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Graphic by mbg creative / Robert Waldinger

According to Robert Waldinger, M.D., quality relationships are the foundation of a longer, happier, healthier life. And he would know: The psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, Zen practitioner, and author of The Good Lifecurrently runs the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. Yes, you read that right. Waldinger is the director of the 85-year long Harvard Study of Adult Development, where he investigates over 2,000 participants to answer the question, What makes a good life? (It turns out, your relationships play a pretty powerful role.)

Of course, creating and maintaining successful relationships is a lot easier said than done. In fact, Waldinger says we’re all a bit lacking when it comes to deep social connection—so on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, he offers a few tips to create genuine, long-lasting bonds. Find his advice below.

1. Don’t forget about casual companionship. 

Yes, deep relationships matter when it comes to your health—but those casual, everyday experiences may matter just as much. “We didn’t think they did, but people have begun to study this very systematically1,” Waldinger explains. “The people you might see every day but don’t really know that well or the people you might see once a week—[like] the cashier at the supermarket…When you exchange pleasant words with those people, you get little hits of happiness that turn out to be important for your sense that life is good.” 

That said, say hello to your neighbors. Chat with the coffee shop barista. Exchange words with the person who delivers your mail. These interactions may sound simple, but they have profound effects on your well-being. 

2. Frequent shared spaces. 

You hear it all the time: If you want to make friends, just put yourself out there! Waldinger encourages this literally: “If you put yourself in situations where you encounter the same people repeatedly, you’re more likely to strike up a conversation, and you’re more likely to continue those conversations or deepen them,” he says. Perhaps that’s another reason why community-based wellness centers have become so popular over the last year.

His advice goes hand-in-hand with finding a sense of purpose. If you engage in an activity you care deeply about—volunteering, gardening, a book club, or even a bowling league—you will likely meet people with those shared interests. “You have something in common, and you’re more likely to rub elbows over and over again,” he adds. “It doesn’t matter what it is. Just find something you love, and see if you can do it alongside other people.” 

3. Make online connections better. 

Online connection is better than no connection at all—you just have to figure out how to truly deepen those online relationships. See, technology allows you to be impersonal (it’s easy to pretend you’re just a floating head in cyberspace talking to another floating head on-screen). “Many of us have to figure out how to engineer a personal connection that would naturally happen [for example] in the office around the coffee machine,” says Waldinger. 

And in case you need a real-world example: “Vivek H. Murthy, M.D.,2 our U.S. Surgeon General, started something at his [virtual] staff meetings, where once a week one person takes five minutes to talk to the group about something in their personal life they’d like people to know about,” he explains. “It generates other conversations, because people know about each other’s lives. So that’s just one small way, but we want to try to build in more personal connection, even if it’s online.”

4. Nurture the relationships you have. 

“We take for granted that relationships will just take care of themselves,” Waldinger adds. Make no mistake: Even the deepest, longest relationships require some maintenance. “It turns out, friendships wither and die not because there’s anything wrong with the relationships, but just because they get neglected,” he adds. 

Consider this a sign to call your loved ones. Better yet: “Think of somebody you haven’t seen and kind of miss,” instructs Waldinger. “Take out your phone and just send them a little text saying, I was just thinking of you and wanted to say hi. Just do that and see what comes back. [It] takes you 30 seconds, and it’s a way to start that social fitness routine.” 

The takeaway. 

Don’t ignore the power of social connection when it comes to longevity. Plenty of experts (Waldinger included) believe purposeful relationships are paramount for a long and healthy life. So go ahead and share this episode with a friend—it might benefit your well-being.



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Image by mbg Creative / Stocksy

Unless you’ve been totally off the grid, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about intermittent fasting (IF). The list of IF’s benefits is long and includes weight loss, blood sugar balance, and reduced inflammation. 

A new study helps1 us gain insight into how fasting might affect less obvious parts of our health, specifically our cells’ internal clocks, which control our daily sleep-wake cycle. 





How fasting affects the internal clocks of our cells

For this animal study, researchers separated mice into two groups and fed them the same high-calorie diet. One group got unlimited access to the food, while the other group was limited to a nine-hour eating window, which means they fasted for 15 hours a day. The mice were observed for about 7 weeks, then tissue samples were taken throughout the body and evaluated for genetic changes. 

The results, which were recently published in Cell Metabolism, showed that 70% of genes responded in more than 22 regions of the body—including in the liver, stomach, brain, adrenals, heart, lungs, and intestines, among others—to time-restricted eating. The findings also showed that many of the areas in the body in charge of hormonal regulation, including the circadian rhythm (which is regulated by the hormones cortisol and melatonin) were affected by time-restricted feeding.

Your own 24-hour clock.

Your circadian rhythm helps your body run on a roughly 24-hour cycle. Think about how you tend to get sleepy when the sun goes down, which happens because your body starts producing melatonin as it gets darker outside. 

This study shows that IF has a role to play in this 24-hour clock, as well as the way cells behave over time. As Satchidananda Panda, Ph.D., a senior author of the study, explains, “Circadian rhythms are everywhere in every cell.” And the results of this study showed that time-restricted feeding synchronized the circadian rhythm in cells in a way that promotes health.

More specifically, the data showed that 40% of genes in three areas of the body (the adrenal gland, hypothalamus, and pancreas) were affected by time-restricted eating. “We found that time-restricted eating synchronized the circadian rhythms to have two major waves: one during fasting and another just after eating. We suspect this allows the body to coordinate different processes,” Panda continued.

This coordination may be able to promote health and fend off disease. Previous research by the same authors showed that time-restricted eating could improve the health of firefighters, who often experience circadian rhythm disruptions due to their work schedules. 

How to support your circadian rhythm today.

This study was performed on mice and only fills in some of the gaps in knowledge we have about how intermittent fasting affects our body on a molecular level. Fortunately, we already know of other ways to support our daily cycles and overall health: 

1. Get sunlight first thing in the morning.

When sunlight comes in through your eyes, your brain picks up the cue that it’s daylight and time to get up and be active. This is why many health experts recommend stepping outside first thing in the morning if you can. 

2. Avoid blue light in the evening.

Conversely, blue light (like the light from our phone screens) is known to disrupt evening melatonin production and throw off our rhythm. Avoiding screens one to two hours before bed can help. 

3. Have a consistent bedtime.

Having a consistent bedtime (even on weekends) can help keep your sleep-wake cycle regulated so you can avoid symptoms like fatigue and brain fog. If you have trouble falling asleep, try one of these nine effective sleep aids

4. Don’t eat late at night.

A great way to start time-restricted eating is to avoid late-night snacking. This can help you easily extend your daily fasting window

5. Manage stress.

Your daily sleep-wake cycle is regulated by melatonin and cortisol, which is often called the stress hormone. This means that if you’re struggling with chronic stress and high cortisol, the interplay between these two hormones can start to go awry. Whether you turn to meditation, exercise, or talking with a friend, having a strategy to help keep stress levels in check is key.

The takeaway.

A new study shows that time-restricted feeding can affect your cells’ internal clock in ways that promote health. There’s still a lot more to learn, so for now we can support our body’s natural rhythms by getting plenty of sunlight during the day and darkness at night, stressing less, and consistently going to bed at the same time.


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Knowing gout triggers might help prevent the painful attacks.

Gout is a common type of arthritis that can affect any joint, most often the big toe. Gout typically occurs in periods of no symptoms and periods of symptoms. When symptoms are present, it is known as a flare or attack. Gout flares can come with pain, swelling, redness, and difficulty moving the joint and typically last one to two weeks. There’s a wide range of things that can trigger a gout flare: from food to medications to dehydration.

Common Triggers of Gout Flares

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is created when the body breaks down purines, which are chemicals found naturally in the body and in some food. Uric acid is typically broken down and discharged through urine. When not properly gotten rid of, excess uric acid turns into needle-shaped crystals in the joints, which cause gout flares.

There are certain things that are well-known triggers of gout flares. And because the triggers can largely be avoided, it’s important to know what they are when trying to prevent or manage gout pain.

Certain Meat and Seafood

Many purine-rich foods can raise the levels of uric acid in the body, in turn increasing the risk of a gout attack. Foods with higher levels of purine include:

  • Red meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork
  • Organ meat, such as liver and kidney
  • Some kinds of seafood
  • Sardines
  • Mussels
  • Scallops
  • Trout
  • Tuna

Not all purine-rich foods appear to raise your uric acid levels or risk of gout, though. Vegetables like peas, beans, lentils, asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms are rich in purine but—when eaten in moderate amounts—do not seem to have an effect on gout risk.


Drinking beer, wine, and liquor is known to raise the levels of uric acid in the blood. The more alcohol you drink, the greater the risk of a gout attack.

But one study found that even moderate alcohol consumption may increase the risk of gout attack among men. In fact, the male participants who had up to two drinks in a 24-hour period had a 36% higher risk of a gout flare than those who didn’t have any alcohol in that same time period. On the other hand, one drink in a 24-hour period did not significantly increase the risk.

Limiting consumption of alcohol might help prevent flares.

Drinks and Food High in Fructose

Fructose, a type of sugar, is the only sugar that raises uric acid levels in the body. Drinks high in fructose, like fruit juices and sweetened soft drinks, have been shown to increase the levels of uric acid in the blood.

The consumption of foods high in fructose, such as cookies and candy, have also been linked to an increased risk of gout flares. Avoiding or limiting these high-sugar drinks and food might help reduce the risk of a gout attack.

A Higher Body Mass Index

Being overweight or having obesity is associated with the initial development of gout. There is a link between a higher body mass index (BMI) and higher levels of uric acid. The connection can continue to play a role even after you’ve already developed gout.

If you are in the overweight or obese BMI categories, losing weight through diet and exercise may be a way to bring down uric acid levels and prevent future flares.

Surprising Triggers of Gout

While certain food, drinks, and lifestyle factors are well-known triggers of gout attacks, there are other gout triggers that should also be considered.


The exact relationship still needs to be determined, but research suggests that stress can cause an increase in uric acid levels in the blood. To help avoid gout flares, researchers suggest that people with gout try to avoid stress or take steps to reduce stress.


Low-dose aspirin can increase uric acid levels in the blood and sometimes nearly double the risk of gout flare. One study found that the risk of gout attack increases after two days of taking low-dose aspirin. The lower the dose, the greater the association.

But low-dose aspirin is often used in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. So even though it might trigger gout flares, it is not recommended that you stop or change the use of your low-dose aspirin if you are taking it to protect yourself against heart attack or stroke. Instead, you can address other gout triggers that might be in your life, such as your consumption of alcohol and red meat.


Dehydration can lead to higher levels of uric acid due to a decrease in urination and, thus, elimination of uric acid.

To lower the risk of a gout attack, people with gout should drink plenty of water on a daily basis. If exercising or spending time in hotter environments, such as a sauna, it’s important to drink extra amounts of water.

Temperature Changes

The weather can have an effect on gout. High temperatures and low humidity each increases the risk of a gout attack. The combination of hot and dry weather can especially trigger a gout flare. Extremely high humidity can also increase gout flare risk but to a lesser extent.

The exact reasoning behind the associations is not yet fully understood, but one theory is that dehydration plays a part. People with gout should stay hydrated to try to prevent weather-related gout flare when in hot or dry environments.


Common triggers for gout flare, such as red meat, alcohol, and high-sugar drinks should be limited or avoided to help reduce the risk of a gout flare. Other gout triggers, such as aspirin, stress, or the weather should also be taken into consideration when figuring out how to prevent and manage flares.

Not everyone with gout will be affected by every trigger. To determine which factors trigger a gout attack for you, take note of what you consumed or what activities you took part in before the gout flared up. By keeping a journal of these factors, you might be able to recognize a pattern in your gout flares.

A healthcare provider may also help you identify triggers and help prevent future flares. If you are experiencing a flare, talk to a healthcare provider about treatment options, which may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen (Advil), or prescription medications to manage pain.


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