New Addictions That Won’t Kill You

building a better mental toolkit

1. Mounting Crisis

Even before work from home became mandatory, plenty of people were already aboard the WFH train. In 2019, researchers found that people who worked from home were more likely to be depressed. Then 2020 hit, and pretty much anyone who could work remotely was doing it. In addition to the constant, hammering anxiety and grief associated with the virus, social unrest and uncertainty have combined to create a new mental health crisis, one that the current infrastructure for American mental health appears incapable of tackling.

2. New Kinds of Mindfulness

Mindfulness practices often feel inaccessible. Either they look too «out there» or seem to require more hours of the day than people can afford to devote to, say, sitting in silence. But what if you could combine two of the items on your 2021 resolution list: working out and mindfulness? Guided running meditations, known as mindful running, are becoming increasingly popular on fitness streaming platforms, and with the heightened importance of spending time outdoors these days, running to meditate might make you hate running a little less.

3. Switch to Airplane Mode

We all know how overwhelming social media can be, especially when it reflects the worst of American polarization. Who can forget the infamous «Imagine» video that filled our feeds and prompted a vicious backlash? This year, taking a break from social media, whether it’s for a short stretch every day or a dayslong retreat, is more important than ever. Expert tip: If you tell people you are having an airplane-mode day, you won’t even have to change your phone’s setting because no one will text you!

4. Commit to Connecting

One of the most painful elements of the pandemic has been the inability to collectively, physically grieve together. In precarious times, we are hard-wired to seek out human connection and form social bonds. While Zoom may feel like a pale imitation, it’s still a worthwhile use of time. Virtual events can make you feel more connected to a larger purpose, while video chatting with friends can help you process anxiety and grief. Creating opportunities to feel connected might be harder, but it’s more than worth the effort.

5. Try Going Dry

If you’re among the increasing number of people giving «dry January» a shot this year, congratulations — you’re a third of the way there! Taking a monthlong break from alcohol has become a popular way to kick off the new year. And this year, it’s an opportunity to forgo «qurantinis» and experiment with new nightly traditions like these clever mocktails.

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addictions & covid

1. Online Sports Gambling

Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that besides legalizing recreational marijuana, the state would legalize online sports betting to raise money to help the city rebound post-pandemic. He believes the state can be the «largest sports wagering market» in the country. How will this work? The gambling will be run through a state-sponsored company much like the state-run lottery. The New York State Gaming Commission will also require addiction safeguards. Would you bet on the Empire State’s success?

2. Overdose Explosions

The pandemic wasn’t the only thing that killed people in 2020. The chaotic year also saw a record number of overdose deaths in the United States. Synthetic opioids appear to be driving the surge, with overdoses from synthetic drugs (primarily fentanyl) rising by 38.4 percent. Those suffering from addiction were hit especially hard by the lockdowns, which reduced access to treatment facilities, clinics and medical resources. One bright spot was the emergency expansion of Medicaid under the CARES Act, which facilitated access to overdose treatment.

3. Bottoms Up

Last March, there was a reported 54 percent increase in alcohol sales, while other researchers pointed to a clear increase in binge drinking during the pandemic, especially among women. Lockdowns also drove people around the world to concoct and consume more bootleg booze, leaving another trail of accidental deaths.

4. Staying Sober

While the link between isolation and addiction is well-known, 2020 delivered an unexpected hit. Many addicts left treatment facilities when faced with the prospect of being isolated amid the pandemic only to end up relapsing at historically fast rates. While the loss of in-person addiction treatment was painful, many were able to find solace in instant access to a global network of recovery meetings via online platforms — boosting meeting attendance.

5. New Trends

COVID-19 has disrupted the traditional drug pipeline, leaving many without access to their preferred high or forcing them to shop illegal sales sites. The new hurdles to acquiring drugs are also pushing people to abuse psychiatric prescription medication. But not even the dark web is immune to the effects of the pandemic; many dealers are finding it impossible to ship their product or keep enough inventory to stay afloat. Meanwhile, more working professionals are turning to drugs to help battle extreme stress, isolation and anxiety.

6. Turning Over a New Leaf

The drug of choice in the Horn of Africa is khat, a leafy shrub that can produce excitement or euphoria when chewed. With the pandemic interrupting the production and sale of khat across borders, the illicit economy has taken a hit — but a diminished supply of the drug is also tied to a reduction in domestic violence and to more people reinvesting in their communities.

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Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’

Investigative journalist Mariana van Zeller may have the world’s scariest job. Today, the host of National Geographic’s new show, Trafficked With Mariana van Zeller, joins Carlos to discuss her investigations into the world’s biggest black markets, why they have boomed during COVID-19 and why she always chooses curiosity over fear.

new addictive pastimes

1. XC Skiing

Many parents understandably want their kids to avoid playing indoor sports this year. A surprising new alternative is emerging in the Midwest: cross-country skiing. The sport is perfect for people looking to spend time in the snow and avoid lift lines. Plus, Nordic skiing costs much less than downhill skiing and is a killer cardio workout.

2. Skateboarding

If you’re searching for a new hobby, look no further than the nearest skate park. Learning how to skateboard is a perfect justification for spending hours outside, whether you’re desperate for some time away from your parents, pod-mates or partner. And don’t be discouraged if you suck; even the pros have an occasional epic fail.

3. Chess

The blockbuster success of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix is inspiring people to try their hand at chess, with a record number of people joining chess-playing platforms and watching matches. Want to try the game but worried you’ll be no good? Here are some tips from grandmaster Maurice Ashley — it starts with controlling and occupying the center of the board.

4. Fit From Home

For many people, this was the year that the living room became both office and gym. People turned to lunchtime workouts to boost productivity and keep themselves sane. This year, bodyweight exercises and workouts using minimal equipment will not only help you meet your New Year’s resolution to get fit but also manage your stress level.

5. Lounging

Yes, lounging absolutely counts as a pastime. Especially intentional lounging. Take the time to relax, mute your phone and read a good book. Try baking an ambitious new dish, and then savor it while snuggled on the couch. Your mental health will thank you.

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new media addictions

1. ‘The Carlos Watson Show’

Speaking of starting your day off right, almost nothing goes better with a cup of coffee than an episode of The Carlos Watson Show. Listen to guests like Dr. Anthony Fauci talk about vaccine safety or his favorite basketball player (spoiler: it might be Steph Curry) or Jordin Sparks describe her life after American Idol.

2. ‘Bridgerton’

If you haven’t already fallen madly in love with the Duke of Hastings, then prepare to. Think of this Netflix series from Shondaland, set in 19th-century Regency-era London, as Gossip Girl meets Pride and Prejudice. The new show is not without controversy, but the romance and intrigue (and tiaras) make it a delicious indulgence — and the TikTok memes offer added fun.

3. ‘Bel-Air’

The dramatic reinterpretation of the classic Will Smith comedy series is set to air this year on Peacock, NBC’s fledgling streaming service. The show started as a viral video when creator Morgan Cooper edited footage of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a drama.

4. ‘When Katty Met Carlos’

OZY’s newest podcast brings together OZY’s Carlos Watson and the BBC’s Katty Kay to discuss the issues facing America. The show is the perfect listen for your morning run or while cooking dinner, as the two anchors are joined by compelling guests and discuss everything from the state of democracy to conspiracy theories to the vaccine rollout.

5. ‘Pen15’

Very few shows provide the kind of emotional release that Pen15 does. The misadventures of best friends Maya and Anna as they make their way through middle school are just as heartfelt as they are awkward and cringe inducing. The show will make you laugh and squirm as it reminds you of how awful being 13 can be.

6. People We Think You’ll Love

For a reading binge, we expect you’ll get as excited about these rising stars as we are. From Dajae Williams, who teaches kids about math through rap, to Justin Simien, creator of Bad Hair, you won’t regret becoming obsessed with these innovators.