out a questionnaire about how much their mind wandered in daily life.

The researchers made several interesting connections. People who reported more frequent daydreaming during the day scored higher on creative and intellectual tests. Their MRIs also showed they had more efficient brain systems—meaning different regions of the brain were more in sync with each other—compared to people who reported less frequent mind-wandering.

The finding that mind-wandering is associated with intelligence was somewhat surprising, says lead author Christine Godwin, a psychology PhD candidate. That's because previous research has linked mind-wandering to poorer performance on memory and reading-comprehension tests, lower SAT scores, negative mood, and mental-health disorders.

RELATED: How to Trick Your Brain Into Eating Less

“But when you think about the possibility that mind-wandering can potentially be helpful at times for cognitive through processes—or at least not directly harmful—it makes sense,” Godwin tells Health. Other research has also suggested that daydreaming (along with night dreaming) may help people become better problem-solvers, and that daydreaming about the future “can be particularly beneficial in preparing individuals to obtain their upcoming goals,” the authors wrote in their paper.

The study didn’t measure whether people with more efficient brain processes—and more mind-wandering tendencies—required less brainpower to complete certain tasks. But, Godwin says, “it’s an inference we can start to make, especially since mind-wandering was correlated with intelligence, as well.”

“Some other research indicates that people who have high cognitive abilities are able to mind wander during easy tasks simply because they can—because they have extra brain capacity so to speak, and may be more efficient in their cognitive processes,” she adds. (If you can zone out of conversation or tasks and tune back in for the important parts, then congrats: That’s a sign of efficiency, the authors say.)

“The popular perception is that mind-wandering is bad and it’s harmful and you want to try to avoid it,” says Godwin. “And that’s certainly the case oftentimes; if you’re not paying attention to a complex task, your performance is probably going to suffer.”

RELATED: Bipolar Celebrities: Does It Make Them More Creative?

One example may be driving a car: While driving should require one’s full attention, it’s common for people to drift off in thought, especially if they follow the same route every day or find themselves on a long, monotonous stretch of road. Distracted drivers are a major source of traffic accidents and deaths, studies report, although some researchers say it’s still unclear how dangerous it is to daydream while driving.

There can be times, however, that mind-wandering does not impair performance— like when a person is completing a simple and low-risk task that’s done largely from memory, like folding laundry. “In those cases, it’s okay to embrace mind-wandering,” she says, “and the research suggests there may be some benefits to creativity and working memory and intelligence, as well.”

Godwin still recommends that people try to be mindful of tasks that require a lot of brainpower, and to be cognizant of whether their performance slips when their attention starts to drift elsewhere. “If you notice that’s happening, you may need to address that by taking a break or having something to eat—anything to help you get back on track, so you can stay focused now and let your mind wander later.”

Source: Mind and Body

'Plus-Size' Resort Provides a Sanctuary for Curvy Beach-Goers: 'The Stigmas Are Gone'

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

On an island in the Bahamas, there’s a small resort that feels like utopia for curvy people, a place where they can enjoy a beach vacation without worrying about their bodies.

James King opened this safe haven, named simply The Resort, two years ago, after watching overweight people struggle to enjoy themselves at other properties.

“On my first day working at a resort in Grenada, a young woman sat down in one of the loungers, and she went right through it, and everybody on the beach was laughing. The next day I was in my office, and I hear screaming and yelling, and she was having a fit because the owner’s policy was that she was charged $150 for destruction of hotel property. And I thought that it was insane,” King tells PEOPLE.

“I tried to convince the owners that we needed furniture other than this plastic flimsy stuff, and they didn’t care. I decided that I had to do something.”

He worked on this idea for about a decade, before finding five miles of private beach in Eleuthera, in the Bahamas. But he then ran into issues creating furniture that would hold his guests.

“The biggest issue was that no one manufactures for plus-size people,” King says. “We needed beds that are able to hold up to 1,500 lbs., we needed lounge furniture and beach furniture that doesn’t break. And it just doesn’t exist. So everything that we have there I had to create and prototype.”

After making “around 500 mistakes along the way,” he developed a “sanctuary” for his guests. When people arrive at the Resort, even if they didn’t know each other beforehand, they become instant friends.

“They bond in a commonality,” King says. “It’s people who have lived similar lives with the same issues, and all of a sudden most of the stigmas are gone, because nobody’s staring at them. They just feel like they can identify. A lot of people who come have never met, but after just the first night it’s like they’ve known each other for years.”

And business is already strong.

“The response has been phenomenal,” King says. “I’ve been booked all year and about 10 percent of that is repeat customers, which is amazing when you’ve only been open for two years.”

At this point, the Resort is limited to just 24 people at a time, and guests book the entire place at once for a flat fee of $16,400 to ensure privacy. But he plans to build another property on an island nearby, where anyone can come for a stay.

“The guests love it, because it really does feel like their own place,” King says.

Source: Mind and Body

Olympians Jordyn Wieber & Nastia Liukin Open Up About Pressure to Stay Thin After Gymnastics Careers

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

Retired Oylmpic gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Nastia Liukin are opening up about the body image pressure they experienced after leaving the competitive sport.

The gold medalists recently sat down for an interview with PopSugar, in which they talked about life after gymnastics — including the pressure they’ve experienced to maintain thin figures.

“I think because we’re both retired, not being a competitive gymnast, people do remember us as gymnasts,” Liukin, 27, said. “So, there still is that expectation to be in shape. To look like that 16-year-old gymnast that we did like 10, 12 years ago. We’re like, ‘okay, we’re not that person anymore.’ ”

She added: “It was hard because your body goes through these changes and people remember you as, like, this really fit gymnast. Then they’re like, ‘oh, like, what happened?’ ”

Liukin, a five-time Olympic medalist — and 2008 Olympic individual all-around champion, — retired from the sport in 2016. She opened up about her relaxed, post-Olympics diet.

“It’s human nature, right, to kind of go through these body changes and so I remember that being hard, because that was the first time in my life after the Olympics where I wasn’t training seven hours a day anymore,” she said.  “I was kind of eating what ever I wanted.”

The athletes may have dealt with body image after ending their careers, but Wieber spoke of the pressure they experienced as young gymnasts.

“Once your body hits puberty, you can no longer eat whatever you want. Your metabolism is so high,” the 22-year-old said. “Every girl goes through that, but when you’re training as an athlete you really have to focus in on eating the most healthy diet you can possibly eat after you hit puberty.”

Wieber took home a gold medal after competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

She added: “Also you go through this growth spurt. Maybe you grow two, three inches and most people are like, ‘Ooh, no big deal.’ But for gymnasts, when you’re swinging in between two bars, all of a sudden you start kicking the bar and that’s a little bit of an adjustment.”

Source: Mind and Body

You Asked: Is Watching Scary Movies Good for You?

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

The heart-pounding thrills of a scary movie may come with some health-related benefits, including a calorie burn and a happier mood. But how much you stand to gain from a scary movie seems to depend on how scary you find the film you’re watching—and how much you want to be scared in the first place.

In a 2012 study, funded by the former video subscription service Lovefilm, researchers from the University of Westminster in the UK asked 10 people to watch 10 different scary movies as they monitored heart rate, oxygen intake and output of carbon dioxide. The 1980’s film The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, topped the list of the calorie-scorching horror films. The person who viewed it jumped and shrieked themselves rid of 184 calories: roughly the number of calories a 140-pound adult would burn after 40 minutes of walking, according to the American Council on Exercise’s physical activity calorie counter. Jaws and The Exorcist took the second and third spots on the list, burning 161 and 158 calories, respectively.

A stressful stimulus—in this case, a scary movie—causes the release of the hormone adrenaline, which cranks up the nervous system’s fight-or-flight response, says Richard Mackenzie, author of the study, who is now at the University of Roehampton in London. Along with getting your heart racing, this response also draws energy from your body’s reserves so that you’re ready to fight or flee as the need arises.

The study was very small, and the findings were not published in a peer-reviewed journal. But there is other research that frightening flicks may proffer benefits. A 2003 study from Coventry University in the UK, published in the journal Stress, found that watching a horror film significantly increased people’s circulating levels of disease- and infection-fighting white blood cells. Again, the study team credits the movie’s ability to fire up the viewer’s fight-or-flight response, which includes a short-term increase in immune function.

It might be simpler to think of horror movies as a form of “good stress.” While stress gets a bad rap—and long-term stress is associated with everything from depression to heart attacks—brief bouts of stress have often been linked to improved immune function and activation, says Firdaus Dhabhar, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

A good scare can also elevate your mood. “The research my colleagues and I have done show a high-arousal negative stimuli improves mood significantly,” says Margee Kerr, a sociologist and fear researcher and author of Scream: Chilling Adventures In the Science of Fear. These can be activities like watching a scary movie, or visiting a pop-up haunted house or Halloween-season attraction.

Kerr says that after a scary experience, people feel less anxious, less frustrated and happier. “The different neurotransmitters and hormones released during the experience could explain that,” she says. Or, by voluntarily choosing to endure a scary or stressful activity—whether it’s watching a freaky movie or bungee jumping—you’re likely to experience a feel-good sense of accomplishment afterward.

But—and this is a big caveat—Kerr says her research only included people who wanted to partake in the scary experience. For those who don’t get a thrill out of a horror movie or who don’t enjoy being scared, there may not be any mood or anxiety benefits.

Some frightening movies or experiences may be too much for kids in particular. An older study from the University of Michigan found that 26% of college students who had experienced a media-based scare during childhood still had “residual anxiety” from the experience.

So wait until the kids are in bed before firing up the next horror flick in your Netflix queue. Based on the existing science, you may burn some calories and boost your mood.

Source: Mind and Body

It’s Possible to Actually Sweat Blood, a New Study Says

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

An unusual medical case gives new meaning to the phrase blood, sweat and tears.

According to a case study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, a 21-year-old Italian woman checked into a medical ward complaining of a strange—and horrifying—symptom: She had been bleeding intermittently from her face and palms for three years, seemingly without cause. She had no visible broken skin, and bleeding episodes sometimes began without warning, though they often intensified during times of stress. The woman had become socially isolated as a result of the condition.

Though doctors treated her for symptoms of major depressive disorder and panic disorder, the woman’s physical exams came back normal. Still, the bleeding persisted. Eventually, her doctors reached a rare—and somewhat controversial—diagnosis: hematohidrosis, or “blood sweating.” She was treated with propranolol, a beta-blocker that’s commonly used to regulate blood pressure and heart rate, and while her bleeding didn’t stop entirely, the treatment did lead to a “marked reduction” in symptoms, according to the article.

In cases of hematohidrosis, blood seeps out of unbroken skin, just as sweat normally does. It’s most common on the face, ears, nose and eyes, according to the National Institutes of Health Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, and it’s often associated with fear and emotional stress. Some people with the condition even cry bloody tears.

Hematohidrosis is extremely rare, but it’s nothing new. The Bible mentions Jesus sweating blood, and observed cases date way back to the third century B.C., according to medical historian and hematologist Jacalyn Duffin, who wrote a commentary that accompanied the new article. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot doctors don’t know about hematohidrosis—including why it happens. There’s so much uncertainty, in fact, that some doctors don’t believe it’s a valid diagnosis. Even the article notes that “there is no single explanation of the source of bleeding,” and that the current hypothesis—that blood passes through sweat glands due to “abnormal constrictions and expansions” of nearby blood vessels—has not been definitively proven.

Duffin believes that the condition is real, if misunderstood. “Ironically, for an increasingly secular world, the long-standing association of hematohidrosis with religious mystery may make its existence harder to accept,” she writes. “It seems that humans do sweat blood, albeit far less often literally than metaphorically.”

Source: Mind and Body

It's True: Alcohol Helps You Speak a Foreign Language Better

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Those who dabble in learning a new language sometimes find that alcohol — in moderation — helps them speak more fluently. In a way, that makes sense: It’s been shown that a beer or a glass of wine can lower inhibitions, which may make it easier for some people to overcome nervousness or hesitation.

But on the other hand, alcohol has also been shown to impair cognitive and motor functions, negatively affect memory and attention, and lead to overconfidence and inflated self-evaluations. So do people really speak non-native languages better after drinking, or is that just their liquid courage talking?

To answer that question, British and Dutch researchers conducted an experiment, published this week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. And it turns out, people in the study really did speak more fluently after a low dose of alcohol — even when they didn’t think so themselves.

The study included 50 native German speakers who were studying at Maastricht University, located in the Netherlands near the border with Germany. All of the people in the study said they drank alcohol at least sometimes, and, because their classes were taught in Dutch, had recently passed an exam demonstrating proficiency in the language.

Each person was asked to have a casual, two-minute conversation with an interviewer in Dutch. Before that chat, half were given water to drink, while the other half were given an alcoholic beverage. The amount of booze varied based on the person’s weight, but for a 150-pound man, it was equivalent to just under a pint of beer.

The conversations were recorded and then scored by two native Dutch speakers who weren’t aware which people had consumed alcohol. The participants were also asked to self-score their own performances, based on how fluently they felt they’d spoken.

Unexpectedly, alcohol had no effect on the speakers’ self-ratings; those who’d had a drink weren’t any more confident or pleased with their performances than those who’d had water.

But they did perform better, according to those who listened to the recordings. Overall, the native Dutch speakers rated people in the alcohol group as having better fluency — specifically better pronunciation — than those in the water group. Ratings for grammar, vocabulary and argumentation were similar between groups.

The authors point out that the dose of alcohol tested in the study was low, and that higher levels of consumption might not have these beneficial effects. After all, they write in their paper, drinking too much can have the exact opposite effect on fluency and can even lead to slurred speech.

And because the people in the study knew what they were drinking, it’s not possible to know whether their speech improved because of alcohol’s biological effects or its psychological ones. (Previous studies have shown that people who think they’re drinking alcohol can experience similar levels of impairment as those drinking the real thing.) “Future research on this topic should include an alcohol placebo condition,” the authors write, “to disentangle the relative impact of pharmacological vs. expectancy effects.”

The study’s findings should also be replicated in other groups of people, they add, to show that the results aren’t unique to native German speakers or to people learning Dutch. At least one other paper supports this theory, though; in a 1972 study, small doses of alcohol improved Americans’ pronunciation of words in Thai.

While the study did not measure people’s mental states or emotions, the authors say it’s possible that a low-to-moderate dose of alcohol “reduces language anxiety” and therefore increases proficiency. “This might enable foreign language speakers to speak more fluently in the foreign language after drinking a small amount of alcohol,” they conclude.

Source: Mind and Body

5 of the Filthiest Places to Avoid on Airplanes

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

When it comes to flying, nothing about a close proximity to strangers and bathrooms for hours on end feels particularly clean. And while you may not be able to make the flight shorter or the seats bigger, you can make your experience more sanitary by avoiding some of the dirtiest places on airplanes.

It’s worth noting that some people may be more susceptible to getting sick on planes because the cabin air humidity is under 20%, whereas home humidity is generally over 30%, according to the World Health Organization. The dry air exposure affects mucus, the immune system’s front line of defense, leaving people marginally more vulnerable to getting sick. A 2004 study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found that people are far more likely — 113 times more, by one of the study’s measures — to catch the common cold during a flight than normal ground transmission.

Humidity aside, there are a handful of especially dirty spots, according to research and advisories from travel physicians. Here’s how to avoid them.

Airplane tray tables

The potentially grimiest place on an airplane unfolds right into your lap.

Alarmingly, a 2015 study by TravelMath that tested samples from hard surfaces in planes found that tray table surfaces had more than eight times the amount of bacteria per square inch than the lavatory flush buttons. The trays had 2,155 colony forming units of bacteria per square inch—compared to the 127 cfu/sq. in., which is what the National Science Foundation says is standard for a toilet seat at home.

Dr. Charles Gerba, microbiologist at the University of Arizona, tells TIME that the trays he’s tested through research have had cold viruses, human parainfluenza viruses, norovirus (which can cause diarrhea and vomiting) and the superbug MRSA, which causes skin infections.

The high amount of bacteria is likely linked to plane cleaning crews not having enough time between flights to wipe down the tray tables, the Wall Street Journal reports. And when they do get clean, those airlines may be using general cleaners instead of disinfectants.

In the meantime, to avoid eating dinner off a tray that someone piled used tissues or changed a baby’s diaper on just hours earlier, wipe it down with a sanitizing wipe, Dr. Michael Zimring, director of travel medicine at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center, tells TIME. But if you don’t feel like even touching the table (Gerba does, but Zimring says he doesn’t bother), avoid eating food directly off the surface.

“My food will stay on a paper plate or wrapper,” adds Zimring.

Air vents and seatbelt buckles

Two plane features with frequent usage (that may not receive a regular cleaning) also make the list.

The air vents above each seat are great for circulating ventilated air to each passenger, but the TravelMath testing found 285 CFU/sq. in. on their dials — more bacteria than on the plane toilet flush buttons.

The seatbelt buckles similarly had 230 FCU/sq. in., which isn’t surprising since every passenger touches their buckle at least two times during the flight.

Gerba recommends bringing a small bottle of hand sanitizer on the plane and using it periodically.

Restroom

Airplane bathrooms are cleaned regularly—United, Delta and American Airlines told the Journal that they get disinfected overnight and between long flights.

But Gerba points out that with roughly 50 people to a bathroom, they’re still an easy way to pick up an infection. He found the fecal coliform E. coli on some of the sinks, flush handles and toilet seats he tested. TravelMath found that the flush buttons had 265 CFU/sq. in. (but no fecal coliform bacteria).

“It’s hard to beat the restroom,” in terms of germiness, Gerba says, “because the water shuts off so people can’t complete hand washing.” The sinks are so small, he adds, that people with large hands can’t even fit them fully underneath the faucets.

Zimring recommends using a paper towel on the door latch on the way out, and says that’s the one precaution he never fails to take.

Seatback pocket

Passengers have been known to treat the pocket on the seat in front of them as a wastebasket, stuffing trash, dirty tissues, used diapers and more into the pouch.

On planes with quick turnarounds on the ground, cleaning crews may not even get a chance to empty out the seat pockets, let alone disinfect the cloth. And one Auburn University in Alabama study found that MRSA germs survive for up to 7 days on seat pocket cloth — the longest it survives on any of the hard and soft surfaces the researchers tested.

Drexel University Medicine only recommends one way to avoid germs in the seatback pocket: “Just don’t use them. It’s simply not worth the risk.”

Aisle seats

Choosing the aisle seat lets you get up whenever you feel like it, but that freedom comes with a little more risk.

The tops of aisle seats are likely harboring germs from every person who walks by them and holds on for support, according to Zimring — and many of those people have just come from the bathroom. So be aware of touching the area next to the aisle headrest, and it’s probably best to not rest your face there as you fall asleep.

Sitting near the aisle puts passengers in the line of fire of any communicable viruses that could break out on the plane.

One study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases analyzed a flight from Boston to L.A. that made an emergency landing due to an outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea. The researchers found that that people sitting in the aisle were far more likely to contract norovirus, but there was no link between contracting it and using the bathroom.

“If you sit by the window seat you have less chance of getting sick,” Gerba confirms.

Source: Mind and Body

3 Strange Treatments Doctors Used to Think Were Good for You

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

The quest for a health is a natural human response to illness, but medical history provides plenty of reason to think twice before you try that miracle cure.

Case in point: medieval doctors would press a sacrificed puppy, kitten, rabbit or lamb on top of a tumor because they thought that cancer was like a “ravenous wolf” that would rather “feed off the sacrificed animal rather than the human patient,” as Dr. Lydia Kang and her co-writer Nate Pedersen put it in their new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything.

Sure, some of the stranger examples of old-time medicine would turn out to be useful; while cautery—heating an iron stick on hot coals and then pressing it onto a person’s body—didn’t end up curing broken hearts when the rod was pressed against the patient’s chest, the practice was a forerunner to electric surgical instruments. And while doctors were misguided in prescribing the poison arsenic to treat syphilis and skin conditions, a form of the chemical has been used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia.

But plenty of other techniques were downright useless, if not dangerous. Early women’s health recommendations included everything from naturalist Pliny the Elder’s insistence that consuming powdered sow’s dung relieved labor pains, to the medieval Italian advice that keeping weasel testicles near one’s bosom was an effective form of contraception. And in American history, misguided medicine ran rampant, especially before steps such as the 1906 Food and Drugs Act, the first major consumer protection law to crack down on misleading food and drug labels, and the formation of the Food and Drug Administration in the ’30s. Even today, despite increased consumer protection, misleading medical claims are still out there.

“We have to be really careful when we’re looking for an easy cure,” Kang tells TIME. “Generally things aren’t that easy, so that should make you a little bit suspicious.”

TIME spoke to Kang about some of the practices once touted as good medicine that are well known to be harmful today.

Tobacco

During a 1665 plague outbreak in London, schoolchildren were told to smoke cigarettes, which at the time were thought to be disinfectants. In addition, “tobacco smoke enemas”—the source of a common idiom about blowing smoke—were developed as a sort of 18th-century version of CPR by members of The Institution for Affording Immediate Relief to Persons Apparently Dead from Drowning. They would drag the victim out of the River Thames, strip him or her down, and use an enema to literally blow smoke into the person, either manually or with bellows. (Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was invented in the ’50s.)

In 1964, a U.S. Surgeon General report would label cigarettes deadly and urge people to stop smoking.

Cannibalism

The phrase “you are what you eat” can apply to this school of thought. Ancient Romans clamored for gladiator blood for strength and vitality, but it was also thought to be a cure for epilepsy. That rationale appeared to be maintained for centuries, based on Englishman Edward Browne’s 1668 observation that people attended executions to collect the blood of the victims. In the early 1600s, one German physician’s suggested cure for a range of conditions was making a jerky of sorts out of the corpses of 24-year-old redheads, chopping up their bodies and mashing the bits in wine, myrrh and aloe, before dry-curing them.

Now that it’s known that blood can carry disease, the risks of drinking it are obvious — but the use of other people’s body parts for medicine would be legitimized through the development of organ donation and transplantation in the mid-20th century.

Radium

In the early 1900s, when people walked into the spa by in Joachimsthal, Czech Republic, they immediately breathed in irradiated air circulating in the lobby. The source of the radiation was a hot spring that emanated radon. Patients soaked in irradiated water and inhaled radon directly through tubes. A few early studies had claimed that radium placed near tumors could shrink the tumors, so doctors at the time thought more was better. “It’s like the difference between treating something with a bomb and treating something with a scalpel,” says Kang.

Radon exposure is now known to be a leading cause of lung cancer. The invention of the Geiger counter in 1928 would help physicians better measure doses of the chemical, paving the way for medical breakthroughs that would enable radiation to be used for cancer treatments today.

Source: Mind and Body