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Health

Psychologist breaks down why cruises are good for our mental health

Popularity has surged since the pandemic. There's a reason why.

cruise life, cruises, best cruises, mental health
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Not a phone in sight. So beautiful.

Cruise life might have taken a hiatus in 2020 (along with everything else), but post-pandemic business is booming. There are more people embarking on cruises than even in 2019, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (TIME). And with overall prices that are lower than a lot of mortgages and rents, many folks opt to cruise full-time.

So…is it just the competitive prices calling us to sea? The promise of adventure, perhaps? Or is it simply the 24-hour buffet that makes it so intriguing?

A psychologist and cruise enthusiast has some compelling thoughts.


In her essay written for Psychology Today, Mary McNaughton-Cassill, PhD, argues that while cruises “may not be for everyone,” they do provide many psychological benefits that improve our mental health.

For one thing, cruises offer the luxury of pure leisure time, which McNaughton-Cassill says “Americans are starved for.”
mental health

You can hear the silence in this picture.

Canva

And she has a point. When was the last time you didn’t have to use up precious mental energy wondering how dinner was going to be taken care of, who would watch the kids, whether or not anything needs to be cleaned, etc., etc. Even on our regular “days off,” many of us just spend it catching up on ignored chores (aka “housework). In a world where burnout and errand paralysis are very, very real, it’s no wonder why having everything taken care of is a grand fantasy.

Second, McNaughton-Cassill explained that going on a cruise all but forces someone to be without their phone for a bit, which helps ease feelings of loneliness.

happy people on a cruise

It's nice not to be lonely.

Canva

Loneliness might have been an issue exacerbated by the pandemic, but it certainly existed before that—and has been on the rise since the 1970s. We know that technology is a double-edged sword in this arena, offering us constant contact through endless pings and social media but often very little community.

But while out at sea, where wi-fi is hardly worth the high price, you can put the phone away without a second thought, and instead enjoy the simple pleasure of connecting with new people. Everyone from the staff to the servers to your fellow travelers get to know you by name, which is a stark contrast to the social cut-off-edness of “real life.”

And for the introverts for whom this scenario sounds like a nightmare, you have the permission to bask in the sweetness of your own thoughts during your social media detox…which honestly could probably still help with the loneliness thing.

Lastly, McNaughton-Cassill notes that going on cruises exposes us to two very therapeutic things most of us get too little of—music and nature. We know that both are good for our physical and mental well-being, and cruise travelers, as they soak up the sun, enjoy the ocean waves, listen to live bands and maybe even dance a little, are certainly exposed to all kinds of these natural remedies.

cruise life

Sunbathe by day, dancing by night.

Canva

It makes sense that in our busy, jam-packed lives, the thought of getting multiple needs met all in one go would be attractive to many people. But even if that sweet cruise life isn’t the right fit for you, finding ways to actually relax, unplug and nourish the soul are so very important. Hopefully if reading this didn’t inspire you to buy a ticket, it at least reminded you to book that overdue massage or slip back in that favorite book for a few hours.

via Pixabay

A sad-looking Labrador Retriever

The sweet-faced, loveable Labrador Retriever is no longer America’s favorite dog breed. The breed best known for having a heart of gold has been replaced by the smaller, more urban-friendly French Bulldog.

According to the American Kennel Club, for the past 31 years, the Labrador Retriever was America’s favorite dog, but it was eclipsed in 2022 by the Frenchie. The rankings are based on nearly 716,500 dogs newly registered in 2022, of which about 1 in 7 were Frenchies. Around 108,000 French Bulldogs were recorded in the U.S. in 2022, surpassing Labrador Retrievers by over 21,000.


The French Bulldog’s popularity has grown exponentially over the past decade. They were the #14 most popular breed in 2012, and since then, registrations have gone up 1,000%, bringing them to the top of the breed popularity rankings.

The AKC says that the American Hairless Terrier, Gordon Setter, Italian Greyhound and Anatolian Shepherd Dog also grew in popularity between 2021 and 2022.

The French Bulldog was famous among America’s upper class around the turn of the 20th century but then fell out of favor. Their resurgence is partly based on several celebrities who have gone public with their Frenchie love. Leonardo DiCaprio, Megan Thee Stallion, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Reese Witherspoon and Lady Gaga all own French Bulldogs.

The breed earned a lot of attention as show dogs last year when a Frenchie named Winston took second place at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and first in the National Dog Show.

The breed made national news in early 2021 when Gaga’s dog walker was shot in the chest while walking two of her Frenchies in a dog heist. He recovered from his injuries, and the dogs were later returned.

They’ve also become popular because of their unique look and personalities.

“They’re comical, friendly, loving little dogs,” French Bull Dog Club of America spokesperson Patty Sosa told the AP. She said they are city-friendly with modest grooming needs and “they offer a lot in a small package.”

They are also popular with people who live in apartments. According to the AKC, Frenchies don’t bark much and do not require a lot of outdoor exercise.

The French Bulldog stands out among other breeds because it looks like a miniature bulldog but has large, expressive bat-like ears that are its trademark feature. However, their popularity isn’t without controversy. “French bulldogs can be a polarizing topic,” veterinarian Dr. Carrie Stefaniak told the AP.

american kennel club, french bulldog, most popular dog

An adorable French Bulldog

via Pixabay

French Bulldogs have been bred to have abnormally large heads, which means that large litters usually need to be delivered by C-section, an expensive procedure that can be dangerous for the mother. They are also prone to multiple health problems, including skin, ear, and eye infections. Their flat face means they often suffer from respiratory problems and heat intolerance.

Frenchies are also more prone to spine deformations and nerve pain as they age.

Here are the AKC’s top ten most popular dog breeds for 2022.

1 French Bulldogs

2 Labrador Retrievers

3 Golden Retrievers

4 German Shepherd Dogs

5 Poodles

6 Bulldogs

7 Rottweilers

8 Beagles

9 Dachshunds

10 German Shorthaired Pointers


This article originally appeared on 03.17.23

Pop Culture

Woman who moved to Italy lists the most basic human needs Americans now have to pay for

Remember when these things used to be free? They still are in some places.

Representative image from Canva

If you're feeling like everything is just out of reach, you're not alone.

How many times have you, or someone in your circle, made this joke:

“I can’t seem to go outside without spending money!

But, as with many jokes, there’s some dark truth layered in. Life just feels a little hard right now for many of us when it comes to finances. And one person has hit the nail on the head as to why. Spoiler alert: it probably has nothing to do with anyone being lazy.

Amber Cimiotti, a mom of two and expat living in Italy, begins her video by noting how America has removed naturally occurring activities like “exercise, talking to friends, connecting with people, spending time with our kids,” from everyday life. And so now, Americans only have access to these very necessary things if they are able to pay for them.


For example—let’s talk about exercise. Cimiotti notes how "there's not many places, neighborhoods, and cities where it's super easy to walk everywhere, where you can get a lot of natural exercise, whether it's walking to and from your house or to the grocery stores. This just doesn't exist for most people now, so you have to wake up earlier on your lunch break or after work; you have to go to the gym so you can get in your exercise." Which means someone has to have anywhere between $40 to upwards of $300+ a month to invest in their physical health in this way.

Next up—mental health resources, primarily in the form of real conversations in a supportive community. Cimiotti says “people are meant to share their struggles, their stories, everyday, constantly. And we’re not doing that. And what do you see happening? Nowadays, everybody needs a therapist. Yes, therapy is needed for some things but most people just need to be talking to people way more. And I don’t mean like trolling on the internet.”

Also—child care. "There used to be kids running around neighborhoods all the time. Parents didn't have to pay all this extra money to do activities so their kids can be involved in things; parents didn't have to drive all over the place... But now that doesn't exist. So we do need to pay for activities,” Cimiotti says.

Lastly—food. “Eating healthy food in America is a part-time job, if not a full-time job…it would all be so much easier if we just had healthy food in general.” I don’t think Cimiotti needs to convince anyone here that quality food (food in general, really) is definitely not accessible for many folks, and high prices are at least partially to blame.

“The point is when things don’t happen naturally in your day and you need to take extra energy to achieve basic things like healthy food, exercise, talking to friends, which helps regulate emotions and things like that…when you have to build those into therapy sessions, exercise sessions, hobbies, reading 17 books…of course you’ll be tired,” Cimiotti concludes with a big sigh.

@ciaoamberc #america #culture #family #friends #parenting #society ♬ original sound - Ciao AmberC

Down in the comments, people seemed to really resonate with what Cimiotti had to say.

One reader commented, “I’m totally convinced that a lot of therapy effects could be achieved by processing time with an array of friends in different stages of life. Which isn’t possible to mutually schedule like therapy.”


And while Cimiotti’s video might be sobering, she tells Buzzfeed that her hope is it can lead to more conversations that “help lead to a change.”

Judging by some of the viewer reactions, it seems she’s succeeded, at least in helping people not blame themselves for their challenges. One person shared, “It’s so validating to hear cause I feel like I never have enough time to just live well and not be completely exhausted and have space left to do fun stuff!”

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.

@rachelrboice/TikTok

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

Tennessee state senator gives fiery speech on arming teachers

Every once in a while a state's bill will make a blip on national media that causes people to dig a little deeper into what's happening. One such bill made headlines last year for a brief time before a new bill from another state took it's place.

After a tragic school shooting in the state of Tennessee where six people were killed, including three young students, state politicians began talking about arming the teachers. The idea was if teachers were armed then they would be able to stop school shooters, but the bill was widely unpopular among teachers and many parents. That didn't stop the state legislature from drawing up the bill and putting it up for a vote April 2024.

Many parents showed up to Tennessee State Senate to protest the bill, but it was the fiery speech of State Senator London Lamar that has people talking.


The new mom held her infant son in her arms while she addressed her colleagues who saw fit to laugh after moms protesting the bill were asked to leave. Lamar did not hold back in not only expressing her disappointment in her colleagues behavior but their disregard for very real concerns that she also shares with the people asked to leave.

"We are literally talking about arming educators who took an oath to teach our kids writing and arithmetic and how they can one day contribute to Tennessee's great economy, and we're now turning them into law enforcement agents by arming them with guns. We think this piece of legislation is going to keep kids safe which is probably going to enable the next school shooter, and it's not going to be someone coming in from the outside. It's unfortunately going to be a teacher with this piece of legislation," Lamar declares.

You can watch her passionate speech below:

@iamcalledlucas/Instagram, used with permission

We need every Lucas version of Taylor's songs.

Sure, Taylor Swift did a great job at writing, performing in and directing her “Fortnitemusic video (which has only dropped a couple days ago and already at over 30 million views)…but you know what could make it even better? Having a dog perform all the parts, that’s what!

And that’s exactly the treat we received, thanks to an adorable dachshund named Lucas.

The clip (aptly titled “Fortnight (Lucas’ version)”) recreates the music video’s black-and-white typewriter scene, where the camera alternates between a moody Swift and Post Malone clacking as they lament about how much love is “ruining” their lives. you know, basic tortured poets stuff.


Only this time, Lucas plays both the roles—costumes as all! Major kudos to Lucas’ parent, who clearly has an eye for detail and camera angles. Both the original video and Lucas’ video play simultaneously so you can really see how similar they are.

“I look like @taylorswift in this light, i’m lovin’ it 🤭🤍,” the clip caption says.

Watch below. Spoiler alert: get ready to see little doggy paws in lace gloves.

Down in the comments, people were enthralled.

One person wrote, "THIS NEEDS MORE ATTENTION”

"Magical!!!!!!!" another added.

Though clearly Lucas’s is a whole ‘nother level of Swiftie, is he not the only dog to be a fan. In an experiment produced by WoofWoof, dogs were “visibly more relaxed” by her music than other artists in the study. Her songs got more tail wagging and even more “howls of approval.” That’s right, her music transcends species.

Just like Taylor Swift, Lucas has many, many more music videos where they came from, including “The Archer,” “Hoax” and “You Belong with Me.” And just like Swift, he outdoes himself with every new project.

Check out even more of his content on Instagram and TikTok.