Notes on living.
This section is about choosing, cleaning, and maintaining your clothes.
You should wear whatever makes you feel good, so I only have one suggestion about style. Be intentional about wearing clothes with visible logos – you become a walking advertisement for the brand.
It’s better to buy fewer high-quality garments and take care of them than to buy a lot of disposable ones. Buying secondhand is a good way to get cool, high-quality, and relatively inexpensive clothes. Pay attention to where a garment was made, especially for new items.
The four materials most commonly used to make clothes are linen, cotton, wool, and synthetic fibers.
Linen produces light, airy, and quick-drying fabrics that are best for hot weather. They tend to crease easily.
Cotton makes fabrics that are suitable for moderate climates. Look for cotton fabric that is thick and robust without being uncomfortable.
Wool makes fabrics that are warm and water-repellent without being heavy. Wool fabrics can be rough, in which case they are called woolens, or smooth, in which case they are called worsteds.
Synthetic fibers span a wide-range of man-made materials. I recommend avoiding them as much as possible except for things like underwear, athletic clothes, and weather-proof or tear-proof layers. A small amount of elastane can also be useful to add stretch to tight clothes.
These four main materials are often mixed together to produce textiles that combine their properties. A garment’s tag will list the makeup of its textiles by percentage.
Some other less-common materials with useful properties include silk, which is strong, shiny, and often used for decorative clothing, and leather, which makes comfortable and hard-wearing shoes and outerwear.
The quality of a garment is also affected by how the materials that make it up are actually turned into textiles. Most textiles used to make clothes are either woven or knitted. Woven fabrics are generally more durable but less stretchy than knitted ones. In both weaving and knitting, raw material fibers are first turned into yarn. The thickness and quality of yarn has a significant effect on the produced fabric.
In a woven fabric, yarns are interlaced at right angles, with warp yarns held straight and weft yarns drawn through them. Weaves can be loose or tight, and they generally follow a pattern. The main weaving patterns for clothes are plain, twill, and satin. Plain-woven fabrics have a checkerboard appearance, twill-woven fabrics have diagonal lines, and satin-woven fabrics are glossy. Another important technique is pile weaving, in which a fabric is woven to contain a pile or nap of upright yarn.
In a knitted fabric, loops of yarn are interlaced with one another. There are many knitting techniques that produce different patterns.
A third way of making textiles is felting, in which fibers of material are pressed together into a fabric. Felted fabrics are less common in modern clothes, but you can still find them in some hats and shoes.
There are many techniques for coloring clothes. In yarn dyeing, yarn is dyed before being turned into fabric and ultimately a garment. Weaving techniques can be used to produce patterned fabrics. In piece dying, undyed yarn is used to produce a fabric which is then dyed. In garment dying, an entire garment is produced before being dyed.
Dyes or pigments can also be printed directly to the surface of a fabric. These techniques allow for the creation of complex designs, but they often yield lower-quality and less durable results than traditional dyeing methods. You can check whether a garment is printed by looking at the back of its fabric. Sometimes clothes that are printed with pigment are labeled as pigment-dyed.
Fabrics can also be finished with coatings to add useful properties like water or microbial resistance. I prefer natural coatings like wax over synthetic ones for non-technical gear.
When picking clothes, think about the fit and quality of fabric in addition to style.
Before doing any shopping, determine your body’s main measurements and write them down. These will give you a good starting point for choosing clothes in person, and they’ll also let you use detailed size guides.
Unless you’re buying something you’ve already seen before, shopping in person is much better than online. Images and descriptions often aren’t enough to give you a complete idea of a fabric. You need to see it and feel it in person.
You can alter your clothes or take them to a tailor after you buy them. Some alterations are easier than others. For example, with a pair of trousers, it’s very easy to take length off of the legs, slightly less easy to take length off of the waist, and hard to add length anywhere.
A garment’s tags contain care instructions for how it should be washed and dried. Learn how to read them, and check them if you’re ever unsure.
Washing most clothes every few wears, even if they aren’t particularly soiled, can keep them in good condition. Doing so tightens up the fabric, making garments more likely to keep their shape and less likely to develop holes.
Separate your laundry into whites and colors, and separate sheets and towels from clothes. Use the lowest temperature and quickest cycle that will get the job done; this is better for your clothes and uses fewer resources. Your machine’s shortest cycle on cold is likely good enough for regular use.
Use as little detergent as possible, which is often much less than the package recommends. Gentle, unscented detergents are best. If you have a machine without a detergent drawer, then add detergent to the drum while it’s filling with water and then add your clothes after the detergent has been dissolved. If you have a machine with a detergent drawer, remove the drawer when you aren’t using the machine to prevent mold.
Clothes that are particularly soiled should be washed separately at a higher temperature. Colors can usually go up to 40 degrees Celsius, and whites can usually go up to 60.
You are probably best off washing delicate clothes by hand. You can also try washing them alone on your machine’s delicate cycle. Woolite makes good detergent specifically for delicates. Turning delicate garments inside out before washing can protect the visible side and, depending on the type of soil, improve cleaning.
To remove oil-based stains, rub some dish soap into the stain before washing. For other stains, try soaking the garment in an oxygen bleach solution for a few hours before washing. Be sure not to use chlorine bleach, and test a non-visible part of the garment in the solution first to make sure it doesn’t affect the color.
To remove excess water before drying, use the max spin setting on all of your non-delicate loads in the washing machine. If you have a dryer, don’t use a temperature setting above low on clothes. A drying cycle that’s too hot can cause shrinking and excessive wear. Higher heat can be useful for sheets and towels.
When transferring a load of laundry into the dryer, remove delicates and other clothes that shouldn’t be machine-dried, like athletic gear. Run the dryer on low for five minutes, then remove clothes for hang-drying and run the dryer until the rest of the load is dry.
For most clothes, hang-drying makes them look nicer and keeps them in good condition for longer. Giving them a quick five minutes in the dryer improves the way they hang-dry and reduces creasing from the spin cycle. For others, like some kinds of socks and undergarments, machine-drying makes them feel nicer, and the way they look doesn’t matter.
When hang-drying clothes, give them a shake then gently shape them and stretch out creases before hanging. In an ideal world, tops should be dried on normal hangers and bottoms on clamp hangers. But most clothes can dry over a line – hangers are only really necessary for button-up shirts, which should be dried with the top two buttons closed to maintain the shape of the collar.
Some delicate garments, like knit wool sweaters, should be air dried horizontally on a towel. Hanging them on a hanger or line causes them to stretch out. Garments stuffed with down feathers can be dried in a machine on low heat with some tennis balls in the drum to fluff them.
In general, the best way to store clothes is by hanging them.
For tops, the best hangers are flat wooden ones in the shape of a complete triangle. They fit well into neck openings, and the bottom side of the triangle allows them to also hang trousers if necessary. For tops with small or delicate straps, hangers with notches on the upper sides of the triangle are useful. For other tops, they can deform the shoulder and should be avoided. Button-up shirts should always be hung with the top two buttons done to maintain the shape of the collar.
For bottoms, the best option is wooden clamp hangers. The clamp jaws should be wide and apply light pressure so that they don’t leave marks. Good clamp hangers have felt strips on the insides of the jaws so that they can hold clothes without too much pressure.
I’ll describe the best way to hang trousers, but the same principles apply to skirts and other kinds of bottoms. First, fasten any zippers and buttons on the rise of trousers, then lay the trousers out front side up. The creases down the sides of the legs should line up with the seams there, and the fly should line up with the seam on the back side of the seat. Line your hanger up with the trousers’ waistband and then close it so that the clamp sits in the middle of the waistband. Then they’re ready to hang.
The most important part of this method is to ensure that the clamp applies equal pressure to the left and right sides of the waistband. Otherwise, one side will be loose and the trousers might sag or fall out of the hanger over time. Most clamp hangers have a concave groove in the middle of each jaw; the space created by these grooves should go over the trousers’ button and rear seam. For trousers with bulky waistbands or belt loops, you may want to clamp them just under the waistband to get a good grip.
The above method is the best way to hang trousers in general because it minimizes visible creasing and marking. But it’s also possible to hang trousers by the hems, which may be better in some situations. Hanging by the hems creases the bottom of the legs, but the weight of the hanging waistband pulls small wrinkles out of the garment.
To hang trousers by the hems, you need to fold them in half vertically. For most trousers, you should use what I call the standard fold. Fasten zippers and buttons on the rise and lay your trousers front side up as described above. Then fold them vertically at the back seam so that the seat is on the outside and the two legs are stacked up. All of the creases introduced by this fold line up with seams of the trousers, so they are less visible.
Some dress trousers are worn with creases down the front of the legs as a matter of style. Hanging by the hems is particularly good for this kind of trouser, and you should use what I call the front-crease fold. Undo the fly and fold the two sides of the rise inwards so that they face one another and the two legs are stacked up. This fold introduces a crease down the front and back of each leg.
With your trousers folded, clamp the stacked hems together and they are ready to hang. If the hems are too bulky, you may want to clamp just underneath them to get a good grip.
Hangers with clips can work in place of clamp hangers, but it’s difficult to find clips that are wide and gentle enough not to leave marks. If you don’t have clamp or clip hangers, you can use triangle hangers for trousers. Fold the trousers in half vertically using either the standard or front-crease fold and drape them over the bottom side of the triangle.
If your trousers slide off of a triangle hanger when draped simply over the bottom side, you can drape them using what’s known as the Savile Row fold. With the trousers folded in half vertically, flip the top leg over the waistline and pull it taut. Fold it in half over the bottom side of your triangle hanger so that its hem sits at the crotch of the trousers. Then take the bottom leg of the trousers up over the folded top leg and through the hanger. Pick up the hanger, allowing the end of the bottom leg to fold over the side that’s farther from you. Your trousers are then ready to hang and won’t fall off.
Some clothes, like knitwear and delicate tops, can get deformed on hangers. You may also not have enough space to hang everything. For these cases, it’s best to roll clothes and store them in drawers as if they were files in a cabinet. You can find videos online that explain how to roll different garments. Rolling and filing clothes makes them much easier to access than folding and stacking them. It also leaves fewer wrinkles and creases.
If you’re not planning to wash a garment after taking it off, air it out for a while before putting it back into a crowded drawer or closet. This keeps your clothes fresh for more wears.
The following tools are useful for maintaining your clothes:
A sewing kit with needles of different sizes; threads of different colors, sizes, and materials; and scissors to alter and mend garments. Learn how to thread a needle, how to tie off a thread, how to attach buttons, how to darn, and how to make whip stitches, running stitches, and ladder stitches.
A seam ripper to modify garments and remove branded tags.
A lighter to seal frayed threads.
A lint roller and soft-bristled lint brush to keep clothes free of lint and dust. You may also want a metal-bristled brush for suede or a velvet-faced brush for delicates.
A pill shaver to remove pills from garments.
A leather cleaner and conditioner and sponge to apply it. I like Renapur.
Waterproofing spray for suede and leather.
This section is about cultivating fitness. In my experience, the best way to practice fitness is to learn how your body works and then listen to what it needs.
All kinds of physical activity improve mood and well-being. Try to go outside and move around at the start of every day, especially if you are going to be indoors or sedentary for the rest of it.
Fitness has a few distinct aspects that are important to train.
Cardiovascular fitness is your body’s ability to handle activity that elevates your heart rate. You can train cardiovascular fitness with high-intensity or low-intensity exercises. High-intensity exercises raise your heart rate significantly for a short period of time, while low-intensity or endurance exercises elevate your heart rate to a middle level for a long period of time. Both are important. Different cardio exercises also involve different amounts of wear, or impact, on your body. In general, cardiovascular exercise reduces inflammation and the risk of chronic disease.
Strength is your body’s capacity to apply force. Strength training increases your functional ability, improves your physique, and makes you less prone to injury.
Mobility comprises flexibility, range of motion, and bodily alignment. Good mobility allows you to move pain-free and without inflicting unnecessary wear on your body.
Psychosomatic fitness is about the connection between mind and body. Mental activity governs much of the physical body, and physical experiences affect mental state. Psychosomatic exercises involve both directions of this relationship. In one direction, they train mental awareness and control of the body. In the other, they use physical stimuli to reduce mental chatter and focus attention on the present moment.
The thing that matters most when training fitness is consistency. Dedication to your practice, rather than a particular result, makes training fun and deeply satisfying. Improvements in physical and mental fitness happen gradually over time.
In terms of frequency, I aim to do strength training three times a week and high-impact or high-intensity cardio no more than twice a week. I do mobility, psychosomatic, and low-impact endurance cardio exercises as much as possible.
Taking occasional rest days with little activity and getting enough sleep are important for recovery. Good nutrition, especially eating protein, is too. Here’s the recipe for a smoothie that I usually eat after working out:
- Pour milk or water into a blender
- Add a banana or half of an avocado
- Add frozen berries
- Add a scoop of protein powder; I prefer unflavored protein without unnecessary or artificial additives.
- Optionally add extras like honey, dates, cacao nibs, ground flax seeds, or chia seeds
- Blend and enjoy.
The rest of this section is about different ways to cultivate fitness.
Mobilization exercises are low-intensity dynamic movements that warm up your body and get blood flowing. They help to maintain mobility over time. You should do them before any other kind of physical activity because they ease you into movement and make your body less prone to injury. It’s also good to do them any time you feel stiff or stagnant.
Mobilization exercises, ordered by the parts of the body they target from the top down:
- Neck rolls
- Circular shrugs
- Windmill arms
- Sword draws
- Tabletop position wrist mobilization
- Trunk rotations
- Tabletop position cat and cow pose transitions
- Toe touches
- Jumping jacks
- Standing star touches
- Bring it around town
- Squat sky reaches
- Hips open and close the gate
- Dynamic lateral squats
- Leg kicks front to back and side to side
- Achilles mobilization leaning against wall
- Ankle rolls
Calisthenics is using your body weight to train strength. It requires very little or no equipment and has a lower risk of injury than many other strength training methods.
Always do mobilization exercises and five minutes of low-intensity cardio before strength training. To increase the difficulty of body-weight exercises, you can perform more difficult movements in the same progression, like doing archer push-ups instead of normal ones.
I recommend getting a set of gymnastics rings. They facilitate all kinds of calisthenics exercises, and you can hang them from any bar-like thing that can support your weight. A pair of wooden rings with cam-buckle straps to hang them are cheap on Amazon. Going over the rings with fine-grit sandpaper and getting higher-quality cam-buckle straps will improve the experience.
The bodyweightfitness subreddit wiki has a lot of useful information for getting started.
Calisthenics exercises and movement groups, ordered by the parts of the body they target from the top down:
- Hanging leg raises
- Side planks
- Back extensions
- Reverse hyperextensions
- Romanian deadlifts
- Standing hip extensions (one leg straight back)
- Standing hip abductions (one leg out to the side)
- Split squats
- Side walks
- Calf raises
Running is a high-impact way to train cardio. Outside is the best place to do it, but if you do need to run inside then use an elliptical machine. Treadmills are higher-impact than normal running and likely to give you blisters or injuries, while ellipticals are lower-impact than the real deal.
Fellrnr is a website with all kinds of useful running information.
If you’re new to running, you can follow a couch to 5K program. For longer distances, Hal Higdon’s training plans are great. There are free PDFs for many of them on his website.
Fuel is important as you start to go for longer runs. I prefer real food to energy gels, but anything with a high energy density that sits well in your stomach is good. I try to take a few gulps of water each mile and eat one-third to one-half of an energy bar every 30 to 40 minutes.
In terms of gear, I like Salomon Active Skin running vests. They have flasks that work well, a tight fit to the body, and decent storage space. The Garmin Forerunner 35 is an effective, no-frills running watch. You can get it cheaply secondhand.
To prevent chafing and blisters, you can apply an occlusive lotion to high-friction areas of your body before running. Feet, groin, and chest are common high-friction areas. If you develop callouses on your feet that get too thick, you can shave them down with a pumice stone. Soak your feet in warm water then gently rub the stone on your callouses in a circular motion.
The following paragraph describes good running form as I understand it.
Keep your torso and head aligned at a very slight forward bend from the hips, take short strides, and place your feet close to your center of mass. Strike on the ball of your foot and allow your heel to kiss the ground before taking the next stride. Instead of pushing off of the back foot, lift it up from the hip as if you’ve stepped on a nail.
To run faster, increase your cadence rather than your stride length.
There are all kinds of running shoes on the market, and the vast majority of them encourage poor form that can damage your body over time. Here are some characteristics that make a running shoe good for you.
- The outline of a running shoe’s insole should be wide and foot-shaped. The toebox should have ample space for toes to splay and move without hitting the top or sides. The outlines of the midsole and outsole should not extend far beyond the outline of the upper. Such designs make it easy to injure yourself while striking the ground. The upper should lace up such that, even without the laces tied extremely tightly, your heel stays firmly in place while you run. Foot movement in the shoe while running causes blisters, and tying laces too tightly can damage your feet.
- Also called heel drop, this is the difference in height between the heel and ball of the shoe. Most current running shoes set the heel of the foot higher than the ball. This design is unnatural and also encourages heel striking. Heel striking is fine when you’re walking, which is low-impact. But when you’re running, the leg position you assume during a heel strike makes your body less able to use muscles as shock absorbers. Your bones and joints end up bearing more of the impact, which causes wear over time. Because of this, you should strike the ground with the balls of your feet, and running shoes should have no offset to encourage this behavior. Shoes with no offset are also called zero-drop shoes.
- All else equal, the lighter the shoe, the better. Less weight to carry around means less work you have to do.
- The surface in a shoe that your feet actually stand on should be mostly flat. Many current running shoes present interior surfaces that conform to the foot’s arch or add other kinds of shaping. These are marketed as support or stability shoes. Shoes with this kind of interior surface may be nice for relaxation and recovery, but they make the foot work less during activity, which leads to weakness and pathology over time. Similarly, shoes that present a surface like the base of a rocking chair should be avoided because they encourage heel striking. On the other hand, running shoes with insoles, midsoles, and outsoles that present a roughly flat surface are more natural and keep your feet healthy. These kinds of shoes are also called neutral or unsupportive shoes. If you have a medical condition that does require special support, get neutral running shoes and use a custom-made insole.
- A running shoe’s padding is usually measured in terms of its stack height, which is sum of the heights of its outsole, midsole, and insole. Shoes with stack heights above 30mm should be avoided because they mask the negative effects of bad form. Otherwise, the amount of padding a shoe should have depends on what you are using it for. Minimal running shoes have no or very little padding. They force you to run well because, with no cushion, bad form quickly manifests as pain. However, they come with a significant adjustment period, they are less efficient than padded shoes because they have less bounce, and they put more wear on your body. I recommend minimal shoes for practicing good form, for runs on soft terrain like grass, and for shorter road runs. For longer road runs, shoes with a moderate amount of padding are better.
- Lugs are shaped elements that protrude from the outsole of a shoe. They provide traction on uneven and soft ground. Lugs are useful for trail running shoes and don’t make sense otherwise.
It’s a good idea to replace running shoes before their padding becomes ineffective. Around 300 miles is a good time to start checking. When you buy a new pair of running shoes, rotate them in with your current shoes for a while before switching over completely.
You can try the following modifications to improve running shoe fit and function:
If your foot moves around in the shoe while running, try using the heel-lock lacing technique. This technique makes use of the top two eyelets that are present on most running shoes. Lace your shoe up normally until you have laces coming out of the second-to-top eyelets. Then take each lace and thread it into the topmost eyelet on its side, creating a small loop. Cross the laces over and thread each one through the small loop created by the other lace. To tie the shoe, first grab both laces and pull them up then down to tighten the shoe and lock your heel in place. Then tie normally.
If the upper or toebox feel too cramped, you can replace the insole or remove it entirely for more room.
If your toes tend to wear holes through mesh uppers, you can stick a piece of duct tape on the inside of the top of the toebox.
My favorite running shoes are the Primus Lite III by Vivobarefoot, which is a minimal shoe with very little padding, and the Escalante Racer by Altra, which has a moderate amount of padding.
Injinji makes the best running socks. The individual toe-holes allow your toes to splay naturally and prevents skin-on-skin friction.
Cycling is a form of low-impact cardio and a fun way to get around. Bicycles are easy to maintain and relatively inexpensive, so it’s worth owning one and learning how to take care of it.
Get a bike pump, a set of hex keys, and some chain lube and degreaser. You can learn how to use these to maintain your bike using Park Tool’s Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair or their excellent YouTube videos. Park Tool is also the gold-standard producer of bike tools.
I also recommend getting waterproof gear for cycling in rainy weather: a hooded jacket, pants, gloves, and shoes or shoe coverings. Detachable mudguards are useful too. I like the S-blade and S-board by SKS Germany for road frames.
Sheldon Brown’s website has a lot of useful cycling-related information.
Yoga improves mobility and strength, but its most significant effect is on the mind-body connection. A regular practice facilitates awareness, relaxation, and a better mood, even when you are off of the mat.
There are many different schools of yoga. In my experience, Iyengar is the best for learning the practice and appreciating its benefits. It is a rigorous school that focuses on proper alignment and correct execution of postures and techniques. Regularly attending classes with the same teacher is the best way to learn. The Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York has produced sequences for home practice: level 1 and level 2.
Other forms of yoga, especially heated Vinyasa flow classes, can be a fun and social way to break a sweat. However, some inexperienced teachers cue poses that are dangerous when performed incorrectly. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
Yoga with Adriene and similar channels provide free guided practices for at-home use.
For Iyengar yoga and at-home practice, I recommend a medium-thickness, closed-cell, sticky mat. The 3mm Spezial by Kurma is my favorite. For heated yoga classes, I recommend a thicker mat with a smooth, wipeable finish. Place a grippy towel on top of it to catch sweat. I use a mat from lululemon and a Yogitoes towel. Other props I recommend for home practice are two cork bricks, four foam blocks, two cotton blankets, and a strap.
As you learn different postures and understand their benefits, you can use them to serve your body’s needs. Inversions, which are postures that place your feet above your head, are particularly beneficial. Going upside down is fun, and it’s restorative to put your body in a position that reverses the effects it experiences for most of the waking day.
Trigger point release
The release of muscular trigger points, or knots, improves mobility immediately. It’s beneficial to do any time except just before exercise, when it may reduce performance. After exercise, it’s especially useful for recovery. In my experience, it’s the most effective way to relieve tight or sore muscles.
One way to release trigger points is to get a massage. A deep tissue massage or sports massage from a good therapist is worth it every once in a while. They can perform releases that are difficult to do yourself and evaluate your overall muscular health. A massage is also relaxing.
But massages are expensive, and you likely won’t have a therapist with you all the time, so it’s worth learning how to release trigger points yourself. I recommend three tools to get started.
The first is the Grid foam roller by TriggerPoint, which has a hard plastic core that makes it feel firmer the more you use it. The second is the Grid X massage ball by TriggerPoint, and the third is a lacrosse ball. Each of them can hit different muscles in different ways.
Place one of these tools between your body and the floor or a wall and then apply pressure to release trigger points. To get an effective release, spend at least 30 seconds on an area. You can apply pressure statically, or keep the tool stationary while moving your body through some range of motion, or slowly move the tool around.
Nearly every part of your body can benefit from trigger point release. Search for instructional videos if you need help with a particular area. Kelly Starrett’s YouTube channel is a good place to start.
Stretching improves mobility over the long term. It increases your range of motion by challenging muscles and other soft tissue at the limits of their flexibility.
Like trigger point release, stretching is beneficial to do any time except immediately before exercise. It’s also especially helpful for recovering after exercise. Warm up the area you want to stretch with mobilization or light cardio beforehand.
Stretching should feel uncomfortable but not overly painful. Ease into a stretch and spend at least 30 seconds in it for effective results.
Stretches, ordered by the parts of the body they target from the top down:
- Lean and gently pull the head sideways or forward and down
- Prone on the ground or standing in a doorframe, push straight arms up and over the head or cactus arms back past the head
- Join hands behind the back, pull shoulders back and hands down
- Join hands overhead with arms straight and lean trunk to the left and right
- Dead hang from a bar
- Forward fold
- Forward fold with one leg crossed behind the other
- Wide-legged forward fold
- Lateral squats (with legs wide, bend one knee then the other to hit hip adductors)
- Couch stretch (get down on one knee in front of a couch, put the top of your foot on the couch, and lean forward to hit hip flexors)
- Supine pull both knees to chest
- Supine pull one knee to chest and across the body
- Supine with one heel on the opposite knee pull the knee to chest
- Supine, holding a strap over one foot, pull the leg to the chest and both sides
Breathing exercises deepen your mind-body connection. They reduce anxiety and give you a mental and physical reset.
Lying down for a few minutes with your eyes closed and focusing on your breath is often enough to find mental and physical space. If you experience interrupting thoughts, acknowledge them without frustration and let them go.
The box-breathing technique, which cycles through a four second inhale, a four second hold, a four second exhale, and another four second hold, makes breathing meditation more effective. Trying to count 100 breaths without getting distracted while box breathing is a good way to start practicing.
Wim Hof’s breathing exercises are intense but provide a very effective reset. They are my favorite form of breathing meditation.
Breathing exercises are particularly effective when combined with temperature change. Spending the last minute of a shower with the water as cold as it will go and trying to keep your breathing regular will give you a clear head and a lot of energy. And performing breathing exercises in a hot bath, steam room, or sauna amplifies their relaxing effect.
This section is about keeping your body clean and well maintained.
If you’re interested in a hygienic or cosmetic product, you can look it up on incidecoder to see its ingredients, what their purpose is, and how safe they are. In general, products with a small number of well understood ingredients are better than ones with fancy advertisements and packaging.
Most of the time, it’s fine to use your fingers to get a product out of a jar. You can use a small spoon if you want to avoid contamination.
When using a new product, test it to make sure it won’t cause a bad reaction. Place a small amount on one of your forearms and wait a day before using it normally.
Good times to wash your body are in the morning to wake up, after exercise to stay fresh, and at night to get clean before bed. Water, soap, and physical agitation are what get your skin clean.
Simple soap does the job well and doesn’t contain any ingredients. I like the baby-mild liquid castile soap from Dr Bronner’s. It’s really concentrated, so a few drops are enough to wash your entire body.
In terms of physical agitation, cleaning gently with a brush is best. Loofahs and washcloths are also more effective than using your bare hands.
Doing a full-body clean too often strips your skin of its natural oils. You only need to scrub everywhere with soap once or twice a week. For regular bathing you can just use your hands to clean the dirtiest parts of your body – hands, feet, pits, and bits – with a very small amount of soap.
If you have dry skin, apply body lotion after a full-body clean. There are three main kinds of moisturizing ingredients: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. Humectants, like aloe vera and hyaluronic acid, hydrate the skin by attracting water to it. Emollients, like oils and ceramides, help to soften the skin and repair its natural barrier. Occlusives, like beeswax and petroleum jelly, create a physical barrier on top of the skin that prevents water from leaving; they are particularly useful to lock in moisture after bathing or to prevent skin from losing moisture in a dry environment. Lotions often blend ingredients from all three categories– you can pick one that suits your needs.
Skin on your face has different properties from skin on the rest of your body. Keeping it clean and hydrated is easiest with products designed specifically for it. Wash it with a cleanser and apply a moisturizer in the morning and at night. I use the foaming facial cleanser and moisturizing cream by CeraVe.
In the morning, apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to your face after moisturizing. Doing so keeps your skin moisturized, and it also limits sun damage and the appearance of wrinkles over time.
I prefer mineral sunscreen, which sits on top of your skin and physically blocks radiation, over chemical sunscreen, which penetrates your skin and absorbs radiation. It’s gentler and less irritating to wear, especially around the eyes. I like the mineral sunscreen by The Ordinary.
Also put sunscreen on the front and back of your neck, the backs of your hands, and anywhere else that will be exposed to direct sunlight. Lip balm with SPF is a good idea on a dry or sunny day.
The best way to apply a product to your face is to place dots of it on each side of your forehead, each cheekbone, and each jawbone. Then spread the dots out and rub then in until your whole face is covered and the product is not visible.
If your body and level of activity can handle it, use a deodorant rather than an antiperspirant. Antiperspirants aim to reduce the amount you sweat by blocking pores, while deodorants aim to reduce the amount you smell by making your armpits less hospitable to bacteria. In general, deodorants are much gentler on your skin. To make them more effective, you can keep your armpit hair tidy by shaving or trimming it.
This advice applies mostly for people with thick, wavy hair. Everyone has to figure out what works for them specifically, but hopefully this serves as a good starting point.
The trick for keeping your hair in good shape is not letting it get too dry, which leads to frizz, or too oily, which leads to buildup and flakes. Most people clean their hair too often and with harsh shampoo. This strips oil from your scalp and leaves your hair dry. It also makes your scalp over-produce oil to compensate.
Find high-quality, gentle shampoo and conditioner that work for your hair. They don’t have to be expensive, just avoid products that contain a lot of harsh ingredients. When you apply them, massage your scalp with the pads of your fingers before rinsing well. Leave conditioner in for a few minutes before rinsing so it has time to work.
Use conditioner every time you wash your hair, which doesn’t have to be every time you wash your body. This keeps your hair moisturized and clean without stripping too much oil. You only need to shampoo before conditioning once or twice a week to get rid of accumulated buildup.
If you’re prone to buildup and flakes, you may also find it beneficial to reset your scalp with a harsh cleansing shampoo every few weeks. Many brands make expensive shampoos specifically for this purpose, but I find that Mane ‘n Tail or Head & Shoulders work just as well.
To style your hair after washing it, first press it dry with a towel. Scrubbing with a towel will make your hair frizzy. If you haven’t washed your hair, dampen it with water to style it.
With your hair damp, apply some product to keep your hair moisturized, in shape, and not frizzy. To apply a hair product, first put some in one of your hands. Warm it up by rubbing your hands together and coating them with it. Then, if the product targets hair strands, run your hands through your hair in all directions. If it targets roots, massage your scalp instead.
For longer cuts, styling creams keep your hair moisturized without making it shiny or sticky. For shorter hair, a texturizing putty adds hold without shine or too much stickiness. You can apply a light oil, such as argan oil, before other products to increase moisture.
Use your fingers, a wide-toothed brush, or a wide-toothed comb to style your hair. A bristled brush will make it frizzy.
Don’t be afraid to touch up your own haircut. Using scissors and clippers at home can keep you looking clean between cuts, especially if you have bangs or short sides.
If you shave your facial hair, learn how to use a safety razor with double-edged blades. Relative to cartridge shaving, it’s much cheaper and produces less waste. It’s a skill to be learned rather than a chore, and once you learn it you can achieve the same shave quality. The only downside is that you can’t take double-edged razor blades in carry-on luggage.
To get started, pick up a razor, some blades, and some real, non-canned shaving cream. I like Astra blades and Taylor of Old Bond Street creams. You may also want to buy a styptic pen to stop the bleeding from any nicks you might get while learning.
You can lather shaving cream directly onto your face using your fingers or a brush, or you can lather it in a bowl with a brush then apply it to your face.
Store your discarded blades in a glass jar so you can safely dispose of them all at once when it gets full. Once you gain some experience, you’ll know it’s time to change blades when your current one becomes dull enough to give you a small nick. Ideally, you’ll be able to tell just before that happens.
When you finish a shave, dismantle your razor and towel dry the pieces individually before reassembling it. Press the blade dry – wiping it will damage your towel and make the blade dull.
If you don’t wear any facial hair, then just shave with your safety razor and you’re good to go. Start by shaving with the grain of hair growth before going across or against it. Short facial hair can be maintained easily with a pair of clippers.
To maintain medium-length or longer facial hair, start with your face dry. Once you wet your facial hair, it gets heavier and looks longer than it normally does. You can use a bristled brush to work short or wiry hair effectively. Use clippers to make rough lines on your cheeks, neck, and upper lip; and use scissors to remove length from any sections that need it. Shave the lines on your cheeks and neck with a safety razor. Dry your face and use clippers to reduce the length of your facial hair if necessary. Waiting to reduce length with clippers makes it easier to see and re-shave your previous lines. Finally, touch up with scissors, clippers, and tweezers as necessary.
If you aren’t sure where to shave lines, go to a barber and ask them to do it. Then you can follow their lines going forward.
Keeping your teeth and gums in good form is about cleaning them well without being too rough. Teeth and gums are sensitive, and many kinds of damage to them are irreversible.
Electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual ones. I like Sonicare brushes because they clean well but are gentle; some other brands are too rough.
No matter what kind of brush you’re using, get soft-bristled heads. Medium and hard bristles aren’t necessary for a good clean, but they do make it easier to damage your teeth and gums. To keep your toothbrush clean, allow it to dry after use with the head removed.
Brush all surfaces – outside, inside, and chewing – of your top and bottom teeth. Spend a few seconds on each surface of each tooth. Go slowly, gently, and without too much pressure.
To clean outside and inside surfaces, angle your brush at about 45 degrees from your teeth, with the bristles facing the gum line and just barely touching it. For chewing surfaces, angle your brush head to face the surface directly. With an electric toothbrush, just hold the brush head to the surfaces of your teeth. Don’t apply any additional pressure and let the head’s action do all the work. With a manual brush, you can scrub back and forth on chewing surfaces. For inside and outside surfaces, gently make small circles, focusing on the action that draws the brush away from the gum line.
Bacteria living on and around your teeth turn sugars into acid, which can erode your teeth over time. This erosion is what we call tooth decay, and the regular application of fluoride makes your teeth less susceptible to it. Use a fluorinated toothpaste to brush your teeth, and when you’re done, spit, but don’t rinse your mouth out with water. Try not to eat or drink for 30 minutes afterwards. This keeps fluoride on your teeth for longer.
Avoid toothpastes that contain small dots, squares, or other forms of microplastic.
There are a few useful things besides a toothbrush and toothpaste that help to keep your mouth clean.
One is a metal U-shaped tongue scraper. To use it, stick out your tongue, grab each end of the U with one hand, and run the bend of the U over your tongue from back to front with a light amount of pressure. Repeat a few times to be amazed by what’s been hanging out on your tongue this whole time.
Another is dental floss. Run it gently up and down all the gaps in your teeth, holding it first against one tooth and then the other. Avoid brands of non-snag dental floss like Glide. They contain toxic PFAS chemicals, and their slippery nature makes them worse for removing debris. Normal waxed floss is much cheaper, and it’s better for your teeth and your body. You can shop around a bit to find a brand that produces the right sized floss for the gaps in your teeth.
Interdental brushes are more effective than floss at cleaning between your teeth, but they don’t fit everywhere. Get the smallest sized brushes you can find and be gentle when moving them between your teeth. Don’t force them anywhere they don’t fit. Being too aggressive with floss or interdental brushes can damage your gums.
Mouthwash that contains alcohol can be effective in killing bacteria, but it also dries out your mouth. I recommend using it sparingly, and don’t use it immediately after brushing. It will wash off fluoride and may react with other substances in your toothpaste.
When to clean
Brush two times a day. After we eat, especially acidic foods, our teeth are temporarily weakened. As a result, it’s best to wait 30 minutes after eating to brush so that it doesn’t cause excess wear. You can drink water or wash your mouth out to clean it right after a meal.
I recommend using a tongue scraper then brushing in the morning, ideally 30 minutes after or before breakfast. At night, I recommend using an interdental brush, then flossing, then using a tongue scraper, then brushing. Just before going to sleep is a good time.
Another aspect of good oral hygiene is keeping your jaw relaxed. Your top and bottom teeth shouldn’t really touch except when you’re eating or speaking. Clenching or grinding your teeth can damage them as well as your gums. It’s especially important to relax your jaw before bed, because clenching and grinding can happen subconsciously while you sleep.
Head and neck
If your eyes feel tired, you can relax them by closing them and applying very light pressure to your eyelids with the backs of your index and middle fingers for about 30 seconds. You’ll see fireworks behind your eyelids as you feel your eyes start to relax. Open them again when the fireworks stop.
If your eyes feel dry, use lubricating drops. Preservative-free ones are best, but be careful to follow instructions on the packaging about how long you can keep an opened bottle.
If your ears get blocked with wax, you can unblock them by applying a targeted gentle stream of water with a syringe. Angle the syringe head towards one side of your ear canal, so the displaced wax can flow out.
Use cotton swabs to clean your outer ears, but be careful not to push them in too far.
If you get tonsil stones, you can get them out by applying a targeted gentle stream of water with a syringe. Do this in a dark bathroom and sine a light into the back of your throat to see them better.
This section is about dealing with medical issues.
The UK’s National Health Service website is a good first port-of-call for medical information online. It has comprehensive, searchable pages on a wide range of health conditions and medicines. It’s also free and run by a huge non-profit public health organization.
Your primary care provider (PCP) is your first point of contact for medical help, so it’s important that you find a good one. For adults, PCPs are usually internal medicine doctors, also called internists. They can treat common issues, help you to manage chronic conditions, and refer you to a specialist doctor as needed.
Schedule the following regular doctor’s appointments to find and address medical issues early:
Physical exam and blood analysis once a year with your PCP
Comprehensive eye exam including a vision test, retinal imaging and a dilated retinal exam, and pressure measurement once a year with an optometrist
Dental exam once a year with a dentist and cleanings twice a year with a dental hygienist
You may want to have additional periodic checkups based on your age and medical history.
For emergency medical care, there are a few options:
If it’s a relatively minor issue and during your PCP’s office hours, you can call their office and ask for an urgent appointment or advice on where to go.
Urgent care clinics are for issues that can’t wait for a PCP appointment, like bad cuts, broken bones, acute gastrointestinal pain, or respiratory problems. Relative to hospital emergency departments, urgent care clinics are more prevalent and usually quicker for the issues that they are equipped to handle.
Hospital emergency departments are for life-threatening issues like uncontrolled bleeding or serious bodily harm, extremely severe pain, head injuries, and heart attack or stroke. They are more capable than urgent care clinics but prioritize patients with the most urgent conditions, so wait times can be long.
Call for an ambulance if a casualty can’t be transported to the emergency department in a car or if you suspect heart attack or stroke.
For emergency dental care, call your dentist’s practice if it’s during office hours. If it’s out of hours, your dentist may have an emergency hotline, or you can call your nearby hospital emergency department to ask for advice.
If you come into contact with something poisonous, call your local poison control center for advice and start heading to an emergency department.
It’s a good idea to know where the nearest urgent clinic and emergency department to your home and workplace are. If you’re going to one, call ahead to let them know. It may reduce the amount of time you have to wait.
In the US, visiting an emergency department is extremely expensive without insurance.
There are often long wait times when making appointments with good doctors. If you have a wait with your PCP that you feel is too long for your issue, call the office and explain the situation. They can usually work you in more urgently. You can try the same thing with specialists, and you may have more success by asking your PCP to call a specialist’s office on your behalf.
Keep notes about your health issues as they arise. Before an appointment, write down what you want to tell your doctor and the questions you want to ask to make sure you don’t forget anything. Write notes about important developments and test results during your appointment. If your doctor’s practice supports it, periodically export a copy of your medical data to save on your computer.
If you are ever uncomfortable or not completely sure about what’s going on with your medical care, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Read up on relevant information so you can have productive conversations with your doctor and potentially catch mistakes. Your medical team is likely to be much more experienced than you, but nobody will pay as much attention to your particular case as yourself.
If you have a complicated or rare medical issue, you can ask your specialist doctor how often they see it and how comfortable they are treating it. It may be better to visit a sub-specialist.
Below is some useful information about medicines that help with common ailments. See the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines for a much more extensive collection. When taking a medicine, always follow usage instructions on the packaging and from your doctor.
Buying generic medicines based on their active ingredients is better than buying brand-name. Generics have the same effect but cost less.
If you feel generally unwell without any particularly bad symptoms, taking immune-system support supplements that contain vitamin C, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals for a few days might help you to feel better. I like the effervescent tablets that dissolve in water.
Pain and inflammation
- pill; general-purpose painkiller, first-line for mild aches and pains; doesn’t have significant anti-inflammatory or fever reducing properties
- pill; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that reduces fever and mild pain; can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, take it with food
- pill; NSAID that is most commonly used daily in low doses to prevent heart attacks and strokes; can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, take it with food
- pill; long-lasting NSAID that is most commonly used to treat chronic pain and inflammation; can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, take it with food
If you have an acute injury or inflammation, use the RICE protocol of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. For chronic tightness or soreness, applying heat increases blood flow and relaxes soft tissue.
- pill; sinus decongestant and stimulant
- pill; sinus decongestant and vasoconstrictor; mixed evidence for effectiveness
- nasal spray; sinus decongestant and vasoconstrictor; used for immediate relief
- nasal spray; steroid sinus decongestant; used for chronic inflammation
- pill; thins mucous so it can be coughed up more easily; mixed evidence for effectiveness
- pill; reduces urge to cough
If you have congestion, irrigating your sinuses via the nostrils is a great way to get relief. I like the handheld squeeze bottle by Neilmed for this purpose. Use boiled, filtered, or distilled water at room temperature, and add salts to balance its pH level.
Gargling hot, salty water is good for relieving sore throats or coughs. Cough drops are useful too. My favorite brand is Fisherman’s Friend.
- bismuth subsalicylate
- liquid or pill; antacid, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diarrheal
- calcium carbonate
- chewable pill; antacid
- topical cream; steroid for itching and inflammation
- topical ointment; antibiotic for infected minor wounds
For minor skin wounds that aren’t infected or likely to become infected, irrigate them with soap and water and apply an occlusive like petroleum jelly. If the wound is in a place that’s likely to get dirty then put on an adhesive bandage. Once the wound has healed, apply sunscreen over it to prevent scarring and discoloration.
In the body, histamine is a compound involved in many physiological functions. It plays a key role in immune responses and allergic reactions.
Antihistamines are drugs that limit the effects of histamine in the body. They can be taken short-term to relieve a number of different symptoms.
Symptoms that, when caused by an immune response, can be treated by antihistamines include runny nose, watery eyes, gastrointestinal distress, swelling, hives, and itchy skin.
Some antihistamines cause drowsiness. These can be used to treat additional symptoms, even when the symptoms are not caused by an immune response, such as motion sickness, insomnia, nausea, and jet lag.
Antihistamines are commonly available as pills or liquids; liquids work more quickly. Antihistamine creams or gels can be used topically for relief from skin issues caused by an immune response.
- non-drowsy first-line antihistamine
- non-drowsy antihistamine, faster and stronger action with more drowsiness than loratadine
- drowsy antihistamine
If you’re thinking about using an antihistamine to treat insomnia or jet lag, you may want to consider trying melatonin supplements first. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that is involved in the sleep cycle. Melatonin supplements may have fewer side effects than drowsy antihistamines, but they may also be less effective.
These are some pieces of personal protective equipment that help to protect your health in everyday life.
When you’re going somewhere loud, bring ear plugs just in case. They make the venue experience nicer and stop you from getting tinnitus afterwards. I like reusable ones that aren’t very visible in your ear and are designed specifically for music. They don’t significantly impact sound quality and make it easier to have conversations in a loud place.
If you can’t avoid polluted areas, like busy streets or subway lines, you can wear a mask to limit your exposure to bad air. The best ones have rubbery seals against the face and straps that run both over the head and behind the neck.
I like Respro – the masks are expensive, but they’re well-made, the customer service is good, and they only make you look slightly crazy. Their components are modular, so things like filters and valves can be switched out. I recommend getting an overhead mask strap and a pro-seal for the masks to work well. To clean a Respro filter, boil some water and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Add the filter, let it stay in until the water goes cold, then stand it to dry on a paper towel.
One important first-aid technique to know is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You can look up videos on how to do it correctly, but the abridged version is to repeat a set of 30 chest compressions just under a casualty’s sternum to the tempo of the song Stayin’ Alive and then two breaths into the casualty’s open airway. The primary purpose of CPR is to circulate blood in a casualty whose heart has stopped. It also adds some oxygen to their system via your breaths. If you do not feel comfortable performing the breaths, you can skip them, especially near the beginning of a CPR session. The casualty’s blood will remain oxygenated for a few minutes.
It is also important to know how to deal with wounds. You can reduce blood loss by applying pressure to a wound and keeping it raised above a casualty’s heart. For grievous wounds, you should know how to tie an improvised tourniquet with fabric and a stick.
Another useful technique is the recovery position. It involves laying someone down in a stable position on their side so that their airway won’t be blocked by vomit or other potential obstructions.
If you come across an unconscious casualty, you can follow the following protocol:
Check for and address serious wounds to prevent blood loss.
Check their pulse. If they don’t have a pulse, call for an ambulance immediately and start CPR. If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available, use it to deliver a shock that may reset the heart. The AED is designed to guide you through the process even if you have never used one before.
If they have a pulse, check to see whether they are breathing. If they are not breathing, make sure the airway is not obstructed then call for an ambulance immediately and start CPR.
If they have a pulse and are breathing, and they don’t have an injury that prevents you from doing so, place them in the recovery position.
This description applies to health insurance in the United States.
Having good health insurance is essential, but the system is extremely complex and difficult to navigate. Understanding how it works can help you obtain good medical care without going bankrupt.
When you buy a health insurance plan, you pay a premium to your insurance company every month for them to cover you. Being covered means that your insurance will be billed when you visit healthcare providers and mitigate some or all of the cost to you.
Your plan has a network of healthcare providers that have signed agreements with your insurance company about how much the company will pay them for services. Some plans only cover visits to in-network providers, while other plans cover visits to any provider. Some plans also require a referral from your primary care physician or pre-authorization from the insurance company for a visit to be covered.
For example, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans only cover in-network visits and require a referral from your primary care provider for visits to be covered. On the other hand, Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans cover out-of-network visits, albeit with some limitations, and do not require referrals.
Your insurance plan has a deductible, which is the amount of money you must spend in a given year before the plan’s coverage starts to kick in. For example, if your deductible is $1000, the plan won’t pay for your medical care until you’ve spent $1000 of your own money on it that year. If your deductible is $0, your plan will start paying right away. Some plans have separate deductibles for medical services and prescription drugs.
Once your deductible is met, there are some kinds of costs that you still have to pay for services. Copayments are fixed fees that you pay for services. Coinsurance means that you pay a fixed percentage of the cost of a service. Typically, your insurance company will send you a coverage summary document for your plan that contains a schedule of common services and what kinds of copayment or coinsurance you have to pay for them.
Your plan may pay for some services even when you haven’t met your deductible. For example, many plans come with free preventative care, including an annual physical, so you never have to pay for it. Many plans also require only a fixed payment for office visits even if you haven’t met your deductible. These kinds of fixed payments don’t count towards your deductible, though.
Your plan also has an out-of-pocket maximum, which is a limit on the amount of money you will pay in a year for covered services. Once you hit your out-of-pocket max, you no longer have to pay make copayments or pay coinsurance. Premium payments and payments for services that the plan does not cover do not count towards the out-of-pocket max.
Plans that cover out-of-network services typically have separate deductibles, out-of-pocket maxima, and copayment/coinsurance schedules for in-network and out-of-network services. Payments for in-network services don’t go towards your out-of-network deductible or out-of-pocket max, and vice versa. Some plans also have tiered networks, in which a subset of in-network providers has agreed to accept lower costs than others. This subset is typically called a preferred or designated network, and it may also have a separate fee schedule, deductible, and out-of-pocket maximum.
One tricky thing about plans that cover out-of-network services is that they come with a schedule of allowed amounts, which are the maximum prices that a plan will pay for some out-of-network service. If an out-of-network provider bills your insurance company for an amount that is greater than your plan’s allowed amount for the service, the insurance company will only pay the allowed amount. You will then be on the hook for the remainder, even if you have already met your out-of-pocket maximum for the year. This phenomenon is known as balance billing. For example, imagine you undergo an expensive procedure from an out-of-network provider that is billed at $400,000. You have already met your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum for the year, but your plan’s out-of-network allowed amount for this procedure is $20,000. You are then still on the hook for $380,000. Note that balance billing does not happen with in-network providers because they have signed payment agreements with your insurance company.
The way health insurance works when you receive a medical service is as follows. At the time of service, your healthcare provider’s office will ask for your insurance information. Depending on your plan, they may collect an up-front payment from you as well. The provider then sends a claim, or bill, to your insurance company for the services provided. This claim contains a description, price, and code for each service. A service’s code identifies it in a standardized way. Based on your insurance company’s agreement with the provider, the provider accepts a certain price for each service code, which is often much less than the billed price. This difference between the billed and accepted price is known as an adjustment, or discount. Your insurance company then determines how much of the remaining adjusted price they will pay, based on the service code, whether your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum have been met, and whether there is any copayment or coinsurance. They then send you an explanation of benefits (EOB) document that details the adjusted price, how much they paid, how much you have paid already, and how much you still owe, if anything. If you still owe for a service, you will likely receive a bill for the amount directly from the provider. Note that even if you have not met your deductible and you insurance company doesn’t pay for any of the adjusted price, you still benefit from the potentially significant price adjustment by being insured.
There are a lot of ways this process can go wrong: the provider may fail to bill your insurance, the provider may use the wrong codes, or your insurance may process the claim incorrectly. If you receive a bill from a provider that doesn’t seem right, check your EOB then call your insurance company and provider’s office as needed to resolve the issue.
You should be able to visit your insurance plan’s website to find detailed information about your terms, in-network providers, and past claims. There should also be a way to estimate what you would pay for specific services from specific providers. If there isn’t, you can call your insurance company or a potential provider to ask for an estimate. If you are in an emergency, go to whatever hospital is nearest to you, even if it is out-of-network. Your plan cannot legally require you to pay more for out-of-network emergency care than you would for in-network emergency care. Unless your plan specifically has provisions for international travel, get a separate short-term travel health insurance policy when you leave the country.
The characteristics that make a good plan, in decreasing order of importance, are as follows:
The plan should have the largest network possible. The network should include your primary care provider of choice, the best hospital systems in your town, and the best specialist hospitals in the country. This will limit your yearly health expenditure to the out-of-pocket max without limiting your care options, even if you develop a medical condition that is very expensive to treat.
The plan should have the best terms possible given your healthcare needs. If you have a chronic condition, you may save money with a plan that has a high premium but a low deductible and out-of-pocket max. If you are healthy, you may save money with a plan that has a low premium but a high deductible and out-of-pocket max. If you choose a high-deductible plan, it may be worth picking one whose terms allow you to make tax-advantaged contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA).
The plan should give you the ability to arrange services without a referral or pre-authorization. This makes obtaining medical care much less complicated.
There are three main ways to obtain health insurance: using the healthcare.gov exchange, buying a plan directly from an insurance company, and getting coverage as a benefit from your employer. Sadly, at the time of writing, there are few to no good plans available via healthcare.gov and directly from insurance companies in many states. The vast majority of them have limited networks and bad terms. This means that the only way to get a decent plan is by participating in an employer’s group policy. In many states, a company must have two employees that are not closely related on payroll to qualify for a group policy. If you are going to lose access to an employer’s group policy, for example because you are changing jobs, you can temporarily extend your access to the policy under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
While health insurance is essential, dental and vision insurance are different. They tend to cover fewer services and their terms often don’t have an out-of-pocket maximum. Critical dental and eye issues that come with truly high price tags tend to be covered by health insurance anyway. You should perform a cost-benefit analysis given your particular situation and plan options to see whether dental or vision insurance make sense.
This section is about taking care of plants.
Keep houseplants in pots with holes in the bottom – this allows soil to drain after it’s been watered properly. Put the holed pot on a plate or inside a decorative pot without holes.
Many people give houseplants a small amount of water every day or two, which grows frail plants with weak root systems. The water doesn’t get past the surface of the soil, so plant roots aren’t encouraged to grow deeply. It also evaporates quickly, leaving less for the plant to use.
To water a houseplant well, take its holed pot to a sink, bathtub, or hose. Use a gentle stream of room-temperature water to drench the soil completely, stopping when water starts to run continuously out of the holes at the bottom of the pot. Make sure that all parts of the soil have been watered. Wait for the water to stop running out of the pot, then gently move it up and down a few times to push out some of the excess before returning it to its plate or decorative home.
Water a plant only when the soil feels completely dry to the touch. Once every week or two is about right for most plants and environments.
If a plant is too big to move, use a watering can to drench the soil. Try to be precise with the amount of water, especially if plant is in a decorative pot, because any excess will pool at the bottom. You may want to put some kind of spacer between the bottom of the holed pot and the bottom of the decorative pot so that the pooled water stays separate from the soil. Plates are slightly more forgiving, because water can move out from under the holed pot and evaporate.
To keep a plant healthy, make sure it is receiving the right amount of sunlight; different species have different needs. Regularly use sharp scissors or secateurs to prune withering leaves and branches. Move it into bigger pots when it gets cramped, and replace the soil or add nutrients if it starts to look feeble for no obvious reason.
You can use sections of a thick cotton rope to keep your houseplants watered automatically while you’re away. Place a container of water next to each plant. Put one end of the rope section deep into the plant’s soil and the other at the bottom of the water container. Then cover the container. The capillary effect will cause water to travel slowly from the container to the soil over time. Depending on the size of the container, this setup can keep plants watered for quite a while. I’ve left plants for over five weeks like this with no issues.
To keep cut flowers healthy, do the following when you first get them and then every other day:
Rinse out your vase and fill it with cool water. You only need to add enough water to last until the next time you refresh it. You can add more for aesthetic reasons, but doing so increases the chance that the stems will rot. Add a bit of sugar to feed the stems and a splash of white vinegar to prevent bacterial growth.
Inspect the stems and use sharp scissors or secateurs to prune parts that are withering or superfluous. Pull off any leaves that will be near or below the water line. This reduces the chance of rot and the amount of energy that the stems need to stay alive.
Cut about half an inch off of the bottom of the stems at a 45 degree angle and put them in the vase immediately. It’s important to do this regularly, or the stem bases become clogged and prevent the flowers from getting water. Cut the stem bases at an angle so that they will be able to get water even if they’re resting against the bottom of the vase.
Particularly delicate stems will last longer if you keep them in the fridge when you aren’t around.