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Boost your Brain: Lifestyle changes that enhance cognitive function in adults

Unlock the secrets to sharper thinking with simple lifestyle tweaks.

Boost your Brain: Lifestyle changes that enhance cognitive function in adults
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Do you often walk into a room and forget why you are there? Or when you sit down to read a book, do you end up reading the same paragraph over and over? If you experience these things frequently, you may be worried that your cognitive function is declining.

The brain structure changes and shrinks as we get older, which can result in minor cognitive decline. However, frequent disorientation, forgetfulness, and difficulty making decisions can be signs of serious cognitive impairment—such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease—that significantly interferes with daily activities and reduces quality of life.

Fortunately, there are some measures you can take and lifestyle changes you can make to potentially improve cognitive function. Many factors contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia risk, and these measures are by no means a guarantee that you won’t develop these conditions. However, they may help protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline by boosting brain connectivity and enhancing cognitive processes.

What are cognitive functions?

Cognitive function is an umbrella term that encompasses various brain activities, ranging from simple to complex. In other words, cognitive functions are the mental processes through which your brain communicates with your body to perform tasks. Some examples of cognitive functions include language abilities, reasoning, problem-solving, planning, decision-making, learning, attention, verbal fluency, knowledge acquisition, and information manipulation.

Types of cognitive impairment

Cognitive functions tend to naturally decline with age, making it difficult to distinguish normal, age-related changes in cognitive functioning from the early stages of disease-associated cognitive decline. For instance, memory difficulty, which is common in older individuals, is also a common symptom of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

Contrary to common misconceptions, not all forms of cognitive decline involve memory problems or difficulty thinking clearly. Some cognitive disorders initially present with sleep problems, behavioral or personality changes, such as poor judgment and impulsivity, or difficulty with environmental interactions.

Furthermore, depending on the cause, cognitive impairment may be temporary or progressive. For example, delirium, a mental state characterized by confusion and disorientation, is temporary, whereas all forms of dementia (including Alzheimer’s Disease) are progressive.

Age-related cognitive decline

Slight cognitive decline and some changes in cognitive performance are normal parts of aging. Most cognitive functions peak around age 30 and subtly decline with advancing age. Age-related cognitive impairments include difficulties with multitasking, retaining information, word-finding, and maintaining attention, as well as an overall decline in thinking and perceptual speed.

It is worth mentioning that not all cognitive abilities decline with age. For many, verbal reasoning, vocabulary, and other aspects of crystallized intelligence remain unchanged or improve with age.

Mild cognitive impairment

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to impairments in cognitive functioning, such as memory loss, that are more severe than in other people of the same age. While these changes in cognitive function are noticeable, they are not severe enough to qualify for a dementia or Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, and they do not interfere with daily cognitive functioning.

Mild cognitive impairment can have various causes, including:

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Infections
  • Medication side effects
  • Early stages of dementia

The cause of cognitive decline often determines the extent of compromised cognitive function in the individual and whether they can expect to suffer progressive cognitive decline. For those whose condition is not progressive, the symptoms of cognitive decline may slow or reverse, and many may return to their previous cognitive abilities.

However, for other individuals, cognitive decline may worsen over time and possibly progress to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, diseases that significantly impair cognitive functioning.

Generally, individuals with mild cognitive impairment have an increased dementia risk, but mild cognitive impairment is not a guarantee of a future dementia diagnosis. Studies examining the risk factors for the progression of MCI to dementia indicate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is three to five times higher for individuals diagnosed with MCI than for those with normal cognitive function.


Dementia is characterized by a loss of behavioral and cognitive abilities that significantly interferes with a person's ability to perform daily tasks, resulting in a reduction in quality of life. The signs and symptoms of dementia typically present when healthy neurons stop working, lose connections, and die. Some neuron loss with age is normal; however, those with dementia experience a much greater loss of cognitive functions.

The signs and symptoms of dementia vary by individual, but typically include:

  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty with fine and gross motor skills
  • Decline in executive functions (e.g., working memory, planning, emotional control, etc.)
  • Difficulty understanding and expressing thoughts
  • Problems reading and writing
  • Reduction in psychomotor speed
  • Repetitive questioning
  • Changes in diet and eating habits
  • Poor judgment and acting impulsively
  • Disorientation in familiar places
  • Taking longer to complete everyday tasks
  • Losing interest in daily activities
  • Hallucinating, delusions, and paranoia
  • Balance and mobility problems

There are several types of dementia, and all are progressive. The most common forms are Alzheimer's disease, in which abnormal protein plaques accumulate in the brain, Lewy-Body dementia, and vascular dementia, which results from blocked or leaky arteries in the brain. Although the underlying cause of dementia disease varies, the effect is the same—reduced cognitive abilities and cognitive impairment.

How to improve cognitive function

The brain shrinks as we age, and the number of synapses and neurotransmitter receptors—both allowing neurons to communicate with each other—decreases. These brain changes can cause minor cognitive impairment, particularly in memory, attention, processing speed, and planning. However, many lifestyle factors affect cognitive function, and changing your routine can help slow age-related cognitive decline.

Regular physical activity

Research shows that physical activity can have a beneficial effect on cognitive function in all age groups. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and neurotrophins, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes neuron growth, repairs brain cells, and helps the brain develop new connections.

Exercise can also increase the volume of the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for forming new memories. Additionally, aerobic exercise is thought to be a factor in minimizing the risk of dementia and other neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain training

Brain training involves regularly engaging in cognitively stimulating activities and exercises challenging information processing and cognitive abilities. Examples include crossword and sudoku puzzles, jigsaws, problem-solving activities, reading and writing, and learning new skills and hobbies.

Memory training is a type of brain training designed to improve episodic memory—remembering events that occur in daily life—and working memory, a type of short-term memory essential to information manipulation. Memory training activities include puzzles, matching games, and word games that involve trying to remember as many words as possible in a given time.

Challenging the brain is known to build up cognitive reserves, aka the brain’s flexibility and agility. This can potentially reduce susceptibility to age-related changes in the brain and decline in cognitive functioning. As such, brain training can also lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and cognitive dysfunction. There’s a plus – regular brain training activities in one sphere can help improve your cognitive abilities in other areas, which, in turn, can preserve your overall cognitive ability.

Stay social

Humans are social animals. Positive social interactions can improve one’s quality of life and the ability to relate to others. People who are isolated may see a degradation of their cognitive ability sooner than those who stay engaged with others.

While research into social interactions and cognitive function is limited, a few trials have yielded positive results, indicating that positive social engagement can increase hippocampal volume and improve memory and overall brain health.

Sufficient rest

Sleep patterns change as we age, with sleep interruptions and early waking becoming increasingly common. Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect attention, memory, and executive functions (higher-level cognitive skills like flexible thinking and self-control).

Lifestyle changes can improve sleep patterns, which can support cognitive function. These include spending more time in the sunlight, maintaining a consistent sleep routine, taking short afternoon naps to counteract nighttime sleep loss, and seeking treatment for sleep problems and disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia.

Foods that can boost cognitive function

Research indicates certain foods can enhance cognitive abilities, protect the brain from damage, and slow cognitive decline. However, the mechanisms by which these foods impact cognitive functioning are unclear.

However, existing research indicates that certain nutrient components can reduce inflammation, oxidative damage, and the buildup of toxic proteins in the brain. These nutrient components may also promote the formation of new synapses and brain cells, prolong the life of existing brain cells, and support the lining of blood vessels, increasing the blood supply and oxygen to the brain.

Some of the best “brain foods” include:


Berries are rich in flavonoids and pelargonidin—natural plant pigments associated with enhanced memory, improved cognitive function, and a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Green leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are rich in brain-boosting nutrients like folate, beta carotene, vitamin K, and lutein. They can help slow cognitive decline and lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Oily fish

Fatty and oily fishes, like tuna and salmon, are rich in omega-4 fatty acids, which can lower levels of beta-amyloid—a protein that accumulates in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease—in the blood.


Soybeans, black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas have high concentrations of anti-inflammatory compounds that can support overall brain health and boost cognitive functioning.

Whole grains

Whole grains are an excellent source of phytonutrients, B vitamins, and antioxidants. They can significantly benefit brain function and lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.


This well-loved spice contains curcumin, a compound that may increase BDNF levels, lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, improve cognitive abilities, and support overall brain health.

Other brain-boosting Foods

Other foods that can improve cognitive function and mitigate cognitive decline include monounsaturated fatty acids, nuts, green tea, dark chocolate, and coffee. Some nutritional supplements, especially those containing vitamins D and B12, can also help support brain health and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.


Cognitive abilities tend to decline as we get older, with many people experiencing subtle changes in cognitive function by or before middle age. However, if these age-related changes are more severe or frequently occurring than those of other individuals in the same age group, they may be signs of mild cognitive impairment.

While mild cognitive impairment does not always progress to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, those with MCI are more likely to develop dementia and other conditions involving significant cognitive decline.

Some lifestyle factors can impact cognitive function and play a role in the likelihood of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and similar conditions. Positive lifestyle changes like brain and memory training, regularly exercising, sleeping well, engaging in social activities, and eating a healthy diet with plenty of “brain foods” can support overall brain health and improve cognitive function. As such, incorporating these lifestyle changes into daily life may help slow age-related cognitive decline, improve cognitive performance, and lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ileah Parker (left) and Alexis Vandecoevering (right)


At 16, Alexis Vandecoevering already knew she wanted to work in the fire department. Having started out as a Junior Firefighter and spending her time on calls as a volunteer with the rest of her family, she’s set herself up for a successful career as either a firefighter or EMT from a young age.

Ileah Parker also leaned into her career interests at an early age. By 16, she had completed an internship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, learning about Information Technology, Physical Therapy, Engineering, and Human Resources in healthcare, which allowed her to explore potential future pathways. She’s also a member of Eryn PiNK, an empowerment and mentoring program for black girls and young women.

While these commitments might sound like a lot for a teenager, it all comes down to school/life balance. This wouldn’t be possible for Alexis or Ileah without attending Pearson’s Connections Academy, a tuition-free online public school available in 31 states across the U.S., that not only helps students get ready for college but dive straight into college coursework and get a head start on career training as well.

“Connections Academy allowed me extensive flexibility, encouraged growth in all aspects of my life, whether academic, interpersonal, or financial, and let me explore options for my future career, schooling, and extracurricular endeavors,” said Ileah.

A recent survey by Connections Academy of over 1,000 students in grades 8-12 and over 1,000 parents or guardians across the U.S., highlights the importance of school/life balance when it comes to leading a fulfilling and successful life. The results show that students’ perception of their school/life balance has a significant impact on their time to consider career paths, with 76% of those with excellent or good school/life balance indicating they know what career path they are most interested in pursuing versus only 62% of those who have a fair to very poor school/life balance.

Additionally, students who report having a good or excellent school/life balance are more likely than their peers to report having a grade point average in the A-range (57% vs 35% of students with fair to very poor balance).

At Connections Academy, teens get guidance navigating post-secondary pathways, putting them in the best possible position for college and their careers. Connections Academy’s College and Career Readiness offering for middle and high school students connects them with employers, internships and clubs in Healthcare, IT, and Business.

“At Connections Academy, we are big proponents of encouraging students to think outside of the curriculum” added Dr. Lorna Bryant, Senior Director of Career Solutions in Pearson’s Virtual Learning division. “While academics are still very important, bringing in more career and college exposure opportunities to students during middle and high school can absolutely contribute to a more well-rounded school/life balance and help jumpstart that career search process.”

High school students can lean into career readiness curriculum by taking courses that meet their required high school credits, while also working toward micro-credentials through Coursera, and getting college credit applicable toward 150 bachelor’s degree programs in the U.S.

Alexis Vandecoevering in her firefighter uniform

Alexis, a Class of 2024 graduate, and Ileah, set to start her senior year with Connections Academy, are on track to land careers they’re passionate about, which is a key driver behind career decisions amongst students today.

Of the students surveyed who know what career field they want to pursue, passion and genuine interest is the most commonly given reasoning for both male and female students (54% and 66%, respectively).

Parents can support their kids with proper school/life balance by sharing helpful resources relating to their career interests. According to the survey, 48% of students want their parents to help them find jobs and 43% want their parents to share resources like reading materials relating to their chosen field.

While teens today have more challenges than ever to navigate, including an ever-changing job market, maintaining school/life balance and being given opportunities to explore career paths at an early age are sure to help them succeed.

Learn more about Connections Academy’s expanded College and Career Readiness offering here.


A juice company dumped orange peels in a national park. Here's what it looks like now.

12,000 tons of food waste and 21 years later, this forest looks totally different.

In 1997, ecologists Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs approached an orange juice company in Costa Rica with an off-the-wall idea.

In exchange for donating a portion of unspoiled, forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste — a nature preserve in the country's northwest — the park would allow the company to dump its discarded orange peels and pulp, free of charge, in a heavily grazed, largely deforested area nearby.

One year later, one thousand trucks poured into the national park, offloading over 12,000 metric tons of sticky, mealy, orange compost onto the worn-out plot.

The site was left untouched and largely unexamined for over a decade. A sign was placed to ensure future researchers could locate and study it.

16 years later, Janzen dispatched graduate student Timothy Treuer to look for the site where the food waste was dumped.

Treuer initially set out to locate the large placard that marked the plot — and failed.

The first deposit of orange peels in 1996.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"It's a huge sign, bright yellow lettering. We should have been able to see it," Treuer says. After wandering around for half an hour with no luck, he consulted Janzen, who gave him more detailed instructions on how to find the plot.

When he returned a week later and confirmed he was in the right place, Treuer was floored. Compared to the adjacent barren former pastureland, the site of the food waste deposit was "like night and day."

The site of the orange peel deposit (L) and adjacent pastureland (R).

Photo by Leland Werden.

"It was just hard to believe that the only difference between the two areas was a bunch of orange peels. They look like completely different ecosystems," he explains.

The area was so thick with vegetation he still could not find the sign.

Treuer and a team of researchers from Princeton University studied the site over the course of the following three years.

The results, published in the journal "Restoration Ecology," highlight just how completely the discarded fruit parts assisted the area's turnaround.

The ecologists measured various qualities of the site against an area of former pastureland immediately across the access road used to dump the orange peels two decades prior. Compared to the adjacent plot, which was dominated by a single species of tree, the site of the orange peel deposit featured two dozen species of vegetation, most thriving.

Lab technician Erik Schilling explores the newly overgrown orange peel plot.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

In addition to greater biodiversity, richer soil, and a better-developed canopy, researchers discovered a tayra (a dog-sized weasel) and a giant fig tree three feet in diameter, on the plot.

"You could have had 20 people climbing in that tree at once and it would have supported the weight no problem," says Jon Choi, co-author of the paper, who conducted much of the soil analysis. "That thing was massive."

Recent evidence suggests that secondary tropical forests — those that grow after the original inhabitants are torn down — are essential to helping slow climate change.

In a 2016 study published in Nature, researchers found that such forests absorb and store atmospheric carbon at roughly 11 times the rate of old-growth forests.

Treuer believes better management of discarded produce — like orange peels — could be key to helping these forests regrow.

In many parts of the world, rates of deforestation are increasing dramatically, sapping local soil of much-needed nutrients and, with them, the ability of ecosystems to restore themselves.

Meanwhile, much of the world is awash in nutrient-rich food waste. In the United States, up to half of all produce in the United States is discarded. Most currently ends up in landfills.

The site after a deposit of orange peels in 1998.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"We don't want companies to go out there will-nilly just dumping their waste all over the place, but if it's scientifically driven and restorationists are involved in addition to companies, this is something I think has really high potential," Treuer says.

The next step, he believes, is to examine whether other ecosystems — dry forests, cloud forests, tropical savannas — react the same way to similar deposits.

Two years after his initial survey, Treuer returned to once again try to locate the sign marking the site.

Since his first scouting mission in 2013, Treuer had visited the plot more than 15 times. Choi had visited more than 50. Neither had spotted the original sign.

In 2015, when Treuer, with the help of the paper's senior author, David Wilcove, and Princeton Professor Rob Pringle, finally found it under a thicket of vines, the scope of the area's transformation became truly clear.

The sign after clearing away the vines.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

"It's a big honking sign," Choi emphasizes.

19 years of waiting with crossed fingers had buried it, thanks to two scientists, a flash of inspiration, and the rind of an unassuming fruit.

This article originally appeared on 08.23.17


3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.

“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes


1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)


1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4


1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano


1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics

O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4


1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)


1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Man shares intrusive thoughts while grieving. It's comedic.

Grief is something that touches everyone. There's no escaping experiencing the pain of losing someone you love. It's one of those human experiences that transcends race, gender and socioeconomic status. If you're a human being on this planet, grief is inevitable and while everyone processes grief differently, there are some similarities.

Kevin Fredricks has been very candid on social media about the unexpected loss of his older brother, Jason Fredricks, last year. Recently, the comedian shared a relatable yet humorous video sharing what his intrusive thoughts have been like this past year while grieving. It takes talent to make such a serious topic funny.

When the video starts out, Fredricks is laying in the bed watching television when out of nowhere you hear an intrusive thought, "Aye, remember that time your brother died? That is wild that it happened. Why'd he die like that, he wasn't even doing nothing and he died? That is so crazy. Oh, don't go to sleep I'll remind you in your dreams."

The intrusive thoughts seem to come when he's either content or enjoying life. They're a stark contrast to what is being portrayed on the screen, yet the realness of the thoughts resonates with a lot of people. Commenters shared their own experiences with intrusive thoughts related to grief.

@kevonstagetiktok I just be minding my business and here come GRIEF to ruin my day.
♬ original sound - kevonstage

"I be laughing and it just come out of nowhere like why you happy," someone shares.

"'Your mother is never going to meet your kids. She would’ve been the best grandma.' Sends me sobbing every time. Intrusive thoughts are so real," another person writes.

"Me in Lowes a couple days ago... crying looking at drill bits bc my dad had the nerve to die," one woman says.

"This has to be one of the most relatable videos about grief! I do this daily thinking about my dad," a commenter writes.

"I really appreciate how chill and casual this grief voice is. Of course sometimes it’s different, but most of the time it’s exactly like this. My father died 8 months ago. Thanks for the laugh," someone shares.

Grief shows up in all sorts of ways, but unexpected intrusive thoughts seem to be one way many in the comments experience extended grief. Fredricks doesn't offer a solution to how to fix the thoughts, his video simply allows space for others experiencing grief to share it with someone else and sometimes that's the best option.

Pop Culture

Airbnb host finds unexpected benefits from not charging guests a cleaning fee

Host Rachel Boice went for a more "honest" approach with her listings—and saw major perks because of it.


Many frustrated Airbnb customers have complained that the separate cleaning fee is a nuisance.

Airbnb defines its notorious cleaning fee as a “one-time charge” set by the host that helps them arrange anything from carpet shampoo to replenishing supplies to hiring an outside cleaning service—all in the name of ensuring guests have a “clean and tidy space.”

But as many frustrated Airbnb customers will tell you, this feature is viewed as more of a nuisance than a convenience. According to NerdWallet, the general price for a cleaning fee is around $75, but can vary greatly between listings, with some units having cleaning fees that are higher than the nightly rate (all while sometimes still being asked to do certain chores before checking out). And often none of these fees show up in the total price until right before the booking confirmation, leaving many travelers feeling confused and taken advantage of.

However, some hosts are opting to build cleaning fees into the overall price of their listings, mimicking the strategy of traditional hotels.

Rachel Boice runs two Airbnb properties in Georgia with her husband Parker—one being this fancy glass plane tiny house (seen below) that promises a perfect glamping experience.

@rachelrboice Welcome to The Tiny Glass House 🤎 #airbnbfinds #exploregeorgia #travelbucketlist #tinyhouse #glampingnotcamping #atlantageorgia #fyp ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

Like most Airbnb hosts, the Boice’s listing showed a nightly rate and separate cleaning fee. According to her interview with Insider, the original prices broke down to $89 nightly, and $40 for the cleaning fee.

But after noticing the negative response the separate fee got from potential customers, Rachel told Insider that she began charging a nightly rate that included the cleaning fee, totaling to $129 a night.

It’s a marketing strategy that more and more hosts are attempting in order to generate more bookings (people do love feeling like they’re getting a great deal) but Boice argued that the trend will also become more mainstream since the current Airbnb model “doesn’t feel honest.”

"We stay in Airbnbs a lot. I pretty much always pay a cleaning fee," Boice told Insider. "You're like: 'Why am I paying all of this money? This should just be built in for the cost.'"

Since combining costs, Rachel began noticing another unexpected perk beyond customer satisfaction: guests actually left her property cleaner than before they were charged a cleaning fee. Her hypothesis was that they assumed she would be handling the cleaning herself.

"I guess they're thinking, 'I'm not paying someone to clean this, so I'll leave it clean,'" she said.

This discovery echoes a similar anecdote given by another Airbnb host, who told NerdWallet guests who knew they were paying a cleaning fee would “sometimes leave the place looking like it’s been lived in and uncleaned for months.” So, it appears to be that being more transparent and lumping all fees into one overall price makes for a happier (and more considerate) customer.

These days, it’s hard to not be embittered by deceptive junk fees, which can seem to appear anywhere without warning—surprise overdraft charges, surcharges on credit cards, the never convenience “convenience charge” when purchasing event tickets. Junk fees are so rampant that certain measures are being taken to try to eliminate them outright in favor of more honest business approaches.

Speaking of a more honest approach—as of December 2022, AirBnb began updating its app and website so that guests can see a full price breakdown that shows a nightly rate, a cleaning fee, Airbnb service fee, discounts, and taxes before confirming their booking.

Guests can also activate a toggle function before searching for a destination, so that full prices will appear in search results—avoiding unwanted financial surprises.

This article originally appeared on 11.08.23


Bring old-school family fun back to the table with these 10 all-age board games

These games are simple enough for young kids to learn but enjoyable for grown-ups as well.


Finding games that are fun for all ages can be a challenge.

As a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

Ah, the joys of family game night. Bonding with your loved ones over the rush of competitive adrenaline. Friendly (hopefully) rivalries and vendettas as you try to vow to vindicate yourself after a crushing defeat. Kids and adults alike learning the subtle art of trash talk—but in the end, also learning to be good winners and losers.

The benefits of playing games together as a family are wide and deep, as games develop both mental skills and shared family memories. And when those games don't involve screens, they can provide a nice tactile respite from the virtual world.

However, finding board games that are simple enough for young kids but don't turn into "bored games" for adults can be a challenge. Most games that adults enjoy are too complex for the kindergarten kiddos and most little kid games are mind-numbing for grown-ups.

But some games strike just the right balance between simple-to-learn and challenging-enough-to-be-interesting, making them fun for nearly all ages. (By the way, even when a game has an age recommendation, that doesn't mean a younger kid can't play it. Just make sure they're past the choking hazard age of putting game pieces in their mouths.)

Here are 10 games that people say their whole family enjoys, from age 4 or 5 all the way up to the grandparents.



Sequence is kind of a mix between a card game and a board game, and it's a great introduction to standard card decks for very young children since they don't need to know the values of them.

On your turn, you place a colored chip on a card on the board that matches one of the cards in your hand, which you then discard and replace with a new card from the draw pile. The goal is to get five of your colored chips in a row on the board. One-eyed jacks let you remove another player's piece and two-eyed jacks are wild. Simple, fun, largely based on the luck of the draw but you can also utilize some strategy to increase your chances of winning.

Find Sequence here.



Blokus is a great game for increasing geometric awareness, and it's also fun for everyone. On your turn, you simply lay one of your pieces on the board, touching any of your other same-color pieces but only at the corner. It starts off easy, but becomes more challenging as the board fills up. The goal is to fit the most pieces on the board. When no more pieces will fit, the player with the fewest remaining pieces wins.

Find Blokus here.

Labyrinth (Junior and Original Editions)


Labyrinth and Labyrinth Junior are both great for a huge range of ages, but if you've got very young ones (like 4 or 5) you might want to start with the Junior edition. Don't worry, it's still fun for adults, but the regular edition is just a bit more of a challenge.

The goal of the game is to collect treasures along the maze, but on each turn a player moves part of the path, changing the way the paths interconnect. The game play is simple, and it's a great one for helping kids understand strategy without directly having to teach them.

Find Labyrinth Junior here and Labyrinth (original) here.

The Uzzle

The UzzleAmazon

The Uzzle is an arranging game, and if you've ever played something like this with kid, you know they can legitimately beat adults at it. There are two main ways to play The Uzzle. Each player gets five cubes with different colored shapes on each size. Then you either have each player draw a card with a pattern on it and whoever arranges their cubes to match their card first wins, or you draw one card that everyone uses and races to complete before anyone else. The cards have four difficulty levels so play can be adjusted to meet the level of players.

Find The Uzzle here.


Dragonimo Amazon

Dragomino is a younger player version of Kingdomino, which is a fan favorite people also say is good for a wide range of ages. Game play is a little challenging to explain without having the pieces in front of you, but here's how it's described:

"Dragomino is a Card Drafting and Tile Placement game using a Pattern Building mechanic. It’s like playing dominoes with a twist! On your turn, Pick a domino to add to your kingdom. Try to match it to the dominoes already in play. Each matching dominoes scores one egg. which is either empty or has a baby dragon inside! Who will find the most baby dragons?" And the reviews are stellar for both Dragomino and Kingdomino (which has a similar game play, just not quite as simple and without the dragon theme).

Find Dragomino here and Kingdomino here.



Qwirkle is Mindware's best-selling board game, providing fun for families since 2006. It's a tile-laying game, similar to Dominos, but with its own twist. Here's a video that explains how to play in two minutes. Basically, you make rows based on either color or shape, playing your tiles and drawing more so that you always have six tiles to work with on each turn. You earn points based on the tiles you play and the player with the most points wins.

Find Qwirkle here.



Yahtzee is a classic for a reason. Though it says ages 8+, younger kids can play with the help of an adult to keep score. Since the play itself only involves rolling the dice from a cup, any age kid can play, and it's actually a great game for teaching adding as they learn to keep score themselves. Super simple and based almost entirely on luck of the roll, it's exciting no matter how many times you play it.

Find Yahtzee here.

Spot It!

Spot It!Amazon

Super simple in play and a test of everyone's powers of observation, Spot It! is more fun than it sounds. Everyone has a stack of cards with the goal to be the first one to get rid of them by matching an item that's on their card with an item that's on the card on top of the discard pile. The items on each card are different sizes, so it's not quite as easy as it sounds. But it's simple enough that the youngest kids can play.

Find Spot It! here.



If you've ever played the dice game Tenzi, Buildzi is from the same creator with a similar premise, only instead of rolling dice, you're racing to stack shapes. Stacking games are a good challenge for all ages, and kids even sometimes have an advantage due to their small hands. Grown-ups may have more developed fine motor skills, though, making for a delightfully even match up. To play, each player gets a card with an arrangement of blocks they have to stack to match without the stack falling over. Kind of a Jenga meets Tetris meets Tenzi game.

Find Buildzi here.



It may look like a game just for little kids, but any adult who enjoys memory games will enjoy Pengoloo. Super simple play instructions from the game maker:

"On each turn, players roll the color dice and look underneath two penguins for eggs of the same color. If you guess right, the penguin hops on your iceberg. But watch out, other players may remember what egg it hides and steal your penguin on their turn! The first to collect six penguins on their iceberg wins."

Find Pengoloo here.

Happy gaming, everyone!

Pop Culture

It turns out Gen Z is resistant to driving and maybe they’re onto something

A growing number of young people say they're afraid to get behind the wheel.

Photo by JD Weiher on Unsplash

The percent of teens getting their driver's licenses has declined signifcantly.

If it feels like you're meeting more and more older teens and young adults who don't have their driver's license, it's not your imagination. Gen Z has been much less interested in driving than previous generations, according to Department of Transportation data shared by USA Today.

In 1983, about half of 16-year-olds had driver's licenses. By 2022, that number declined to about a quarter. During that same time, 18-year-olds with driver's licenses dropped from 80% to 60%.

There are some explanations for what's caused the drop. For one, thanks to video calling, young people don't need to drive to see each other like previous generations did. Even if they do get together in person, improvements in public transportation and the proliferation of ride share offerings like Uber and Lyft have made it easier to do so without a car. Driving is also expensive, especially when you take the higher insurance premiums of young drivers into account. Gen Z has grown up more environmentally conscious than previous generations, and have grown up hearing about the blight of carbon emissions on the planet.

But in addition to that, there appears to be a sharp increase in anxiety around driving, and some experienced adult drivers are defending those fears as warranted.

According to a survey of non-driving teens by insurance comparison website The Zebra, nearly 1 in 4 said that they haven't gotten a license because they are afraid to drive a car. While it's easy to chock that up to the general increase in mental health disorders among young people, the fear of driving may be warranted.

In our car dependent society, choosing not to drive might seem like an odd decision, but there may be some wisdom behind it. As a user on X posted, "Honestly, I don't understand why ppl shame teens for not wanting to know how to drive. Why do we act like it's not terrifying?" and many people shared their experiences of car accidents really messing them up.

Statistically speaking, driving is the most dangerous thing most humans do, and Americans do it more than any other nation. But because we drive so often, the risk factor isn't something we think about as much as maybe we should.

Young people learning to drive today are logically more aware of the risks than previous generations. Ask a boomer what they learned in Driver's Ed and it's a far cry from what Gen Z learns. Boomers didn't even have required seat belts when they learned to drive. Kids today have not only grown up with seat belts but with high tech car seats and various booster seat iterations specific to their age and size. Those safety restraints keep us all safer, of course, but they are also a constant reminder of the dangers inherent in being in a moving vehicle. Being a passenger is one thing, but the responsibility of being the driver of that moving vehicle is entirely another.

Driver education courses have also evolved over the years to include graphic warnings about driving under the influence and distracted driving, which previous generations only got a fraction of. The idea is to scare teens who believe they're immortal into understanding the danger that comes with doing those things, but for young people who are already prone to feeling anxious, seeing those terrifying scenarios can make the fear of driving worse. Most young people I've spoken to who have completed Driver's Ed but aren't in any hurry to get their license say that driving just makes them too nervous. Some of them have decided after a couple of years that they wanted their license, so it's just delayed a bit. Others don't have any plans to and seem to be doing fine with other ways of getting around.

Holding off on driving simply doesn't need to be viewed negatively, especially when the risks of driving are real. Driving may be a valuable skill to have, but there's no reason that skill has to be mastered by a certain age. If a good portion of Gen Z isn't feeling it and choose to walk or bike or carpool or use public transportation instead, more power to them. Those choices are more affordable and better for the environment anyway, so let's embrace the idea that choosing not to drive is a reasonable one and not judge or shame anyone for it.