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Physical fitness is a general state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupations. Physical fitness is generally achieved through correct nutrition, moderate-vigorous physical activity, exercise and rest. It is a set of attributes or characteristics seen in people and which relate to the ability to perform a given set of physical activities.

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21 January 2021

  • DIY Pain Hacks for Ankylosing Spondylitis

    Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that primarily affects your spine. The main symptoms, pain and stiffness, can become worse after periods of inactivity.

    So if you have AS, you may sometimes feel like the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” before he finds relief from his can of oil. 

    Although AS (also called spondyloarthritis, or axSpA) is a progressive condition without a cure, some treatments can help you find relief from that locked-up feeling. Here, we take a look at where AS pain can crop up and ways to alleviate it. 

    Ankylosing spondylitis pain

    AS commonly affects the spine, but you may also have pain or stiffness in other parts of your body. Your pain may even start elsewhere before affecting your back.

    Here’s a look at some of the joints and other areas that may cause you trouble.


    The spine is the most common site of AS-related pain. That’s because the condition causes inflammation in your vertebrae. Over time, AS can even cause these bones to fuse together, leading to severe stiffness as well as posture and mobility issues.

    Buttocks and hips

    AS can be a literal pain in the butt. The condition often starts in the lower back with inflammation and damage to the sacroiliac (SI) joints. The SI joints connect your hip bones to your sacrum, or the base of your spine. Aggravated SI joints can cause hip, pelvic, and buttock pain.

    Neck and shoulders

    Over time, as AS progresses, inflammation may spread and can lead to stiffness in your neck, upper back, and shoulders as well. If left untreated, over time, the inflamed and fused areas can coalesce.

    Rib cage

    AS can also affect the cartilage between your breastbone and your ribs. If AS affects your rib cage, breathing in and filling your lungs with air can become painful or difficult. But this type of impairment is somewhat rare.

    Additional joints

    AS isn’t like having a bum knee after years of crushing it on the soccer field or basketball court. It’s a systemic disease that can take a toll on different parts of your body.

    Although the condition is characterized by back pain, you may have more widespread pain or arthritis-like symptoms that affect your hips, knees, elbows, wrists, and ankles as well.

    Enthesitis, or inflammation in the spots where your tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules attach to bone, can also cause pain in areas like the backs of your heels. 

    Treatment tips

    AS treatment is important to prevent or slow the progression of related complications, such as joint damage or permanent posture or mobility issues.

    Treatment options for AS range from medications and surgery to self-care. Many people with AS treat their condition with a combination of therapies, which may include any of the following: 

    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs like naproxen can help reduce inflammation, pain, and stiffness. They’re often used as an early line of defense when AS first shows up, as well as during mild flares. Some are available over the counter, while others are prescription-only. 
    • Analgesics. Analgesics like acetaminophen may be recommended for pain relief in addition to NSAIDs. 
    • Biologics. Most people with AS need treatment with a biologic medication, such as a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker or an interleukin-17 (IL-17) inhibitor. These medications are taken by self-injection at home or as a shot or infusion at your doctor’s office. They work by targeting and blocking inflammation in your body that contributes to AS to help control symptoms and prevent disease progression.
    • JAKs. If you can’t take a biologic, your doctor may prescribe a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor. This oral medication helps halt the immune response that promotes inflammation.
    • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Traditional DMARDs are not typically prescribed to treat AS. But they may sometimes be used to treat AS inflammation that extends beyond the back and pelvic areas.
    • Corticosteroids. These medications are also not commonly used to treat AS. But you may get a corticosteroid injection in your knee, shoulder, or ankle joint for quick relief when inflammation is causing pain or mobility issues.
    • Physical therapy. Many people with AS see physical therapists. These specialists can teach you exercises and stretches that help enhance or preserve mobility or relieve pain when inflammation flares up.
    • Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can help you find ways to protect your joints as you go about daily activities. If necessary, they can also recommend assistive devices that make tasks easier.
    • Surgery. In rare cases where AS has caused severe joint damage or debilitating pain, surgical options like joint replacement may be recommended. 
    • Exercise. Movement can help prevent or ease joint stiffness and maintain mobility and range of motion. If joint fusion does occur, the body becomes fixed in a more functional position. Core strength exercises and other activities that are kind to your joints can offer many benefits, including pain relief.
    • Self-care. Exercise is just one form of self-care. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, avoiding smoking or vaping, getting enough rest, and protecting your joints during everyday movements are all forms of self-management for AS. 

    Preventing pain

    If you have AS, you may be wondering what steps you can take to avoid feeling like the Tin Man before Dorothy discovers him.

    Any of the following strategies — or a combination of a few — may become your oilcan. Experiment with a variety of approaches to figure out what works best for you.

    • Try the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique teaches you awareness of how posture and movement affect your joints. It also helps you develop ways to protect your body as you go about your day.
    • Make some dietary changes. Although there’s no specific diet for AS, the Mediterranean diet’s focus on anti-inflammatory foods may help. Cutting back on foods that can increase your inflammation, like sugar, might also be beneficial.
    • Try hot or cold therapy. A warm bath or shower can go a long way toward helping you get moving when you wake up feeling as stiff as a board. If you have a hot or swollen joint, like a pesky ankle, an ice pack can help chill out inflammation.
    • Stick to your med schedule. As with any chronic condition, staying on top of your medications and taking them as prescribed is important. But it’s easy to forget that afternoon pill. Set reminders on your phone or ask your pharmacist about packaging options that place all your meds in bubble packets for easy dosing. As a bonus, you can ditch those hard-to-open bottles.
    • Get massages. Whether you go to a professional, ask your partner, or just take a few minutes to rub aching joints yourself, massage can provide temporary relief from pain and stiffness. 
    • Work on managing stress. Regular life can be stressful. Add a chronic condition to the mix and the stress meter can skyrocket. Stress can leave your body tense, adding to stiffness and pain. Find ways to cope with stress that work for you. Journal, read, enjoy a TV show, tend to your ficus and ferns, or just curl up with your cat.
    • Try mindfulness and meditation. Even just 5 minutes of meditation can help you relax, which in turn can ease or stave off your body’s pain response. Plus, who doesn’t need time to just be? #Om.
    • Get moving. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, which can relieve pain and even prevent those dreaded aches. Plus, movement helps you maintain your range of motion. No burpees (ugh!) required, though. Just find a method of movement you enjoy, whether that’s gentle yoga or dancing in your living room.
    • Avoid smoking. Smoking promotes inflammatory processes in the body, so if you’ve picked up the habit, talk to your doctor about a way to nix it. Same goes for vaping.
    • Get enough sleep. Everyone needs an adequate amount of rest. But getting those Zzz’s is even more important for people with chronic pain. That’s because getting too little sleep or experiencing interruptions in sleep can make you more sensitive to aches, creating a vicious cycle. More pain can lead to less sleep.
    • Stretch. Get bendy! OK, maybe not as bendy as the people showing off in the front row in yoga class. But gentle stretching can ease joint stiffness and help you maintain mobility. 

    When to see a doctor

    If you have undiagnosed chronic pain or if your AS pain and stiffness aren’t well-controlled, definitely check in with your healthcare provider.

    You should also talk with your doctor if your AS symptoms change or get worse or if you have an inflamed joint that isn’t responding to your usual methods of treatment. 

    The takeaway

    Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine, but you may experience pain in other joints and in the places where tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules attach to bone. 

    While there’s no cure for AS, many treatment options exist. Self-care methods can also go a long way in helping to prevent or reduce pain and maintain flexibility. It may take a little trial and error to see what combination of treatments and preventive measures will work as well as the Tin Man’s oilcan.

  • Interested in Daily Harvest? Here’s Our Complete Review

    You want a meal subscription service, but make it plant-based, ultra-customizable, and legit delicious. Should you do Daily Harvest?

    This vegan meal delivery service offers chef-crafted meals built on fruits and veggies — and you can pick every single item that goes into your box. In short, it sounds pretty perfect. But how good is it really? We took a test drive to find out.

    The basics: What is it?

    Daily Harvest is a meal subscription service that brings wholesome just-about-ready-to-eat food right to your door.

    Everything on the menu is plant-based and designed by chefs, so it hits that sweet spot of tasting good while also leaving you feeling good. And you can pick exactly what goes into your box, so you never have to worry about getting something you don’t want to eat. 

    Best of all, DH’s menu items are made with convenience in mind, so they can go from fridge or freezer to table in just a few minutes with minimal effort on your part. 

    How it works and what you’ll pay

    Daily Harvest subscription plans are broken down by how many items — like smoothies, harvest bowls, flatbreads, soups, oat and chia bowls, energy bites, and lattes — you want in your order. 

    Pick the number you want delivered each week or month (9, 14, or 24) and customize your order by adding what looks good to your delivery box.

    On the website you’ll find detailed descriptions of each item — including ingredient lists, flavor profiles, and nutrition info — plus customer reviews to give you a sense of how things actually taste. There’s plenty of variety, with 80 products to choose from.

    Then pick your delivery date. You can opt to get your food the same week or start at a later date, if you’re not ready for your box just yet.

    OK, but what will the grand total be?

    It depends on what you want to eat. The final price of your box depends on which items you add to your order. With each item costing between $5.99 and $8.99, you can expect to pay $50 to $80 for a 9-item box, $83 to $125 for a 14-item box, and $143 to $215 for a 24-item box. Shipping is always free (WOOT). 

    After finalizing all your order deets, just sit back and wait for the deliciousness to arrive on your doorstep. Daily Harvest boxes are packed with dry ice, so they can safely sit outside for the day if you’re not home when your delivery arrives.

    The menu: What’s in each box?

    Ever been to a vegan café where everything on the menu sounds simultaneously delicious and ultra-nourishing? That’s the kind of stuff you’ll find in your Daily Harvest box.

    You can choose from fare like:

    • Smoothies. There are more than 25 to pick from, like strawberry + peach, carrot + cinnamon, mint + cacao, and ginger + greens. Just add the ingredients to a blender, pour in your choice of liquid, and blend.
    • Harvest bowls. Find veggie and grain bowls like spinach + shiitake grits, butternut squash + kale shakshuka, and cauliflower rice + kimchi. You can reheat them on the stovetop or in the microwave in just a few minutes.
    • Flatbreads. They’ve got whole-grain crusts and toppings like kabocha + sage, kale + sweet potato, and artichoke + spinach. They take about 25 minutes to reheat, but all you have to do is pop them on a baking sheet and slide it into the oven.
    • Soups. Choose from lighter veggie-based options like tomato + bell pepper gazpacho or sweet potato + miso and heartier ones like lentil + mesquite chili or green chickpea + turmeric. All you have to do is add some water and reheat.
    • Oat bowls. The kind of oatmeal you wish you had the time/energy to make first thing in the morning, with flavor combos like pumpkin + chai, cinnamon + banana, or cherry + dark chocolate. Just add water or milk, reheat, and serve.
    • Chia bowls. A chia pudding base is topped with fresh fruits like vanilla bean + apple or chocolate + almond. Add your liquid the night before, let it soak in the fridge, and it’s ready to eat in the a.m. 
    • Scoops. Vegan ice cream, anyone? These plant-based pints come in flavors like vanilla + black sesame, mint + cacao, and vanilla + salty caramel. And they’re ready to eat straight from the container. 
    • Bites. These are basically DH’s take on energy balls, made from nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. You’ll get seven in an order (enough for a week… or not) and can pick from flavors like hazelnut + chocolate, coconut + lemon, or peach + almond.
    • Lattes. Mix one of the latte pods — in flavors like matcha + lemongrass, chaga + coffee, or ginger + turmeric — with milk, blend to make it frothy, and then heat it up and drink. 
    • Mylks. DH just rolled out a new line of DIY almond milk pods. Basically, you mix the preground almonds with water to make your own smooth, silky almond milk that’s free of additives and fillers (and tastes super fresh). 

    Taste test: Our editors weigh in

    After sampling a box of just about everything Daily Harvest has to offer, we were impressed. We gave top marks for flavor, sustainability (the packaging is recyclable and compostable), wholesome ingredients, and ease of preparation. We took away points for postblending cleanup and some meals that didn’t quite deliver.

    The smoothies were our favorite by far — seriously, so👏 good👏 — with harvest bowls, oat bowls, and soups vying for second place.

    There really wasn’t anything we didn’t like, although we weren’t totally thrilled by the flatbreads. If you don’t bake them just right, they can turn out limp and mushy. Also, flatbreads without cheese just feel a bit wrong… right?

    For some, all-veggie meals may not be enough to fully satisfy hunger. In certain cases, we found that adding a few ounces of protein (like cooked chicken, beans, or a sprinkle of cheese) really rounded out the dish.

    The bottom line

    Daily Harvest is leading the pack when it comes to frozen meals, and the food really does taste good. Our editors found that it’s a fantastic way to sprinkle nutritious eats throughout the week or fill in any meal plan gaps.

    Nutrition: Is it really good for you?

    The short answer? Yes. Wholesome, plant-based ingredients like veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans form the base of Daily Harvest’s offerings. So by design, the meals are rich in fiber, antioxidants, plant protein, and healthy fats — all good stuff that helps your body thrive. Some of the ingredients are organic too. 

    DH says its products are created by chefs and nutritionists. But everyone’s nutritional needs are different, so these meals may not be the right fit for all. Also, on par with many other frozen foods, some of DH’s offerings have a fair amount of sodium.

    Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether DH’s vegan meals are right for you. The good news is DH makes it pretty easy: The website lists the full ingredients and nutrition info for every item, so you can see if it’s a good fit for your diet. 

    The bottom line

    Quick look: The pros

    • Setting up your subscription is fast and easy.
    • There’s lots of variety, so you won’t get bored.
    • The meals are made with wholesome, plant-based ingredients.
    • The nutrition info is easy to navigate.
    • The boxes are super customizable.
    • Delivery is free. 
    • The food comes packed on dry ice, so you don’t have to worry about bringing it inside ASAP. 

    Quick look: The cons

    • The food requires few minutes of prep work — like blending smoothies, adding water to soups before reheating, or soaking chia puddings overnight.
    • You’re assigned a delivery day of the week, but you don’t know what time your delivery will show up.
    • It might be more expensive than cooking for yourself.
    • You have to deal with getting rid of the packaging and dry ice.
    • The fully plant-based menu may not fit all nutritional needs. 

    So… is it worth it?

    Daily Harvest can definitely be a good way to eat well if you’re looking for wholesome plant-based meals but don’t want to spend time shopping or cooking.

    The food requires a teeny bit of prep work and you won’t know what time your delivery might show up, but all things considered, those aren’t deal-breakers. We say try it!

    Want to try it?

    Order Daily Harvest online.

  • Just the Facts: Alcohol

    Here’s “Just the Facts,” a series where we scour Greatist’s archives for the most vital need-to-know nuggets on any given subject. It’s the no-noise info you gotta have, the way you gotta have it.

    Design by Wenzdai Figueroa

    If you enjoy a cold beer at a BBQ, cocktail nights with friends, wine tasting events, or a drink with dinner, you’re not alone: According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 85 percent of adults in the United States drink alcohol at some point in their lives. 

    Just as the reasons people drink are highly varied, so too are the effects it has on our health. The negatives are often promoted, and for good reason. 

    But on the flip side, consuming alcohol in moderation has been shown to have an array of positive benefits, and we’re not just talking about feeling more confident and relaxed in social situations. Plus, it’s not only for drinking!

    So, grab a glass as we pop the cork on 29 facts about alcohol.

    Measure for measure

    These shot-sized stats are perfect for downing in one gulp (just be sure not to take them on board toofast).

    1. 4 or more drinks in 2 hours = too much

    This is the consumption amount that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classes as binge drinking for people with vaginas. If you have a penis, the amount is five-plus drinks in the same period.

    2. 1 in 6 adults binge drink

    And not just on the odd occasion, either. This happens an average of four times per month.

    3. 1 is the magic number

    It takes the human body 1 hour to process one standard-sized drink — check out what this actually equates to.

    4. Booze stays in your bloodstream for up to 12 hours

    Whenever you start your clock, you probably shouldn’t drive to work if you had a couple of glasses of wine straight before bed.

    5. It hangs around in other areas much longer

    Traces of booze can remain in your pee and saliva for up to 24 hours, and in your hair(!) for 3 months.

    6. People with vaginas can have 1 drink per day

    According to government guidelines, having one drink per day won’t lead to negative health impacts for vagina owners. People with penises can have two drinks per day without negative health impacts. “One drink” varies by alcohol type, so check out this guide.

    7. One bottle of wine = 700 calories

    That’s more than 1/3 of a vagina owner’s recommended daily allowance (and more than 1/4 of a penis owner’s).

    8. Up to 36 percent of Asians experience alcohol flush syndrome (AFS)

    As one Greatist writer shared, this means that your body is less able to metabolize alcohol — leading to effects such as nausea, dizziness, and heart palpitations. Yikes.

    A toast to good health

    What if we told you that sipping on vintage vino offers more than just good taste? While this isn’t the green light to throw back a bottle a night, alcohol (in moderation) can benefit well-being in a variety of ways.

    9. Wine hearts us as much as we heart wine

    Alcohol can positively affect our tickers, thanks to its phenol content — which has been shown to help protect against heart disease and boost levels of “good” cholesterol, among other factors.

    10. Small and steady wins the race

    Having a more modest drink (or 1/2 that) on a semi-regular basis can help lower your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke, especially later on in life.

    11. A + B ÷ ᥰ = a bottle of beer

    Next time you’re puzzling over the newspaper crossword or some furniture assembly instructions, crack open a cold one. In one small study, those with a blood alcohol content of 0.075 percent were better — and faster — at solving problems compared to sober peers.

    12. Alcohol can be one of nature’s smoothest operators

    Forget sucking on a lozenge next time you’ve got a sore throat: A lil’ gargle of whiskey (mixed with a couple of other ingredients) could be just the ticket for easing that sting.

    13. Red or white can lead to less cold blues

    Two separate studies found that moderate wine drinkers were at lower risk of developing a cold.

    14. Our bodies like them apples (cider)

    Due to its apple content, this fermented beverage comprises anthocyanins — which are key in fighting inflammation in your body. Cider has more well-being boosters too.

    When drinking ain’t so neat

    While the hangover headaches, fuzzy tongues and I-really-hope-I-didn’t-message-my-ex moments of panic eventually subside, taking on too much alcohol can create an array of longer-term negative effects.

    15. The binge could be bad (unless we’re talkin’ Netflix)

    There are plenty of celebratory and not-so-celebratory reasons someone might want to do a drinking marathon. But with binge drinking effects ranging from anxiety issues to increased risk of breast cancer, considering alternatives may be worth your while.

    16. Too much liquor is a heart-kicker

    Drinking several times per week can increase your risk of developing atrial fibrillation — a condition linked to both heart attack and stroke. Alcohol-free rosé, anyone?

    17. Cutting back leads to sweeter dreams

    While alcohol might help you pass out more easily, drinking can actually decrease sleep quality by up to 40 percent. So, swap that evening G&T for a mug of hot cocoa.

    18. Booze isn’t a big fan of your brain cells

    If cracking open a beer after work is your way of relaxing, think about seeking an alternative. Drinking one or two every night can contribute to memory loss and brain shrinkage.

    19. Going bottoms up can result in a runny bottom

    Yup, it’s exactly as it sounds. A night of cocktails will make you pee more and likely lead to diarrhea.

    Kitchen cocktails

    From the bottle to the pan — some of the most popular spirits can work the taste magic when combined with the right ingredients.

    20. You can use beer for healthy cooking

    Forget wasting a good ale on beer pong and incorporate it into tasty dishes instead. These 26 recipes — including everything from Belgian waffles to Brazilian marinated chicken — take this traditional brew to a whole new level.

    21. Wine elevates your dine in more ways than one

    You might enjoy a glass of red alongside a bowl of pasta or a tender rack of lamb, but what about adding a dash into your meal? From decadent brunches to sumptuous desserts, we’ve plenty of recipe ideas to make a splash.

    22. Yes, you can have rum for breakfast

    Liven up your pancakes with booze-soaked or glazed fruit. It’s still healthy(ish). We’re totally on board with this idea of pancakes topped with caramelized pineapple slices.

    23. Alcohol can actually *cool things off*

    If that extra pinch of spice to your curry was a big mistake, a swig of alcohol can prove just as effective at calming things down as a glass of milk. Find out which splash is the best extinguisher.

    Keep the change

    Want to cut back on your alcohol consumption but feeling a bit uncertain about it all? Here are some tips to get you started on the road to success, along with insights of what to expect.

    24. “Drying off” takes planning

    The month-long no-booze challenge known as “Dry January” can be a great launchpad for reducing your intake in the long term. We’ve got all you need to know and how to get involved safely (because sometimes going cold turkey isn’t the best plan of action).

    25. Side effects can come from all sides

    Alcohol is a drug, so your body will likely experience some kind of withdrawal symptoms, depending on your usual intake. Withdrawal symptoms can include twitching, anxiety, cold sweats and trouble sleeping — so cut back slowly to help reduce their impact.

    26. The sugar cravings will abound

    When your brain no longer receives a reward in the form of a cool glass of beer, it seeks gratification elsewhere — often via sweet treats. So, don’t be surprised if your pantry starts to look like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

    27. It helps to think happy thoughts

    As this article reveals, training your thoughts on the good things that will come from resisting a first (or second) drink is one approach to help thwart temptation.

    28. Your social life will change

    Social nights often highlight drinking, so there’s bound to be some shifts. But as writer Rachel found, giving up booze helped transform her friendships in positive ways.

    29. Being teetotal could suit you to a tee

    Aside from no more hangovers, going alcohol-free can provide an array of lifestyle benefits. And, as one Greatistwriter discovered, many are highly pleasant (and welcome) surprises.

    Ding! That’s the bell for the last call, so we’re going to grab our coats and head off. Whether you want to continue enjoying a regular drink or two, cut back on your consumption, or ditch the booze altogether, there’s no judgment from us.

    Just remember to stay safe and enjoy everything in moderation.

    Chantelle Pattemore is a writer and editor based in London, UK. She focuses on lifestyle, health, beauty, food, and fitness.

  • Smiling Through the Sadness? You Can Still Have Depression

    Depression is more than a fancy word for feeling “bummed out.” It’s a serious condition that manifests differently in each person. It can sometimes be hard to tell if someone you know is depressed… especially if they have smiling depression.

    Smiles don’t usually come to mind when we think about depression. But some folks mask their symptoms by putting on a “happy face” and making it appear that they’re perfectly content to the outside world.

    What exactly is smiling depression?

    Smiling depression is not formally recognized as a diagnosis or active condition by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), American Psychological Association (APA), or other psychology organizations.

    It is essentially a term used to describe a person who has depression but appears happy and “put together” to others.

    Symptoms of smiling depression

    Depression is different for everyone. Symptoms usually come on gradually over time — it can also hit you all at once. But there are some common side effects.

    In addition to a chronic feeling of sadness, symptoms can include:

    • low energy
    • problems sleeping
    • fatigue or lethargy
    • difficulty concentrating
    • feelings of hopelessness
    • irritability or mood swings
    • avoiding social interactions
    • anxiety or feelings of worry
    • changes in appetite and weight
    • low self-esteem or low self-worth
    • loss of interest or enjoyment in things once loved

    Folks with smiling depression may experience any or all of these symptoms, but appear totally fine or even happy. To the outside world they might:

    • appear to be cheerful, happy, and optimistic
    • seem to have high energy levels and a positive outlook
    • have a steady job, a healthy family life, and a solid social life

    This outward mask can cover the distress they’re really feeling. A person with smiling depression may also have thoughts like:

    • They don’t have depression at all.
    • The world would be better without them.
    • Others have it worse, so they shouldn’t complain.
    • Showing signs of depression is a sign of weakness.
    • They don’t want to burden anyone with what they’re feeling.

    A note on suicide

    Low energy is a common symptom of depression, but those with smiling depression may retain average or high energy levels. This might raise the risk of suicide since it’s hard to tell how they’re really feeling.

    If you or someone in your life needs help:

    • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text “HOME” to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
    • Stay with them while you wait for help to arrive.
    • Remove items that may cause harm like medications, chemicals, or weapons.
    • Call 911 if you think someone is in immediate danger, and you are unable to reach them. Calling 911 should be used with caution.

    Who’s at risk of smiling depression?

    While it can affect anyone, certain factors can put you at a higher risk of smiling depression.

    Life changes

    Losing a job, ending a relationship, dealing with literally any aspect of 2020… these are just a few of the life events that can trigger depression or other mental health conditions.

    Sometimes the signs and symptoms last a long time. But they can also be situational or short-lived.

    Judgements and stigmas

    Even in this “woke” era, there are still cultural and social stigmas surrounding mental health. This might make it tough for people with depression to express how they’re feeling.

    To avoid judgey stares or snide comments from family, friends, or strangers, slapping on a smile can feel like a safer option than feeling weak or attention-seeking (psst… you’re not either of those things!). 

    PSA: According to the American Psychological Association, men are less likely to seek mental health support than women. 

    Social media

    Smiling depression can thrive in a digital world. According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 72 percent of the United States population used at least one social media network in 2019.

    Figuring out what’s fo’ real and what’s been carefully curated can be tough. This can bring on feelings of comparison and inadequacy. Or, it can make you feel like you have to project an image to be liked IRL or on screen.


    Whether we’re putting unrealistic standards on ourselves or feeling pressure from family, friends, or society, living up to expectations can be draining AF. It can be especially triggering for perfectionists, who already hold themselves to impossibly high standards. 

    Just remember, nobody’s perfect!

    How is smiling depression diagnosed? 

    Because smiling depression isn’t a formally recognized condition, you can’t be diagnosed with “smiling depression.” But if you are dealing with symptoms of depression and are able to mask them by smiling or appearing happy, you could still be diagnosed with depression.

    Chat with your doctor if you think you’re experiencing depression. They can give you a proper diagnosis based on your symptoms. They can also refer you to a mental health professional.

    A therapist or psychologist can help you manage your feelings with various forms of psychotherapy. A psychiatrist can also provide you with therapy sessions, and can prescribe meds.

    It might be difficult to diagnose

    Depression can be hard to pinpoint if you appear happy on the outside.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), common symptoms often conflict with those of classic depression. But depression can still exist and be masked by creating an illusion of happiness.

    Treating smiling depression

    Talking with a mental health professional can be super beneficial. They can help you come up with a personalized plan to help you manage your feelings.

    Depression treatments may include:

    You can also opt for online therapy or a therapy app.

    Be patient with the process

    Treating depression can take time and patience, but you got this. Just know you have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s OK to ask for help!

    Helpful resources

    There are lots of online resources that can provide support. 

    Lifeline chat

    Lifeline provides services and support via web chat. It’s run by the folks who manage the suicide prevention lifeline.

    National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)

    NAMI’s got an awesome list of over 25 resources that will help you find treatment and request financial assistance. They can also keep you updated on the latest research and more.

    Greatist’s resources 

    You can find a variety of information and resources right here at Greatist, such as our favorite online therapy or online psychiatry sites (along with much, much more!). 

    How can I help someone with smiling depression?

    Is someone you care about dealing with smiling depression? There are ways you can help. First off, never downplay any comments about suicide or self-harm. If they’re feeling suicidal, help them contact a treatment provider. You should also check in with them on the reg.

    Here are more ways you can help them: 

    • Offer to go with them to a medical appointment.
    • Be mindful of changes in their behavior or routines.
    • Be accepting, supportive, encouraging… and NOT judgmental.
    • Note if they’re withdrawing (like if they don’t respond to messages or if they cancel plans).
    • Let them know that they have people in their corner and that they’re not alone.

    You can also do nice things for them. Bring them their fave food, help them with chores or errands, offer to babysit, or just have a good ol’ fashioned hang. It can go a long way!

  • Proceed with Caution: The Truth About Activated Charcoal Toothpaste

    In the millennial-favorite Nickelodeon cartoon “The Fairly OddParents,” local heartthrob Chip Skylark has an iconic song: “My Shiny Teeth and Me.”

    “My shiny teeth that twinkle, just like the stars in space!” Chip sings. “My shiny teeth that sparkle, adding beauty to my face!”

    Indeed, the value of a bright smile — especially in the U.S. — is no secret. So it’s not surprising that when a new teeth whitening ingredient comes on the scene, there’s quite a bit of buzz.

    Pomachka/Getty Images

    But, as is common with super hyped ingredients, actually digging into the research around activated charcoal toothpaste reveals a more complicated story. There’s little evidence to support the use of charcoal to whiten teeth or freshen breath, and it might not even be that safe to use.

    So before you get your hopes too high — or open your wallet — learn what activated charcoal actually does to teeth, and what else you can do to put the pearly back in your pearly whites.

    What is activated charcoal?

    Activated charcoal (not to be confused with the charcoal you use on a grill) is a fine, black powder made by processing organic materials (like wood, coal, or coconut shells) in extremely high heat. This processing creates millions of tiny holes, making activated charcoal uniquely porous and abrasive.

    Activated charcoal is not a long-term solution

    Before we get any further we should say, there are a total of zero clinical studies on humans to back up claims that activated charcoal whitens teeth and it also isn’t approved by the FDA for teeth whitening purposes.

    In fact, brushing with such a harsh agent can actually be counterproductive, damaging teeth and leading to more yellowing down the line.

    “[It] may work for one person but can also do a lot of harm for the next. That’s because we all have different habits and also different needs,” says Dr. Zainab Mackie, DDS.

    It can appear more effective than it really is

    The stark difference between the look of teeth when they’re covered in black charcoal and once they’re rinsed clean could make you feel like your teeth are whiter than when you started, when there hasn’t actually been a change.

    The risk outweighs the benefit

    The theory goes that activated charcoal’s natural abrasiveness whitens teeth by scrubbing off surface stains while it’s porousness freshens breath by sopping up stray bacteria and particles in the mouth. (This is also why you’ll often see it marketed in charcoal soaps and beauty products as “toxin-absorbing.”)

    While it stands to logic that an abrasive agent like activated charcoal could remove some types of extrinsic teeth staining, i.e. stains on the outer layer of enamel — and that it could make breath fresher by absorbing odorous mouth bacteria — it’s really not worth the long-term risk.

    Our enamel — the outer layer of our teeth — protects our teeth, explains Mackie. “When you start to strip off that outer layer with harsh substances like charcoal, two things happen. First, you remove the white layer. Second, you remove the protective layer and your teeth become more sensitive.”

    But not only that, the second layer — called dentin — is yellow. So once the white enamel thins out, the yellow dentin starts to show through, making your teeth look yellower, she says.

    One 2017 literature review evaluated the research related to charcoal for oral use and found that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove it’s safe or effective, and recommended for dentists to avoid using it in their practice.

    A 2019 review also did not find enough scientific evidence to support charcoal’s whitening effect, but explained it could be used to remove surface stains on teeth with caution. Even the American Dental Association doesn’t recognize it as safe.

    How to brush with it as safely as possible

    If you’re set on using activated charcoal for your teeth, here are some tips to help you do so (somewhat) safely.

    1. Use it sparingly

    Use activated charcoal toothpaste once or twice week at most and remember to brush gently. (For the record, there isn’t an agreed upon recommendation on this, since dentists think it should be avoided altogether.)

    2. Alternate with a fluoride toothpaste

    Many toothpastes with activated charcoal do not include fluoride, which is essential for protecting your teeth from decay! If you insist on using a charcoal toothpaste, says Mackie, make sure the toothpaste you use regularly contains fluoride.

    3. Avoid it if you already have weak enamel

    “If someone has a lot of cavities and consumes acidic drinks often then I would not even recommend it,” says Mackie. “It’s likely that their enamel is already too weak and charcoal will only cause more damage.

    4. Talk to your dentist if you have restorations

    It’s also unclear how activated charcoal interacts with dental restorations like veneers, crowns, or fillings.

    Here are some safer ways to whiten teeth

    There’s myriad options out there to whiten your teeth, from products at the drugstore to DIY concoctions. And everyone’s teeth is going to respond a little differently to each treatment.

    Dr. Mackie explains that rather than hailing one product as a whitening miracle suitable for all, it’s best to tailor your tooth care to your needs. The best way to do this is to consult with a professional.

    In-office bleaching and UV treatments

    At the end of the day, the safest, most effective way to whiten teeth is to go to a licensed dentist for a professional whitening treatment.

    This will typically entail the dentist bleaching teeth with a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide, perhaps in combination with a UV light for additional whitening power.

    Like any treatment, the effectiveness will vary from person to person, depending on the condition of each person’s teeth and their genetics.

    And while it’s largely safe to have a professional whitening treatment, some people do experience prolonged tooth sensitivity.

    At-home products

    If you lack the time or money for a professional tooth whitening treatment, there are at-home options as well. Check out the American Dental Association’s seal of approval pages for whitening toothpastes and strips to be clear that whatever you buy is safe and effective.

    Be sure to proceed with caution if you go with Whitestrips. Read the instructions carefully and don’t use them too frequently to avoid damaging and sensitizing your teeth.

    DIY methods

    To be clear, there aren’t any clinically proven DIY tooth whitening methods.

    Oil pulling or brushing with baking soda could be worth a try. But keep in mind that these methods could also be harmful to your teeth, so it’s a good idea to stop if you start getting tooth sensitivity. Ask your dentist to make sure your at-home method is safe for your pearly whites.

    Remember to practice safe dental hygiene

    Keeping your teeth healthy goes hand-in-hand with keeping them sparkly, and can help prevent stains from appearing from the start.

    Keep up with brushing and flossing

    Like Chip Skylark — the paragon of oral health — tells us in his song, it’s important to brush and floss daily to keep our teeth healthy and sparkly like his.

    Go to your dentist regularly

    The general recommendation is to get a cleaning and cavity check every 6 months. Time to pull up that calendar app!

    Moderate acidic beverages

    Coffee, wine, and soda are all culprits of enamel erosion. If you can’t stay away, Mackie tells us using a straw can help avoid the staining. Just make sure the straw is properly positioned behind your teeth.

    Perfectly white teeth is a Hollywood creation

    While literally blinding the haters with our perfectly white teeth like Chip Skylark may be aspirational, it’s not normal or necessary. Keep in mind that no one is looking at our teeth as closely as we are in the mirror. So keep smiling.

    And our parting advice is to talk to your dentist to find the best option for you rather than spending time and money — not to mention risking the health of your teeth — on overhyped products.