11 Signs You’re With The Person You Should Marry
Do men have biological clocks? Yes, they do! A man can feel the need to grow up and have a family, especially when he finds a woman who inspires those feelings in him. The problem is, how can you be sure the match is a good one?
You’d think the positive signs in a date would be obvious, but with all the excitement, the most important clues can be overlooked. What makes for a great date may not be all you need for a great relationship. This checklist of positive signs will help you evaluate your date in a realistic manner. If you get a lot of these positives, this date might be a good choice for marriage.
1. He has a sense of humor.
Of all the characteristics that are essential for getting through life successfully, a sense of humor has to be in the top ten. But what kind of a sense of humor? Joking at someone else’s expense or at inappropriate times can be counter-productive. Using jokes to avoid taking responsibility for one’s behavior can prevent you from solving problems. The sense of humor you’re looking for is the generous, positive kind that makes life more fun and the tough times easier. If your date can make your laugh and lift your spirits, that talent may help you through some future difficulties.
2. He cares about what you think.
A date who asks for and listens to your opinions and feelings, and better yet, who remembers what you say and builds on it later, and who responds with empathy, sincerity and caring, is someone you can communicate with and therefore, more likely to be able to form a partnership with you. If you pay attention, you can quickly notice the difference between the appearance of caring and real caring. If your relationship is successful, you’ll have years of talking to each other, so find someone who is interesting to talk to and also interested in talking with you. Your date should be able to carry on an interesting discussion on a variety of topics and at least show interest, even if the topic is not something he or she is familiar with.
3. He has an opinion, too.
A truly good conversationalist not only listens to your words and responds, but also has ideas and opinions. Your date should not hesitate to disagree with you or to bring up new topics.
4. He can work things out with you.
Recent research shows that the single most important quality that determines whether a relationship can succeed is how well the couple solves problems. If you have a disagreement while dating, welcome it as an opportunity to see how well the two of work it out together. If you can discuss your differences without becoming defensive or sarcastic, and you can listen to each other and work together toward a solution, your relationship has an excellent chance.
5. He accepts who you are.
A popular book asserts that “Men Are From Mars, And Women Are From Venus,” but I think it’s more that we’re all from different planets. You and your date are unique, special and individual and need to be able to understand each other and accept that you’ll perceive things very differently. Even when you and your date see things differently, you should be able to agree to disagree. Remember, the security and comfort in your relationship will come from where you and your partner are similar, and the excitement and growth in the relationship are generated from your differences. Different interests, opinions, attitudes and ideas will keep things fresh and alive between you. If your date does not become defensive or threatened by your differences, you can be interesting to each other for a long time.
6. He is open.
The whole point of dating, as we said before, is to get to know each other. While you both may want to take a little time before disclosing too much, your date should be comfortable talking about him or herself, and it should not be like pulling teeth to find out what you need to know.
7. He has a life with a job, friends, family relationships and interests.
A date who has a full, interesting life you would want to be a part of is more likely to be a healthy, balanced person. While it’s important to have some relaxation time and time to meditate or think, a life that includes a good career, hobbies or sports, community service and friends and/or family is reassurance that your date is motivated, focused and able to relate.
8. He seeks out knowledge.
Your date doesn’t need to be a member of Mensa or a mathematical genius, but look for enough intelligence that you can respect and admire each other. There are several kinds of intelligence, from school learning to independent education by reading, working, traveling and life experiences. An airhead who looks good and may be fun to play with will not keep you interested for long. A date who is not interested in learning and growing intellectually may not be able to keep up over the long haul.
9. His modesty, humility and ego are balanced.
As you learn about this new person you’re dating, observe his or her character and personality for signs of a balanced sense of self. If your date can keep success and failure in perspective, admit personal shortcomings, and rise above disappointments and losses, he or she does have a balanced personality and the kind of resilience that can travel through life’s highs and lows and keep it all in perspective.
10. He is emotionally mature.
While it’s fun and charming to be able to be childlike when in a playful mood, it’s essential to be an adult whenever necessary. A date who is responsible, self-regulating, emotionally responsive, motivated, and in control of his or her impulses is capable of being a supportive, fully participating partner — no matter what joys and sorrows, successes and failures you may face in the course of a lifetime.
11. He has a healthy history of relationships.
Of course, if both of you are dating again, your relationship history will probably not be perfect. What counts is whether your date has learned from the problems, confronted his or her own weaknesses and shortcomings and grown as a result of the setbacks. If your date is willing to talk openly about his or her past relationships and can explain what went wrong and how he or she is learning to correct the problems, the difficulties in past relationships can be an asset rather than a liability. If your date expresses a willingness to seek counseling in the event that problems should occur, score that in his or her favor.
Remember, a smart date will be watching for the same characteristics in you. To do well in a relationship, learn to be the partner you would like to be.
Posted on Wednesday, August 27th 2014
5 Reasons You STILL Have Acne
Here’s what may be causing those breakouts, and what late bloomers can do to (finally) move past them.
You’re One of the Unlucky 50 Percent
What’s happening: Half of all women will suffer from acne at some point in their post-teen years, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Acne is most often triggered by hormonal fluctuations during puberty (as you remember) as well as during pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause and even when you change birth control methods.
What it looks like: Cyst-looking bumps that hurt like the dickens and last forever. While younger acne takes over the T-zone, adult pimples usually appear on the chin and neck and along the jawline, says Jennifer Chwalek, MD, a dermatologist who practices with Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York. They’ll be at their worst just before you get your period.
What to try: As a quick fix, your dermatologist may inject the site with inflammation-calming cortisone. To prevent these types of breakouts in the future, she may talk to you about spironolactone, an oral medication that blocks the androgen hormones often responsible for adult acne.
You’re Searching for the Elixir of Youth
What’s happening: There are countless products to prevent and treat the signs of aging, but sampling several of them at once may inadvertently lead to pimples. In addition, many antiaging products have heavy-duty moisturizers to help with age-related dryness, and those can clog pores if you have acne-prone skin, Chwalek says.
What it looks like: You’re not just spotty but also uncharacteristically shiny.
What to try: If you have acne-prone skin, look for products that are “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic” and try one at a time, says Chwalek. She also recommends keeping an eye out for these ingredients, which are more likely to aggravate acne: lanolin, squalene, alcohols (isopropyl myristate), oils (mineral oil, coconut butter, oil) and sodium lauryl sulfate.
You Don’t Have Adult Acne. (You Have This.)
What’s happening: The good news: You don’t have acne! The bad news: You may have perioral dermatitis, a skin condition that’s common among middle-age women and is often mistaken for acne, says Chwalek. Experts don’t really know what causes it, she adds, but it’s a variant of rosacea and has been linked to the prolonged use of topical steroid creams and inhaled prescription steroid sprays, overuse of some heavy face creams, skin irritants and (weirdly) fluorinated toothpaste.
What it looks like: A red, bumpy rash around the mouth and lower face. It can also be scaly or irritated-looking.
What to try: Dermatologists usually treat this condition with a course of antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, says Chwalek.
You’re Overwhelmed by Adult Responsibilities
What’s happening: Stress and exhaustion cause your cortisol levels to spike, and this can result in an increase in testosterone as well as pimply skin, says Chwalek, who is also a clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. She adds that the edible “stress relievers” you’re getting from the vending machine (i.e., cans of soda, bags of M&Ms) aren’t helping, as foods like these, with a high glycemic index, can aggravate acne.
What it looks like: These are usually the same pimples you remember from your youth: red, white and annoying all over (they often appear in clusters).
What to try: Topical ointments with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, the gold standards for treating teen acne, can be too harsh for adult skin. They often cause dryness, which can be a problem for women who are dealing with an age-related lack of moisture. Look for acne products with a lower concentration of pimple-busting active ingredients. (And try to get to bed earlier.)
You Recently Renovated Your Powder Room
What’s happening: You finally have your own private sink and vanity…which means you’re paying more attention to your skin than ever before. Chwalek says that adult patients tend to spend more time in front of the magnifying mirror and are more likely to deal with breakouts by picking obsessively or slathering on multiple treatments.
What it looks like: Inflamed, red, scabby, positively volcanic. And because cell turnover slows with age, Chwalek says that picked pimples will take even longer to heal and are more likely to leave scars in woman of a certain age.
What to try: Those who can’t keep their hands from their face might want to read this cautionary tale.
Posted on Tuesday, August 26th 2014
7 Facts About Your Eyes
1. The eye works like a camera. Light enters the eye through a clear outer dome known as the cornea. The iris, the coloured portion that surrounds the pupil, expands and contracts to let light in. Just behind the pupil is the lens, which focuses light rays on the retina. Like film inside a camera, the retina captures images, sending them via the optic nerve to the brain.
2. Everyone will experience some level of vision loss. Presbyopia, or reading vision loss, occurs in one’s 40s or 50s, says Dr. Jeffrey J. Machat, MD, a Toronto-based ophthalmologist. If close-up objects begin to appear blurry and you have to hold them farther away to focus, consult a specialist about reading glasses.
3. Looking at a screen for extended periods doesn’t damage your eyes. You’re more likely to experience dry eyes if you spend a lot of time on your computer, but this is a matter of fatigue, not permanent damage, says Dr. Machat. “You’re not blinking as often, so your eyes get more tired more quickly and things get blurry.”
4. The average person blinks 10,800 times per day.
5. Red-eye in photos is caused by the flash illuminating the blood vessels of your retina.
6. Every 12 minutes, a Canadian begins to experience vision loss.
7. Eyesight dos and don’ts:
Do: Wear sunglasses year-round. Exposure to ultraviolet rays can lead to cataracts (a progressive condition that results in hazy, discoloured vision) and age-related macular degeneration, a disease which leads to a breakdown of tissue in the centre of the retina. Look for glasses that offer 100-percent UVA and UVB protection, and opt for polarized lenses to reduce glare from snow and water.
Don’t: Use anti-redness drops. The more often you use them, the less effective they become, due to a process called rebound vasodilation. Stick with artificial tears instead of medicated drops.
Posted on Saturday, August 23rd 2014
Running Just 5 Minutes A Day Could Add Years To Your Life
If you don’t think you have time to go for a run, think again.
Running just five minutes a day could add years to your life and provide the same health benefits as running much more, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Even if you aren’t a fan of running, that’s not a lot to ask.
Almost everyone has five minutes to spare. This finding suggests that it takes longer to put on workout clothes and shoes and to clean up and change again afterward than it does to do something that could make you significantly healthier.
“Since time is one of the strongest barriers to participate in physical activity, the study may motivate more people to start running and continue to run as an attainable health goal,” said DC Lee, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the Iowa State University Kinesiology Department, in the news release.
Researchers followed a group of 55,137 adults for 15 years. Their ages ranged from 18 to 100, with an average age of 44. During that time period, 3,413 people died, 1,217 for reasons related to cardiovascular issues.
Runners were 30% less likely to die than non-runners, even if they didn’t run a lot, and 45% less likely to die from heart disease or stroke.
And while the study was not designed to determine whether running was the root cause of those outcomes, any running at all was associated with an extra three years of life expectancy.
About a quarter of the total group identified as “runners,” though that group was then subdivided into groups who ran anywhere from more than 20 miles a week and more than 25 minutes a day to those who ran fewer than six miles a week and only five to 10 minutes a day.
The really crazy part is that the running-related health benefits for all those groups were similar, even after controlling for other exercise habits, age, sex, weight, smoking, drinking, and family history of heart disease. Running a lot more wasn’t necessarily better than running just a little, at least not in terms of risk of cardiovascular problems.
So is there something particularly special about running that makes it stand out more than other exercise?
Not really, according to Timothy Church, a professor at the Pennington Institute and co-author of the study. It’s more about intense exercise, he told The New York Times.
Running is an easy way to get intense exercise, even if you aren’t a particularly fast runner. It takes a lot more out of you than things that qualify as moderate exercise, like walking.
“Running just happens to be the most convenient way for most people to exercise intensely,” Church told The Times.
But if you really hate the idea of running, even if you know you don’t have to do much of it, he suggests picking something else that qualifies as vigorous activity and doing that at least five minutes a day — jumping rope or intense biking, for example.
The benefits are remarkable.
Posted on Thursday, August 21st 2014
7 Steps to find True Happiness
You receive a promotion and are extremely proud. As the day goes by, you share your great news with your loved ones and find yourself feeling increasingly happy. Fast forward a week later, and although you are still feeling proud, the happiness you initially felt is dwindling, and your success has become just another check on your list. You are not sure why, but know this is a cycle you find yourself in often — a cycle where your happiness seems to be temporary and your success is short lived.
This form of happiness is not true happiness, which is why it did not last. True happiness exists within and does not waver regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in. It does not come from a promotion or a vacation, it comes from moving forward as life does. Everyone is born with happiness, but as you experience life, it becomes tainted by situations or people. Getting to a point where you are again tapping into your true happiness can be very challenging, particularly for people who are sensitive, intuitive, or empathic, but here you will find seven steps to help make the process easier for yourself.
Step 1: Let the past go
Holding on to the past keeps you in place of unforgivingness, resentment, pain, longing, and regret as opposed to the opposite. It also keeps you stuck, which often creates an unfulfilling present. Start forgiving today and unravel all those years of pain. Let go of resentment and forgive those who have hurt you or who you have hurt, overcome mistakes made, and forget regrets. Allow yourself to move forward and let go at the end of each day.
Step 2: Accept yourself and others
Comparing yourself to others will keep you in a place of not being good enough or them not being good enough; either way coming to a point of “not enough.” If there is a feeling or thought of not enough, no matter what you or others accomplish and receive in life, it will not be enough. Accepting that everyone is unique and has their own life to live will make it easier to accept them and yourself.
Step 3: Connect to your source
Connecting to your source means connecting to who you are, what your beliefs are, and what spirituality means to you. It means having a clear understanding of these and matching your actions as you give yourself permission to live as who you are.
Step 4: Trust in yourself
Trusting in yourself means trusting your inner truth, even when it does not match that of others, and living and speaking it. It means being confident with choices and decisions you make and trusting the path you are on. It means trusting that you want the best for yourself and will not allow anyone or anything to hurt you. This also helps you see the best in everything and everyone, making you feel safe.
Step 5: Take responsibility
Taking responsibility is more challenging than it sounds, but understanding that everything happens for a reason and that you do have choice when something does not play out the way you thought it would will help with the process. You have a choice on how you are going to let it affect your life. Even if life brings you what you did not have in mind, embrace it. Take responsibility of yourself and choose to see the blessing in everything.
Step 6: Adapt an attitude of gratitude
Your attitude paves the way of your path, and any sort of negativity will create an ungrateful experience. Adapting an attitude of gratitude and appreciating everything, specially the small stuff, will make life more enjoyable for you. It will also help you become more optimistic and positive. Practice waking up and being grateful for simply being alive that day and see the ripple effect it creates.
Step 7: Create change
Instead of waiting for something to happen, go out and make things happen. Listen to yourself and make changes wherever you feel compelled. If you want to improve the relationship between you and your mother, then go and create the change you want to take place in your life. If you are wanting more of an emotional connection, lead the way and set the tone. Create change where you want it, and happiness will naturally seep out of you with each step you take in the direction of your goal.
Posted on Tuesday, August 19th 2014
How Fit You Really Are?
You run and weight train. You’ve done yoga and can almost touch your toes. So that means you’re fit, right? Well, maybe. Trouble is, there’s no definitive method for determining fitness across the board. As a result, an IRONMAN, CrossFit athlete and bodybuilder can all be fit by their own standards, but a flop outside of their specific domain.
So what’s the best test of fitness? In grade school, the President’s Fitness Challenge might have set the standard. But as grown-ups, gauging our strengths — and weaknesses — might require a more well-rounded approach. After all, the journey from fitness seeker to physically fit begins by finding your baseline. And in order to get where we want to go, we have to know where we stand.
Whether you’re a total beginner or totally advanced, these seven fitness assessments lay the groundwork for what it means to be fit in different categories — from strength to cardio to total-body conditioning. That means there’s no more faking fitness! Tackle these tests to figure out, once and for all, how fit you really are.
Strength In Numbers
Presses, pushups and protein are all part of most strength training programs. But there’s one thing that’s continually left out of the exercise equation: gauging performance. If arm wrestling contests aren’t your thing, consider one of these more traditional strength tests.
The Pushup Test
Focus: Muscular endurance
How It Works: For this assessment, the goal is to perform as many pushups as possible in 60 seconds flat. To begin, set up in pushup position with hands shoulder-width apart and legs together. Lower yourself down until your chest makes contact with the ground and repeat. Performance standards vary based on age and sex, but men should fall between 20 and 40 reps, while women should aim for eight to 20 pushups to earn passing marks. To get those numbers up, try adding the wide and close grip pushup as well as incline and decline variations to your regular exercise routine.
Focus: Maximal strength
How It Works: After moving from bodyweight exercises into the world of free weights, the one-rep max is the go-to gauge for strength. That said, the one-rep max is not applicable for every exercise, so you can skip the all-out triceps extension or concentration curl. Instead, focus on maxing out compound exercises like barbell front or back squat, bench press, military press and deadlift. Once you’re finished testing, see how you stack up to the standard of strength used by Rob Shaul ofMilitary Athlete, who compares strength to bodyweight to measure relative strength. After establishing a one-rep max, use these numbers to determine how much weight should be used during strength training workouts (see Overload Principle).
You’ve pumped iron, but can you get the heart pumping too? Improving the body’s ability to transport and use oxygen helps it perform more efficiently, upping endurance and overall levels of fitness. Is your heart in the right place?
Focus: Top-end speed
How It Works: For Liederman, being able to save your own life in an emergency included the ability to run all-out for at least 200 meters. To test your speed, head to the track or mark out 200 meters. After a dynamic warm-up, perform a series of sprints increasing intensity and length each round. Start with two 50-meter sprints before moving up to two 100-meter and two 150-meter efforts. Last up, set a stopwatch and sprint all 200 meters striving for top-end speed. While Usain Bolt runs 200 meters in under 20 seconds, finishing in sub-30 seconds means you’re on the right track. Step up your sprint game by practicing the start, adding squats to your strength workout and performing sprint intervals to get those fast-twitch muscle firing.
Focus: Cardio conditioning
How It Works: The Army uses the two-mile run to test cardiovascular threshold. Ready to roll? Time how long it takes you to complete eight laps on a 400-meter track (or track your stats on a GPS watch). Finishing in 12 to 14 minutes is above average, while 15 to 17 minutes is fair and more than 17 minutes is considered below average.
Fit From Head To Toe
Think cardio and weights are two separate beasts? This last batch of fitness assessments roll strength, cardio and athleticism into one. Do you have what it takes?
CrossFit Baseline WOD
Focus: Total-body fitness
How It Works: A chipper is a series of exercises to that are completed in order, chipping away at each movement, until the entire workout is finished. In this baseline workout, the goal is to complete a 500-meter row followed by 40 air squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 pushups and 10 pull-ups for time. By CrossFit standards an intermediate scoreis 7:15 for men, and 8:30 for women.
Marine Corps Fitness Test
Focus: Total-body fitness
How It Works: This fitness test includes three exercises: pull-ups, sit-ups and a three-mile run. But don’t let that fool you. Designed to assess the strength and stamina of Marines, this test can be a humbling exercise experience. Perform as many pull-ups as possible, without dropping off of the bar, followed by two minutes of maximum sit-ups. Last up is a three-mile run for time. For a Marine, passing this test means performing at least three pull-ups, 45 crunches and logging three miles in under 30 minutes. For those setting the bar high, a perfect score includes 100 crunches in two minutes, 20 dead-hang pull-ups and three miles in less than 18 minutes. Looking for training tips? Look no further than Marine Maj. Dean Keck, who has scored a perfect 300 on 43 consecutive tests over the course of 20 years!
Focus: Maximal strength and cardio conditioning
How It Works: As the name suggests, this fitness test can be brutal. The creation of Rob Schaul from Military Athlete, “Operator Ugly” was designed for soldiers, contractors and operators (soldiers trained in guerilla fighting techniques). Combining max effort weight training (deadlift, bench press and front squat) with a series of sprints, this workout pushes the limits of human performance. Translation: Do not try this at home.
Ready to find out how fit you really are? If your answer is yes (and we hope it is!) remember you don’t have to take on all of these tests at once. In fact, several might not be advised based on your current fitness level (we’re looking at you, Operator Ugly!). Check in with a doctor or certified trainer if you have any injuries or medical conditions, and consider setting up a testing schedule so you can go all-out with adequate recovery time between assessments. And be sure to record your performance. After all, that’s the true path to fitness: test, train, repeat.
Posted on Friday, August 15th 2014
Tips For Dealing With Stress
In the world we live in, removing all the stressors from your life is pretty much mission impossible. Some, like traffic jams or broken pipes, you can’t control. Others, such as demanding kids and clients, you wouldn’t want to be rid of even if there was some magic formula for whisking them away.
What we’re left with is a life landmined with potential sources of anxiety and stress. But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless to stay sane, calm and happy.
Psychological study after study has shown that while we can’t uproot all the sources of stress in our life, there is plenty we can do to rewire how we respond to it to minimize its negative impact on our lives. PsyBlog recently rounded up ten suggestions from the latest research.
Here are are some of the least well known:
1. Start with awareness.
Basically every successful stress-busting idea is built on the same foundation: You need to know exactly what makes you stressed and what that stress feels like physically and emotionally. Do you get exhausted or insomniac? Have dizzy spells? Headaches? “Try keeping a kind of ‘anxiety and stress journal’, whether real or virtual,” suggests the post. When you know your triggers and your symptoms, it’s easier to choose effective interventions.
2. Don’t vent.
This tip might seem cruel (Venting is sometimes such a huge pleasure, after all.), but apparently loudly airing your issues is a pretty terrible way to reduce them. Intuitively, you’d guess that “letting out” your emotions leaves less of them for you to deal with, but science says the opposite is true.
“Venting emotions can actually cause them to become more powerful, rather than allowing them to subside,” says PsyBlog. “None of this is to say that you shouldn’t talk to others about what is happening, it’s just that the form it takes shouldn’t be a blast of raw emotion.”
3. Rethink it.
Sometimes the problem isn’t our stress itself, but the way we think about it. It sounds too good to be true, but science has shown that simply reconceptualizing stress not as a problem, but as a response designed to prepare our bodies and minds for taxing situations, can turn that sweaty palm feeling from a health risk to a performance enhancer.
PsyBlog sums up one study on the subject which entailed showing some research participants a video on the idea that stress can be enhancing: “This led to them reporting better performance at work and fewer psychological problems over the subsequent two weeks. In addition, thinking that stress is enhancing was associated with lower levels of cortisol, a hormone closely associated with the stress response.” You can check out a great TED talk on this science here.
4. Find the busyness sweet spot.
Idle hands may leave you too much time to worry and stress out, but constantly running doesn’t give your brain a chance to rest and isn’t great for stress either. You need to walk a middle way. “One answer is to have a list of activities that you find enjoyable ready in advance. When anxiety hits at an inactive moment, you can go off and do something to occupy your mind. Try to have things on your list that you know you will enjoy and are easy to get started on,” suggests PsyBlog.
What should you add to your list? Previous studies have shown that both arranging social gatherings(even if you don’t initially feel like it) and tackling something creative can both be particularly helpful when you’re feeling grumpy.
5. Confront crazy thoughts head on.
Much of our stress doesn’t come from actual, current issues or problems, but from unwanted worries about the future or present unknowns. Most of us respond to these sort of unpleasant anxieties by simply trying to ignore them, but according to the latest psychological research that’s probably not an effective approach. Instead you need to confront the crazy thoughts in your head in order to quiet them. There are a couple of ways to go about this.
“Researchers have tried asking those with persistent anxious thoughts to postpone their worrying until a designated 30-minute ‘worry period’. Save up all your worrying for this time and it may ease your mind the rest of the time,” for instance, or try writing them down. “Writing about your deepest thoughts and feelings may help to reduce recurrent unwanted thoughts,” reports the post.
Posted on Thursday, July 31st 2014
5 Steps to Creating Really Effective Teams
Teams have always been and will always be an essential ingredient for building a successful business. But building great teams isn’t something that just happens. It takes planning and ongoing effort to get it right–and to keep it that way.
Smart leaders know that for their teams to work well, they must accurately identify employees’ skill sets and assign them tasks that are well-suited to their abilities. When putting together teams, they choose people they sense will work together well. The combined efforts of their team members not only produce superior results, they also build a sense of solidarity within their organizations.
The next time you need to get something important done in your organization, and you want to assign the task to a team, consider these five steps to building really effective teams:
1. Recognize the power of teamwork
Before you begin, take a moment to appreciate the power of teamwork and how you can best utilize this tool. Consider the result you want and the tasks you think are required to achieve it. As you think about your employees, match their skills to the tasks of the project, but also identify personalities you feel complement one another. A successful team project maximizes the talents of its individual members, but the true power of teamwork comes from the group’s cohesion and combined energies focused on a common goal.
2. Choose the right people
If you want your team to be really effective, you’ll need to get the right people for the job. If possible, try to incorporate employees or departments in your organization that bring varied experience and perspective to the project. If, for example, you’re trying to come up with a new way to track customer satisfaction using new social media tools, then be sure to include employees who represent sales, information technology, customer service, and more. Try to choose people for your team who together will provide a broad perspective on your project.
Once you’ve chosen your team and outlined your expectations, delegate the authority and access the team needs to complete the project. Industrious, energetic, and creative people will become frustrated very quickly if they do not have the freedom, access to tools, and other resources they need to complete their work. Once you have set forth your guidelines, your job becomes making sure they can do theirs. Avoid telling members of a teamwhat to do and how to do it. Instead, work with them to set goals, and then remove obstacles, grant access, and provide the support your team needs to achieve them.
4. Monitor progress
In an ideal world, you’ll have chosen exactly the right people for the team and everything will take care of itself. In the real world, you will have to verify the team is working well together and the project is on track. Provide, as necessary, a forum where you and the team can share concerns, successes, and status on a regular basis. If necessary, you may find you need to assign a team leader, or redefine the project and reassign roles. As much as possible, however, try to let the team work through its own challenges. When a team identifies, addresses, and pushes through obstacles on its own, individuals draw closer together and their success gives rise to confidence and camaraderie.
5. Celebrate your successes
When your team accomplishes or exceeds its goals, then be sure to recognize the win and celebrate it. At minimum, schedule a final team meeting where you can thank the groupcollectively while describing the positive impact their workwill have on your organization and your customers. One hallmark of an outstanding team is camaraderie. The team’s success will build on itself, and your team and your organization will be the better for it as they take on more responsibility.
Posted on Wednesday, July 30th 2014
Is Coffee Good For You?
The health effects of coffee are quite controversial.
Depending on who you ask, it is either a super healthy beverage or incredibly harmful.
But despite what you may have heard, there are actually plenty of good things to be said about coffee.
For example, it is high in antioxidants and linked to a reduced risk of many diseases.
However… it also contains caffeine, a stimulant that can cause problems in some people and disrupt sleep.
This article takes a detailed look at coffee and its health effects, examining both the pros and cons.
Coffee Contains Some Essential Nutrients And Is Extremely High In Antioxidants
Coffee is more than just dark brown water… many of the nutrients in the coffee beans do make it into the drink.
A typical 8oz (240 ml) cup of coffee contains (1):
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 11% of the RDA.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): 6% of the RDA.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): 2% of the RDA.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 2% of the RDA.
Folate: 1% of the RDA.
Manganese: 3% of the RDA.
Potassium: 3% of the RDA.
Magnesium: 2% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 1% of the RDA.
This may not seem like a lot, but try multiplying with 3, 4, or however many cups you drink per day. It can add up to a significant portion of your daily nutrient intake.
But where coffee really shines is in its high content of antioxidants.
The average person who eats a typical Western diet actually gets more antioxidants from coffee than fruits and vegetables… combined (2, 3).
Bottom Line: Coffee contains a small amount of some vitamins and minerals, which add up if you drink many cups per day. It is also high in antioxidants.
Coffee Contains Caffeine, A Stimulant That Can Enhance Brain Function And Boost Metabolism
Caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world (4). Soft drinks, tea and chocolate all contain caffeine, but coffee is the biggest source.
The caffeine content of a single cup can range from 30-300 mg, but the average cup is somewhere around 90-100 mg. Caffeine is a known stimulant. In the brain, it blocks the function of an inhibitory neurotransmitter (brain hormone) called Adenosine.
By blocking adenosine, caffeine actually increases activity in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. This reduces tiredness and makes us feel more alert (5, 6).
There are numerous studies showing that caffeine can lead to a short-term boost in brain function… including improved mood, reaction time, vigilance and general cognitive function (7, 8). Caffeine can also boost metabolism (calories burned) by 3-11% and even increase exercise performance by 11-12%, on average (9, 10, 11, 12).
However… some of these effects are likely to be short-term. If you drink coffee every day, then you will build a tolerance to it and the effects will be less powerful (13).
There are also some downsides to caffeine, which I’ll get to in a bit.
Bottom Line: The main active compound in coffee is the stimulant caffeine. It can cause a short-term boost in energy levels, brain function, metabolic rate and exercise performance.
Coffee May Help Protect Your Brain In Old Age, Leading To Reduced Risk Of Alzheimer’s And Parkinson’s
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia. Studies have shown that coffee drinkers have up to a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (14, 15, 16).
Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease and caused by the death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain. Coffee drinkers have a 32-60% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. The more coffee people drink, the lower the risk (17, 18, 19, 20).
Bottom Line: Several studies show that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease in old age.
Coffee Drinkers Have A Much Lower Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugars due to resistance to the effects of insulin. This is a very common disease… it has increased 10-fold in a few decades and now afflicts over 300 million people.
Interestingly, coffee drinkers appear to have a significantly reduced risk of developing this disease, some studies showing that coffee drinkers are up to 23-67% less likely to become diabetic (21, 22, 23, 24).
In one large review study that looked at 18 studies with 457,922 individuals, each daily cup of coffee was linked to a 7% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (25).
Bottom Line: Numerous studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a significantly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Coffee Drinkers Have A Lower Risk Of Liver Diseases
The liver is an incredibly important organ that has hundreds of different functions in the body. It is very sensitive to modern insults like excess alcohol and fructose intake.
The end stage of liver damage is called Cirrhosis, and involves most of the liver being replaced with scar tissue. Coffee drinkers have up to an 84% lower risk of developing cirrhosis, with the strongest effect for those who drink 4 or more cups per day (26, 27, 28).
Liver cancer is also common… it is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Coffee drinkers have up to a 40% lower risk of liver cancer (29, 30).
Bottom Line: Coffee drinkers have a significantly lower risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. The more coffee they drink, the lower the risk.
People Who Drink Coffee Are At A Much Lower Risk Of Depression And Suicide
Depression is an incredibly common problem. It is the world’s most common mental disorder and leads to a significantly reduced quality of life.
In one Harvard study from 2011, people who drank the most coffee had a 20% lower risk of becoming depressed (31). In one review of 3 studies, people who drank 4 or more cups of coffee per day were 53% less likely to commit suicide (32).
Bottom Line: Studies have shown that people who drink coffee have a lower risk of becoming depressed and are significantly less likely to commit suicide.
Some Studies Show That Coffee Drinkers Live Longer
Given that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of many common, deadly diseases (and suicide), it makes sense that coffee could help you live longer.
There is actually some good evidence to support this. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012 looked at the habits of 402,260 individuals between 50 and 71 years of age (33).
In this study, people who drank coffee had a much lower risk of dying over the 12-13 year study period: The sweet spot seems to be at 4-5 cups per day, with men having a 12% reduced risk and women a 16% reduced risk.
You can read more about it in this article on how coffee can make you live longer.
Bottom Line: Some studies have shown that coffee drinkers live longer, which makes perfect sense given that they have a lower risk of many diseases. The strongest effect is seen for 4-5 cups per day.
Caffeine Can Cause Anxiety And Disrupt Sleep
It wouldn’t be right to only talk about the good stuff without mentioning the bad. The truth is… there are some important negative aspects to coffee as well (although this depends on the individual).
Consuming too much caffeine can lead to jitteriness, anxiety, heart palpitations and may even exacerbate panic attacks (34). If you are sensitive to caffeine and tend to become overstimulated, then perhaps you shouldn’t be drinking coffee.
Another unwanted side effect is that it can disrupt sleep (35). If coffee reduces the quality of your sleep, then try avoiding coffee late in the day, such as after 2pm.
Caffeine can also have some diuretic and blood pressure raising effects, but this usually goes away with regular use. However, an increase in blood pressure of 1-2 mm/Hg may persist (36, 37, 38).
Bottom Line: Caffeine can have various negative effects, such as causing anxiety and disrupting sleep, but this depends greatly on the individual.
Caffeine Is Addictive And Missing A Few Cups Can Lead To Withdrawal
One issue with caffeine, is that it can lead to addiction in many people. When people consume caffeine regularly, they become tolerant to it. It either stops working as it used to, or a larger dose is needed to get the same effects (39).
When people abstain from caffeine, they get withdrawal symptoms like headache, tiredness, brain fog and irritability. This can last for a few days (40, 41). Tolerance and withdrawal are the hallmarks of physical addiction.
A lot of people (understandably) don’t like the idea of being literally dependent on a chemical substance in order to function properly.
Bottom Line: Caffeine is an addictive substance. It can lead to tolerance and well documented withdrawal symptoms like headache, tiredness and irritability.
The Difference Between Regular And Decaf
Some people opt for decaffeinated coffee instead of regular. The way decaffeinated coffee is usually made, is by rinsing the coffee beans with solvent chemicals.
Each time this is done, some percentage of the caffeine dissolves in the solvent and this process is repeated until most of the caffeine has been removed. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even decaffeinated coffee does contain some caffeine, just much less than regular coffee.
Unfortunately, not all of the health benefits of regular coffee apply to decaffeinated coffee. For example, some studies show no reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s or liver diseases for people who drink decaffeinated coffee.
Bottom Line: Decaffeinated coffee is made by extracting caffeine from the coffee beans using solvents. Decaf does not have all of the same health benefits as regular coffee.
Things To Keep In Mind In Order To Maximize The Health Benefits
There are some things you can do in order to maximize the beneficial health effects you get from coffee. The most important is to NOT add anything unhealthy to it. This includes sugar and any sort of artificial, chemical-laden creamer.
Another important thing is to brew coffee with a paper filter. Unfiltered coffee (such as Turkish or French press) contains cafestol, a substance that can increase cholesterol levels (42, 43). Also keep in mind that some of the coffee drinks at places like Starbucks can contain hundreds of calories and a whole bunch of sugar. These drinks are NOT healthy.
There are some more tips in this article on 8 ways to make your coffee super healthy.
Bottom Line: It is important not to put sugar or a chemical-laden creamer in your coffee. Brewing with a paper filter can get rid of a cholesterol-raising compound called Cafestol.
Should You Be Drinking Coffee?
There are some people who would definitely want to avoid or severely limit coffee consumption, especially pregnant women. People with anxiety issues, high blood pressure or insomnia might also want to try limiting coffee for a while to see if it helps.
There is also some evidence that people who metabolize caffeine slowly have an increased risk of heart attacks from drinking coffee (44).
All that being said… it does seem clear that for the average person, coffee can have important beneficial effects on health. If you don’t already drink coffee, then I don’t think these benefits are a compelling reason to start doing it. There are downsides as well.
But if you already drink coffee and you enjoy it, then the benefits appear to far outweigh the negatives.
Take Home Message
It’s important to keep in mind that many of the studies in the article are observational studies, which can not prove that coffee caused the beneficial effects.
But given that the effects are strong and consistent among studies, it is a fairly strong indicator that coffee does in fact play a role.
Despite having been demonized in the past, the evidence points to coffee being very healthy… at least for the majority of people.
If anything, coffee belongs in the same category as healthy beverages like green tea.
Posted on Wednesday, July 30th 2014
25 Ways To Be Happier In Your 20s
Life in your twenties is one weird, wild emotional roller coaster. You’re finding your first job, getting your first promotion, meeting new friends, and losing old ones.
Everything is constantly changing, but don’t get stuck feeling like everything is one mistake away from falling apart; the chaos of early adulthood is totally normal.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the changes around you, there are certain tips and tricks that can help you shift your focus and ultimately feel happier.
There are so many things that make your twenties an amazing period of time, and it’s the good stuff you’ll really want to remember. So read on for 25 ideas on how to live a happier, healthier life as the amazing 20-something you are:
Don’t sweat being broke: Almost everyone your age is having a tough time making ends meet.
Have fun for free: Just because you’re low on funds doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself.
Master body language: Learn psychological mind-hacks and read people better.
Make new friends: Meeting new people is hard after college so give yourself an extra push to be more social.
Build a network: From friends to coworkers, everyone you meet could help you get your next opportunity.
Learn to cook: You’ll eat better, feel accomplished, and save money.
Try new things: You might find a new hobby you never expected to love. Plus, even if you don’t love it, you’ll at least learn something about yourself.
Do something that scares you: Step out of your comfort zone whether that means stepping on stage at karaoke night or going out to dinner alone, always push your personal boundaries.
Learn the difference between true friends and fake friends: Then focus on the people who truly love you, and let the others fall aside.
Accept your mistakes: With so many changes, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. And that’s OK.
Step up: Instead of avoiding those mistakes, do your best to learn from them.
Take good care of yourself: Eat healthy, sleep well, and get exercise — it really does make a difference.
Be a little selfish: You deserve to make choices that will help fulfill you.
… But not too selfish: Don’t knock others down to get to the top, what goes around does come around.
Remember family time: Your elders can offer up some pretty good advice, after all, they’ve lived it first. Plus, if you don’t listen now, you might regret it later.
Stop comparing your life to other people’s Instagram accounts: No one is perfect, no matter how great a filter makes everything look.
Expect change: As hard as it is, your twenties are all about change. Do the best you can to keep your head up and face new challenges head on.
Work hard: Earn respect and set yourself apart by always remembering to do your best. Things won’t always work out as you hoped, but if you can say you gave it your best effort, you’ve accomplished something great.
Talk less, listen more: We all love to share our stories, but the secret to building relationships is letting others speak first. This simple secret will help you connect with the people around you.
Remember not to get too serious: Though you’re officially an adult, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or laugh at yourself. Life will feel easier if you learn to take things with a grain of salt.
Pursue what you love: Whether it’s your career or your after-work hobby, make sure there are things in your life that you love. Carving out the time to read, knit, eat cheese — whatever, will make life enjoyable every single day.
Love your body: Learn to look in the mirror and know that you are beautiful. Every so-called imperfection is what makes you unique and interesting, so wear them with confidence!
Travel: Visiting other parts of the world offers you a chance to experience the lives of others and experience situations that teach you new things about yourself. Plus, there are so many beautiful places to see.
Don’t pressure yourself to fit an ideal: Everyone is on different tracks through life and though you may envy the successes of others, learn that it’s OK to be different. Your successes cannot be compared to anyone else’s.
Appreciate your freedom: Adulthood is full of difficult responsibilities, but a huge upside is the freedom to be yourself and to do what you love. Appreciate how lucky you are to live a life where you can choose your path every day.
Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd 2014
Most Energy Efficient Cities
By most measures, Reykjavik tops the list of energy efficient cities worldwide. Along with the rest of Iceland, Reykjavik relies on renewable hydropower and geothermal plants to provide all of the heat, electricity and hot water for its more than 120,000 citizens. The Nesjavellir geothermal power station services all of the space heating and hot water needs of the greater Reykjavik area. The city plans on becoming fossil-fuel-free by 2050 and the final piece of that puzzle is hydrogen power. In the mid-2000s, the city began replacing its public transportation with hydrogen-fueled buses. The only “pollution” emitted from these vehicles is pure water. Although Iceland may be a small country, its big energy ambitions are leading the way for the rest of the world.
Vancouver gives Reykjavik a run for its money. In 2012, the city of Vancouver laid out an action plan to become the world’s greenest city by 2020. While that may seem like a big accomplishment in a fairly small amount of time, the city is well on its way. Hydroelectric power already accounts for 90 percent of the city’s energy supply, while the other 10 percent includes renewables like wind, solar and wave power. Add in Vancouver’s mass transit — nearly 250 miles of bike lanes and ride sharing programs — and the city has one of the lowest per capita carbon emissions of any major city in North America.
With a large off-shore wind farm and streets known for being incredibly bike friendly (with over a third of residents riding every day), the city of Copenhagen is considered by many to be one of the world leaders in clean technology. As part of the city’s goal to be the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025, green roofs have sprouted up all over Copenhagen, not only helping to insulate buildings, but also allowing water to be more slowly absorbed, lessening the pressure on sewers and drains. Plus, as the city’s website puts it: “Green looks good” and can provide a bit of nature in dense urban areas.
80 percent of Oslo’s heating system is powered by renewable energy – mainly bio-methane from waste. In the next 10 years, the city hopes to get that number up to 100 percent. The city also uses “intelligent lights” that adjust their output depending on weather and traffic conditions, which have greatly improved the city’s energy efficiency. By 2030, Oslo hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent, while all of Norway hopes to be carbon neutral by 2050. Oslo also boasts “hugely successful” car and bike sharing programs. Thousands of electric vehicles are already enjoying “free parking, toll immunity, and access to lanes generally reserved for public transport.”
Beginning in the mid-2000s, London has committed itself to upping its energy efficiency. Its 2007 climate change action plan laid out plans to switch 25 percent of its power generation to more efficient, local sources, as well as cut CO2 emissions by 60 percent over the next two decades. The plan also offers residents incentives to improve the efficiency of their homes, while implementing stiff taxes on automobiles – hitting SUVs particularly hard (electric vehicles and hybrids are exempt). And it’s not just London that’s going green: England has 10 of the top 25 operational offshore wind farms.
Most of Sweden’s energy already comes from nuclear power and the country has reduced its consumption of fossil fuels by 25 percent from 2008 to 2012. Sweden’s third largest city, Malmo, has created an ambitious and innovative energy efficient housing plan. In a former shipyard called Western Harbour, the city of Malmo has constructed housing for 10,000 residents as well as space for 20,000 employees – all powered exclusively with “100 percent locally produced renewable energy from the wind, sun and water.” Along with measures for waste management, minimized transportation needs and increased biodiversity – this urban experiment could be the future of energy efficient living.
Boston, San Francisco, Portland and New York
These four U.S. cities topped the charts in the 2013 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy city scorecard.
The scorecard looks at key areas of efficiency, including transportation policies, local government operations, community-wide initiatives, utilities and building policies. Each city is scored out of a possible 100 points, with Boston coming out on top with 76.75 largely due to its community-wide programs and utility partnerships, including the Renew Boston Initiative.
San Francisco also often tops the list of greenest American cities. The city recycles 77 percent of its waste, reserves nearly 20 percent of its land for green space and has been a leader on the electric car front. In 2001, San Francisco residents approved a $100 million bond initiative to finance renewable sources of energy, including solar panels and wind turbines.
Portland has long been one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the U.S. With an eco-conscious citizenry that makes extensive use of bikes, the Pacific Northwest is green in more ways than one. Portland has replaced its traditional street lights with LEDs and has the goal of someday relying 100 percent on renewable energy sources.
The gritty streets of New York may seem like a surprising place to find renewable energy, but the Big Apple tied for third in the 2013 scorecard. New York was a leader in community-wide initiatives, building policies, utilities and public benefit programs as well as access to energy data. New York has long been known for its subway and transit systems and the city plans to double its recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017.
Posted on Thursday, July 10th 2014
Less Sleep May Accelerate Brain Aging
With less sleep, normal aging-related structural changes in the brain progress slightly faster in middle-aged and older people, according to a new brain imaging study.
Sleep troubles are more common with age, and shrinkage of certain brain structures is normal. But for the over-55 study participants, those changes could be seen accelerating slightly with each hour less of sleep each night.
“Among older adults, sleeping less will increase the rate their brain ages and speed up the decline in their cognitive functions,” said lead study author Dr. June Lo, a researcher with Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.
Plenty of past research has shown that lack of sleep can worsen fuzzy thinking and memory problems in the short term, and at all ages, Lo and her colleagues note in the journal Sleep.
“Our lab has also shown repeatedly in the past decade that in young adults, brain and cognitive functions are affected when people do not have enough sleep,” she told Reuters Health in an email. “As a result, we wanted to know whether sleeping less would affect brain and cognitive aging in older adults.”
Fewer studies have looked at physical changes in the brain and their link to sleep over time, the report points out. And none have done it for older adults, according to the researchers.
To assess the effects of sleep duration on both thinking and brain structure, the study team analyzed data on healthy people over age 55 participating in the larger Singapore Longitudinal Aging Brain Study.
Lo and her colleagues looked at data on 66 Chinese adults who had previously undergone magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to measure brain volume in specific areas and had taken tests to assess their cognitive skills.
The researchers used questionnaires to determine participants’ sleep duration and quality, and measured blood levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation.
When the cognitive tests and scans were repeated two years after the initial round, the researchers found those participants who slept fewer hours showed evidence of faster brain shrinkage and declines in cognitive performance.
The ventricles are fluid-filled spaces in the brain, and they expand as the brain ages, indicating a shrinkage of brain tissue. Faster ventricle enlargement is a marker for cognitive decline and the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, according to the authors.
For each hour less participants slept, on average, the rate of ventricle enlargement rose by 0.59 percent, after adjusting for other individual factors like weight, age, sex and education.
And for each hour less of sleep, the decline in cognitive performance increased by 0.67 percent – though the researchers caution that result was more variable and should be considered preliminary.
Lo and her colleagues found no links between inflammation and sleep duration or cognitive decline. Nor was sleep quality linked to the brain changes.
The study cannot prove that total sleep time caused the changes observed. Although the study subjects were free of any major diseases or diagnoses, the researchers did not determine, for example, if other factors that might affect both brain structures and sleep duration could account for the results.
The reasons why shorter sleep time might affect brain changes are still a bit of a mystery, Lo said, but there are several possible mechanisms.
“Some have proposed that sleep loss increases inflammation which has a negative impact on the brain, but our own data do not support this view,” she said. “Alternatively, short sleep is associated with other medical conditions which may accelerate brain aging.
Dr. William Kohler said that although the new study was small, it was interesting and makes sense overall. Kohler, who was not involved in the study, is medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute.
He said that studies on mice suggest one possible mechanism may be that sleep removes wastes from the brain.
“If one of the purposes of sleep is to remove toxic products, then if those products aren’t removed because you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re going to be more likely to develop cognitive problems and degeneration later on,” he said.
Kohler added that as we age, our sleep mechanisms weaken so it’s harder to get to sleep, but there are things people can do to improve sleep.
“Avoid napping during the day, have a firm routine as far as going to bed at the same time, get up at the same time and try to ensure that we get to sleep by following good sleep hygiene techniques,” he said.
Kohler suggested that the environment should be dark and quiet enough for sleep and that the mattress should be comfortable. In addition, he suggested avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and exciting activities close to bedtime.
“Many people think that sleep is something you can sacrifice if you have work to do, a game to watch, etc.,” Lo said. “Therefore, insufficient sleep is so common that CDC has announced this as a public health epidemic.”
She added that people should understand sleep is crucial for many physiological functions, such as cell repair and memory consolidation.
“Knowing that there are negative health consequences of sleep loss may motivate some to sleep more,” she said. “Having good sleep hygiene and habits may improve the amount and quality of sleep.”
Posted on Thursday, July 10th 2014
Effective Ways to Improve Your Memory
Memory is a complicated process that’s made up of a few different brain activities. Before we look at ways to improve retention, here is a simplified version to show how memory takes place:
Step 1. Create a memory. Our brain sends signals in a particular pattern associated with the event we’re experiencing and creates connections between our neurons, called synapses.
Step 2. Consolidate that memory. Do nothing else and that memory could soon fade away. Consolidation is the process of committing something to long-term memory so we can recall it later. Much of this process happens while we’re sleeping as our brains recreate that same pattern of brain activity and strengthen the synapses created earlier.
3. Recall that memory. Recall is what most of us think of when we talk about memory or memory loss. Recalling a memory is easier if it has been strengthened over time, and each time we do we cycle through that same pattern of brain activity and make the connection a little stronger.
While memory loss is a normal part of aging that doesn’t mean we can’t take action to slow it down. Now let’s look at some of the ways research has shown we can keep memories around as long as possible:
1. Meditate to improve working memory.
Working memory, which is a little like your brain’s notepad, is where new information is temporarily held. When you learn someone’s name or hear an address of a place you’re going to, you hang on to those details in working memory until you’re done with them. If they’re no longer useful you let them go entirely. If they are useful, you commit them to long-term memory where they can be strengthened and recalled later.
Working memory is something we use every day, so it makes our lives a lot easier when it’s stronger. While for most adults the maximum we can hold in our working memory is about seven items, if you’re not quite using your working memory to its maximum capacity meditation can strengthen it.
Research has shown that participants with no experience in mindfulness meditation can improve their memory recall in just eight weeks. Meditation, with its power to help usconcentrate, has also been shown to improve improve standardized test scores and working memory after just two weeks.
Why does meditation benefit memory? It’s somewhat counterintuitive: during meditation your brain stops processing information as actively as it normally would.
So occasionally take a break to empty your mind. Not only will you feel a little less stressed, you may also remember a little more.
2. Drink coffee to improve memory consolidation.
Whether caffeine can improve memory if taken before learning something new is debatable. Most research has found little to no effect from ingesting caffeine prior to creating new memories.
One recent study, though, found that taking a caffeine pill after a learning task actually improved memory recall up to 24 hours later. Participants memorized a set of images and were later tested by viewing the same images (targets), similar images (lures), and completely different images (foils).
The task was to pick out which were the exact pictures they had memorized without being tricked by the lures (which were very similar.) This is a process called pattern separation, which according to the researchers reflects a “deeper level of memory retention.”
The researchers in this study focused on the effects of caffeine on memory consolidation: the process of strengthening the memories we’ve created. That is why they believe the effects occurred when caffeine was ingested after the learning task rather than before.
So don’t just drink a little coffee to get started in the morning–drink a little coffee to hold on to more of what you learn throughout the day.
3. Eat berries for better long-term memory.
Research shows that eating berries can help stave off memory decline. A study from the University of Reading and the Peninsula Medical School found that supplementing a normal diet with blueberries for twelve weeks improved performance on spatial working memory tasks. The effects began after just three weeks and continued for the length of the study.
A long-term berry study that tested the memory of female nurses who were over 70 years old found those who regularly ate at least two servings of strawberries or blueberries each week had a moderate reduction in memory decline. (The effects of strawberries might be debatable, though, since that study was partly funded by the California Strawberry Commission… and another study focusing on strawberries suggested that you’d need to eat roughly 10 pounds of strawberries per day to see any effect).
More research is needed in this area, but scientists are getting closer to understanding how berries might affect our brains. In particular, blueberries are known for being high inflavanoids, which appear to strengthen existing connections in the brain. That could explain their benefit on long-term memory.
And even if it turns out they don’t help your memory much, berries are still really good for you.
4. Exercise to improve memory recall.
Studies in both rat and human brains have shown that regular exercise can improve memory recall. Fitness in older adults has even been proven to slow the decline of memorywithout the aid of continued regular exercise. In particular, studies shown that regular exercise can improve spatial memory, so exercise may not necessarily be a way to improveall types of memory recall.
Of course the benefits of exercise are numerous, but for the brain in particular regular exercise is shown to improve cognitive abilities besides memory. So if you’re looking for a way to stay mentally sharp, taking a walk could be the answer.
5. Chew gum to make stronger memories.
Another easy method that could improve your memory is to chew gum while you learn something new. Contradictory research exists so it’s not a solid bet, but one study published last year showed that participants who completed a memory recall task were more accurate and had higher reaction times if they chewed gum during the study.
A reason that chewing gum might affect our memory recall is that it increases activity in the hippocampus, an important area of the brain for memory. (It’s still unclear why this happens, though.)
Another theory focuses on the increase of oxygen from chewing gum and how that can improve focus and attention, helping us create stronger connections in the brain as we learn new things. One study found that participants who chewed gum during learning and memory tests had higher heart rate levels, a factor that can cause more oxygen to flow to the brain.
6. Sleep more to consolidate memories.
Sleep is proven to be one of the most important elements in having a good memory. Since sleep is when most of our memory consolidation process occurs it makes sense that without enough sleep we will struggle to remember things we’ve learned.
Even a short nap can improve your memory recall. In one study participants memorized illustrated cards to test their memory strength. After memorizing a set of cards they took a 40-minute break and one group napped while the other group stayed awake. After the break both groups were tested on their memory of the cards.
To the surprise of the researchers the sleep group performed significantly better, retaining on average 85% of the patterns compared to 60% for those who had remained awake.
Research indicates that when memory is first recorded in the brain (specifically in the hippocampus) it’s still “fragile” and easily forgotten, especially if the brain is asked to memorize more things. Napping seems to push memories to the neocortex, the brain’s “more permanent storage,” which prevents them from being “overwritten.”
Not only is sleep after learning a critical part of the memory creation process, but sleep before learning something new is important as well. Research has found that sleep deprivation can affect our ability to commit new things to memory and consolidate any new memories we create.
Now you don’t need an excuse to nap–or to get a little more sleep.
Posted on Tuesday, July 8th 2014
Things to Do Before Launching Startup
If you’re busy jamming on your startup, then you know that even the thought of marketing beforehand is the most daunting thing you don’t want to think about. But, it should be one of the most important items on your prelaunch to-do list.
Building an audience before you even have a product is critical. You’re going to need to tap people to test what you’re building, and it can’t be Aunt Mary and Uncle George. You’re going to have to answer the question every potential investor asks: “How many people are using the product today?” (Tip: Almost no one anymore invests in companies that don’t have customers.)
Companies have proven that you can build an audience with prelaunch marketing. This is how Gmail started, isn’t it?
So what should you be thinking about when you’re in the throes of building a company and a product?
1. Gather all your peeps.
Get your contact list together. Download your contacts from Outlook and Gmail, and anyone you’ve spoken to in the past five years. Get your data into a customer relationship management system like Zoho, Insightly, Salesforce or any of a myriad of great tools out there. Then go through it; merge, purge, and really cultivate your list. Make notes of who might be an “influencer” or who might be a “press contact.” You’ll need those when you launch. Go as far as to input a LinkedIn profile so that you can get a quick view on who someone is.
2. Get a webpage with a sign-up form.
This is going to be a way to capture people who are interested in a behind-the-scenes look at your company. It’s also their ticket to be the first in line to get free access to your product.
Monitor your sign-ups on a daily basis. Set up the webpage so that you get an email every time someone signs up, so you can send the person a follow-up thank-you. Most CRM packages offer free sign-up forms for you to place on your website. Wufoo is also great if you need a quick sign-up form and webpage to host it.
3. Start a blog.
Content is your prelaunch friend. Why? Because you can start to build solid search engine optimization for your keywords. The secret is to offer quality informational content daily.
Not sure what to write about? You can offer sneak peeks at the progress you’re making, industry news, how-tos, fun quips…you get the idea. A startup called Dasheroo is doing a great job at posting daily and giving weekly progress reports. These posts add some color about the trials and tribulations the team is uncovering as it gets closer to launch, and make readers feel more involved.
Work your keywords into your posts, and optimize your blog for search engines. UseWordPress, and redirect it to your domain. Use the Yoast plug-in for WordPress to help you through the SEO process.
When you publish a new piece of content, immediately post it to the social-media networks that you’ve already set up for your new startup, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest (if applicable).
Integrate the WordPress blog comments with Facebook comments so you can have one set of comments for both posts. Social Media Examiner tells you how to do it.
4. Get active on Facebook.
Invite your friends to “like” your new startup page that you’re posting all of your daily content to. Like your competitors, influencers, and any press outlets that you want to eventually cover your launch. Pin a post to the top of the page asking fans to add themselves to the early-access list. Launch a Facebook “like my page” campaign to boost likes so you’ll get some engagement. Boost a few posts a week for as little as $5 to get the word out.
5. Don’t forget Twitter.
Follow the competition, any press related to your industry, influencers, and consultants. (Make a separate “press” and “influencer” Twitter list for later launch.) Retweet or favorite their tweets so they make note of your new startup. When you post the content from your daily blog, make sure you’re including images. Tweet about your weekly progress, and tweet reminders about being added to the early-access list.
6. Leverage LinkedIn.
Send LinkedIn InMails to your connections and invite them to your early-access sign-up form. Tell your connections what’s been going on with you and your new startup. Don’t forget to post your blog content daily to your LinkedIn blog. Take that amazing content you’re creating and post to appropriate LinkedIn Groups as well.
7. Start your email marketing.
Take all of your contacts you have in your CRM and send an email inviting them to be on the early-access list. Tell them what’s been going on with you and your new startup, and make it as personal as possible.
Send a weekly email to all of those leads that signed up to get on the early-access list. Include your weekly progress blog, but only half of it–send them to the blog for the other half! You want to make these people feel like they’re a part of your new startup.
Feel free to use my email marketing company, VerticalResponse. When I say “feel free,” it’s because it’s free–for life–if you’ve got less than 1,000 contacts.
8. List your biz.
It’s important to get backlinks to your site, and not just any backlinks–you need great ones. One way to do this is to get your business listed in directories. DMOZ, Yahoo Directory, and The Best of the Web are a few of them. If you’ve got a tech startup and you’ve got a “beta” product, get your site listed on Betalist. I’ve known sites that get hundreds of people signing up for beta, and it’s not bogus!
9. Track everything.
Finally, make sure you’re gathering data on what’s going on. Use Google Analytics to track your webpage and blog sessions (or visits). Analyze where your traffic is coming from and what are the most popular forms of content or topics, and then do more of those.
Track your engagement rates on each post for LinkedIn and Facebook to see what’s driving more clicks, shares, and likes. Check your email marketing metrics as your list grows. See who is opening and clicking and who isn’t, then send a nonresponder campaign to try and hook them in the second time around.
Launching a startup sure isn’t easy, and there’s a lot of work to do. I know because I’ve been there. But getting ahead on your marketing, so you’re not starting from zero when you launch, will be a key to your success.
Posted on Tuesday, July 8th 2014
9 Signs You’ve Found Your Soulmate
Mention the word “soulmate” to a group of people and you’re bound to get a few eye rolls. The idea that there’s one magical person for you who you’ll fall in love with instantly and never disagree with is just not realistic.
What does exist — at least for many people — is a person who you know instinctively, who you connect with on the deepest level and who allows you to grow as a person within the relationship. When that person is a romantic partner, you’ve come across something truly special.
So how do you know when you’ve found The One? Below, a team of love and relationship experts identify the most telling signs.
1. You communicate without speaking.
Soulmates can read each other like an open book. “They connect fervently on every level of being,” clinical psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Carmen Harra told The Huffington Post. “One may finish the other’s sentences, they may pick up the phone to call each other simultaneously, or feel like they simply can’t be without their partner.”
Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist and author of Love Sense, said that a soulmate also knows how to respond to your emotional signals. “They stay close when you confide, give you their full attention and move in to answer to your needs, touching your hand when you are a little unsure, beaming and hugging you when you are glad, and tenderly comforting you when you are in pain,” she added.
2. You know in your gut that you’ve found The One.
The old adage “When you know, you know” rings true when it comes to a soulmate connection. “There really is no guessing or wondering when the real thing comes along,” wedding officiant and author Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway told The Huffington Post. “There is usually a telltale sign that lets you know when true love has arrived -– a voice in your head, a sense of recognition or a gut feeling that this is someone special to you.”
3. The physical chemistry is palpable…
…and the electricity that you feel doesn’t just happen on a sexual level. “Holding the hand of your soulmate throws your spirit into a whirlwind, even many years into the relationship,” Harra said.
4. You’ve been totally comfortable around each other since day one.
Soulmates connect with ease right off the bat and let their true colors show without fear of judgment. “Soulmates often feel a sense of the familiar and a sense of comfort around each other,” Brockway said. “Many people say it’s easier to relax into that person and allow themselves to be vulnerable.”
“It is the one who opens up to you –- who lets you in, so you can see them,” Johnson added. “This is the kind of person who takes risks and shares about their inner world, their emotions and their needs.”
5. But the relationship isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. He or she challenges you like no one else can.
The soulmate relationship, despite what people might assume, isn’t always smooth sailing. “A soulmate isn’t always wrapped in the perfect package, physically or in terms of life circumstances — nor does it mean that the relationship will come without challenge,” author Kailen Rosenberg of matchmaking firm The Love Architects said. “Yet, the difference is that the life circumstances and the difficult challenges are a strengthening power that becomes the glue that keeps you together through the difficult times and helps each of you become your most authentic self.”
What’s more, we rely on our soulmates to help us evolve as people. “You might find a soulmate relationship to be rocky, and that your partner is someone who pushes your buttons and aggravates you at first because they bring with them some of the more difficult lessons for the soul,” Brockway said.
6. You may not see eye-to-eye on every little thing, but you’re on the same page where it really matters.
“A soulmate relationship doesn’t necessarily mean both partners always share the same views, but that their overall goals and ambitions match,” Harra said. “More diminutive opinions will differ, but soulmates generally have the same virtues and values and see the world through a similar lens.”
7. The relationship brings both partners a sense of inner calm.
It’s obvious when you’re with the wrong person; you are insecure about the relationship and worry that one false move will turn your partner off. That’s not the case for soulmates.
“You feel confident that your partner is with you for the long haul,” dating expert Tracey Steinberg, author of Flirt For Fun & Meet The One said. “No matter what happens in your lives, you both agree that you are teammates and in it together.” She continued, “Your inner voice tells you that you are in a healthy relationship. You trust each other, feel confident and comfortable around each other and feel safe discussing challenging topics in a mature way.”
8. You and your partner have separate identities, but you face the world as one.
“Soulmates recognize that they are two parts of the same whole, and no outside influence or external matter can break that bond,” Harra said.
9. You may have known each other for years, but you suddenly find yourselves ready for love at the same time.
When it comes to true love, timing is everything. “I have married so many couples who met in high school or in their twenties, maybe dated, broke up, moved on, or hung out around the same circle of friends and never connected,” Brockway told The Huffington Post. “Then one day, they run into each other again, sometimes in magical ways, and love blooms.” Keep an open mind and an open heart so that when your soulmate comes knocking, you’re ready to answer the door.
Posted on Friday, June 27th 2014