Starting today is the real test for the media

In general, I felt like the media coverage of impeachment so far has been decidedly not great, but certainly not horrible.  Sure, too much “both sides!” but, generally, if you actually bother to read the stories, a real sense that, yeah, Trump has clearly done some bad stuff here.”

But, I think a much tougher test starts today.  Sure, Democrats may have been hyperbolic at times, but the entire presentation has been fundamentally truthful.  Beginning today, what the media hears will be 90% lies, misinformation, and misdirection.  And, as we’ve seen, they are not particularly well equipped for that beyond saying “Democrats say Republicans are lying” which dramatically weakens the reality of “Republicans are lying” as we know they will be.  I’m not all optimistic, but maybe, just maybe sitting through the Democratic presentation the last few days will lead journalists to be a little more honest and a little less “both sides!” in covering a Republican case which will surely be very short on actual truth.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Scientists have figured out the best way to board an aircraft.  Presumably, this will save less money than monetizing boarding order– as currently happens– so, I suspect it will rarely be utilized.

2) The extreme lack of empathy that so many people display (and, honestly, an extreme ignorance of the very real vicissitudes of fate) is so frustrating.  Kristoff:

When my wife and I wrote about my old schoolmates who had died from “deaths of despair,” the reaction was sometimes ugly.

“They killed themselves,” scoffed Jonathan from St. Louis, Mo., in the reader comments. “It was self-inflicted.”

Ajax in Georgia was even harsher: “Natural selection weeding out those less fit for survival.”

Our essay, drawn from our new book, “Tightrope,” explored the disintegration of America’s working class through the kids on my old No. 6 school bus in Yamhill, Ore., particularly my neighbors the Knapps. The five Knapp kids were smart and talented, but Farlan died after years of drug and alcohol abuse, Zealan died in a house fire while passed out drunk, Nathan blew himself up cooking meth, Rogena died of hepatitis after drug use, and Keylan survived partly because he had spent 13 years in the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Working-class men and women like them, of every shade, increasingly are dying of “deaths of despair” — from drugs, alcohol and suicide. That’s why life expectancy in the United States, for the first time in a century, has declined for three years in a row.

Plenty of readers responded with compassion. But there was a prickly scorn from some that deserves a response because it reflects an ideology that underlies so many failed policies. It arises from the myth that we live in a land of limitless opportunity and that those who struggle have simply made “bad choices” and failed to muster “personal responsibility.” Dr. Ben Carson, who grew up poor and black in Detroit and is now the nation’s housing secretary, has described poverty as “more of a choice than anything else.” [emphasis mine]

This “personal responsibility” narrative animated some reader critics of the Knapps. “This article describes ruined, pitiful people,” one reader commented. “The main problem they have is weakness of character.”

Over the last half-century, this narrative has gained ground in America; it’s an echo of the “social Darwinism” that circulated a century ago. I’ve come to think that the biggest impediment to strengthening America isn’t a shortage of resources but this personal responsibility obsession.

3) How to keep social media from being a negative in your life?  Short version: use the tools and settings in the various platforms smartly so that they aren’t actually causing you aggravation.  It’s not exactly rocket science.

4) I appreciate Lisa Baldez explaining just how little would actually change if the ERA really does become an amendment (it well may, but big court challenge):

My research suggests the impact would be less dramatic. First, the ERA would probably affect Supreme Court decisions indirectly, by raising sex equality to the status of a fundamental right and increasing the standard that the Supreme Court would apply in determining whether a law that discriminates on the basis of sex violates the Constitution. That would make it more likely that courts would favor those who sought gender equality. Second, the ERA would not constitutionally protect women in most cases of violence against women. I’ll explain below…

In short, though advocates and opponents alike are energized — or agitated — by the possibility of a ratified ERA, it wouldn’t change as much as many expect. Look instead for a significant — but limited — effect on legal protections for women’s rights.

5) Now that New York has largely done away with cash bail, police and prosecutors are doing their best to scare the bejesus out of people.  NYT helps with this headline, “He Was Charged With 4 Bank Heists, and Freed. Then He Struck Again, Police Say.  A man accused of robbing banks in New York City had been released under a Jan. 1 law that ended bail for most nonviolent charges.”  Meanwhile, way down in the article where most people won’t read, we actually get:

Mr. Woodberry, who is from Walterboro, S.C., appeared in handcuffs on Sunday in federal court, and was ordered held pending a bail hearing. If convicted of bank robbery, a federal crime, he faces 20 years in prison.

His lawyer, Samuel I. Jacobson, said the argument that Mr. Woodberry’s initial release was an example of flaws in the new law was not only unfounded, but also constituted “egregious ethical violations” by federal prosecutors that were grounds for the case to be dismissed.

“The United States attorney has said that no sane or rational system would release Mr. Woodberry, but that’s not the question,” Mr. Jacobson, of the Federal Defenders of New York, said in a statement after court.

“The question is whether a sane or rational system locks people presumed innocent in cages simply because they are too poor to post bail.”

Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services, said that under the newly adopted law, if Mr. Woodberry had been rearrested on a state felony charge related to bank robbery, the judge would have had full authority to set bail to keep him in custody.

“The assertion that bail cannot be set is a lie,” Ms. Schreibersdorf said in an interview. “They’re going out of their way to interpret it in a way to scare the public.”

6) I’m pretty fascinated by the academic debate over the 1619 project.  Sean Wilentz raises some good points about NHJ pushing her arguments too far.  But, damn, if he doesn’t go and then push his rebuttal too far.  Especially on Lincoln’s views of race (which was the partial subject of my 2nd best undergraduate paper).  Historian Nicholas Guyatt with a good take on all this:

7) Interesting look at how personality tests are “biased” because they are normed on gender, rather, than all adults.  But the really interesting upshot of this is that women are just way more agreeable than men!

The sexist feedback isn’t due to an inherent flaw in the personality test, nor malicious intent. It’s because of how the psychologists behind the inventories present the results. Rather than giving an absolute score in each of the Big Five categories, they tell you your percentile in comparison to others within your gender.

“Your results are based on comparing you to all the other humans who have taken the test,” wrote Maggie Koerth-Baker in the FiveThirtyEight article. That seems to be true for the site on which Koerth-Baker took her test, which uses the BFI and is run by Christopher Soto, a psychology professor at Colby College. (I took the test as a man and a woman on this site, and got the same results each time.)

But the other tests taken by Quartz compared women to other women, and men to other men. As women tend to be more agreeable than men, this means that a slightly disagreeable woman will be relatively more disagreeable when compared only to other women. Women’s agreeable nature is not inherently biological: Social conditions pressure women to behave in this way. And this sexist trope is neatly reinforced in how the results from these personality tests are presented.

8) Hey, look at this, #8 before I even get to impeachment.  Among other things, Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow is just embarrassingly stupid:

Appearing shortly after 6 p.m. on the Senate floor, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Jay Sekulow offered an indignant rebuke of the Democrats’ impeachment managers. What he was so incensed about: that they had allegedly referred to “lawyer lawsuits” in prosecuting the case against Trump.

“And by the way — lawyer lawsuits?” Sekulow began. “Lawyer lawsuits? We’re talking about the impeachment of a president of the United States, duly elected, and the members — the managers are complaining about lawyer lawsuits? The Constitution allows lawyer lawsuits. It’s disrespecting the Constitution of the United States to even say that in this chamber — lawyer lawsuits.”

Sekulow added that it was “a dangerous moment for America when an impeachment of a president of the United States is being rushed through because of lawyer lawsuits. The Constitution allows it, if necessary. The Constitution demands it, if necessary.”

There was one problem: Sekulow was referring to a quote that doesn’t appear to exist. He appeared to have badly misunderstood what one of the Democratic impeachment managers said.

Shortly prior, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) laid out her case against Trump. In the course of it, she referred to “FOIA lawsuits” — not “lawyer lawsuits” — referring to the Freedom of Information Act.

And it wasn’t just one wayward acronym that could explain the misunderstanding; Demings’s remarks repeatedly referenced the law.

9) Whenever I express concerns about democracy to my friend MY he always likes to remind me just how lawless the GWB administration was when it came to the “war on terror,” torture, etc.  He’s got a point.  Especially on the torture.  Conor Friedersforf:

How does Mitchell remember those events? In testimony at Guantánamo yesterday, he said the CIA demanded that he and Bruce Jessen, another psychologist, keep using the torture techniques that they had helped to develop. The Los Angeles Times recounted:

After Abu Zubaydah started cooperating with interrogators at a secret prison in Thailand in 2002, Mitchell and Jessen sought to stop using the waterboard. Officers at CIA headquarters in Virginia accused the two of having lost their nerve. “They said that we were pussies, that we had lost our spine,” Mitchell testified. The CIA officers said that if another attack by Al Qaeda occurred, Mitchell and Jessen “would have the blood of dead Americans on their hands.” Mitchell told the officers he would continue only if they came and witnessed application of the waterboard, to “bring their rubber boots and come on down.”

Which they did. They assembled in Abu Zubaydah’s cell, which Mitchell described as small with an unpleasant, musky odor. The psychologists performed what Mitchell said was a dialed-back version of the technique. “I don’t want to use the word ‘perfunctory’ for something that horrible, but, yeah,” he said. It didn’t seem perfunctory to the visitors, many of whom began to cry. “Their decision after witnessing this is that we don’t need to do this,” he said.

In this account, a prisoner was cooperating with interrogators, yet CIA officers at headquarters still ordered the psychologists who designed America’s torture program to keep terrorizing him by filling his lungs with water. The psychologists refused to needlessly terrorize another human being—unless the people at CIA headquarters who called them spineless pussies came to watch.

Then the CIA folks came, and the psychologists terrorized the prisoner as a demonstration, knowing it was wrong. And it was so brutal that multiple CIA observers cried. That’s according to Mitchell, one of the torture program’s staunchest defenders!

Because the CIA is cloaked in so much secrecy, Americans don’t even know if the people at headquarters who demanded that the torture continue still work for the spy agency. Their actions are a moral stain on the nation, as is the failure to hold them accountable.

10) Among other really, really stupid things Republicans are saying in defense of Trump is this.  Chait:

Of the 51 state attorneys general, 26 are Republican. And of those, 21 have signed a new letter denouncing impeachment as an offense to the Constitution. President Trump has tweeted excitedly in all-caps about the letter (or, more precisely, mentions of the letter he has seen on Fox News), and the Wall Street Journal editorial page lavishes the note with favorable attention.

Amusingly, the letter is premised on a clear error of fact. In keeping with the claims of Trump’s legal team, it asserts that he did not violate the law, and proceeds to argue that a president cannot be impeached “for acting in a legal manner.” In fact, Trump did violate the law. During the summer of 2019, numerous officials expressed their belief that Trump’s refusal to disperse the military aid to Ukraine that Congress had passed into law was illegal. Last week, the Government Accountability Office confirmed the truth of this rather obvious suspicion…

Proceeding from its debunked claim, the Republican letter argues that, since Trump’s actions were supposedly legal, the only basis for impeaching him is his allegedly corrupt motives. And motives are nothing more than thoughts! “Article I is based upon a constitutionally-flawed theory that the President can be impeached for exercising concededly lawful constitutional authority ‘motivated’ by thoughts a House majority unilaterally deems ‘corrupt,’” it reasons. Therefore, Trump “is being impeached for a political thought crime.”

As these are attorneys general, you’d like to think they’d actually be familiar with the legal concept of mens rea.  But, hey, Trump before the law.

11) Seth Masket does a nice job summarizing all the political science scholarship on how term limits are bad.  And there’s a lot of it.  Refer to this next time somebody you know makes a term limits argument.

12) Of course the government is shedding scientists under Trump:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dozens of government computers sit in a nondescript building here, able to connect to a data model that could help farmers manage the impact of a changing climate on their crops.

But no one in this federal agency would know how to access the model, or, if they did, what to do with the data.

That’s because the ambitious federal researcher who created it in Washington quit rather than move when the Agriculture Department relocated his agency to an office park here last fall.

He is one of hundreds of scientists across the federal government who have been forced out, sidelined or muted since President Trump took office.

The exodus has been fueled broadly by administration policies that have diminished the role of science as well as more specific steps, such as the relocation of agencies away from the nation’s capital.

While the administration has come under fire for prioritizing the concerns of industry at the expense of science in government decisions, the cumulative effects are just beginning to appear after three years of Trump in the White House.

13) George Packer wrote a tribute to the late Christopher Hitchens, but what I really liked is what he had to say about groups and identity:

First, there’s belonging. I know it sounds perverse to count belonging as an enemy of writing. After all, it’s a famously lonely life—the work only gets done in comfortless isolation, face-to-face with yourself—and the life is made tolerable and meaningful by a sense of connection with other people. And it can be immensely helpful to have models and mentors, especially for a young person who sets out from a place where being a writer might be unthinkable. But this solidarity isn’t what I mean by belonging. I mean that writers are now expected to identify with a community and to write as its representatives. In a way, this is the opposite of writing to reach other people. When we open a book or click on an article, the first thing we want to know is which group the writer belongs to. The group might be a political faction, an ethnicity or a sexuality, a literary clique. The answer makes reading a lot simpler. It tells us what to expect from the writer’s work, and even what to think of it. Groups save us a lot of trouble by doing our thinking for us.

Politicians and activists are representatives. Writers are individuals whose job is to find language that can cross the unfathomable gap separating us from one another. They don’t write as anyone beyond themselves. But today, writers have every incentive to do their work as easily identifiable, fully paid-up members of a community. Belonging is numerically codified by social media, with its likes, retweets, friends, and followers. Writers learn to avoid expressing thoughts or associating with undesirables that might be controversial with the group and hurt their numbers. In the most successful cases, the cultivation of followers becomes an end in itself and takes the place of actual writing…

Among the enemies of writing, belonging is closely related to fear. It’s strange to say this, but a kind of fear pervades the literary and journalistic worlds I’m familiar with. I don’t mean that editors and writers live in terror of being sent to prison. It’s true that the president calls journalists “enemies of the American people,” and it’s not an easy time to be one, but we’re still free to investigate him. Michael Moore and Robert De Niro can fantasize aloud about punching Donald Trump in the face or hitting him with a bag of excrement, and the only consequence is an online fuss. Nor are Islamist jihadists or white nationalists sticking knives in the backs of poets and philosophers on American city streets. The fear is more subtle and, in a way, more crippling. It’s the fear of moral judgment, public shaming, social ridicule, and ostracism. It’s the fear of landing on the wrong side of whatever group matters to you. An orthodoxy enforced by social pressure can be more powerful than official ideology, because popular outrage has more weight than the party line.

A friend of mine once heard from a New York publisher that his manuscript was unacceptable because it went against a “consensus” on the subject of race. The idea that publishers exist exactly to shatter a consensus, to provoke new thoughts, to make readers uncomfortable and even unhappy—this idea seemed to have gone dormant at the many houses where my friend’s manuscript was running into trouble. Fortunately, one editor remembered why he had gotten into publishing and summoned the courage to sign the book, which found its way to many readers. But the prevailing winds are blowing cold in the opposite direction. Incidents like this, minor but chilling, happen regularly in institutions whose core purpose is to say things well and truly. If an editorial assistant points out that a line in a draft article will probably detonate an explosion on social media, what is her supervisor going to do—risk the blowup, or kill the sentence? Probably the latter. The notion of keeping the sentence because of the risk, to defy the risk, to push the boundaries of free expression just a few millimeters further out—that notion now seems quaint. So the mob has the final edit…

Last year I taught a journalism course at Yale. My students were talented and hardworking, but I kept running into a problem: They always wanted to write from a position of moral certainty. This was where they felt strongest and safest. I assigned them to read writers who demonstrated the power of inner conflict and moral weakness—Baldwin, Orwell, Naipaul, Didion. I told my students that good writing never comes from the display of virtue. But I could see that they were skeptical, as if I were encouraging them deliberately to botch a job interview. They were attracted to subjects about which they’d already made up their minds.

My students have come of age during a decade when public discourse means taking a position and sticking with it. The most influential writers are those who create a dazzling moral clarity. Its light is meant to overpower subjects, not illuminate them. The glare is so strong that readers stop seeing the little flaws and contradictions of actual life, and stop wanting to—they have only to bask in the warmth of a blinding glow. The attraction of moral clarity is obvious, never more so than in the Trump years, when everything of value—honesty, kindness, tolerance, loyalty, courage—is daily trashed by the most powerful people in America. The Trump presidency is tremendously clarifying, and the duty of a citizen is also clear—to uphold those values in every way possible.

14) This also inspired a great rant from Drum, who went off on “cultural appropriation” that also gets at the American Dirt “controversy” that I find ridiculous.

There’s not much question that Packer is right about this. Certainly among liberals there’s an orthodoxy on certain subjects that everyone feels nervous about questioning. Is it, for example, completely nuts that we are currently discussing whether a white author is entitled to write a novel—American Dirt, for those of you who are blissfully ignorant of this foofaraw—which features Hispanic characters fleeing to America? Of course it is. It’s insane. And yet, not only are we discussing it, we are giving a solemn and respectful hearing to the tiny group of zealots who have suddenly decided that this topic is literally the property of one particular ethnic group.

But uh oh. Should I have written that? What will my editor think? Will I get pilloried once Twitter learns what I just said? Should I have called these folks zealots? And most important, do I really care enough about this to bother? I don’t, really. It’s not in my wheelhouse and there’s not much point in risking even a small backlash for it.

Then again, the whole subject of cultural appropriation strikes me as nuts. That is to say, the very existence of the phrase is nuts. Is cultural appropriation bad? Of course not. Not only is it not bad, it’s the very source of our country’s cultural creativity and dynamism. Name practically any art form—food, writing, movies, cars, etc.—and we have all been gleefully stealing from each other for centuries. I for one hope we continue for centuries more, rather than falling into a stultifying miasma of political correctness in which only certain people are allowed to write/paint/cook in certain ways.

15) I liked this a lot from Heather Cox Richardson on impeachment and To Kill a Mockingbird:

Taken together, the Democrats’ case has been overwhelming. Even Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News Channel senior judicial analyst, said the evidence was “ample and uncontradicted.”

But all I could think of was Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning book To Kill A Mockingbird, and lawyer Atticus Finch’s masterful defense of the moral, kind, hardworking African American man Tom Robinson, whom everyone in Macomb knew had not committed the rape poor white girl Mayella Ewell had accused him of. Atticus proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mayella’s own no-good father Bob had raped her, and that she had flirted with Tom out of a desperate need for affection, then accused Tom to save herself from her father’s violent wrath. Atticus hammered the facts home, proving that Tom, with his withered arm, could not possibly have assaulted Mayella, and that she and Bob were lying. But in the end, nothing mattered but power. Not facts, not truth, not right. An all-white jury, wedded to white supremacy, pretended to believe the white Bob Ewell, and convicted Tom of the crime.

Tonight, as if on cue, CBS reported that a confidante of the president told CBS News that GOP senators were warned “vote against the president & your head will be on a pike.” Republican senators, who have previously suggested they would entertain the idea of witnesses—a proxy for the idea they might actually listen to evidence—began to coalesce around the idea that they cannot subpoena witnesses because Trump is threatening to invoke executive privilege, the right of the president to keep certain communications private. (For all the chatter about executive privilege, he has not invoked it yet; his people have simply said they would not answer certain questions in case it might intrude on his future invocation of the privilege.) That, they say, would drag out the trial unnecessarily. And so, it looks as if the hope that a few of the Republican senators would break ranks will not play out.

The jury convicted Tom Robinson.

This letter is late tonight because I couldn’t imagine what I could say in it. “Schiff and Co are off the charts brilliant,” I wrote to a colleague, “and it doesn’t matter.”

16) Okay, a mini impeachment run.  Of  course “Trump’s lawyers don’t understand how foreign aid works”

Jay Sekulow, in defending Trump’s secret hold on military aid for Ukraine last summer, argued that holding foreign aid is a routine action that other presidents, including Barack Obama, have engaged in. Other Trump allies have been parroting this line in recent days. The most obvious problem with this reasoning is that, as others have pointed out, Trump is accused of withholding foreign military aid for corrupt, personal and political purposes. The simple truth is that there aren’t any other examples that match that definition.

But the examples he gave on the Senate floor are also wrong for several other reasons. First, Sekulow compared Trump’s Ukraine aid actions with Obama’s secret delay of Egyptian military aid in 2013…

There’s no doubt Trump is skeptical of all foreign aid and would like to cut it wherever possible. (Cutting aid to struggling Latin American countries will likely increase migration, not decrease it, but that’s a separate issue.) Regardless, in none of these examples has there been any hint that the aid is connected to political favors.

17) This is really, really good from Paul Waldman, “Why every vulnerable GOP senator will stick by Trump”

Here’s Gardner’s problem, the same one faced by other senators from swing states. If he goes along with McConnell and votes to refuse any more evidence to be admitted, Democrats will rightly charge him with complicity in not only covering up Trump’s misdeeds but in validating those misdeeds themselves, confirming that there’s nothing wrong with the president coercing a foreign government to help his reelection campaign. That will alienate Democratic voters. But if Gardner votes to allow new evidence, Republicans will call him a traitor.

Those are his only choices. There isn’t some clever way to satisfy everyone. Given how McConnell has constructed this trial — and how Trump has built his whole presidency — you’re either with Trump or you’re against him.

There’s a common misconception about swing states such as Colorado that explains how stark the choice faced by senators like Gardner will be. The misconception is that those states are populated by moderate voters who want their representatives to take positions somewhere between the two parties. But that’s not true. Instead, swing states are just as partisan as heavily Republican or heavily Democratic states. It’s just that they contain roughly equal numbers of Democratic partisans and Republican partisans…

So Gardner is stuck in two ways: The trial has been built by McConnell and the White House to permit no middle ground between supporting Trump absolutely and opposing him absolutely, and Gardner’s constituents aren’t really looking for him to find that middle ground anyway.

So far he’s been keeping quiet, but the universal assumption is that in the end he’ll just go along with his party. If he voted against Trump, his Republican constituents would abandon him, but he wouldn’t win many converts among his Democratic constituents, and he’d lose. At least if he sticks with Trump he has a chance…

So if you’re looking for those vulnerable Republicans to signal their open-mindedness by voting to allow new evidence in Trump’s trial, don’t get your hopes up. It’s just too much of a risk for them to take.

18) And Waldman also ties torture and impeachment together nicely, “From torture to Trump, Republicans no longer even pretend they have principles”

President Trump is on trial in the Senate, but so is the entire Republican Party. And 1,300 miles away in Guantanamo there’s another trial taking place, one that implicates the GOP just as much.

In these two trials we can see the complete moral wreckage of their party, and how they’ve carried the country down with them.

What does the trial of a group of alleged terrorists have to do with impeachment? When seen from the perspective not of one president but of what Republicans ask all of us to accept and how they frame their own moral culpability, they are waypoints on the same devolutionary road…

The truth of what went on was utterly horrific. Among the methods of torture to which prisoners were subjected were waterboarding, beatings, extreme cold, sleep deprivation, nudity as a means of humiliation, stress positions (which are designed to induce excruciating pain), and even mock executions (a favorite of the Iranian regime, it should be noted)…

The use of torture was a clear violation of both U.S. law and international treaties to which the country is a signatory. So the Bush administration’s lawyers drew up legal opinions with new and bizarre ideas to justify their actions; one such document claimed that if the torture wasn’t so unbearable that the victim went into organ failure, then it wasn’t technically torture…

So what does this have to do with the Trump impeachment? In the early 2000s, a Republican administration and nearly the entirety of the Republican Party discarded what we assumed was an almost-universal moral position, that torture is wrong. But when they did so, they felt it necessary to clothe their ethical abdication in a combination of euphemism, bogus legal justifications, and fear-mongering.

Consider where we are today. The Republican Party is in a loosely analogous situation: The president of the United States did something awful, and they are attempting to defend it. But this time around, they can barely muster the energy to dress up what he did in a covering of moral argument.

Their defenses of Trump’s behavior are halfhearted at best. Instead, they’re finding the safest harbor in arguing that sure, Trump did what he was accused of, and if you don’t like it you can shove it. Or as Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said, “Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Abuse of power, they say, is not technically a crime and therefore he can’t be impeached for it.

19) Gotta say, I really love Ayanna Pressley’s courage in coming forward about her alopecia and resulting baldness.  That’s got to be so hard, especially for a woman.

20) Lets end with some good news, at least if you are exercising, “Here’s how exercise reduces anxiety and makes you feel more connected”

People who are physically active are happier and more satisfied with their lives. They have a stronger sense of purpose, feel more gratitude, are more connected to their communities, and are less likely to be lonely or anxious.

Why? A big part has to do with how being active affects the brain. Here are five surprising ways exercise is good for your mind.

The exercise “high” primes you to connect with others

While typically described as a runner’s high, an exercise-induced mood boost is not exclusive to running. Similar good feelings can be found in any sustained physical activity, such as yoga, swimming and dancing.

Scientists long speculated that endorphins are behind the high, but research shows the high is linked to another class of brain chemicals: endocannabinoids (the same chemicals mimicked by cannabis) — what neuroscientists describe as the “don’t worry, be happy” chemical. Endocannabinoids reduce anxiety and induce a state of contentment. These brain chemicals also increase dopamine in the brain’s reward system, which fuels feelings of optimism.

Because endocannabinoids also increase the pleasure we derive from being around others, the exercise high primes us to connect. This makes exercise an excellent way to strengthen relationships. Among married couples, when spouses exercise together, both partners report more closeness later that day, studies show, including feeling loved and supported.

Another study shows that on days when people exercise, they experience more positive interactions with friends and family. As one runner said to me, “My family will sometimes send me out running, as they know that I will come back a much better person.”




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