Posts By: Matthew Golden

Turn on your daydreams again…

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Sometimes we must admit to ourselves that we’re not always at our best. I mean I’m doing things. I’m getting my work done, but I’m dry! The enthusiasm is not bursting! For me too much working from home is like being lost in the desert. I want the morning commute. The community that lives in these streets is my motivation to live and write. So, I decided to set myself free in these streets. When I see life, talk to people, and read other’s words I write more. I apologize for not sharing more, yet I will use the pandemic one last time as an excuse. I promise. No more excuses.

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Andre Collins, PAF Executive Director

A recent article I read on spending time in Nice, France made me drift away. One’s mind is powerful, allowing us glimpses of what life can be if we are as fearless in real life as we are in our daydreams. Ah Epiphany.

I thought about how I use my mind. I assumed it was time well spent daydreaming about the material things I don’t have and maybe don’t need, things I want to accomplish and visualizing the me without flaws. My daydreams are elaborate and I’m always victorious. This led me to do a little research and I learned daydreaming can be a form of mindfulness. “Daydreaming associated with playful, vivid, wishful thoughts, and free from psychological conflict is positive constructive daydreaming. This is what we want.” (Sam Brinson)

A funny thing happens to me physically in my daydreams. I become energized. I feel joy. I feel alive like I lived it. But wait I imagined it? What? LOL!! Now I want it. Scientifically during daydreams alpha brain waves increase thereby lowering stress, reducing anxiety, decreasing depression, and improving creative thinking. I feel good and I start to gain confidence…

My dreams meet my reality as a self-fulfilling prophecy. I see the rooms that I want to live in. I daydream about the relationship I want to have with my wife. My daydreams are practice. They are an easel holding a canvas I can erase if I don’t like what I see. Eventually there is a vision, a plan, steps. Then parts of the plan become priority.

I don’t know how it happens, but it does. I get what I want. What I dreamed. It’s not always perfect. Sometimes it doesn’t look right on the first try. But eventually it does.

Turn on your daydreams again and promise to never give up.

As former players we rise to the occasion repeatedly. We can’t help it, we get up… sometimes on our own sometimes with help from a teammate. Here grab my hand and get me up. I will get you next time. I promise.

Daydreaming is prophesizing. Daydreaming is planning. Planning is action and action creates an opportunity to see who you want to be and the life you want to live.

Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Rely on Coping Skills in Stressful Times

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

It’s an honor to be old. I’m not quite there yet, but I want to live well past 90 years! For I know it will take that long, and likely even more time, to figure out what ‘LIFE’ actually is.

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Andre Collins, PAF Executive Director

Even though the world and its order seem to be crumbling around us, we still have our lives to live the best we can. It’s about understanding the ‘predictable paths’ we choose and the ‘same poor decisions’ we make repeatedly are chances to grow and mature. Owning our truths, like who we ‘really’ are is an opportunity to advance and gain peace. Finding our true self is a virtue.

With the pandemic seemingly easing, another twist comes our way as the atrocities of war rears an ugly head. Giving us yet another chance to look inward.

The Ukraine conflict has the world wondering ‘How?’, especially with the sophistication of society and technology connecting the people of the world as never before. Instagram has shown the world how similar and human we are.

Yet we still must try and go on…life happens, children are born, life is celebrated, success is revered, and humility understood.

Identifying coping skills to help us through these emotionally stressful periods is wise.

Here are 5 things I do to make sure I can function in my world even with all the difficult things happening around me.

Journal Your Prayers: It’s nice to look back on what you prayed about and prayed for.

Exercise: Exercise doesn’t make us tired. Exercise gives us energy. Physical stamina promotes mental stamina.

Stay Informed: Seeking truth and knowing what real news is versus made up stories may put your mind at ease.

Set Boundaries: Learn to say no. In the famous words of John Hanson Beadle… “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

Have compassion for others: Life is hard, and we have a responsibility to one another.

Stay focused: Your catch is as close as the other side of the boat… Coping Skills Create Resiliency and Action Creates Opportunity.

Here’s to creating your opportunity,

Andre Collins

Executive Director
Professional Athletes Foundation
NFL Player 1990-1999

Take Care and Take Stock this Holiday Season

Dear Fellow Former Players & Friends,

Can it really be December already? Another Thanksgiving come and gone. Another holiday season in full swing with Christmas over the hills and through the woods. I insist if you don’t force yourself to stop and look around you’ll miss it. See the lights of the season that represent sharing, giving and family. Hear kids laughing and hoping out loud at the anticipation of toys and time off. Embrace the hustle of making plans that celebrate life.

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Andre Collins, PAF Executive Director

Take this opportunity to breathe in the chill of the December air. Allow yourself time to slow down just a bit, to be present with your surroundings and the people or strangers that come in and out of your life every day. Be focused on the joy they bring you and be an ‘awareness giver’ and trust that a smile or helping hand will make all the difference in the world. This holiday season recognize those moments and be present.

Mindfulness is the state of being aware, acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts. A core principle of mindfulness thinking is being in the moment.

A wakefulness and understanding of who you are and where you stand undoubtedly will create an opportunity to be a better person. Your mental wellbeing is important and action creates opportunity. So, take inventory on self; pause and feel the energy around you.

From all of us at the PAF, wishing you a joy filled holiday season!

Andre Collins

What I Discovered amid the Pandemic

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Andre Collins, PAF Executive Director

I’m 50ish. I still think young and I’m excited to get up every day. Work from home mornings start out with lots of enthusiasm, but then I see how things go. This pandemic offers a fresh perspective on the workday, but then after a third cup of coffee and two rounds of CNN I’m looking for lunch and distractions have set in. It’s easy for my mind to wander at home. For years I’ve successfully separated work from home.

But now, I keep track of the week by trash days. And Friday is “hey where can I shove all this work junk” to get it out of my sight, so I can pretend to be home and not at work.

At the start of the pandemic, I had a million personal goals. I did buy lots of stuff on Amazon and finished my backyard landscaping. But the goal of figuring out my life has fallen a bit short. Did I really expect to figure out my life by staying up ‘til 4am and overindulging on Netflix… (by the way, the greatest invention since the wheel)

I learned the hard way, Netflix after midnight is not the curriculum for personal development.

Fast forward…

I discovered the sounds around me… sounds I wasn’t focused on before. The sounds of the streets on my long pandemic walks. Cars going by, kids playing, machinery pounding. It reminded me that life happens every day. I want to be a part of that energy. That rotation of movement. That sense of purpose and progress. It was nice to notice those things, the unassuming scenes of humanity. I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 19 years. And never have I ever seen those faces. The guy jogging by in the black sweat suit. We started to say hi. The slew footed power walker in her purple shoes at the same time everyday meant the world was in order.

I survived these times. I don’t stay up late anymore. I’m setting my alarm clock again. I won’t oversleep, and distractions are less. You can’t figure out your life, but you can LIVE life.

I will welcome and accept life’s events.

I’m human. I didn’t accomplish all my pandemic goals. But I accomplished being present with myself, realizing I have too many holey socks, that I love frozen pizza and living in the moment… letting negative energy pass through me, turning down the noise in my head …eating something delicious, and reveling in my happiness, because I’m allowed…

Action Creates an Opportunity to get to know yourself.

Hurricane Ida Assistance

We continue to closely monitor the weather events in your area due to Hurricane Ida. FEMA Emergency Assistance is now available. Affected individuals residing in the designated red counties (see map) in need of additional support may qualify for an emergency grant from the PAF. To inquire, please reach out with the following information:


  • Photos of damage to home or vehicle
  • FEMA application confirmation
  • Proof of residency (lease/mortgage statement)
  • Picture of photo ID

Once received, you will be contacted by a PAF team member with next steps. As always, we encourage you to follow your state and local safety warnings and suggestions in their entirety. As conditions progress, we will provide additional information as it becomes available. 

How to Speak to a Someone at the IRS

Getting through to an IRS representative takes time, so before you call, look for answers online at Start with Tax Information for Individuals or try the IRS’s list of Complex Tax Topics for more complicated situations. For refund questions, search the Tax Season Refund FAQ page and use the embedded search feature. 

If the IRS website doesn’t answer your specific question, here’s what to know about speaking to a representative at the IRS.


The main IRS phone number is 800-829-1040, but the agency maintains different departments with their own phone numbers to help callers with specific areas. Help lines are open Monday through Friday. Here’s a list of primary departments to call:

Note: Alaska and Hawaii residents should follow Pacific time. Puerto Rico phone lines are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time. 

  • Individuals: 800-829-1040, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time
  • Businesses: 800-829-4933, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time
  • Nonprofit taxes: 877-829-5500, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time
  • Estate and gift taxes (Form 706/709): 866-699-4083, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern time
  • Excise taxes: 866-699-4096, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time
  • Overseas callers should use the International Services page
  • Callers who are hearing impaired: TTY/TDD 800-829-4059

If you have a question about something even more specific, like a missing child tax credit payment or how to order a tax transcript, the IRS has additional phone numbers for those kinds of questions. NerdWallet maintains an extensive list of lesser-known IRS phone lines. 


Unfortunately, it’s not easy getting a live person at the IRS on the line to talk to you—the agency received more than 100 million calls in 2020. Don’t give up, but do be strategic. 

Hold times during tax filing season (January-April) will average around 13 minutes, according to the IRS, while post-filing calls (May-December) average 19-minute wait times. But if you call at peak times, you could wait up to an hour or longer. 

Extended holds are difficult to avoid, but East Coast callers have found that calling early, before 9 a.m. local time, may reduce the wait time. On the West Coast, calling after 5 p.m. can help. 


Because tax information is highly confidential, you’ll need to be prepared to verify who you are once you’re speaking to an IRS representative. Gather the following documents so you can refer to them during the call. You’ll likely need to answer some highly specific questions to proceed:

  • Social Security numbers (SSN) and birth dates
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for taxpayers without a Social Security number
  • Filing status — single, head of household, married filing joint, or married filing separate
  • Prior-year tax return 
  • Tax return you’re calling about
  • Any correspondence the IRS sent you

If you’re calling about specific forms or accounts, you’ll want to have as much information on hand as possible. 


If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, you’ll need authorization (either verbal or written) to discuss their account. For verbal consent, that person must be on the line with you in order to authorize the discussion with the IRS representative. Verbal consent, also known as an oral disclosure, is limited to the current conversation – you’ll need verbal consent every time you start a new conversation with the IRS. 

On top of that, you’ll also need:

  • Their taxpayer name, and SSN or ITIN
  • Their tax return you’re calling about
  • Valid Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization or Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative
  • Your preparer tax identification number or personal identification number (SSN or ITIN)

If you’re calling about someone who is deceased, you’ll need a copy of that person’s death certificate and either a court approval letter or a completed copy of IRS Form 56 (Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship).


When you do call, keep in mind that IRS representatives handle basic questions and issues related to your tax return. They may not be able to help with particularly complex questions. And just like many other industries, the IRS is experiencing processing delays due to the pandemic. That might also affect your experience on the phone. Bring your patience. 

Taxes are stressful, but IRS representatives aren’t your enemy. They want to help you. The more prepared you are going in, the easier and more productive the conversation will be. Know what you want before the call starts.

If you’re calling to set up a repayment plan for back taxes, it’s important to understand you can’t negotiate the outcome. The IRS has very specific guidelines for how plans are constructed. The representative should be able to walk you through your options.


If the online or phone resources don’t address your issue, you may be better off scheduling a face-to-face appointment with your local IRS office. 

Taxes can be complicated. If you have multiple sources of income, own your own business, have investments, or have accounts in foreign countries, you likely would benefit from working with a CPA or other certified tax expert.

Medical Myths: All about stroke

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year, and around 610,000 are first strokes.

In 2019, stroke was the second leading cause of mortality globally, accounting for 11% of deaths.

There are three main types of stroke. The first and most common, accounting for 87% of cases, is an ischemic stroke. It occurs when blood flow through the artery that supplies oxygen to the brain becomes blocked.

The second is a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a rupture in an artery in the brain, which in turn damages surrounding tissues.

The third type of stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is sometimes called a “ministroke.” It happens when blood flow is temporarily blocked to the brain, usually for no more than 5 minutes.

While stroke is very common, it is often misunderstood. To help us dispel myths on the topic and improve our understanding, we got in touch with Dr. Rafael Alexander Ortiz, chief of Neuro-Endovascular Surgery and Interventional Neuro-Radiology at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Stroke is a problem of the heart

Although stroke risk is linked to cardiovascular risk factors, strokes happen in the brain, not the heart.

“Some people think that stroke is a problem of the heart,” Dr. Ortiz told MNT. “That is incorrect. A stroke is a problem of the brain, caused by the blockage or rupture of arteries or veins in the brain, and not the heart.”

Some people confuse stroke with a heart attack, which is caused by a blockage in blood flow to the heart, and not the brain.

Stroke is not preventable 

“The most common risk factors [for stroke] include hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, trauma to the head or neck, and cardiac arrhythmias,” said Dr. Ortiz. 

Many of these risk factors can be modified by lifestyle. Exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet can reduce risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes. 

Other risk factors include alcohol consumption and stress. Working to reduce or remove these lifestyle factors may also reduce a person’s risk of stroke.

Stroke does not run in families 

Single-gene disorders such as sickle cell disease increase a person’s risk for stroke. 

Genetic factors including a higher risk for high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors may also indirectly increase stroke risk. 

As families are likely to share environments and lifestyles, unhealthy lifestyle factors are likely to increase stroke risk among family members, especially when coupled with genetic risk factors.

Stroke symptoms are hard to recognize 

The most common symptoms for stroke form the acronym “F.A.S.T.“: 

  • F: face dropping, when one side of the face becomes numb and produces an uneven “smile”
  • A: arm weakness, when one arm becomes weak or numb and, when raised, drifts slowly downward
  • S: speech difficulty, or slurred speech 
  • T: time to call 911 

Other symptoms of stroke include: 

  • numbness or weakness in the face, arm, leg, or one side of the body
  • confusion and trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • difficulty walking, including dizziness, loss of balance and coordination 
  • severe headaches without a known cause

Stroke cannot be treated 

“There is an incorrect belief that strokes are irreversible and can’t be treated,” explained Dr. Ortiz.

“Emergency treatment of a stroke with injection of a clot busting drug, minimally invasive mechanical thrombectomy for clot removal, or surgery can reverse the symptoms of a stroke in many patients, especially if they arrive to the hospital early enough for the therapy (within minutes or hours since the onset of the symptoms),” he noted. 

“The longer the symptoms last, the lower the likelihood of a good outcome. Therefore, it is critical that at the onset of stroke symptoms — ie. trouble speaking, double vision, paralysis or numbness, etc — an ambulance should be called (911) for transport to the nearest hospital,” he continued. 

Research also shows that those who arrive within 3 hours of first experiencing symptoms typically have less disability 3 months afterward than those who arrived later.

Why Starting a New Job Feels So Awkward

Starting at a new job in a new workplace is exciting, but it can also be uncomfortable. Regardless of how many jobs you’ve had before, you may suddenly feel like the new kid in class, with all eyes on you. How can you overcome the awkwardness of those first few weeks? Is there any way to feel at ease when you’re brand new? And if you’re the one welcoming a new person to your team, what can you do to smooth the way for them?

It’s helpful to know a bit about what makes these transitions so difficult so you can mitigate the awkwardness.

Your prediction engine fails.

The most significant source of awkwardness is that you just aren’t sure what to expect. The brain is a prediction engine. It wants to accurately forecast what’s going to happen, and a lack of confidence about the future creates anxiety. (That’s the same reason why foreign travel is often more fun in retrospect than it is in the moment.)

When we’re uncertain about what will happen, we default to inaction. This is for two reasons. One, our anxiety motivates us to avoid potential threats or calamities. Two, when we do experience bad outcomes, we’re more likely to blame actions we take rather than things we fail to do. So we convince ourselves that not doing anything is less likely to cause problems. As a result, when you’re not sure what’s going on, it can be difficult to start conversations with new colleagues or to speak up.

This tendency to remain silent is made worse by concerns that you’ll say the wrong thing. Even when we’re talking to people we know well, we tend to avoid saying things we think might be misinterpreted. As it turns out, in reality, people focus mostly on the intent behind what you say rather than the specific words you use to say it. So, new colleagues are unlikely to form a negative impression of you, because they rarely notice the things you were concerned would be awkward. It really is ok to chat with your new colleagues and to ask questions when you’re confused.

To help ease the way for a new colleague, try to make things feel more certain. Introduce them to others in the office. Let them know how the workday ebbs and flows. If you’re working remotely, leave yourself a note to reach out to your new colleague at least once a day so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle.

You don’t know the language.

Even if you’re ready to speak up at work, there’s a whole set of jargon you’re probably unfamiliar with. Every organization has its acronyms for particular departments or processes — not to mention its own terms for people, places, and things. Those first few weeks at a new job can feel like you’ve been dropped into a country in which you speak enough of the language to feel like you ought to understand more of what’s being said around you.

It’s uncomfortable to stop people whenever they use a new term to get them to define it. And people who are fluent in their office jargon can spit out sentences that are completely incomprehensible to the uninitiated. (“I had to get EVPP and VPR to approve a PAR before sending it to OSP.”) So, it’s useful to get a translator. See if a colleague can put together a cheat sheet for you of commonly used acronyms and phrases in the company. (Some smart organizations even include this in their onboarding materials.) Then, get their permission to email or text them when a new phrase comes up that you don’t know. It will be reassuring to know you have a lifeline when you’re not able to fully follow ongoing conversations.

If you’re working with someone new, try to wrap your head around the beginner’s mind. It can be difficult to remember how steeped you are in your organization’s way of speaking. When you find yourself using some of the local jargon, use the term (so that your new colleague gets used to hearing it) and then define it (so that you don’t confuse them completely).

You don’t have a squad — yet.

Perhaps the hardest part of starting a new job is that you don’t have a group of people you feel comfortable with yet. Research suggests that having positive social connections at work is crucial to happiness and job satisfaction. You may see groups of people spending time together and talking about shared experiences, which can make you feel like an outsider, or even isolated. And, chances are, you don’t have a lot of practice integrating yourself into a pre-existing social structure, unless you’ve relocated a lot in your life. We generally only meet a lot of new people when everyone is in the same boat and creating a new social group (such as arriving at college as a first-year student).

Remember that it takes time, and everyone else there was new at one point too. You can start out by having conversations with a few people. Get to know them, and find out how the group engages. Are there coffee breaks or shared lunches? An easy way to meet a group of people is to get someone to serve as your ambassador and to introduce you to others. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help you to meet your new colleagues. People are generally happy to agree to simple favors like this for their colleagues, especially new ones.

When you have a new colleague at work, help them to get settled into the social scene. You don’t have to commit to being a close friend or to spending time with them outside of work. Just help them to meet a few other people and include them in workplace conversations. It’s particularly valuable to make these introductions when people in the organization are working remotely. Most social interactions in remote workplaces have to be explicitly arranged, so it is easy for a new person to get left out entirely. Ensuring that new hires get connected to others also helps to improve retention.

Ultimately, remember that you are more worried about the awkwardness of being new at the job than anyone else is. The rest of your new colleagues are just going about their daily routines. The best part is that in six weeks or so, most of your anxiety will fade. You will develop new habits, you’ll discover you understand at least half of the new jargon that gets thrown at you, and you’ll have a couple of people who can guide you through the social scene.

How to Be There For a Partner With Anxiety

Relationships thrive on concessions and acclimation. On the one hand, you’re human — stubborn and proud, enjoying things a certain way. On the other, you’re human —  forgetful and malleable, able to navigate new roads and think they were always the fastest route. To balance these two things is important for any relationship — and absolutely crucial if one partner suffers from anxiety. 

There are countless examples of what partners of people with anxiety experience. Maybe you drive hundreds of miles to visit family because you know your partner won’t step foot on an airplane. Or maybe you’ve accepted that food shopping is your job because they get overwhelmed in grocery stores. Maybe when that nice dude you chat with at the playground invites you and your partner to a meet-up with other local parents, you start running through the bank of unused excuses in your head, because you know your better half would never go for it. At first glance, these concessions can seem arduous and frustrating. Research suggests that when one partner has anxiety, it can cause a significant strain on relationships. But experts say that if couples learn to navigate anxiety in a healthy, collaborative way, it can make the relationship stronger.

Anxiety disorders are common, affecting 19 percent, or 40 million adults in the US, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. There are many different types: Anxiety is an umbrella term for different anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, phobias, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), says New York City clinical psychologist Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, an advisor for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. 

Anxiety itself is not necessarily a disorder — it’s a normalemotion everyone experiences on some level, Lira de la Rosa says. We study for a test to quell nerves telling us we won’t do well, for example. Anxiety becomes a diagnosable disorder when it’s persistent and begins to interfere with someone’s social, emotional, and psychological functioning.

That interference can have a significant effect on partners, both as individuals and on their relationship as a couple. Some studies suggest that anxiety tends to rub off on partners: When wives suffered anxiety, husbands reported feeling distress as well, the authors of a 2010 study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found. The anxious women in the study rated the quality of their relationships lower, and their husbands did, too.  

In a review of the literature published in 2017, the authors noted that the impact of anxiety disorders on marital and partner life isn’t well understood. They also wrote that the link between anxiety disorders and family relationships can go both ways: Psychological problems adversely affect the relationships of people with anxiety, and the attitudes of the partner towards the person with anxiety can sometimes exacerbate the anxiety. 

“Anxiety can be contagious. We may feel like we’re taking on other people’s anxiety,” Lira de la Rosa says. “Partners may begin to worry they’re going to make their significant other’s anxiety worse if they let them know that they’re feeling anxious as well. They may hide their stress and other worries out of fear they’ll exacerbate their partner’s anxiety.”

Depending on its severity, anxiety might also affect the way the partners live their lives, such as by avoiding certain situations or social gatherings, says Marisa T. Cohen, Ph.D., a relationship researcher and marriage and family therapist in New York City. The partner with anxiety may pull back at times as they try to navigate their feelings and emotional experience, she says. In a long-term relationship, there can be pressure on the partner who doesn’t have anxiety to know exactly how to handle the anxiety situation or support their partner without being told. This, per Cohen, can feed the vicious cycle.

When your partner has anxiety, neither ignoring it, getting angry about it, nor making constant concessions to help them avoid anything that makes their anxiety worse will help. What will: understanding their specific anxiety, communicating about it in the right way, supporting them properly, and drawing healthy boundaries. One finding of the 2010 study mentioned above is that good communication and support between couples dealing with one partner’s anxiety may be protective for them. Meaning? Anxiety was less likely to have a negative impact on relationship quality day to day among couples who communicate effectively. So, if your partner has anxiety, here is some expert advice to keep in mind.

1. Study Up

How your partner experiences anxiety is individual. But it can help you to empathize if you educate yourself about the type of anxiety they have.  

“It’s important that when your partner tells you they suffer from anxiety, you don’t diminish it or exaggerate it,” says Brooke Bralove, a licensed clinical social worker in Bethesda, Maryland. “Learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatments. The more basic knowledge you have, the better.”

Also important, however, is not to weaponize what you learn when talking to your partner about their anxiety. You’re looking for understanding that can help you be compassionate, not to become an expert about how your partner feels and what they need to do to “fix” their anxiety.

2. Talk Through Anxiety-Related Issues Together

When your partner has anxiety, it helps to acknowledge their feelings and make a game plan that might include compromises. Cohen says to encourage them to talk about their anxiety, such as potential triggers (if any), symptoms they experience, and ways in which they typically prefer to work through it.

It’s possible that someone with anxiety might not know what they need at the moment even if you were to ask them. You can also try asking if they need you to just listen or if there’s anything you can take off their plate to help them feel less anxious, Lira de la Rosa says. 

“Or perhaps they need you to just be present while they’re doing something that causes them to feel anxious,” he adds. 

3. Learn How to Be the Right Kind of Helpful 

It’s important to not offer solutions unless explicitly asked by the person experiencing anxiety, says Cohen. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Once you’ve talked with your partner about their triggers and what tends to be most helpful to quell their anxiety, however, then you can ask what would most help them at that moment.

“Offer specific suggestions for things they could do to ease their symptoms. You could recommend a five-minute meditation, box breathing, a brisk walk, or listening to their favorite song,” suggests Bralove. “Distraction and physical movement can be lifesavers when someone feels overwhelmed with anxiety. When in doubt, tell them to breathe, breathe, breathe.”

Many people with anxiety don’t find reassurance, such as saying, “It’ll all be OK, don’t worry,” very helpful. It can make them feel like you don’t understand them or you’re sick of hearing about their issues with anxiety. 

“If reassurance worked, no one would have anxiety,” says Bralove. “Acknowledge that you don’t fully understand their anxiety, but that you believe them and feel empathy toward them.”

4. Set Boundaries

While it’s important to be patient and compassionate with your partner if they suffer from anxiety, you also need to set boundaries for the sake of your mental health. 

Say your parents want to come visit for a week, but your partner insists she can only handle two days of them being around, Bralove says. You can say something like, “I know you get anxious when my mom visits, but we also know it’s good for our children to have a relationship with grandma. Let’s put our heads together to figure out how this can go smoothly,” she suggests. 

Resiliency Is a Philosophy: A Life Span Approach

Every time I type the word “resiliency,” spellcheck seems to prefer the word “resilience.” It made me question whether or not the word “resiliency” exists. When I searched the definition for “resiliency”, it redirected me to the definition of “resilience.” Is there a difference between the words? According to Oxford’s definition, “resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” 

What then is resiliency? I am not a linguist, but I would submit that resiliency is the practice of being resilient. Resiliency is a philosophy that believes in embracing difficulties and seeing them as opportunities for growth. Resiliency does not submit to fear. 

Resiliency is practiced by getting up every time you are knocked down. The practice of resiliency is clearly on display by the people of Ukraine, as they are being attacked by a supposedly more formidable opponent. They refuse to give up. When the United States offered President Volodymyr Zelenskyy an opportunity to escape via helicopter, he stated, “I need ammunition, not a ride.” Zelenskyy’s acts of resiliency are infectious and admired, as videos of Ukrainian citizens standing in front of Russian tanks or taking up arms to defend their country has gone viral. 

By all reports, Putin has underestimated the resiliency of the Ukrainian people. Historically, Ukraine has struggled for independence. They have been occupied by several countries including Nazi Germany and Russia. Their people have faced repeated attempts of extermination. On January 21, 1990, over 300,000 Ukrainians organized a human chain for Ukrainian independence between Kyiv and Lviv. Ukraine’s dream of independence became a reality on August 24, 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union. By practicing resiliency in the face of prior adversity, the Ukrainians are well prepared for what they are currently facing. 

How do the lessons of the Ukrainians apply to practicing resiliency within a child’s development? I am reminded of Dr. Rabbi Abraham Twerski’s story of the resilient lobster. While Dr. Twerski was waiting at the dentist’s office, he read an article about how the lobster gets a new shell. As the lobster grows, it experiences pressure and discomfort, confined by its shell, Dr. Twerski tells us. “So it goes under a rock, casts off its shell, and produces a new one.”

“The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is to feel uncomfortable,” Dr. Twerski points out, adding that, “if lobsters were able to go to a doctor, they would be given a Valium or Percocet and never grow.” 

Research supports Dr. Twerski’s lobster’s story of resilience. A recent study found that, contrary to the researcher’s expected findings, the more intimately exposed you were to Covid-19, the more resilient you were.

Resiliency is in our DNA. On average the male produces 100 million sperm to fertilize one egg. Of the 100 million sperm, only one survives and fertilizes the egg. Fertilization is an example of resiliency. 

If resiliency is in our DNA, then why do we have so much difficulty coping with stress? Once the fetus is formed, it becomes dependent on the mother for its nutrition via the umbilical cord. After the child is born and the umbilical cord is detached, the opportunity for the practice of resiliency becomes real. 

The child’s ability to practice resiliency is often thwarted by the best parental intentions. No parent likes to see their child suffer. The paternal impulse is to protect the child from the bully, the mean teacher, and the missing homework. However, when a parent shields a child from the natural consequences of his actions, he could be undermining his opportunity to experience some discomfort and shed his shell. 

I am not suggesting placing a 6-month-old child in the middle of traffic. To cultivate resiliency it is necessary to take a developmental approach. A scaffold is a temporary support structure that is surrounded by the construction of a building. This metaphor has been used in early education but is applicable in raising a resilient child. As a child matures, he is faced with new obstacles. Depending on his level of development, he has the necessities to face certain stressors. The scaffolding provides the necessary support. The scaffold eventually goes away and the child should be able to stand on his own.

A parent’s role is to provide a child with the necessary skill set to face his difficulties and not escape them. President Zelenskyy did not want a helicopter to escape, he wanted the support necessary to face his enemy. That is the philosophy of resiliency.

Want to Refinance Your Mortgage?

Some people can still get a lower rate on their current home loan, however — and save some money in the process.

An estimated 472,000 well-qualified homeowners can still refinance their mortgages by at least 0.75 percentage points, according to the data and analytics company Black Knight. Doing so would save these homeowners an average of $309 per month on their mortgage payments — or about $3,708 per year.

Outside of cost savings, there are other reasons why refinancing now could make sense. If you are nearing the end of the fixed-rate period on an adjustable-rate mortgage, refinancing into a fixed-rate loan lets you lock in a steady rate that won’t change periodically. Another option is a cash-out refi, which allows you to use the equity you’ve gained in your home to pay off higher-interest debt.

Mortgage refinancing isn’t a quick process: the average closing time on a refi loan was 52 days in June, according to ICE Mortgage Technologies. So if a refinance makes sense for your budget, the sooner you start the better.

Here’s exactly how to do it, broken down into seven steps to help move the process along.

1. Set a refinancing goal

Most homeowners refinance in order to get a lower interest rate and, as a result, reduce their monthly payments. However, that’s not the only reason to refinance.

Different loan types offer different advantages.

You may want to switch from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage to guarantee a permanently lower rate. Maybe you want to switch from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan to pay off your mortgage faster. If you have enough equity, you may also be able to save on mortgage insurance by switching from an FHA loan to a conventional mortgage.

Perhaps you’ve recently run up against major medical bills, unexpected home repairs or other expenses that are weighing you down financially. If you’ve built up enough equity in your home, a cash-out refi will not only let you refinance your loan but also take out extra cash.

Knowing what you want to accomplish with a refi will help you determine the type of mortgage product you need. Consider all the options to see which works best for you.

2. Check your home equity

You may be able to qualify for a conventional refi loan with as little as 5% equity in your home, according to Discover Home Loans. However, most lenders prefer you have at least 20% equity.

If you have more home equity, you may qualify for a lower interest rate and lower fees, as lenders will view borrowers who have higher equity as less of a lending risk. More equity also means that you are less likely to end up owing more than the home is worth if home prices fall.

To get an estimate of your home equity, subtract your current mortgage loan balance from your home’s current market value. The result will be your home equity. Contact a knowledgeable local real estate agent to get an idea of your home’s value. Zillow’s home price estimate can also be a rough starting point too.

You should also prepare your home for an official appraisal, which will be part of the refinance application process. Have documentation about any improvements you have made to the home handy. (For example, did you add a bathroom or replace an old roof?) It won’t hurt to clean and organize your home to get it in showing condition.

3. Check your credit score and credit report

Before making any loan decisions, it’s important to check your credit score, as well as your credit report.

Your credit score will in large part determine how favorable a rate a lender will offer. The higher your score, the lower the rate you’ll qualify for and the lower your monthly payments will be. If you have a low score, look for ways to improve your credit score well before applying for a loan.

Your credit report shows the information your score is based upon. It’s where you can check if there are any errors that may be negatively affecting your credit score. If you find mistakes in your report, you can contact the credit bureaus to have these items removed. Be prepared to provide documentation proving the mistake.

As part of the consumer protections put in place by the CARES Act, you can get a free weekly credit report from any of the major reporting bureaus until December 31, 2022. (Typically, you’re entitled to one free report from each credit reporting company per year.)

You should also be aware of what factors could cause a temporary hit to your credit score. Applying for credit cards, personal or auto loans just before, at the same time, or just after applying for a refi will lower your score, albeit temporarily.

It’s all in the cup (or two)

Coffee contains many beneficial compounds for health, including caffeine, diterpenes, and chlorogenic acid. 

Studies show that habitual coffee consumption is linked to the prevention of chronic and degenerative conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

Caffeine, the most commonly studied compound in coffee, exerts positive effects on kidney function, and daily coffee consumption is linked to a lower risk of chronic kidney disease. 

Although other compounds in coffee are less studied, compounds such as chlorogenic acid and trigonelline are known to reduce generalized inflammation and oxidative stress.

Knowing more about how coffee consumption affects the incidence of other kidney-related conditions could help policymakers take steps to reduce people’s risk of developing progressive kidney disease. 

Recently, researchers investigated the effects of coffee consumption on acute kidney injury (AKI), when the kidneys lose all or part of their function suddenly. 

AKI represents a public health problem with around 0.25% of the general population experiencing AKI, which rises to 18% among individuals who are hospitalized annually. 

From their analysis, the researchers found that higher coffee intake is linked to a lower risk of incident AKI. 

The study was published in Kidney International Reports.

The most beneficial amount of coffee 

For the study, the researchers used data from 14,207 adults ages 45 – 64 from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. 

The researchers assessed the participants’ coffee consumption during their first visit via a food frequency questionnaire. In total, they found:

  • 27% never drank coffee
  • 14% drank less than a cup of coffee per day
  • 19% drank 1 cup per day
  • 23% drank 2-3 cups per day 
  • 17% drank more than 3 cups per day 

To define acute kidney injury, the researchers looked at rates of hospitalization, including an International Classification of Diseases code indicating AKI throughout a median period of 24 years follow-up. They noted 1,694 cases of incident AKI during the follow-up period. 

After adjusting for demographic factors, they found that individuals who consumed any amount of coffee had an 11% lower risk of developing AKI compared to individuals who did not consume the beverage.

The researchers further noted a dose-dependent relationship between AKI and coffee intake, with those consuming 2-3 cups of coffee per day experiencing the most substantial risk reduction.

How to Overcome Your Fear of the Unknown

Humans are wired to fear the unknown. That’s why uncertainty—whether at the macro level of a global economic, health, or geopolitical crisis or at the micro level (Will I get that job? Will this venture be successful? Am I on the right career path?)—can feel nerve-racking, exhausting, and even debilitating. However, that gut reaction leads people to miss a crucial fact: Uncertainty and possibility are two sides of the same coin.

Consider the achievements you’re most proud of, the moments that transformed your life, the relationships that make your life worth living. We’ll bet that they all happened after a period of uncertainty—one that probably felt stressful but that you nevertheless pushed through to accomplish something great. When we moved abroad, for example, we faced uncertainty about making less money, paying higher taxes, doing more-challenging work, and introducing our children to new schools, a new language, and a new culture. But seven years later we are so grateful for all the possibilities the move opened up.

Our modern-day heroes all have a similar story. Rosa Parks faced great uncertainty when she refused to give up her seat, igniting the Montgomery bus boycott and paving the way for desegregation. Nearly everyone initially thought that Elon Musk and his team would fail when they set out to revolutionize electric vehicles and push the world toward a more environmentally friendly future. They couldn’t have achieved their breakthroughs if they had been afraid of uncertainty.

Uncertainty doesn’t have to paralyze any of us. Over the past decade we have studied innovators and changemakers who’ve learned to navigate it well, and we’ve reviewed the research on topics like resilience and tolerance for ambiguity. The findings are clear: We all can become adept at managing uncertainty and empower ourselves to step confidently into the unknown and seize the opportunity it presents. Applying the following four principles will help you do that.

1. Reframe Your Situation

Most people are loss-averse. Multiple studies demonstrate that the way you frame things affects how you make decisions. The research shows, for instance, that if one treatment for a new disease is described as 95% effective and another as 5% ineffective, people prefer the former even though the two are statistically identical. Every innovation, every change, every transformation—personal or professional—comes with potential upsides and downsides. And though most of us instinctively focus on the latter, it’s possible to shift that mindset and decrease our fear.

One of our favorite ways of doing this is the “infinite game” approach, developed by New York University professor James Carse. His advice is to stop seeing the rules, boundaries, and purpose of the “game” you’re playing—the job you’re after, the project you’ve been assigned, the career path you’re on—as fixed. That puts you in a win-or-lose mentality in which uncertainty heightens your anxiety. In contrast, infinite players recognize uncertainty as an essential part of the game—one that adds an element of surprise and possibility and enables them to challenge their roles and the game’s parameters.

Yvon Chouinard, the cofounder of Patagonia, is an infinite player. As a kid he struggled to fit in, running away from one school, almost failing out of a second, and becoming a “dirtbag” climber after he graduated. But rather than seeing himself as a failure, he recounts in his book Let My People Go Surfing, he “learned at an early age that it’s better to invent your own game; then you can always be a winner.”

Chouinard not only created one of the world’s most successful outdoor-apparel brands but also changed production norms by adopting more-sustainable materials, altered the retail model by refitting old buildings for new shops, and challenged traditional HR policies by introducing practices like on-site childcare. Some of those innovations created uncertainty for the business. For example, Patagonia adopted organic cotton before it became popular, when it was expensive and hard to source. When a financial downturn hit, outsiders encouraged the company to buy cheaper materials. But using organic cotton was in keeping with its values, so Patagonia persisted, despite the cost and the supply risks, and in the end grew its sales while its competitors saw their sales fall.

Chouinard has learned to face uncertainty with courage—and in fact to be energized by it—because he views his role as improving the game, not just playing it. “Managers of a business that want to be around for the next 100 years had better love change,” he advises in his book. “When there [is] no crisis, the wise leader…will invent one.”

Of course, when uncertainty is forced upon us, we often need help reframing. Consider Amy and Michael, a professional couple with four children who moved from the United States to France in 2017 for Michael’s job. When the pandemic started, his position was eliminated, and then companies that initially promised him job offers started stalling. In July 2020, Amy and Michael were scheduled to fly home to the United States, but three days before they left they still didn’t have jobs or even a place to live. Family and friends were asking for updates, and their teenagers harangued them: “You are the worst parents ever! How can you have no clue where we’re going next?”

Two days before their flight, Amy confided to us over lunch that Michael had been offered a job, but neither of them wanted him to accept it. “Should we just take the bird in hand?” she wondered aloud. “I feel like we are such losers.” We encouraged her to reframe. She and Michael were showing resilience and bravery by exploring all possible next steps and holding out for the right one. How lucky their kids were to have parents bold enough to know what they really wanted and wait for it! The couple returned to the States with curiosity and courage and, by summer’s end, had both found jobs they loved as well as a fixer-upper home in a fun location.

2. Prime Yourself for New Risks

Although innovators often talk about eating uncertainty for breakfast, if you dig deeper, you discover some curious habits. When Paul Smith—a designer known for daring color combinations—travels, he always stays in the same hotel, often in the same room. Others we’ve studied book the same airplane seat for every flight, follow the same morning routine, or wear the same clothes. Steve Jobs had a lifetime supply of black turtlenecks.

All those habits provide balance. By reducing uncertainty in one part of your life, they prime you to tolerate more of it in other parts. Some people ground themselves with steady, long-term relationships, for instance. As the serial entrepreneur Sam Yagan, one of Time’s 100 most influential people and the former CEO of explains, “My best friends are from junior high and high school. I married my high school sweetheart. Given how much ambiguity I traffic in at work, I do look for less in other areas of my life.”

You can also prime yourself for uncertainty by getting to know the kinds of risk you have a natural aversion to or an affinity with. Case in point: Back when Nathan was pursuing a PhD in Silicon Valley and Susannah had started a clothing line that wasn’t yet making money, we had four children to support and were still living off student loans in a few hundred square feet of on-campus housing. At lunch one day, Nathan told his mentor, Tina Seelig, “Let’s face it, if I really had any courage, I would become an entrepreneur, but I’m just not a risk-taker.” Tina disagreed. She explained that there are many types of risks: financial, intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and so on. In Nathan’s situation, avoiding financial risk by pursuing a stable career as an academic—while still taking intellectual risks—was a prudent choice. The important lesson is that knowing which risks you tolerate well can help you see where to push more boldly into the frontier, while knowing which you don’t will help you prepare so that you can approach them with more confidence.

Just as important, you can increase your risk tolerance by taking smaller risks, even in unrelated fields. Consider Piet Coelewij, a former senior executive at Amazon and Philips. When he was thinking of leaving the corporate track to head the expansion of Sonos—then a start-up—in Europe, he decided to take up kickboxing. Coelewij describes himself as “naturally fearful of physical confrontation,” but trying kickboxing helped him build up his muscles for dealing with uncertainty, which made him “more comfortable with higher-risk decisions in other settings with less complete information,” he says. “Once you are in a cycle of lowering fear and developing courage, you create a virtuous circle that allows you to continuously improve.”

3. Do Something

Taking action is one of the most important parts of facing uncertainty, since you learn with each step you take. Research by Timothy Ott and Kathleen Eisenhardt demonstrates that most successful breakthroughs are produced by a series of small steps, not giant bet-the-farm efforts. Starting modestly can be more effective and less anxiety-provoking than trying to do everything at once.

How (And Why) to Stop Keeping Score In Your Marriage

In this particular session they were arguing about an issue that’s quite common in my office: Who does more for our family?

The day before our session, one of their children had gotten sick at school. The school called Darron who didn’t pick up his phone and then Eunice who did —someone needed to pick up their kid. Eunice left work and grabbed their 4-year-old daughter and brought her home. When she entered the house, she was seething with anger.

“You’re literally home right now and you didn’t even answer your phone,” she said to Darron. “I am so sick of this! Why do I do everything for our family?”

Darron, waking up from a much-needed nap after a 12-hour shift, looked at her surprised and confused. Then, he got defensive.

As the couple recounted this argument to me, they each accused the other of doing too little while admiring themselves for doing a lot. The litany sounded like this:

“I make the most money.”

“I do all of the housework.”

“I am the only one who cleans the house!”

“I keep us on schedule every day!”

“I am the only one who cares about our family social calendar!”

“Well, I am the only person who saves money!”

“So, we are arguing about who does more for the family,” I said. “You’re keeping tally?” 

They both looked at me.

The Trouble With Scorekeeping

No one wants to keep score in their relationships. Yet, many of us do.

In relationships, we unconsciously give and take. When I clean the dishes I am giving you the opportunity to pick up a clean bowl from the cabinet when you are hungry. When you pick up the kids from school, I get to take advantage of some free time to take a rest and watch my favorite show. Give and take is actually one of the main advantages of having a partnership.

Within this system, however, we tend to create “entitlements.” We start to believe we are owed something because of what we’ve given — “I cleaned the dishes, so you owe it to me to vacuum the living room”; “I get the kids from school, so you owe it to me to take over at dinner time.” And so it goes.

Again, this is natural. It’s human to negotiate how we can make the activities in our home life feel fairer. When the giving and taking in the relationship is fair, there aren’t major complaints. No one comes into my office to talk about how fair things feel.

However, when things feel unfair and out of alignment, people start to keep score just like Darron and Eunice. And line items are used as ammunition in marital spats.

How to Stop Keeping Score

So how do we stop creating ledgers and create partnerships instead?

1. Make sure your partner feels seen in their efforts

Whether it’s the mental load or the financial burden, when labor is perceived as unappreciated and unfair, people will tally everything they do. To combat this, make a conscious effort to be clear with your partner that you see all of their efforts and that you appreciate them. You might think you already do this, but research shows otherwise — people tend to underestimate the importance of receiving gratitude and appreciation, and overestimate that the person will judge them for doing it too often.

2. Make your efforts obvious

This might feel like bragging. You don’t need to be theatrical about it but you do need to make sure your partner knows how much you do. It doesn’t help the relationship to be a quiet martyr. Make your work visible, especially if you’re feeling burdened by it.

3. Create better boundaries with each other — and yourself

If you’re arguing about who does more in the family, there’s likely an issue with boundaries. You’ll need to work on self boundaries — that is, having limits that you don’t cross. For example, if you feel resentful every time you pick up after your partner, stop picking up after them. Or if you quietly cancel your Friday afternoon art class because your partner sprung something on you at the last minute, don’t cancel. That’s a self boundary.

It’s also crucial to have boundaries with your partner. In practice, this means letting them know you have a stance. For example, it’s saying, “Hey I can’t be the only one picking the kids up. We need to come up with a new solution”.

Which Well-Being Approaches Work Best?

So, it’s not surprising to see more and more workplaces appointing chief well-being officers to build a culture of health across their organizations. But what are the best approaches when it comes to caring for workplace well-being?

“With so many well-being theories and concepts available, it can be difficult to decipher which we should choose in any given setting,” explained Dr. Scott Donaldson, a senior researcher in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, when we interviewed him recently. “Our meta-analysis of 20 years of research found that multidimensional well-being theories demonstrated the strongest relationship with improving desirable work outcomes like well-being and engagement and lowering undesirable work outcomes like turnover intentions and stress.”

For example, one of the most popular multidimensional well-being theories studied was Dr. Martin Seligman’s PERMA theory of well-being, which suggests that there are five factors related to well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Scott and his colleagues found that drawing upon theories and measurement tools like this can be helpful when developing well-being strategies in organizations as they provide evidence-based guideposts on how to measure and care for our well-being, in contrast to single well-being interventions like mindfulness or gratitude.

Scott and his colleagues also found that the delivery method of workplace well-being support can have an impact on workers’ outcomes. For example, when trying to improve well-being, group settings had the greatest impact. However, when trying to mitigate negative outcomes, individual and group coaching sessions appeared to be more effective at achieving the desired goal, perhaps due to their higher levels of psychological safety.

What might this all mean practically for your workplace well-being approach?

Scott recommends that we:

  • Choose a multidimensional well-being approach. Multidimensional theories like PERMA, Psychological Capital, and Strengths are more likely to have a significant impact on workplace outcomes. Multidimensional well-being approaches provide more freedom and flexibility for people and teams to focus on the well-being approaches that serve them best based on their needs, hopes, and resources. Which multidimensional well-being approach might serve your people best?
  • Be mindful of the best mode of delivery. When it comes to improving engagement and well-being at work, large group settings appear to be the most effective mode. However, when it comes to reducing turnover and stress, individual coaching appears to be more effective. Issues that are more sensitive—like navigating stress—may be difficult for people to discuss in more open forums. Based on the levels of psychological safety your workplace changes may require, consider what will be the best mode of delivery.
  • Invest in measurement. To confidently demonstrate the value of your well-being approaches and know when you need to continue experimenting because you’re not where you want to be yet, measurement of your workplace well-being efforts is essential. Look for validated tools and scales to help you reliably assess the impact you are having.

How are you supporting well-being in your workplace?

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

Breakfast literally means “to break the fast.” It is the first meal of the day after a stretch of not eating overnight. 

Breakfast earned its title as the most important meal of the day back in the 1960s after American nutritionist Adelle Davis suggested that to keep fit and avoid obesity, one should “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

Though around 15% of people in the United States regularly skip breakfast, many still believe it to be the most important meal of the day. Breakfast provides the body with important nutrients, to start the day feeling energized and nourished. Many also believe that it can promote weight loss.

But is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

As with most things in nutrition, the answer is complex. While some research suggests that skipping breakfast is not harmful, other research suggests otherwise.

Eating regular meals and snacks, including breakfast, allows for more opportunities throughout the day to give the body the energy and nutrients it needs to function optimally. 

However, as long as a person can fit their nutrients in during other meals, breakfast may not be the most critical meal of the day.

Here is what the science says.

Evidence in support of eating breakfast

Most of the claimed benefits of eating breakfast are primarily derived from observational studies, which cannot prove cause and effect. 

For example, one 2021 systematic review of 14 observational studies found that those who eat breakfast seven times per week have a reduced risk for:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • abdominal obesity
  • cardiovascular-related death
  • elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Again, this particular group of studies can only suggest that those who eat breakfast are more likely to have a reduced risk for the cardiovascular and metabolic diseases mentioned above. It cannot prove that breakfast is what is causing it.

However, an analysis of data on over 30,000 North Americans shows that people who skip breakfast may miss out on important nutrients. 

The most common nutrients those who skipped breakfast fell short on include:

  • folate
  • calcium
  • iron
  • vitamin A
  • vitamins B1, B2, B3
  • vitamin C 
  • vitamin D.

What is more, one randomized control trial published in 2017 that included 18 participants with type 2 diabetes, and 18 healthy participants found that skipping breakfast caused disrupted circadian rhythms in both groups.

Those who skipped breakfast also experienced larger spikes in blood glucose levels after eating. The authors of the study thus suggested that eating breakfast is vital for keeping our internal clock running on time.

25 Pieces of Marriage Advice From Couples Who’ve Been Together 25+ Years

So, what is some honest, real advice from couples who’ve been through the long haul? We recently asked 25 people who have been married for 25 plus years about what makes their relationship work. Cliches didn’t enter the equation. Instead, their answers reflected a simple truth: long-term relationships are both easy and hard, but made better by honesty, fun, and a shared sense of unity. They urged communication and clarity. They underscored the importance of shared meals and spicing things up with dirty jokes. They emphasized appreciation and attention to detail. Here’s what they said, and why it’s helped them stay together for the long run.

1. Accept and allow

“This is a mantra I picked up early on in our marriage, and it’s one my husband and I have come to live by. I forget where I heard it, but it’s basically a nice way of saying, ‘You knew who your partner was when you got married, and you can’t change them.’ There were many things I wished I could change about my husband after we’d been married for a little while. But I realized I loved him, and it was a waste of time to dwell on them. I needed to accept him for who he was, and allow him to be himself. That doesn’t mean we can’t get upset, or voice concerns. It just means that we’re committed unconditionally to the person we married, even when they drive us crazy.” – Lynne, 62, Florida (married 31 years)

2. Imagine life without your partner

“My wife and I talk about this all the time. We imagine what our toughest days would be like without each other. Truthfully, we always agree that we’d make it through. Realistically, we’re each independent and strong enough that we’d be fine. But, it would be terrible. That’s the takeaway: life would be possible without each other, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun, special, or full of great moments. It’s not uncommon for us to ask each other, ‘Can you imagine if I wasn’t here?’ The answer is usually some variation of, ‘Yeah. It would suck. I’m glad you are.’” – Jerry, 56, Maryland (married 30 years)

3. Crack jokes

“We got married when we were both almost 40, and our sense of humor has gotten more juvenile every year. Maybe it’s just us, but I don’t think so. We laugh at rude noises. We roll our eyes at each other’s terrible jokes. We love raunchy movies. It’s just that primitive, human sense of humor we both have. So many couples seem to lose that the longer they stay married. There’s this weird pressure to become more civilized or dignified as you get older. We never got that memo, it seems. And when it’s just the two of us, we’re usually cracking up. We’ve stayed in love so long because we’re too busy laughing to be fighting.” – David, 68, Michigan (married 30 years)

4. Choose your own adventure

My marriage has never been easy but it’s always been an adventure. Best advice I can give – getting married is like going to a theme park. Know who you are and what ride you want to go on. If you want to go on the carousel (stability and serenity) marry that. If you want to go on the roller coaster (risk and adventure) don’t marry someone who’s afraid of speed and heights. The key is to know yourself and what you want before you pledge yourself to a partnership. Then, once you’ve found your match, run your marriage like a good company. Identify each person’s strengths and weaknesses, and delegate those responsibilities accordingly..” – Kathleen, 57, Nebraska (married 31 years)

5. Don’t be so damn stubborn

“Don’t insist on always having the last word. It’s never not worth it. What you think is a fundamental, bedrock principle might actually be just a personal preference not worth having a spat or holding a grudge about. Be open to that possibility. Even if you get your way, it will take a toll. And if you agree to something, abide by the mutual decision. The loss of trust is also not worth getting your way. We’ve learned to be responsible for and take ownership of our decisions and actions, and we always try to avoid criticizing or guilting. It never helps. Instead, we try to have constructive conversations about specific behaviors that might be troubling, and we’re each willing to listen to each other’s concerns – even if they seem trivial.” – Claude, 68 (married 33 years)

6. Do the work

“Everyone has heard the phrase, ‘opposites attract’, but you don’t really hear the phrase, ‘opposites keep people together.’ They can, though, if you learn how to navigate them. Opposites can create a great deal of conflict over time if you don’t learn how to accept them. It can be a difficult process, but it’s necessary to stay happily married long term. Good marriages don’t just happen. They require a great deal of work and intention. The English language has one word for love. I love my wife and I love spicy food. There is no comparison. Since the term ‘I love you’ is so confusing and vague it makes sense to define what that means to both of you, even if you’re total opposites.” – Monte, 64, Florida (married 40 years)

7. Bite your tongue

“My rule is: bite your tongue for at least 24-48 hours after before speaking when tensions are high. If you are overly emotional and/or upset about something, doing so gives you time to cool off and then reflect on the situation with greater space, perspective, calmness, and clarity. If you still want to talk about it, schedule a mutually agreed upon time to do so. Say something like, ‘I am upset about what you just said/did, but I want to think about it before we talk.’ Mentally, you’ll be in a much better place.” – Romy, 52, California (married 26 years) 

8. You won’t always be on the same page

“And that’s okay. Patience and communication are key to any successful relationship, but especially a long-term one. It’s important to remember that you’re not always going to agree about everything. There will be times when you need to listen more than you talk, and times when you need to communicate openly and honestly. You can do this by making time for each other, even when life gets busy. Whether it’s taking a walk after dinner or spending a weekend away together, do everything you can to keep the bond strong.” – Steve, 49, Arizona (married 26 years) 

9. Keep each other guessing 

“My husband is a quiet man. Me? Not so much. I was surprised when he told me how much he loves the fact that he never knows what I’m going to do from one minute to the next. And I appreciate his willingness to try different things. As our unofficial ‘social secretary,’ I’ve planned trips where he hasn’t really known where we’re going until we get on the plane. Our secret really is just keeping our life interesting. Otherwise, life becomes stale and boring. Do something unexpected from time to time and you’ll learn how much you cherish each other’s company.” – Carol, 72, Georgia (married 49 years)

Financial Stress Leads to Symptoms of Depression, PTSD

The origins of mental illness are varied and complex. There are a nearly limitless number of reasons why mental illness happens, from biological causes to environmental influences.

One contributing factor that has the potential to impact nearly everyone at some point in their life is personal finance. Researchers have repeatedly found a clear link between mental and financial health.

In many instances, that link is cyclical – poor financial health leads to poor mental health, which leads to increasingly poor financial health, and so on. But researchers have also concluded that mental health issues – including depression, anxiety, and certain forms of psychosis – are three times more likely to occur when an individual is in debt.

Additionally, a data analysis by personal loan company Payoff found that 23 percent of respondents to a financial health survey reported experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to their personal finances. These respondents admitted to irrational or self-destructive behavior motivated primarily by a desire to avoid the reality of their financial problems.

The implication here is not simply that poor financial health may lead to poor mental health. Much more important is the logical inverse: that taking active steps to ensure our financial health is very likely to pay positive dividends on our mental health as well.


Are your personal finances having a negative impact on your mental health? That may not be immediately clear.

Per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), these are the most common symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms

Regardless of whether or not your particular symptoms are rooted in financial distress, if any of this sounds like you, it’s important that you speak with as qualified mental health professional.

If you’re feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free, confidential, and available 24/7. 


If your finances are causing you mental harm, there are steps you can take to reduce the noise, refocus your attention, and start making positive changes.


If your finances are causing you mental distress, a good first step is actually a step backwards.

“Take the time to clearly define your financial goals and understand your values, both as an individual and as a family,” suggests Maura Attardi, MMI Director of Financial Wellness. “Defined goals help us understand if our spending habits are pushing us in the right direction, while our values help us determine if our goals are realistic and meaningful. Also, there may be conflicting values within a relationship or family, which can cause a lot of stress. Getting everything in alignment relieves stress, reduces interpersonal friction, and makes financial decision-making much easier.”

Once you’ve reached consensus on your financial priorities, you can begin to address the specific causes of your mental distress.

“Taking an honest and open look at why we spend money the way we do can also be helpful in alleviating stress and determining the steps we need to take,” says Attardi. “If the issue is overspending, try to determine what inner voids you’re trying to satisfy through spending money, and then replace your expensive coping techniques with something that might be easier on your pocketbook, like free yoga classes, reading, or exercising.”


“In addition, finding someone that you can be completely honest and open with about your financial situation can help,” says Attardi. “Where we may only be able to see the bleakest possible financial future, a credit counselor, a friend, or an objective family member can help open our eyes to some of the positive options we have available.”

Simply talking about your stresses and anxieties can offer incredible relief. You’ll realize quickly that you’re not alone – many of us struggle with money in one way or another. But perhaps most importantly you’ll be released from the burden of feeling like you’re hiding something.  


A little progress can make a world of difference. Simply feeling like things are moving in a positive direction can reduce stress and create a growing sense of contentment.

Once you’ve identified your values and goals and unburdened your soul a bit, you can get to work. Create a plan to help you achieve your goals. Make the steps small, clearly defined, and reasonable. Set yourself up for success by creating a series of achievable benchmarks that will slowly but surely guide you to your destination. And don’t hesitate to celebrate your wins. Feel good about all the boxes you check!


If you need help finding a positive financial path, consider speaking with one of MMI’s certified credit counselors. Debt and budget counseling is always free and can go a long way toward alleviating your financial stress by providing you with expert, judgment-free advice and access to helpful resources.

Mental illness is very common and no one should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they need help. Once again, if you or someone you know is dealing with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, please seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional in your area. For helpful mental health resources, visit (a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) and

Letting Go of Being “Right” Can Allow You to Enjoy Other People More

In full disclosure, I admit that over the years, I’ve experienced a lot of my own all-or-none thinking. Even nowadays, this judgmental “rightness of view” raises its ugly head. Maybe this form of thought will never really leave, but at least I’ve learned to recognize and step back from it a little bit, instead of it becoming fused with my identity.

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) all-or-none thinking is considered a “thinking style” or “thinking error” that leads to cognitive distortions. Let me provide a couple examples of how all-or-none thinking can act like a bully that pushes you around (not to mention others).

I once worked with a client whose all-or-none thinking style made it difficult for him to be around others. His mind would tell him in no uncertain terms, “I’ll always be stuck in this job,” and, “there’s no way I can pass the training needed for a promotion.” He even had body-related thoughts, such as, “I’ll never lose this weight and get in shape.”

As a result, he avoided situations where he felt he would not measure up. Other than going to work, he avoided being around people because he feared being criticized.

Over time, this person’s world shrunk and he rarely went outside because his all-or-none thinking bullied him into thinking that he wasn’t good enough. He ended up ruminating on these thoughts and getting depressed and anxious as a result. Since he avoided going to the trainings necessary for getting promoted, his thinking style became a self-fulfilling prophecy that held him back. 

Mindfulness Produces Diversity of Thinking

Mindfulness is a tool for recognizing thoughts, and in this way, helps us notice them in a more objective way. This means we can get curious about those thinking styles instead of buying into them. This shifts our relationship to the thought and even the emotion that the thought elicits. 

A recent literature review published in the journal Thinking Skills and Creativity described how mindfulness supports creativity and in educational settings “can benefit learning, creativity, and wellbeing.” The article also explores how mindfulness promotes a deliberate, or intentional, state of mind that promotes openness of thought. 

Openness of thought is almost the opposite of a fixed all-or-none thinking style. Keep in mind that all-or-none thinking might be steeped in a protective belief system, or schema. In other words, having a fixed ideology or belief may seem to protect one against the barrage of information and belief systems that we would otherwise need to consider.

With the rise of so much competing (and divisive) information on almost every topic—COVID is a good example—having a singular point of view might seem easier. But keep in mind that a singular view may be a major distortion and unhelpful. And if you stick to it, those who are stuck on the other side will seem less relatable, to say the least!

Is it really worth bullying yourself and others with all-or-none thinking? If you find that your viewpoints have others running for the exits, consider the advantages of diverse thinking. Being right might feel good, but it’s not necessarily the right thing to do. Or at least not the best option. 

3-Part Mindfulness Practice to Counter All-or-None Thinking

As with any skill, exercise, or practice, you want to start by taking small steps. You can’t run a marathon without doing a lot of training. So, to begin, pick out one of the all-or-none thoughts that dog you, that follow you around and rattle incessantly in your head. Usually, these thoughts have words like “always” or “never” attached to them. Those are clues that these are one-sided thoughts. 

  1. Do an experiment and see how many times you can notice this all-or-none thought throughout the day. You’re not trying to change anything here. You’re just trying to practice observing the thought. Do this noticing practice for a week, writing down the number of times that you caught your all-or-none thought. 
  2. For the next week, you can continue to notice the thought, but now, whenever you hear it, mentally say to yourself, “This is just a thought, it’s not who I am. It’s not a fact.” By doing this, you’re separating yourself ever so slightly from the thinking style.
  3. For the third week, you can write down a statement that is not so all-or-none that is more honest and truthful. Is there evidence, for example, that refutes your all-or-none statement? Surely, you have sometimes succeeded or followed through on something that invalidates the all-or-none thinking style.

If your thinking style is judging others in a harsh all-or-none way, look for evidence that helps you recognize that others are just people with frailties and worries who are trying their best to make their way in a challenging world! We’re all pretty much the same in that regard. See if you can soften your all-or-none statement.

Make Summer Happen Early

The problem with spring is that it isn’t summer. We’re not knocking the season — full of hope and birds and flowers and the like. But it also has its downsides. In mountainous regions, this means mud. If you’re lakeside, it usually means cold snaps and rain. Hell, much of the country is still experiencing temperatures in the 30s and 40s. There’s an easy solution: go south, find an island, or just get out and find somewhere where it’s blissfully hot. Because, let’s be honest, that’s actually what you want right now. Whether you’re craving an adventurous family getaway at a far-off locale or some rest and relaxation stateside, here are six spring break 2022 trips to consider.

1. The Florida Keys

Prefer not to pull out your passport? Play it safe and beeline it to the southernmost stretch of the continental United States. In Key West — along with any of the other Florida Keys you pass through on your way to the end of the chain — an early spring day is normally in the mid-70s.

Land at the international airport in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or even West Palm Beach and rent a car to break further south still for the 125-mile-long chain of islands linked by 42 bridges along the Overseas Highway.

Key West has all the family vacation activities you could want — from trolley rides and a treasure museum and aquarium to sunset catamaran cruises and calm beaches with shallow waters. But you might find some of the other Keys in the chain even more mellow and fun.

The ocean and bayfront campsites at Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key make for a perfect basecamp if you’re looking for a rustic and affordable stay (there are cabins for rent here, too). Or you can splurge at a spot like Isla Bella Beach Resort on Marathon (pictured), with several oceanfront pools and a private beach set on over a mile of waterfront as well as an onsite marina from which you can head out on snorkeling and fishing excursions. And while famous parks like John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park steal the spotlight, there are all kinds of other tucked-away nature spots to stop at as you road trip through the Keys, including the National Key Deer  Refuge and the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center on Tavernier.

2. Tahiti

Hear us out on why you should try here over Hawaii for your next big family vacation.

For roughly two hours longer in the air from Los Angeles than it takes to get to Honolulu, you can find yourself landing in Papeete in the Islands of Tahiti. That’s right, board an overnight flight from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui and about eight hours later (and hopefully a full night’s sleep for the gang) you’ll land in French Polynesia.

And if you’re wondering if the storied destination lives up to the hype, we can confirm the 118 islands and atolls here are well and truly among the most very beautiful and welcoming tropical isles on Earth (the kids might also love that these are the islands that inspired Disney’s Moana)

Leave the honeymoon crowd to pricey Bora Bora and base in Tahiti (the main island) or Moorea, right next door and just a 30-minute ferry ride away. Lodging options run the range from affordable family-run pensions to full-on hotel chain resorts with swim-up bars and kids clubs. Introduce the kids to French fare (the islands belong to France, after all, so the influence is everywhere) like a goat cheese salad or moules frites. Be sure to try the ubiquitous French Polynesian take on ceviche called poisson cru.

If you’re feeling intrepid and want to see more of the islands, hop an Air Tahiti flight for an hour to reach the Tuamotu Archipelago, where you can head out on excursions to snorkel with baby lemon sharks and reef sharks in sheltered lagoons in Rangiroa where they’re born, learn about black pearl farming or go scuba diving at some of the most incredible atoll passages on Earth in Fakarava. Among the family-friendly, waterfront places to stay in the atolls are Havaiki Lodge, Le Tikehau by Pearl Resorts, and Hotel Maitai Rangiroa.

3. Puerto Rico

Closer to home, time spent thawing out under the Caribbean sun in Puerto Rico is a great place to shake off any lingering winter chill. Do the kids like to surf? Or maybe that’s your thing, and you want to entice them with some skimboarding or boogie boarding in the shore break. Either way, surf towns like Rincón,Aguadilla, and Playa Jobos on the island’s northwest corner have a chill vibe and plenty of vacation rentals and inexpensive hotels to make your home base. Rincon Beach Resort and Villa Montaña Beach Resort are both popular with families who come for sun and surf.

How to Protect Yourself From Credit Card Theft

Last fall, I received an email that appeared to be from my web host. The email claimed that there was a problem with my payment information and asked me to update it. I clicked on the link in the email and entered my credit card number, thinking that a recent change I’d made to my site must have caused a problem.

The next morning, I logged onto my credit card account to find two large unauthorized purchases. A scammer had successfully phished my payment information from me.

This failure of security is pretty embarrassing for a personal finance writer. I know better than to click through an email link claiming to be from my bank, credit card lender, or other financial institution. But because the email came from a source that wasn’t specifically financial (and because I was thinking about the changes I had made to my website just the day before), I let myself get played.

Thankfully, because I check my credit card balance daily, the scammers didn’t get away with it. However, it’s better to be proactive about avoiding credit card theft so you’re not stuck with the cleanup, which took me several months to complete.

Here’s how you can protect yourself from credit card theft. 

Protecting your physical credit card

Stealing your physical credit or debit card is in some respects the easiest way for a scammer to get their hands on your sweet, sweet money. With the actual card in hand, a scammer has all the information they need to make fraudulent purchases: the credit card number, expiration date, and the security code on the back.

That means keeping your physical cards safe is one of the best ways to protect yourself from credit card theft. Don’t carry more cards than you intend to use. Having every card you own in a bulging wallet makes it more likely someone could steal one when you’re not paying attention and you may not realize it’s gone if you have multiple cards.

Another common place where you might be separated from your card is at a restaurant. After you’ve paid your bill, it can be easy to forget if you’ve put away your card (especially if you’ve been enjoying adult beverages). So make it a habit to confirm that you have your card before you leave a restaurant.

If you do find yourself missing a credit or debit card, make sure you call your bank immediately to report it lost or stolen. The faster you move to lock down the card, the less likely the scammers will be able to make fraudulent charges. Make sure you have your bank’s phone number written down somewhere so you’re able to contact them quickly if your card is stolen or lost.

Recognizing card skimmers

Credit card thieves also go high-tech to get your information. Credit card skimmers are small devices placed on a legitimate spot for a card scanner, such as on a gas pump or ATM. 

When you scan your card to pay, the skimmer device captures all the information stored in your card’s magnetic stripe. In some cases, when there’s a skimmer placed on an ATM, there’s also a tiny camera set up to record you entering your PIN so the fraudster has all the info they need to access your account.

The good news is that it’s possible to detect a card skimmer in the wild. Gas stations and ATMs are the most common places where you’ll see skimmer devices. Generally, these devices will often stick out past the panel rather than sit flush with it, as the legitimate credit card scanner is supposed to. Other red flags to look for are scanners that seem to jiggle or move slightly instead of being firmly affixed, or a pin pad that appears thicker than normal. All of these can potentially indicate a skimmer is in place. 

If you find something that looks hinky, go to a different gas station or ATM. Better safe than sorry.

Protecting your credit card numbers at home

Your home is another place thieves will go searching for your sensitive information. To start, you likely receive credit card offers, the cards themselves, and your statements in the mail. While mail theft is relatively rare (it’s a federal crime, after all), it’s still a good idea to make sure you collect your mail daily and put a hold on it when you go out of town.

Once you get your card-related paperwork in the house, however, you still may be vulnerable. Because credit card scammers are not above a little dumpster diving to get their hands on your credit card number. This is why it’s a good idea to shred any paperwork with your credit card number and other identifying information on it before you throw it away.

Finally, protecting your credit cards at home also means being wary about whom you share information with over the phone. Unless you’ve initiated a phone call of your own volition — not because you’re calling someone who left a voicemail — you should never share your credit card numbers over the phone. Scammers will pose as customer service agents from your financial institution or a merchant you frequent to get your payment information. To be sure, you can hang up and call the institution yourself using the main phone number.

Keeping your cards safe online

You should never provide your credit card information via a link in an email purporting to be from your financial institution or a merchant. Scammers are able to make their fake emails and websites look legitimate, which was exactly the reason I fell victim to this fraud.

But even with my momentary lapse in judgment about being asked for my payment information from my “web host,” there were other warning signs that I could’ve heeded if I had been paying attention. 

The first is the actual email address. These fake emails will often have a legitimate looking display name, which is the only thing you might see in your email. However, if you hover over or click on the display name, you can see the actual email address that sent you the message. Illegitimate addresses do not follow the same email address format you’ll see from the legitimate company.

In addition to that, looking at the URL that showed up when I clicked the link could’ve told me something weird was going on. Any legitimate site that needs your financial information will have a secure URL to accept your payment. Secure URLs start with https:// (rather than http://) and feature a lock icon in the browser bar. If these elements are missing, then you should not enter your credit card information.

Daily practices that keep you safe

In addition to these precautions, you can also protect your credit cards with the everyday choices you make. For instance, using strong, unique passwords for all of your online financial services, from shopping to banking, can help you prevent theft. Keeping those strong passwords safe — that is, not written down on a post-it note on your laptop — will also help protect your financial information.

Regularly going over your credit card and banking statements can also help ensure that you’re the only one making purchases with your credit cards. It was this daily habit of mine that made sure my scammers didn’t actually receive the computer they tried to purchase with my credit card. The fact that I check my balance daily meant I was able to shut down the fraudulent sale before they received the goods, even though I fell down on the job of protecting my credit card information. 

Get Seven hours of consistent sleep

For middle-aged to olderpeople looking to get the best sleep possible, seven hours of consistent sleep may be the sweet spot, new research suggests.

The study, published April 28 in the scientific journal “Nature Aging,” involved 498,277 people between ages 38 and 73 from the UK Biobank, a large-scale database with genetic and health information of U.K. participants.

Participants answered questions about how long they slept, completed an online mental health questionnaire and did problem-solving and memory exercises. Brain imaging and genetic data was provided for some participants as well.

“We wanted to know what is the perfect time that you should be sleeping for most middle-aged to older-aged people,” said Barbara Sahakian, a professor in the psychiatry department at the University of Cambridge who worked on the study. “How does that relate to other measures, for instance, your brain structure and your cognition, and your mental health?”

As people sleep, their brains work to consolidate memories and process things learned during the day, particularly during what’s called deep sleep, she said. Deep sleep may also allow people to purge toxins from their brains – and reduce the harmful deposits of an abnormal protein, amyloid.

But too little or too much sleep can create chronic stress. It can also cause changes in the hippocampus, a part of the brain vital to learning and memory, Sahakian said.

Researchers found participants performed better after seven hours of consistent sleep, she said. Those who got less or more had poorer cognitive performance and smaller brain volume, area and thickness.

But the study has its limitations, including the fact that participants reported only sleep duration versus sleep timing, sleep efficiency and circadian rhythm. Participants also reported their own sleep, leaving room for bias. They also recorded sleep times by the hour, not minutes.

How to Get Your Big Ideas Noticed By the Right People

When I ask my undergraduate students at Brandeis what they hope for in their future jobs, their answers typically involve making an impact. They have big, sometimes revolutionary, ideas around how to address climate change and social justice issues. They talk about ways we can improve our efficiency by updating outdated communication systems, and even pitch solutions that could help big corporations market their products to younger consumers. But most of all, they are excited to put their pitches into practice — that is, until they get their first jobs and realize they have much less power than they had imagined.

I feel for them, and for anyone making their way into the corporate world for the very first time. It’s not easy to turn an idea into a reality, especially when you are in an entry-level role with limited resources and connections. The people who do have the power to make big decisions often have their own beliefs and assumptions about how to do business based on what has, and has not, worked in the past. If those people are not on your side, they can present you with some serious roadblocks.

So, how do you work around them and get your big ideas noticed, especially as a young person in the workforce?

I’ll tell you what I tell my students: You don’t. You work with them. To make a real impact, you need to get the right people — people with decision-making power — to listen and believe in you.

Here’s how.

First, figure out who holds the power to implement your idea.

Before you pitch your idea, ask yourself: Who has the power to decide whether or not it will be implemented, and what they will base their decision on?

Sometimes this question will be easier to answer than others, depending on what kind of company you work at. Organizations with a clear, hierarchical structure are more likely to have a well-defined process around who needs to approve an idea before it is executed. But organizations with a flat structure, in which there is no real “person in charge” at each level, can be more difficult to navigate.

Take the time to study these dynamics at your own company. There are a few tools you can use to help you diagnose who holds the ultimate decision-making power. One of the most common is called a RACI matrix. The acronym “RACI” stands for the four roles people usually play on a team or project. Here’s a simple breakdown:

  • Responsible: the people who are in charge of completing tasks or reaching an objective.
  • Accountable: the person who must sign off on the work of the group mentioned above, and give final approval.
  • Consulted: the people who need to give input in order for the group in charge of completing tasks to do their work.
  • Informed: the people who need to be updated on the status of the project and the decisions that are being made.

Creating this matrix will help you clarify the roles and responsibilities at each level of your organization. Most likely, the person you identify as “accountable” is the one who will say ultimately say “yes” or “no” to your idea.

Note that it’s rare for one person to have all the deciding power. More likely, it will be broken up among different leaders who are accountable for different teams, projects, or people.

For example, let’s say you have a fresh idea around how to engage a new audience for a particular marketing campaign. It may be easiest (and fastest) to look for the person who drives your overall engagement strategy. This could be the leader of the marketing division, or someone who works closely under them. Using the RACI matrix, you may discover that this person makes the final decisions on engagement initiatives, but also relies heavily on specific members of their leadership team for input, and considers market data before making big decisions.

Whatever team, project, or division your idea falls under, get to know what leaders are involved in those areas of your company, and ask around to learn about what factors they consider when making choices.

Choose your champion.

Even after you identify the decision-maker, it’s unlikely that you will get direct access to them. Few young professionals have the social capital to get their ideas immediately noticed by the right people. That’s why you need a champion — someone to advocate for your idea in the high-level meetings and discussions that you probably won’t be invited to.

Picking the right champion will depend on the magnitude of your idea. If it’s a smaller idea, or one that won’t cause significant disruption (like experimenting with a social media post, or reaching out to a new type of client), you might be able to find a champion who has the direct power to put your idea into motion. But if your idea is more disruptive (updating an age-old business model or restructuring a team’s entire workflow), you might need to find a different kind of champion: someone who has acquired a level of informal power that allows them to exert influence over those who are formally in charge.

Take the previous example of engaging a new audience for a marketing campaign. Your champion might be the chief of staff to the head of the marketing division. While this person won’t have direct decision-making power, they still have influence over the person who does.

That said, before bringing your big idea to a champion, you first need to build a foundation of trust with them. This will take time, and it will need to be developed over a series of projects in which you prove your ability to pitch good ideas, provide evidence that give those ideas merit, and consistently follow through on your assignments or tasks. You need your champion to to respect you as a professional, and believe you are credible if you want them to be your advocate.

To fast-track your relationship, study and analyze your champion’s management style. Then adapt your ways of working to fit their style. By doing so, you will increase the odds of producing work they are aligned with and proud of. When they speak, listen with intention, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Proactively set up feedback sessions with your champion and leverage this feedback into clear goals for improvement.

Do your homework.

Once you build that foundation of trust with your champion, you may feel ready to share your big idea. But wait. It’s critical to stress-test the idea first. This process will allow you to create a more robust and thorough pitch with fewer holes and logic gaps.

Start by gathering feedback from various stakeholders. A stakeholder could be someone directly involved in the decision-making process (who you identified earlier using the RACI matrix), or someone in your organization whose work might be directly impacted by your idea.

Sticking with our previous example, a key stakeholder might be the head of sales. Although the head of sales does not influence decision-making within the marketing division, they may be able to provide you with a perspective you had not considered before, especially if your marketing and sales teams work closely together. Another stakeholder might be a trusted peer or manager on the marketing team whose responsibilities may shift should your idea be implemented. This person may raise or problem or concern you can now address.

Stakeholders often have access to critical information that can strengthen your pitch. Connecting with them can also help you develop advocates throughout the organization.

How to Successfully Shift From “Work Mode” to “Family Mode”

The added flexibility of the work-from-home movement is revolutionary for many reasons, including how it enables more working parents to be with their families. But experts agree that there are many times that it doesn’t feel great. “We’ve all had the experience where we’re not fully present as a father because we’re thinking about work and vice versa,” says executive coach Ian Sanders, author of 365 Ways To Have a Good Day. “There are no magic wands for putting boundaries around family life and work life,” says Sanders. It just takes effort and focus. Here’s how to flip the work and home switch.

1. Build Transitions into Your Day

In three different conversations with three different work-life balance experts, I heard one piece of advice three times. To prevent the whiplash that occurs when you step between work and home modes, you need to build in a transition — something that replaces the mental decompression granted by a commute. “Bookend your day with two 15-minute walks around your block, or read a chapter of a book — anything that helps you be present and get focused on what’s next, whether it’s work or home life,” says Kaylee Hackney, an employee well-being expert and Assistant Professor at the Baylor University. Whatever it is, stick to it to ensure you have some routine that lets you know that “Okay, I’m not at the office anymore.”

2. Get a Room

Some unsurprising news: Both your work and home lives will be better served if you have a dedicated workspace, whether it’s a full-on home office or even a glorified closet. And the benefits aren’t all about eliminating distractions. “When your kids see you in your workspace, they have a better sense that you’re in work mode,” says Hackney. “You’re sending a signal to your brain by being there, too, and at the end of the day, you can shut the door and not have to be reminded of work every time you walk by it.”

3. Manage Your Notifications

We’re in an alert boom. There’s that text thread where the neighbors are talking about what went down on Friday night. There’s another where your buddies send the strangest memes. Not to mention, there are the non-urgent messages from your school’s PTA, your kid’s aftercare program, and their sports team, sent on apps like Konstella, GroupMe, and more. Consider silencing many of these alerts during your work hours to maintain your focus, and consider replying to texts at just a few distinct times during a day. Time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders does: “I have a strategy where I go through all the text messages from the prior day once in the morning, and if I haven’t responded yet I do. And then I don’t really answer personal texts until after work,” she says. The reverse goes for work communications, she says: “You don’t want to be giving your kid a bath while your smartwatch buzzes about some report, taking you out of the moment.”

4. Close Out Your Workday with Rituals 

Instead of simply wandering away from your screen when the workday is done, go through a checklist. Write down what you didn’t get done today and what will carry over to tomorrow. Scan your email or your Slack and quickly respond to the messages that truly need it. By tying up loose ends and doing some basic planning for the morning, you’re doing two things: giving yourself some ease of mind when heading into family time, and ensuring that you’ll hit the ground running in the morning. “It makes being present with your family a lot easier,” says Sanders, who adds one element: “The Germans have this expression called the ‘Feierabend,’ where you crack open a beer at the end of the workday. It’s a signal. If that’s not your thing, find a ritual that resonates with you.”

5. If You Have to Work at Night, Establish Guardrails

Many of us have added “night shifts” in the last few years, necessitated by daytime hours spent on parenting tasks. At night, you might steal away to the office (or couch) to do the deep work you missed during the day. Chances are, this occasionally has to happen. But experts warn to not make it a routine. “You want to set limits. One or two nights a week, maybe two hours, not messing around,” says Saunders. “Otherwise it’s a recipe for burnout.”

6. Be Realistic

If you have work to do on the weekend but don’t want to take time away from your family, you might mentally underestimate it. You’ll just find some quiet time on the fly, right? Wrong. As the weekend unfolds, time evaporates. You have other tasks to do. And once you do jump into your work, you realize that what you wanted to get done might take you six or seven hours instead. Saunders refers to this as magical thinking. “It’s common. But reality always wins.” If you don’t want to spend time away from your family working on the weekend, then you might need to start being brutally honest about your schedule and your workload, reprioritizing and weeding out tasks. “It’s doable,” says Saunders. “It just takes a lot of intention on the part of a parent.”

4 Principles to Develop Next-Level Leadership at Your Company

For a company to be successful, it must find a way to develop talent. It isn’t always possible to hire leadership from the outside. Being able to develop leaders within the ranks will help the company to grow and fill future needs that come about organically.

When I worked for a company that was growing, we knew we had to spend time with our staff to help them grow into the leaders we needed. I created a training format that we used over and over to coach up emerging leaders and prepare them to take on more responsibility.

This training was ongoing. We instilled four principles in their work. This translated the core values of the company into their daily actions. It gave them a foundation to build their individual leadership style.

It didn’t mean that everyone could take on a leadership role. Some people naturally make better leaders. Some people enjoyed keeping their technical focus and didn’t want to change. Others wanted the additional money but not the extra work.

To be able to take on more, the individual also had to show that they could handle their current responsibilities. The example I would use is that the third string punter on a football team wouldn’t be voted captain. While talent isn’t the only requirement, there had to be enough ability to do their job at a high level. If someone isn’t at the top of their game, they would not be viewed as a leader.

We were able to go from a staff that wanted the extra benefits of leadership (more money, promotions, authority to make decisions, etc.), to a staff willing to do what was necessary to improve as leaders. Instead of just showing up and checking off a box, they put in the work to get better.

But for those with leadership potential and the drive to grow their skills, we could provide them foundational knowledge they can rely on to be successful. Here are those four principles:

Principle 1: Take ownership

The first principle was to take ownership. They needed to own their tasks. They had to own the processes and procedures. They had to own the outcomes and the production output.

This is different than being in charge. If they are in charge but don’t own it, they will always find others to blame when things go wrong. They won’t step up to do the extra work necessary when something gets fouled up.

The reality is that there are always going to be outside factors to blame. It is easy to find a scapegoat, because today’s business processes are complex and interconnect with other areas. This gives us plenty of places to point the finger when mistakes happen.

Instead, leaders need to make it their job to keep pushing things forward. They don’t sit back and wait for tasks to be given out to them. They search for ways to improve the team and catch mistakes early to prevent them from turning into major problems.

We emphasized that this was the antithesis to the “us versus them” attitude. We broke down silos by having leaders willing to step beyond their area to work with other teams to solve problems and improve efficiencies.

When everyone takes ownership, people are willing to do what is needed without finding ways to skirt responsibility. By taking ownership, this also meant consistency. It was more than one-time effort. It was exemplified in the habits, routines and patterns, not just in the one-off.

3 Simple Strategies to Boost Your Brain Health Today

There’s just no way around it: our brain health is about the most valuable thing we own. When our brains are unhealthy, we can’t think straight. Our mental health is poor. We simply can’t enjoy life as well. With this in mind, finding ways to prioritize brain health every day is vital. So what are some of the most scientifically sound, easy ways to make sure you’re helping care for your brain? Here are three of the best:

1. Prioritize Good Sleep

Why it’s key: You’ve probably heard people diminish the importance of sleep by saying things like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But if you don’t prioritize sleep, you’re doing your body and especially your brain a great disservice. Pick just about any disease and you’ll find that it’s more prevalent or more severe in people who don’t get good sleep. For example, we now know that people with Alzheimer’s tend to have issues sleeping. Poor sleep may also increase the risk of developing dementia. When it comes to mental health, these same trends hold. Sleep issues are very common in people with mental health issues, and are also thought to increase one’s risk for developing these conditions. 

Tips for better sleep: Many are seeking quick fixes for sleep issues, especially insomnia. But while some people may benefit from short-term use of drugs, there are mounting concerns about the side effects and efficacy of prescription sleep aids. To this end, finding non-pharmaceutical methods of promoting healthy sleep are likely a better long-term solution for most people. Simple strategies to facilitate better sleep include winding down with a regular routine that minimizes blue light/screen exposure in the hours before bed. Also, consider sleeping with your room a bit cooler, as this may promote better sleep. Try cutting out caffeine after 2 p.m. (or earlier) and consider avoiding alcohol before bed, as this throws off sleep quality. Lastly, consider speaking to your physician about an evaluation for sleep apnea, especially if you are male, overweight, or someone who snores. Sleep apnea is a very common condition that majorly compromises sleep quality and is often missed. 

2. Move Your Body

Why it’s key: Study after study shows that regular exercise is linked to better brain health. People who move more tend to think better and have better mental health. In fact, a recent review in JAMA showed that exercise may act as an antidepressant. So why is exercise such a brain booster? It may lower inflammation (which damages brain function), increase molecules like BDNF (which promotes healthier brain function and growth of new brain cells), and it does great things for our blood sugar (higher blood sugar may damage brain health).

Tips for physical activity: You don’t need to train for a marathon or become a professional athlete to get the brain benefits of exercise. This is all about sustainability, and if you hate or get injured when you’re exercising, it’s unlikely you’ll stick to it. Instead, look for ways to make physical activity enjoyable. A walk with a friend, some yoga, lifting some weights, or going for a swim—it’s all great stuff. The best exercise is the one you enjoy because it’s what you’re most likely to keep doing. So, find something you can look forward to. 

3. Clean Up Your Diet

Why it’s key: The foods you eat are the literal building blocks for your brain. Food is also what turns into neurotransmitters. Your diet significantly influences your immune and endocrine (hormone) systems that play key roles in your brain health. Food is also one of the best opportunities we have to influence our health on a day-to-day basis because we absolutely have to eat, but we get to choose whether that food is a vote for a healthier or a less healthy brain.

Why Keeping Your Money in the Stock Market Is Especially Important Right Now

If you’re invested in stocks and constantly checking on your portfolio, you probably haven’t had a great few weeks. The S&P 500 dipped into bear market territory on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down around 15% for the year, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq has fallen 28% in 2022.

Even though the market declines may make you feel uneasy, keeping your money in the stock market now is likely a good move long term. That’s because the market’s best days tend to happen right around the market’s worst days. Between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2021, seven of the S&P 500’s best days occurred within just two weeks of the index’s 10 worst days, according to J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s 2022 “Guide to Retirement” report.

“The pendulum in the stock market swings very, very wildly,” says Jack Manley, a global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “When things get out of whack, they swing back very quickly.”

Why the stock market’s best days are so close to the worst days

Markets today are fundamentally different from how they were 10 years ago, Manley says. That’s because technological innovation has led to developments like high-frequency trading, which involves large volumes of shares being traded at high speeds. But it’s also led to a boom in retail investing.

We especially saw that boom during the pandemic. COVID-19 kept many people at home, where they took up investing as a hobby. Stimulus checks from the federal government gave retail investors more money to buy stocks, cryptocurrency and such, or it provided them with funds to invest for the first time.

Meanwhile, online trading platforms like Robinhood made commission-free trading easy and allowed people to buy fractional shares, meaning they could invest in a company like Tesla(which has traded at more than $1,000 per share) with as little as a single dollar.

“Information moves a whole lot more quickly,” Manley says. “It is that much more easy to be an investor in today’s world.”

The combination of fast-moving information and more market participants means that the stock market in general is more volatile than it used to be, Manley says.

Just take a look at the last month. The S&P 500 was down 3.6% on April 29, which marked one of the worst days of the year for the index. But just a few days later on May 4, the index was up nearly 3% for one of its best days, according to data from J.P. Morgan Asset Management. And back in 2020, March 12 — the S&P 500’s second worst day of the year — was immediately followed by its second best day of the year.

The market is used to being overbought or oversold, meaning there’s no real “happy medium,” Manley adds.

Can CBD, herbal supplements affect the heart?

People’s use of supplements has increased in recent years. Many supplements may carry a certain amount of health benefits, but as they are not regulated, people should also exercise caution. 

A recent case report published in Heart Rhythm Case Reports demonstrates that the excessive use of certain substances such as hemp oil could lead to severe cardiac problems. 

Herbal supplement popularity

Supplements are readily available to consumers and can offer various health benefits. For example, dietary supplementsTrusted Source provide more of the substances found in food, such as specific vitamins or minerals. 

Unlike medications, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not offer as much regulation for dietary supplements. 

Dr. Edo Paz, cardiologist and vice president of Medical at K Health, who was not involved in the study, explained the issue with supplements to Medical News Today:

Because the FDA regulates supplements differently than medications, the supplements are not well-studied, so the precise characteristics and side effects are not well known. You may even see variations in the preparation based on the distributor and batch.”

Dr. Paz said he encourages his patients to avoid supplements, out of a lack of solid data. 

“If they do plan to use them, I do my best to research the possible side effects and drug-supplement interactions, but this is not always possible given the lack of data,” he added.

A few examples of common supplements include calcium, vitamin D, garlic, and ginkgo. Sometimes, supplements are a combination of many compounds, such as the supplement berberine, which may be helpful in the improvement of heart problems and gut health.

The CBD market

One group of supplements that have become quite popular is those derived from cannabis. A few examples of cannabis derivatives include hemp oil and cannabidiol (CBD). 

Hemp oil has many potential benefits, including helping reduce muscle tension and stress and pain relief. Similarly, CBD may help with pain relief and may even help to reduce anxiety. 

Currently, the FDA has only approved one derivative of CBD oil for medicinal use, Epidiolex, which can be used to treat seizures. Different derivatives of cannabis are still available as supplements, meaning that people can buy and use them without supervision from a medical professional.

The Inner Critic: Loving Yourself With Curiosity

Loving ourselves: It is so much easier said than done, isn’t it? Yet it is so necessary for our healing and wellness. When we emotionally beat ourselves up for feeling down, we will only continue to feel down. So how do we go about changing that narrative? I believe it’s about greeting the inner critic with curiosity.

Most people might suggest ignoring the inner critic or attempting to get rid of it altogether, but in my experience that has not been successful. The inner critic is often the internalized voice of someone else and over time the brain has held on to the messages and has carried those messages with us. Our job is to learn how to not only turn down the volume but also to gather data on what it might be trying to protect you from. Protection, you might ask? Yes, protection. The inner critic may be attempting to keep you out of feeling raw, vulnerable, and uncomfortable, and so it may grasp on to criticism and perfectionism to keep you from feeling that way. But here is what we know: Discomfort is where change most often happens, so maybe, just maybe, that inner critic is actually working hard at preventing change. Learn to work with it and you may grow in ways you never dreamed of.

Perhaps taking steps towards a more loving inner monologue may shift the power of your inner critic.

Practicing daily affirmations, reading and listening to inspiring podcasts, writing yourself a loving and kind note or greeting card, engaging in self-care activities, taking time to practice breathing exercises, engaging in gentle movement with your body such as stretching or yoga, exploring a new hobby or revisiting one you used to love, or taking time to create art or journal about your fears. These are all some ways to take good loving care of ourselves, especially when we are feeling down, defeated, or stuck.

If we simply sit and listen to the critic on repeat, we will feel powerless, defeated, unappreciated, and paralyzed. One small step towards shifting the inner dialogue and doing an activity to shift our thinking may just help us all get back to center and to appreciate the humans that we are versus the human the critic tells us that we are not.

Be kind and gentle with yourself, take one small step towards reframing your thinking, and stay curious.


Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as fail-proof parenting. We all experience our share of failures. It’s inevitable. We’ll unleash overflowing frustration on our kids after a long day at work, we’ll forget to embrace the moment because our adult brain is fixated on what’s coming next. We’ll never be perfect, but we can be better. Even with our failures, we can be great.

What makes a great dad? 

We all strive to be great dads. Dads whose children trust and rely on them, building a bond that lasts well past childhood. But how do we get there? Every single day we’re faced with choices, ones that dictate how our children see and interact with us. In order to make those choices, first and foremost, we have to show up. We have to show up consistently, actively, and without judgment. From there, becoming a great dad is a process, one that lasts a lifetime. Your only competition is yourself. Your only goal today is to be a better dad than you were yesterday. How, you ask?



Kids receive constant feedback from the world around them. Teachers evaluate their ability to learn, peers evaluate their ability to socialize. Kids are told what’s normal and what’s abnormal, they’re compared to set expectations and held to set standards. At home though, in the one space where kids can be fully and unabashedly themselves, kids don’t need those limitations. They don’t need to be told that their dreams are unrealistic, they don’t need to hear that their favorite TV show sucks. What they need is a fan.

A fan is always there, cheering loudly during the best times and the worst. Kids don’t need you to fight their fights for them, or to tell them what they’re doing wrong. They need someone who’s willing to say “yes, you can” even when they don’t fully believe it themselves. Someone who roots for them no matter what, because nobody else in the world will. Someone who loves them fully and unconditionally, who’s willing to step back and let them make mistakes for the sake of growth and self-discovery. And when they fall, they can feel safe in the confidence that their biggest fan is waiting to help them back up. 


As long as doors have existed, teenagers have been slamming them. Kids want independence. They want you to stay out of their business, to stop telling them that you love them in front of their friends. If kids had it their way, parenting wouldn’t be such an all-encompassing task. But our job as parents is to push through those barriers, to let them know we’re there even when they don’t necessarily want us there. 

It’s not a coincidence that father rhymes with bother. That’s our job. To be up in their business.

Being up in their business isn’t the same as being overbearing, and it certainly isn’t permission to stifle their independence. Bothering simply means being involved, showing interest, and reminding them that we care about them unconditionally. Sure, they’ll resist at times. They’ll roll their eyes. They’ll groan. But they will never, no matter how hard life gets, worry that nobody cares. Be a bother to them. Be a father to them.


Nearly every coming-of-age TV show references “The Talk,” an idea that bleeds, for better or worse, into real life. The idea of “the talk” is shrouded in mystery and discomfort, hinged on the idea that it’s a parent’s responsibility to tell their children everything there is to know about life’s most difficult topics in a single agonizing chat. 

It’s taken us our entire lives up to this point to learn about drugs. To learn about sex. To learn about loss. And yet, we’re expected to impart all of our worldly knowledge in a movie-worthy montage filled with awkward muttering and not-so-subtle glances at the clock? At best, it’s deeply inadequate.

Parenting is an ongoing process, it’s a job that never ends. These talks, like many aspects of parenting, should evolve as our kids grow. They should become deeper and more involved as our kids become more deeply involved in the world around them. It may be uncomfortable at first, partly because it means our kids are no longer seeing the world with wide-eyed innocence. 

But these talks are essential. They mark the beginning of conversations that will last a lifetime, conversations that our children will one day have with their own kids. Start the conversation now, start it right, and make sure to keep it going. 

Stop Rambling in Meetings — and Start Getting Your Message Across

Has this ever happened to you: You debrief from a strategic meeting, only to find you can’t remember anyone besides yourself sharing ideas or contributing input? Many leaders need to be coached to speak up. But what if you have the opposite problem — and you can’t seem to stop talking? This can lead to frustration all around — your team members become frustrated because they want to share their own ideas, and your manager grows frustrated because they want to hear other viewpoints. Your ideas get lost because stakeholders lose patience with your habit of dominating the conversation — and start to tune you out.

If you suspect you may be monopolizing the conversation in meetings, experiment with these tactics to help get your message across.

Measure exactly how much you’re talking.

Take time to reflect after meetings. If you feel like you have been sharing too much, look back and consider who else contributed. Ask yourself honestly: “Did I talk over people?” Estimate how much of the meeting you were speaking.

For example: “I spoke up about one third of the time and talked over Jim twice.” Note that there isn’t a specific set point for how much you should or should not talk. You will need to use your gut. If you notice you have a pattern of talking over others, it’s time for a reset. Moving forward, make an effort to prioritize listening over talking.

Make a rule for yourself regarding when to share. For example: “I won’t speak until at least two other people in the meeting have shared their input,” or “I will limit my sharing to one point.” Or, “I will time myself and allow only three minutes of speaking.”

Of course, this advice won’t work all the time; your input will be needed and solicited when the stakes are high. But for routine meetings, practice pulling back and letting others have the floor. I coach clients to over-index on sticking to their allotted speaking time. While you don’t want to limit your speaking time forever, adhering to the time rule in the beginning will help you build the habit of yielding the floor.

Consider using other ways to share your ideas.

If you excel at creativity, you may come alive in a brainstorming session and quickly generate a wealth of ideas. However, if you tend to ramble when describing those ideas, you could come across as scattered and ill prepared. Consider other ways to organize your ideas and communicate them to audiences. For example, can you keep a running list of your brilliant insights on your computer so you’re better prepared to share them in the next meeting? Or, can you share ideas in a non-meeting setting — for example, in a follow-up email or an internal chat platform?

Use whatever forms of communication are at your disposal to help organize your thoughts. You’ll then communicate well-thought-out concepts when you do share. One client I worked with had many fantastic ideas; however, in her review, her supervisor noted that my client’s ideas got lost when she attempted to verbalize those ideas. This client wasn’t succinct enough and monopolized senior leadership meetings. To help regain her credibility after this review, my client only shared one point of view at a time that was fully flushed out so that she looked more strategic and organized. For important matters, she followed up afterward with another meeting or an email. This strategy helped her regain control of how she spoke in meetings.

Practice compressing your thoughts.

When speaking, make sure that what you’re saying is necessary and impactful. You can even think of your sentences in tweet form: How would I communicate this idea if I were tweeting and facing a character limit? How can I cut my message down to its essence? 

You can also try writing down the thoughts you plan to discuss in a meeting. This will help you see the cadence in how you deliver ideas. Once you establish a rhythm for compressing your thoughts, you won’t need to take much time to prepare and practice.

Think of yourself as an editor eliminating words and ideas that don’t communicate the essence of what you want to share. I worked with one leader who found that she could reliably scale back each of her sentences by about five words. While that may not sound like a lot, those extra words made for more muddled communication. She delivered messages with a more significant impact by trimming back her sentences.

Build in pauses.

Are you giving your colleagues enough time to digest what you say and to ask questions? If not, give yourself a signal to pause.

One client I worked with decided that when he needed to slow down and stop talking, he would pinch himself. This was a signal to take a breath, stop talking, or ask the group questions. This straightforward tactic can be amazingly effective. By slowing down and taking deliberate pauses, you’ll be able to regulate your impulse to overshare, and your message will have a better chance of landing.

Ask for help.

It may be hard to know in the moment if you’re oversharing. A fresh perspective can offer insight. Ask a trusted colleague or advisor to provide insights into how you’re meeting your goal of talking less and listening more.

Request specific feedback: “Did I share my ideas in three minutes or less?” The answer you receive could provide additional insights that you can use for future conversations. One client I worked with decided to have a reciprocal agreement with a trusted peer.  They would make sure to notice each others’ patterns and would then meet once a month to share their perspectives.

While it’s important to share your point of view, it’s critical to know when and how. Experiment with some or all of these tactics to make sure your input is being heard.

3 Strategies for Leading Through Difficult Times

For the past two years, leaders have been performing a high-wire act: seeking stable footing while dealing with a disruptive and unpredictable pandemic, struggling to hire amidst a 15-year high in talent shortages, and revamping policies to meet employee demands for more flexibility at work. Multiple waves of coronavirus variants and an outbreak of war in Europe have left leaders in a daunting place — trying to reassure and focus employees in the face of constant uncertainty while having no real clue what will happen next. They are being told to “embrace uncertainty” as if that’s a natural and easy thing to do. (It’s not.) And their own struggles with stress and burnout often take a back seat as they address the rising mental health challenges of their employees.

So many leaders are now caught in the middle of wanting to provide a clear and upbeat message to employees and yet are having to back-pedal and pivot quite frequently as conditions change. It’s an exhausting proposition.

More than ever, leaders need practical strategies for taking care of themselves and their teams. At Potential Project, we have coached thousands of leaders, and we start in a somewhat unexpected place – helping them to understand and manage their minds.  Unfortunately, none of us can physically control our mind which neurologically has its own patterns and default modes, but we can train it so that it’s working with us and not against us.

Here are three things we recommend to leaders to lead in these uncertain times.

Beware of your ego.

Though most of us like to see ourselves as having the best interests of others in mind, the truth is that our ego is a powerful force, committed to our self-interest and self-preservation.

As we rise up in the ranks of leadership, our ego can naturally become inflated. When it does, this puts us at higher risk of poor decisions and missteps. An inflated ego narrows our vision and makes us look for information that confirms what we want to believe. We lose perspective and end up in a leadership bubble where we only see and hear what we want to rather than the full picture. And, in the face of setbacks and criticism, we find it harder to admit and learn from our mistakes.

Last summer, we witnessed a good example of ego in action. Despite the appearance and then surge in the Covid delta variant, James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, confidently asserted that his employees would be back in the office by September. He even threatened pay cuts for those who didn’t follow the plan and return to the office. When his vision failed to materialize, Gorman at least had the good sense to admit publicly that he was wrong rather than doubling down on a failed plan. “I was wrong on this,” he told CNBC in December.” “I thought we would have been out of it and we’re not. Everybody’s still finding their way.”

Ego can kill our ability to be agile in an unpredictable world. Keeping it in check gives leaders the freedom to be wrong, to make mistakes, to admit to being human, and to move on.

Choose courage over comfort.

As human beings, we’re hardwired to embrace certainty and safety and to avoid danger and discomfort. In fact, sometimes we’ll do nearly everything we can to convince ourselves that staying in our comfort zone is the best thing to do. This is where courage comes in. Courage is different from fearlessness. We can still experience fear about making a difficult decision or delivering negative news, but we find the inner strength to overcome the fear, to shift out of our comfort zones, and to move forward.

Pamela Maynard, the CEO of Avanade, a 45,000-person global technology company, shared with us her experience with fear. In 2020, just six months into her role as CEO, she needed to deal with the realities of the global pandemic. Many organizations were reducing workforce numbers to keep their business afloat. But early on, Pam committed to protecting jobs, even as that felt like a risk. “As a new CEO, it felt challenging to make this decision because I wanted to come in as a leader, drive growth, and hit my targets,” she said. “But in this truly once-in-a-lifetime situation, my most important responsibility was to take care of our people. There was no other option and no greater priority.”

Pam removed chargeability requirements for consultants in the early months of the pandemic and lifted PTO limits as people needed to step away. As a leader, she saw an opportunity to demonstrate real courage to steer the ship through difficult times. She shared a principle that has guided her throughout her career: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” In this moment, she faced her fear of negatively impacting company performance and disappointing her stakeholders and demonstrated Avanade’s values in action.

Choosing courage over comfort puts us in a vulnerable position because we will likely take heat and make mistakes as we venture into uncertain territory. But this vulnerability opens the doors for others to be vulnerable too. If we face our fears and mess up sometimes, we allow people to see our humanity and invite them to share theirs too.

Practice caring transparency.

McKinsey has reported that more than three-quarters of the C-suite executives they surveyed expect the typical employee to be back in the office at some point for three or more days a week. At the same time, nearly three-quarters of the 5,000 employees surveyed indicated that they would like to work from home for two or more days per week. It’s understandable how leaders view a return to the office as a positive thing. For some, it signals an end to the chaos, a return to the known and manageable. For others, it may seem the best solution to the real experience of disconnect and fatigue that working remotely has burdened us all with.

But the disconnect in expectations and the public communication of plans that run counter to employee sentiment is a dangerous brew that can erode trust.  The answer is not for leaders to avoid strategies and plans that are unpopular but necessary; this is often the hard work of leadership. But the caring and compassionate approach is to be as transparent as possible.

Caring transparency means getting ideas and thoughts out in the open — to make visible what can often be invisible, under the surface. It means being open and honest about what is on our minds and in our hearts. We don’t hold back important information out of fear of how it will be received or how we will be viewed. By doing this, we strip away the power that comes with exclusive knowledge and level the playing field. As a result, people know where they stand and what comes next and can better plot their course in life. Transparency is distinct from candor in that you can be candid and still conceal information. When you are transparent, people know what is on your mind. And when you add caring to transparency, people also know what is in your heart.

Are We What We Eat? Nutritional Psychiatry and Brain Health

Many folks start their day with a cup (or two or three) of coffee and that’s about it. They try to make it to lunch, perhaps inhaling a muffin if they are really hungry. But our bodies and brains in these situations are starving for proper nutrition. Research from nutritional psychiatry suggests there is much we can do to improve upon this situation. Here are a few principles that you may find helpful.

1. While our brains are only 2% of our body weight, they consume 20% to 25% of our energy when we’re active (Wilson, 2022). Our brains need sustenance, and if not fed properly, they go hungry. Nutrition has powerful impacts on our health in general, and brain health, specifically. We need to feed it regularly and nutritiously to be our best.

2. What we eat is strongly connected to brain and mood health. It matters what we put in our bodies. Some foods are high in antioxidants and help our body to protect itself from free radicals and oxidative processes, thereby reducing inflammation. In contrast, some foods cause inflammation, which has been linked to incidence of cancer and also mood disorders like depression. Poor and irregular eating can lead to drops in blood sugar, irritability, and struggles with cognitive performance (Wilson, 2022). We can become easily stressed, anxious, and confused when our brains are not properly fed. What are some examples of foods we should be getting more of?

3. Eat more fish. Fatty fish, like cod, trout, Alaskan salmon, mackerel, and herring are highly recommended by nutritionists. Why? There are good kinds of fats and bad kinds of fats, and fatty fish are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids that are essential fats (i.e., our bodies do not produce on their own). Omega-3s work to decrease inflammation and cut the risk of heart disease. They’re important for prenatal development in babies, too. At least two servings of these fatty fish per week are recommended by nutritionists and dieticians (Wilson, 2022). Because I really like all of these fish, I initially thought I must be doing well in consuming the recommended portions; a review of my eating habits in the past month revealed that I eat only about three portions a month. (By the way, avoid fish with high levels of mercury contamination, such as swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish). Baked and broiled fish are healthier than fried. Folks often find themselves eating burgers, steak, and tacos, but it’s a good idea to mix it up and have healthier options every week, as these foods are high in cholesterol and saturated fats, are highly inflammatory, and, eaten to excess, are terrible for your heart.

How to Avoid a Utility Shutoff


First, reach out to the utility company directly and let them know your situation. There are humans on the other end and if you can’t afford to make payments they might have some options to help keep the lights on. 

Depending on the company, they might lower your payments, temporarily take you off the hook for upcoming payments, or drop late fees. For instance, PG&E, which is located in Northern California, offers relief options such as reduced payments. The Florida Public Utilities has expanded billing options and payment options for those experiencing financial hardship. Do some poking around to see if your utility company offers similar routes. 

If you were in good standing and paid your bills in a timely manner, there may be a better chance that they’ll be open to working with you on coming up with solutions. 


There might also be information on the websites of the utility company. Depending on where you live and your situation, different forms of relief might be available. Along the same lines, relief programs and assistance agencies might be able to provide help should you need it. You can also try and for a listing of local organizations and resources that can help meet your basic needs in a crisis. 

Besides letting you know what forms of financial relief are available, these assistance agencies can also help you stay informed of any changes at the national or local level that could impact your rights and protections.


As we use more gas in our homes during the winter months and more electricity in the warmer months, we tend to see our bills spike in tandem. Many utility companies offer what’s known as budget billing or average billing, which looks at records of the total amount you paid in utilities over the course of a year. That number is then divided into 12 equal payments. The average that’s calculated will be what you pay each month (with changes to account for any significant fluctuations). 

Average billing could come in handy in a number of ways. First, it bumps down the amount you paid during typically peak seasons. Next, it makes for easier planning. Instead of anticipating your utility bills to be $75 one month, $200 the next, paying the same each month means you can aim to set that money aside ahead of time, and won’t fall short with another bill. 


To get a better idea of how much it will cost you over the course of a year, track how much gas and power you are expending. You can track your usage using affordable devices such as a handheld wattage meter or by way of a smart app that measures the energy usage in your home. By tracking your usage, you can get a better idea of how much energy you use in your home, and make tweaks to be savvier with your usage. 


To save on energy, make it a habit to turn off lights and devices when you’re not in a room. You can also look into a smart plug, which you can schedule to turn and off at certain times, but could also track how much energy you’re using. Just be sure to wait for a sale so you can scoop up the best deals on smart plugs. 

Another tactic? Think up creative solutions to using energy. For instance, if it’s safe to do and you have the space to accommodate it, consider using a propane gas tank in lieu of a standard stove. And LED lights typically are more energy-efficient than standard lightbulbs. Try using candles, a camping lamp every so often, or those little tea lights that are powered by a small cell battery. There are also inexpensive ways to insulate your home. Every little bit can help.


Ok, so you’ve found ways to cut back on your energy use. To free up money to help afford to pay your utilities, expand your money-saving savvy to include overall living expenses. You might’ve already done a round of cutbacks when you were first laid off or furloughed. 

Look for unexpected ways you can cut back further. Nix subscriptions, find ways to save on groceries, cut back the costs of staying physically fit — let no expense go unexplored of its money-saving potential! 

Not having enough to keep the lights on and the heater going during the cooler months is a scary, unsettling thought indeed. But know there are resources at your disposal, and things you can do in your power to prevent it from happening.

You can’t exercise away poor dietary choices, study finds

There has been a lot of conversation — and a great deal of research — attempting to determine whether exercise or a healthy diet is more important for longevity. A new study led by researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia analyzing UK Biobank data may provide the answer.

Researchers found that people who engaged in high levels of physical activity and also ate a high quality diet had lower mortality risks.

For anyone who believed that one can exercise away poor dietary choices, this study suggests otherwise.

People who engage in one or the other lowered the risk of mortality to a lesser degree. Study corresponding author, associate professor Dr. Melody Ding, told Medical News Today:

“These groups still do better (and statistically significant) than the group with poor diet and lowest physical activity, but the group with the best diet and moderate or high physical activity levels do the best!”

The study focused on deaths due to all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and adiposity-related (PDAR) cancers.

Cardiology dietician Michelle Routhenstein, who specializes in heart health, and was not involved in the study, told MNT:

“The study results are no surprise to me. Many people have come to see me in my private practice after suffering a heart attack when training for their fourth or fifth marathon, or right after doing a CrossFit exercise.”

“When I do a comprehensive evaluation of their lifestyle, it is apparent that they thought their intense daily exercise regimen would make up for their poor, unbalanced diet, and it simply doesn’t.”
— Michelle Routhenstein, cardiology dietician

The study is published in BMJ Sports Medicine.

Analyzing exercise and diet habits

The researchers analyzed existing health records for 346, 627 U.K. residents that enrolled in the UK Biobank between April 2007 to December 2010. The health of these individuals was followed for an average of 11.2 years. For this study, the UK Biobank data were linked to the National Health Service death records until 30 April 2020.

For the purposes of their analysis, researchers considered the number of minutes people engaged in walking, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and vigorous-intensity physical activity (VPA). For both MVPA and VPA, they used a 1-4 ranking system.

A high quality diet consisted of 4.5 cups or more of vegetables or fruit per day, two or more servings of fish weekly, and less than two servings of processed meat or less than five servings of red meat weekly.

The selection of target foods reflects recommendations from the American Heart Association, with the authors noting:

“These food groups were selected as markers for overall diet quality because other important dietary components and/or nutrient groups, such as whole grains and dairy, were not measured during baseline assessment.”

The researchers rated the individuals’ diet quality poor, medium, or one of two levels of best.

The best results

Compared to physically inactive individuals who ate the lowest-quality diet, those engaging in the highest activity levels and eating the highest-quality diet reduced their risk of all-cause mortality by 17%. They also reduced their mortality risk of cardiovascular disease by 19% and of PDAR cancers by 27%.

Does Alcohol Make You Feel Better?

I get it. I love the idea of a drink at the end of a long day, too. But does it really make us feel better? The answer is complicated.

There’s no question that alcohol is a large part of our society. In many cities, it feels like there’s a bar on every corner. And it’s a rare party, cookout, or get-together that doesn’t include wine or beer. Our society tends to normalize and even encourage alcohol, which makes it difficult to avoid.

Unfortunately, too many people don’t want to avoid it, which often leads to adverse mental and physical outcomes. Alcohol is classified as a depressant, which means it can cause or worsen depression, especially if used in excess. It can also exacerbate nearly every other psychiatric condition, as well as significantly increase your risk for cancer of multiple organs, heart disease, liver disease, dementia, insomnia, and a long list of other conditions. While these conditions can take time to develop, more immediately, most people don’t feel as well the day after a night of drinking, even if it was only a couple of drinks.

Why do we do it? 

A theory, which isn’t hard to accept, is that alcohol makes you more social, and humans need to be social to survive. It’s easier to build shelters, fend off predators, and raise our young when we work as a group. Being social also makes us happier, and helps us live longer. And alcohol is the ultimate social lubricant. After a drink or two, people tend to feel happier in the moment, conversation flows more readily, and connecting with others comes more easily. Alcohol helps us attain a necessary goal in life, both for the individual and for the community.

There is, of course, a large caveat. While a couple of drinks on a Saturday night with friends may boost your mood, there is a narrow therapeutic window. Drinking too much in one sitting or drinking too frequently can quickly convert the benefits of alcohol into a detriment. Daily use, especially more than two drinks per day, can lead to, or exacerbate, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and anger. As mood worsens under the effects of consistent alcohol use, regular drinkers no longer look towards alcohol for euphoria, but rather to relieve their suffering. This creates a downward spiral that doesn’t stop until the alcohol does. 

Context matters as well. Drinking in a social setting can increase feelings of closeness and positivity, as mentioned above. However, when drinking alone, the euphoria is more muted, or absent altogether. According to Dr. Kasey Creswell, an alcohol researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, ”Several studies have shown that drinking alone does not produce the same positive effects as drinking in social settings.” It’s just not as much fun to drink alone. Plus, there are no social benefits. 

But even if drinking with friends brings you happiness and joy, this comes at a price. The more you enjoy it, the higher your risk of slipping into alcoholism, and ultimately worsening your overall mood. “In some instances, the people who derive the greatest mood enhancement from alcohol, compared to if they were not drinking alcohol in the same situations, also may be those most vulnerable to subsequently developing a drinking problem,” warns Dr. Michael Sayette, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Need a Business Idea?

Looking to launch a successful business but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. Today, tens of thousands of people are considering starting their own business, and for good reasons. On average, people can expect to have two and three careers during their work life — and with the great resignation in full effect, many are looking to become their own boss or a small business owner. Those leaving one career often think about their second or third career move being one they can run out of their own home. The good news: Starting a home-based business is within the reach of almost anyone who wants to take a risk and work hard, as are a plethora of other low-cost ideas. Here are some business ideas to get you started.


Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Create a flier outlining your services. Before you do that, you need to know what those services will be. Do you want to simply do bookkeeping for a small business? A more involved level of accounting would be to work up balance sheets, income statements, and other financial reports on a monthly, quarterly, and/or annual basis, depending on the needs of the business. Other specializations can include tax accounting, a huge area of potential work.


n many parts of the country, this business tends to be seasonal, but you can find ways around that. Rent a storage unit and offer to store people’s bicycles over the winter after you do a tune-up and any needed repairs on them. If you want to cater to the Lance Armstrong wannabes, you can have business all year round. These road race riders are training through snow, sleet and dark of night. Some of them work on their own bicycles, but many of them don’t, so you can get their business all year. And if you keep Saturday shop hours, you can be sure you will have a group of enthusiasts coming by to talk all things cycling.


Experience, training or licensing may be needed

Boats that are hauled out of the water for the winter or even just for mid-season repairs will need the hull cleaned. And depending on the type of boat, it is a good time to give a major cleaning everything else too–the decks, the sleeping quarters, the head, and the holds. Start by approaching homes that have a boat sitting in the yard. Or you could market your services to the marina to contract you to do the boat cleaning it offers to customers.


Has expansion possibilities

Offer a soup-to-nuts business plan, including market research, the business plan narrative and the financial statements. Plan your fee around the main one that the client will want and offer the others as add-on services. You can give clients an electronic file and allow them to take it from there, or you can keep the business plan on file and offer the service of tweaking it whenever necessary. Have business plan samples to show clients–and make sure to include your own!


Getting paid to drive during your free time is a great way to make extra money. It won’t likely replace a full-time paycheck but can be a lucrative extra revenue stream or side hustle. According to Nerd Wallet , here is a break down of the income you can expect: “To make an annual income of $50,000, the average Uber driver needs to provide 60.21 rides each week, while those working for Lyft need to give 83.76 rides a week, and Sidecar drivers would have had to provide 72.03 rides in a week.”

Stocks Are Rallying

The S&P 500, an index commonly used to measure how stocks are doing overall, jumped 2.8% Tuesday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the the Nasdaq Composite closed up 2.4% and 3.1%, respectively. Tuesday marked the largest one-day percentage gains since June 24 for all three indexes, and a welcome relief for investors. The S&P 500 was up around 0.9% during trading midday Wednesday as well.

While financial markets for much of the last two years were buoyed by stimulus money from the government and near-zero interest rates, stocks have been struggling after hitting their peak in January amid sky-high inflation and rising interest rates.

The S&P 500 fell into a bear market in June and was still down around 18% for the year at Tuesday’s close.

The truth is that rallies like Tuesday’s during an overall downturn are common, and they certainly don’t mean stocks have hit bottom or are going to recover all their losses in a hurry.

“Bear markets are typically thought of as periods of relentless declines in the market where stocks do nothing but trade lower,” analysts at Bespoke Investment Group wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. “The reality of bear markets, though, is that they often include periods of extreme countertrend rallies, sucking investors in along the way.”

What past stock market downturns tell us

If history repeats itself, rallies as big as even 5% or more don’t necessarily mean the bear market has bottomed.

Look at the dot-com bust. Between the S&P 500’s peak in March 2000 to its low in October 2002, the index lost 49% — but along the way it saw 11 different rallies of 5% or more, according to Bespoke.

It’s a similar story around the financial crisis of 2008: The S&P 500 experienced 12 different rallies of at least 5% between October 2007 and March 2009, when it lost 57% of its value.

The Power of Believing in Yourself

Years ago, right before starting on a big new project, I bought a framed note that spelled with golden letters: 

She believed she could so she did.

I didn’t know who she was and what she did, but somehow, the words offered encouragement for my own undertaking.

The contract that humans draft with their loftiest dreams is surprisingly straightforward. Yes, we need skills to accomplish our goals. Yes, we need effort, strategy, resources, creativity, character, and even luck. But before we set the world in motion, we need the blessing of an inner ally, who, whether with a coy wink or a full-blown orchestra, makes us believe that we can

This confidence in our abilities in specific life domains is known as self-efficacy. After studying self-efficacy for decades, psychologist James Maddux concluded that believing that we can accomplish what we want to accomplish is one of the most important ingredients for success. Indeed, countless research studies have shown that having high self-efficacy can help us pursue our goals, cope effectively with stress, engage in health-promoting behaviors, and have better psychological well-being. 

Why do our thoughts and convictions have such a consequential hold on us? Is it the courage they impart to dream in the first place? Is it the resolve they extend when we stumble? Or is it because when we believe in ourselves, we can “risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit,” as poet E.E. Cummings writes.

Here are 8 insights from Maddux on the key role self-efficacy plays in our lives. 

Self-efficacy can be more adaptive than self-confidence 

Traditionally, psychologists have defined and measured self-confidence as a global construct that is consistent over time and across situations. It’s almost like a personality trait that people tend to have to varying degrees. The trouble with thinking of ourselves in global terms, such as having high or low self-confidence, is that it’s very easy to mis-predict outcomes.

Research shows that when it comes to our ability to predict behavior, situation-specific measures (i.e., self-efficacy beliefs) outperform global measures such as self-confidence. Thus, if you are considering setting a new goal, you’ll be better off breaking down your general self-confidence into components and thinking about your abilities in various specific situations. This is particularly important for people with low self-confidence, which can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, in cognitive behavioral therapy, the client who complains of low self-confidence is invited to explore some areas in life where they actually do well. This exercise can help individuals think about their particular competencies in various situations that they feel good about and move away from self-defeating thinking patterns.

Self-efficacy is a key ingredient of self-regulation

Self-regulation refers to the way we guide our behaviors, thoughts, and emotions in the pursuit of our goals, desired outcomes, and values. It involves using our past experiences and knowledge about our skills as reference points to develop expectancies about future events and states. Consider self-regulation as a circular process where complex networks, factors, and predictions interact with each other and unfold over time.

Being a good self-regulator is an acquirable skill that includes learning how to generate better self-efficacy beliefs, setting and pursuing effective goals, incorporating feedback, and having adaptive self-evaluations of performance. Self-regulatory skills (as well as the belief that one is a good self-regulator) is fundamental for psychological well-being because they can usher a sense of agency over one’s life.

Self-efficacy is not wishful thinking or a fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude

Self-efficacy is best viewed in terms of having confidence in your ability to apply your skills in particular situations. It is a much more nuanced concept than a blind belief of “I believe I can do it, and therefore I will succeed.” Notably, it entails having a clear understanding of your skills. Skills and beliefs about skills usually go hand-in-hand. This is why overconfidence without actual preparation (or lack of skills) can set people up for failure. 

Self-efficacy can help in challenging and uncertain times 

A powerful source of self-efficacy is actual performance—things you’ve done well in life. Often, when people encounter what appears to be a new problem, they see it as being entirely different from what they have experienced before. That’s rarely the case. Any challenge, if you live long enough, will have some similarity to other challenges you’ve faced and overcome before. If you stop and think about the ways in which a current challenge is similar to other challenges you successfully dealt with in the past, you can draw upon your experience and boost your sense of self-efficacy for managing this “unprecedented” circumstance. It can also attenuate the fear of uncertainty and of encountering something you have never encountered before.

What Is The Ideal Age Gap For A Happy Marriage?

A young, attractive spouse won’t make you happy in the long run, according to a new study. Researchers found that the thrill of a wide age gap tends to wear off within a decade, leaving mismatched couples unprepared for marital bliss. The perfect fling might be half your age — but the perfect life partner probably is not.

“Marital satisfaction declines more rapidly over time for both men and women who have large age gaps with their spouses, compared to those with small age gaps,” says study co-author Terra McKinnish, Ph.D., a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “This decline in satisfaction erases those initial higher levels of satisfaction at the beginning of marriage for men and women with younger spouses.”

Easy come, easy go. Besides, prior studies suggest that desire for a much younger partner is largely a guy thing. In 2001, for instance, Dutch social scientists asked men and women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s what they considered the ideal age for a long-term partner, and a casual fling. Both women and men preferred age-appropriate spouses, but men alone opted for significantly younger suitors when it came to brief affairs.

For this new study, McKinnish and colleagues analyzed 13 years of data from 8,682 households in Australia. They found that men and women with younger partners were the most satisfied with their marriages initially, and both men and women with older spouses were least satisfied. Unfortunately, these satisfied men and women with younger spouses have nowhere to go but down. After their marriages reached the six-to-10-year mark, larger age gaps saw a much sharper decline in satisfaction — especially when there was money trouble.

“It is likely that such couples with age gaps are more vulnerable to economic shocks, as they have relatively lower household income compared to similarly-aged couples, and are also more likely to be single income households,” co-author on the study Wang Sheng Lee of Deakin University in Australia told Fatherly.

As for the precise age gap for marital bliss, Lee and McKinnish are unsure. A previous study indicates that the sweet spot may be around one year. Couples one year apart had a 3% chance of splitting, researchers found, compared to 18% for couples five years apart, 39% for 10, and 95% for 20.

Still, these numbers represent averages and trends, not predictors of marital success. “If one is conservative and believes in statistics on averages as a guide, then having a smaller age gap makes it more likely one will not experience drops in marital satisfaction,” Lee says. But “there will always be exceptions to the norm.”

3 Reasons to Avoid Farmed Salmon

Not so long ago, Atlantic salmon was an abundant wild species. Born in the rivers of northeastern United States and Canada, after a couple years in freshwater they embarked on an epic migration, navigating 2,000 miles across the Atlantic to feed and mature off western Greenland. Millions of salmon travelled up to 60 miles a day, fending off predators and feeding on zooplankton and small fish. When the time came, instinct and the earth’s magnetic fields led these magnificent fish back to spawn in the precise rivers of their birth.

Today, wild salmon are an endangered species, gone from most rivers in the U.S. There are many culprits, from polluted waterways and habitat destruction to overfishing and climate change. In the last 20 years, however, a new threat has emerged: floating feedlots on the ocean known as open-net salmon farms. The $20-billion-a-year farmed salmon industry is the world’s fastest growing food producer, and it has made farmed Atlantic salmon the most popular fish on dinner tables North America. But at what cost?

This new fish is an industrialized imposter that risks our health and damages our planet. Farmed salmon are bred to grow fast in cages so crammed that they are rife with parasites and disease. The fish eat pellets of fishmeal, vegetables, and animal byproducts; they are doused regularly with pesticides and antibiotics.

We spent more than two years investigating the global salmon farming business and the multinational companies that control it for our book, Salmon Wars. We interviewed scientists, physicians, fishers, activists, and those in the business of aquaculture. We read academic studies, court papers and previously undisclosed investigative files. We identified and tried to answer three critical questions swirling around farmed salmon.

First and most important, is eating farmed salmon healthy?

Doctors recommend salmon for protein, nutrients, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association suggests consuming at least two servings of fish a week. But they rarely spell out the kind of salmon you should eat or warn of the dangers.

Many experts and scientific studies cast doubt on the blanket claim that salmon should be part of a healthy diet when the fish comes from open-net farms. Some farmed salmon may be safer than other types, but consumers rarely have enough information to make that choice. Labels are unlikely to disclose that the salmon was farmed, let alone identify the chemicals used to raise it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t even have definition for organic salmon.

“It is confusing, and I suspect there is willful confusion out there,” Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor of environmental medicine at New York University, told us. “We know that every fish is a trade-off between omega-3 content and toxic content like PCBs. From the perspective of salmon in general, the balance favors consumption of that fish. Now the challenge here is that I can’t tell which salmon is farmed the right way or the wrong way.”

As early as 2004, scientists found levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, a probable carcinogen known as PCBs, seven times higher in farmed Atlantic salmon than in wild salmon. More recent studies found high levels of other chemicals and antibiotics in farmed salmon. Researchers at Arizona State University discovered increases in drug-resistant antibiotics in farmed seafood over the past 30 years, leading to concerns about increased risk of antibiotic resistance in humans. Toxins often wind up in salmon flesh and accumulate in people who eat the fish.

Some studies warn that a single meal per month of farmed Atlantic salmon can expose consumers to contaminant levels exceeding standards from the World Health Organization. The risk is greatest for infants, children, and pregnant women because of the potential harm from contaminants to developing brains.

Seafood Watch, an independent guide to fish consumption affiliated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, recommends avoiding most farmed Atlantic salmon because of excessive chemical use and disease. Nutritionists generally recommend eating wild salmon over farmed salmon.

Second, is farmed salmon sustainable?

Salmon farmers often advertise their fish as sustainable and naturally raised. These assertions are deceptive.

Salmon are carnivores. Fish meal and fish oil from anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring, and other small forage fish comprise 25 to 30 percent of most salmon feed. Fully a quarter of the fish harvested from the world’s oceans winds up in feed for aquaculture and pets. To meet growing global demand for salmon, huge trawlers pillage the fisheries off the coast of West Africa and Peru, robbing subsistence fishers of their livelihood and increasing food insecurity.

“You take the food from the plates of people in West Africa to feed the people of Europe and the United States and other countries,” Dr. Ibrahima Cisse of Greenpeace told us.

Salmon farmers argue that they fill the need for protein as the global population grows. Depleting fisheries in low-income countries to provide an unsustainable fish for richer countries sets a dangerous precedent.

Efforts to develop alternative protein sources are under way in university laboratories and start-ups. So far, there is no end in sight for the industry’s exploitation of small fish.

Ultra-processed foods linked to heart disease, cancer, and death, studies show

The food we eat can play a much greater role in health and longevity than many people may realize. In fact, previous research suggests that 1 in 5 deaths around the world could be prevented by improving diet. 

Now, two new studies recently published in the journal The BMJ examine the effects of ultra-processed foods on certain health conditions. 

In one study, researchers from Tufts University found that a diet high in ultra-processed foods increases the risk for colorectal cancer in men.

Another study from a research team at IRCCS Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy says that adults with the lowest-quality diet and highest ultra-processed food consumption have an increased risk for heart disease and all-cause mortality.

What are ultra-processed foods?

Ultra-processed foods are a category of the NOVA food classification system designed by researchers from the Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition at the School of Public Health at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The NOVA system classifies foods into four different groups: 

  • Group 1: unprocessed or minimally processed foods
  • Group 2: processed culinary ingredients (oils, fats, salt, and sugar)
  • Group 3: processed foods
  • Group 4: ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods include products made in an industrial setting from ingredients that are mostly or entirely made in a laboratory or extracted from foods. 

In general, ultra-processed foods can be identified in a product if at least one item on its list of ingredients is characteristic of the ultra-processed food group, which is defined by the following:

  • ingredients commonly found in processed foods, like sugars, fats, and preservatives
  • additives designed to imitate natural unprocessed foods
  • flavor enhancers, colorings, and other additives
  • ingredients made through the synthesis of food constituents, like maltodextrin, high-fructose corn syrup, modified starch, and hydrogenated fats

Examples of ultra-processed foods include: 

  • sodas and sweetened juices
  • sports and energy drinks
  • energy bars
  • powdered and instant soups
  • margarine
  • mass-produced and packaged bread and baked goods made with hydrogenated fats, sugar, and additives
  • pre-prepared meals such as pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and fish sticks
  • infant formulas
  • meal replacement beverages 
  • mass-produced ice cream
  • candies
  • sweetened yogurt

8 Tips to Keep Your Mindfulness Practice Going

A new study has found that nearly 60 percent of people who subscribed to a popular meditation mobile app stopped using the app within a year. Mobile meditation apps are a helpful way to learn meditation and have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress. However, many people find that staying engaged with meditation and mindfulness apps can be challenging.

The study examined a random sample of 2600 new subscribers to the mobile app Calm in 2018. While 83 percent of people used the app at least one more day, by day 350, 58 percent of users had stopped using the app. For those who did continue to use the app, the average amount of meditation was about 4 minutes and about every 3 days. 

Creating a new habit can be challenging and the benefits of meditation are not always immediate. Our digital attention span has also become bite-sized bits of 8 seconds or less. Some marketing teams have shown that our ability to stay engaged has shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to a mere 8 seconds in 2013. It’s likely even less now. This has created an even greater need to improve our attention span through practices like mindfulness, and yet finding a way to integrate mindfulness into one’s daily life can feel daunting.

Here are eight tips to keep a daily mindfulness practice going.

1. Build a little at a time—even one minute a day.

Start with practicing mindfulness for as little as one to five minutes a day. Listen to what your body and mind need, and go at your own pace. If it feels like time is the limiting factor, make it convenient and short so that it does not feel burdensome. Simple breathing techniques like 4-7-8 breathing or audio-guided meditations found at websites like the Free Mindfulness Project or on streaming services are accessible throughout the day. 

2. Schedule a recurring time on the calendar for mindfulness.

Making time for your mindfulness practice starts with getting that time on the calendar. Scheduling the time is a helpful reminder and ensures the time for it exists—even if it is just five minutes—and lets others who have access to your calendar know that this is protected time. The key is to establish a regularity to the practice, so it feels like a natural part of your day. 

When should you schedule this time? Ask yourself about your natural rhythm of stress—this can help you find the right time to schedule your practice. If you wake up feeling anxious, it can be useful to schedule the time as a morning meditation. If you tend to have difficulty with winding down at night and feel stressed before bed, body scan meditations are useful as part of your nighttime routine.

Can zero-calorie sweeteners raise your risk for cardiovascular disease?

While artificial sweeteners may seem like a good alternative to sugar to reduce caloric intake, a study published in The BMJ suggests there may be a connection between such sweeteners and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), including stroke. 

The research, conducted by the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, is not the first study to suggest a connection between artificial sweeteners and increased risk for heart disease, however, it is the largest to date. The study included data from more than 100,000 participants. 

Is it OK to consume artificial sweeteners?

When people try to cut sugar out of their diets, for reasons such as trying to lose weight or trying to control their blood sugar, they may turn to artificial sweeteners. 

Artificial sweeteners have been around for more than 100 years. Saccharin, for example, which is found in the sugar substitute Sweet’N Low, was first discovered in 1879. Since then, researchers have discovered numerous other artificial sweeteners, including sucralose, aspartame, stevia, and xylitol. 

There has almost always been controversy surrounding artificial sweeteners. As the Harvard School of Public Health notes, concerns include the development of type 2 diabetes and weight gain but the evidence is varied and inconclusive.

Despite the concerns, the Food and Drug Administration considers the approved sweeteners generally safe to use, as long as people do not exceed the acceptable daily intake for each type. 

For example, with sucralose (which is found in Splenda), a 132-pound person could consume 23 packets before going over the recommended limit.

3 Simple Rules To Raise Kind Kids

But raising kids who are kind takes more than scolding them when they’re mean. Kind kids must be attuned to the emotions of others and have a genuine concern for their wellbeing. Where niceness meets empathy, kindness is a seriously challenging lesson for parents to pass on to their kids.

Luckily, it is possible to train kindness into kids. For a recent study, researchers from the Center for BrainHealth had 38 mothers lead their kids aged 3 to 5 through the online kindness training program “Kind Minds with Moozie.” The kids completed five short modules, in which a digital cow named Moozie described creative exercises that parents can do with their kids to teach kindness, such as playing a game of charades where family members take turns pretending to engage in different acts of kindness. The researchers found that the preschoolers were both more kind and empathetic after the kindness training.

“Kindness is sometimes taken for granted,” says Stephanie Barca, J.D., a social service therapist and board member of the anti-bullying nonprofit Children’s Kindness Network. “But it really is a skill that can allow any kid to make a huge contribution to those around them. That, in turn, helps them feel so good and so proud of themselves.”

Here are three things parents who raise kind kids make a habit of doing.

1. Building Emotional Intelligence

Although people tend to think about kindness as a specific character trait, it’s grounded in the multifaceted concept of emotional intelligence — a set of skills that allow people to monitor their own and others’ emotions, as well as the ability to use emotions to guide one’s own thoughts and actions. An emotionally intelligent person can accurately perceive and evaluate what others are feeling and appropriately control their own emotions as a situation dictates.

Helping kids develop an emotional vocabulary that allows them to identify feelings and emotions is foundational to helping them become kind people. And if the rise of emojis has taught us nothing else, it’s that even very young children easily understand visual representations of emotions.

It’s a strategy the Moozie curriculum utilizes to great success when teaching kids how to perceive what others are feeling. Kids are presented with situations and then asked to identify the characters’ feelings. But you don’t need Moozie to do this. When watching a children’s show with your kid, you can pause at any point to ask what a character is feeling.

“It’s a nice way to introduce these concepts because the expressions are simple and straightforward,” Barca says. “In the real world, those signs may not be as strong for someone who has difficulties interpreting those social cues.” Visual representations like emojis and fictional characters are tools for learning emotions that are easy for kids to grasp, especially when they’re bright and easy to interpret.

Cell phones conveniently provide parents with everything they need for a quick game of name-that-emoji when looking to kill a few minutes. The Feelings Book by Todd Parr and its corresponding flashcard set are more tangible tools that provide a vibrant and screen-free take on the emoji idea.

2. Celebrating Kindness As It Happens

Parents aren’t starting from scratch when teaching kids how to be kind. Anyone who has had a preschooler give them a dandelion or received a dozen slobbery kisses from a toddler is well aware that kind intentions start early, even if the execution is lacking.

Taking time to notice and affirm such moments of kindness highlights for kids the capacity they already have while creating a positive feedback loop that encourages kindness moving forward. A kid shows kindness, an adult notices this and compliments them, and then the praise triggers a positive neural response that encourages the child to repeat acts of kindness.

“Learning to get along and contribute to the greater good is crucial to a functioning society, and those are things that any child can do. Noticing and celebrating those moments allow them to feel a sense of accomplishment, which is huge in helping them make kindness a habit,” Barca says.

Obviously, parents need to discourage their kids from being unkind by imposing negative consequences when kids say hurtful things. But finding opportunities to give rewards when they build up a run of kind words or actions can be a powerful tool for positively reinforcing kind words and actions. Using reward charts provides a visual reminder to kids and gives them an easy way to track their progress as they work to make kindness habitual.

3. Practicing Kindness Together

Barca makes learning and reinforcing kindness interactive with her kids by using a puppet to roleplay how to be kind in various situations. Instead of simply giving kids examples of how to be kind, they can participate in the creative process at their own speed. “For younger kids, the puppets are really good at role-playing positive social interactions with an engaging character,” she says. “And it sets up situations where kids can receive affirmation for the times they give good suggestions about how [the puppet] can respond to others with kindness.”

Another option for practicing kindness is to have kids brainstorm kind alternatives when they see fictional characters speak unkindly to others in books, television shows, or movies. Putting the focus on a third party in a low-stress situation can be more engaging than having kids do a real-life “do-over” after they’ve been unkind to someone and emotions are still high. Taking in an entire scenario from a third-person perspective can help remove some of the pull to justify retaliatory hurtfulness amid conflict.

For older kids, service and volunteering can be pathways to reinforcing kindness. “Even small gestures of kindness can make a big difference,” Barca says — a good reminder during these times when kindness feels like a fleeting art. Doing the next right thing — or in this case, the next kind thing — is an attainable goal that can have powerful effects.

Setting Career Goals When You Feel Overwhelmed

In many organizations, it’s the season for individual and team goal-setting. Deciding on a goal is generally something we want to be a rational and evidence-based exercise, combining a careful consideration of possibilities, resources, and obstacles with just the right amount of stretch. But what do you do when you feel like you have a very limited sense of what’s possible? When new obstacles seem to pop up around every corner and the sands are always shifting? When the idea of stretch seems laughable given how stressed and overwhelmed most of us are?

Setting goals in times of uncertainty and burnout can feel pointless, but it isn’t. Research shows that to engage our motivational systems and direct our brain’s energy to the right actions (both consciously and below our awareness), we need to have a clear sense of where we are, where we’re going, and whether we’re closing the gap between the two at the right rate. Without goals, we make bad choices and miss opportunities to act. But just as important, we can’t feel effective, which many psychologists believe is the most powerful source of life satisfaction and well-being humans have.

To set goals that make sense and motivate ourselves and others in such strange and often discouraging times, we need to set them with a growth mindset. And by that I don’t mean just “believe you can improve” or any of the other common oversimplifications of growth mindset. Having a growth mindset is a bit more nuanced (and more powerful) than simply believing that improvement is possible.

Your mindset is what you believe to be the larger meaning or purpose behind the work you do every day. A growth mindset is about believing that developing and making progress is the point of what you’re doing. As I’ve said before, it’s about getting better as opposed to just being good. And it’s about engaging in specific growth mindset strategies and habits to help keep you focused on the potential for growth in everything you do.

When you approach goal-setting through the lens of a growth mindset, you become more comfortable with uncertainty and more willing to entertain the idea of longer-term goals. Here are two strategies to help you get there that you can use for yourself or with your team.

Use growth-mindset trigger words to frame your goals.

When researchers want to study the effects of a growth mindset, one of the ways we do this is to describe the goal or task that someone is about to perform using certain words that evoke the idea of getting better rather than being good: improve, develop, over time, progress, become, and of course, grow.

These words serve as both explicit and implicit “primes” to your thinking. In other words, they shift the very meaning of the goal to being about developing, and they shift your mindset along with it. To use them, start by writing out your goal the way you would normally think about it. For example, your goal might be to “be an effective communicator” or to “increase sales by 5%.”

Then, rewrite it again using one or more growth mindset triggers. “Be an effective communicator” is now “become an effective communicator,” and “increase sales by 5%” is “develop our network of leads to improveour sales by 5%.”

This way of framing your goals isn’t about lowering the bar or being okay with poor performance. In fact, research shows that people who approach their goals with a growth mindset set more challenging stretch goals for themselves, not less. For example, in one study of medical supplies salespersons, researchers found that those who approached their work with a stronger growth mindset set more ambitious sales targets, put in more effort, engaged in more territory and account planning, and ultimately sold more units.

Establish progress and pivot points.

In such uncertain times, it’s important to explicitly establish progress and pivot points on a timeline right at the outset, so you can monitor both your rate of progress and the need to shift in light of new information along the way.

It can be all too easy to lose track of your goals, or to not think much about them until you get closer to the time you expected to reach them. When that happens, you may fail to adjust when progress is slow, or cling to a goal you should have revised when resources or customer expectations started shifting. For example, you may set a goal for yourself of developing a specific skill or reaching a particular sales target by year’s end. To succeed, what should you accomplish in the first month? At six months? If you don’t know, you won’t be able to course correct and, if necessary, try a different strategy or set a revised goal to have the impact you want to see for yourself or your team.

By using these two strategies to prepare for and engage in your goal-setting conversations, as a leader or a team member, you start out with a firm growth mindset foundation that you can then sustain as you pursue your goals through uncertainty, setbacks, and challenges of all kinds — something we all need now more than ever before.

What to Know About Getting a Loan if You’re Unemployed

Applying for a Personal Loan

To apply for a personal loan, you’ll typically need to provide information about your finances, and, most importantly, information about your income. The loan company will also expect you to submit to a credit report pull. The lender will review your information to determine whether or not you qualify for the loan. 

What if I’m Unemployed? 

Getting a loan when you’re unemployed is tricky to do and may not be possible. The number one criterion that lenders consider when they evaluate your loan application is your ability to pay the loan back on time. If you don’t have an income, you are an extremely risky bet, and you’re likely to be turned down. That makes traditional lenders, like a bank or a credit union, an unlikely option for a personal loan. 

However, it still may be possible to get a personal loan. If you have excellent credit and some source of income, such as child support, alimony, disability, rental income, or something else, you may still have a chance.

But if you have no income at all, you may be limited to using your property as collateral to obtain a loan. That means you may be limited to title loans or pawn loans. With a title loan, you’re using your car’s title as collateral. With a pawn loan, the item of value you offer the pawn shop, like jewelry or electronics, serves as collateral for the loan. In both scenarios, failing to repay the debt in the required amount of time can result in you losing your property. Both types of loans are extremely risky.

What About Payday Loans? 

Payday loans (also known as fast cash loans) are not a good option if you’re unemployed. These are loans structured to be paid back on your next payday. Even though lenders might not check your credit, they’ll still typically want proof that you have a source of income. 

If you’re unemployed, you likely won’t qualify for a payday loan. If you do somehow receive a payday loan despite not having a steady source of income, the terms will almost certainly not be favorable. 

It’s important to understand that these loans need to be repaid quickly to avoid rolling over and adding extremely costly interest charges. If you’re unemployed, you should avoid payday loans as they can spiral into high-cost interest you can’t afford.

What Else Can I Do?

The bottom line is that taking out a loan while you’re unemployed is nearly impossible. If you have savings, now is the time to fall back on those funds. That includes using retirement savings, though you should evaluate the risks of depleting or borrowing against your retirement. The next best option is to use your credit card if you have one. It’s better to use your available credit limit than to try to get funds through a loan. Using a credit card may also be preferable to tapping your retirement account.

It may not feel helpful to hear this in the moment, but it’s always a good idea to prepare for rainy days when times are good. Once you’re re-employed, build your savings, work on building your credit score, and open a credit card or two with favorable terms and sizable credit limits. Even if you don’t like using credit when you’re stuck, having available credit is a better option than taking a loan in a financial emergency. 

For right now, if you’re trying to make ends meet without a job, MMI offers unemployment resources to help you. We would be happy to discuss your budgeting changes to make it through these difficult times. Once you have a new job, if you’ve accumulated debt during your unemployment, we can help you accelerate your debt repayment with a debt management plan. Reach out if you’d like help.

34 Small, Nice Things To Do After A Big Fight

So, you had a big fight with your spouse. Maybe it was a three-hour screaming match. Maybe it was a 20-minute argument. Maybe it was one of those off-and-on fights that can last an entire weekend. Whatever the case, things were said. Anger erupted. Feelings were hurt. It happens. What’s most important after a big fight now are the steps you take to reconnect.

Arguments happen. Big ones. Little ones. It’s completely normal and healthy. Agreeing on everything isn’t possible. And a marriage without arguments — big or small — is a marriage without productivity. Arguing shows that there’s stuff to do in a relationship and that both partners are, in their way, working toward a larger goal, like attempting to understand each other and how to do better. No, it’s not ideal for arguments to spiral, and we must all learn ways to fight better and keep things from getting heated.

That said, what you do after a big fight is as important as what you do — and don’t do — during a fight. It’s easy to float around in the aftermath of an argument and just wait for things to become normal again. Understanding when someone needs time or space is essential. But acting like nothing happened is the wrong approach. It’s important to take action so that you both can, eventually, get things back to normal. 

So, what can be done? Here, in no particular order, are 33 small, nice things to do after a fight.

33 Things To Do After A Big Fight

  1. Jot down something about how you feel. Anything. Put it in writing. The act of writing is meditative and helps you understand your thoughts better. If it’s something you want to share with your partner, do so because that’s something they can hold onto (and re-read). Even if it’s not, writing down everything helps you better sort through it. 
  2. Resolve It Quickly (If You Can) “Explain why you were/are angry, and talk about what you feel is needed to go forward with the issue and/or prevent further fights about it,” says Laura MacLeod, a licensed social worker “Do this early. If you wake up and still feel so mad you don’t want to talk, say that. Acknowledge it and figure out when you can resolve it. Don’t let it fester.” But…
  3. If they need space, give it to them. Everyone processes things differently. 
  4. Let them break the ice. Let them control the tone. If they don’t want to laugh about it, take their lead.
  5. Clean your house. Top to f*cking bottom. Don’t ask for credit. Don’t point out how spic and span the toilet is. Just do it to busy yourself productively. 
  6. Play with the kids. Turn all your attention to them. This should help you cool off (if you need it) and helps make you emotionally useful while you two are shoring things up.
  7. Exercise, clean up, and take care of yourself. You two need to repair a rift. This starts with a bit of self-care for both of you.
  8. Makeup in front of the kids. Children learn by watching adults. When parents make up with each other after a fight, they should do so in front of their children to help them understand that even though people might fight and argue, it does not mean those relationships are irreparable.
  9. Do something to make them laugh. Shared laughter is incredibly powerful because of the neuropeptides that are released when we smile and guffaw. When partners share laughter, it can ease tension and break down walls, making it easier for a couple to find their center.
  10. Give them the dumbest card possible. There’s nothing more diffusing of any remaining tension than the cheesiest apology card on the greeting card rack. The sappier it is, the better.
  11. Write a sincere love note. Tell them that even after an argument, you are still their partner and that you will never stop loving them. They need to hear it, and you need to be reminded that’s the case. It will help.
  12. Tell them that they were heard. Say those words. “I heard you.” They are uncommon and they are powerful. And mean them when you say them. Follow them up with a clear explanation of what you heard them say — even if they didn’t exactly express it in the clearest way. 
  13. If you’ve been putting off doing something boring/annoying because you don’t feel like it, now is the time to do it. Buckle down and install that damn smoke detector or fix the broken lock. It’s a small gesture that will be noticed.

Finding Peace in an Anxious World

The complexity of life is shifting faster, and no matter our age, these changes are easily seen. Yes, we can see examples with our parents and grandparents, and how things are different now as opposed to when they were growing up.

Changes are fast and often

Even now, if you’re younger, you’ve seen changes. They come quickly, and they come more often.

I’ve been doing a podcast for a while now. And maybe you’ve heard it. I did a podcast about the movie, Transcendence, with Johnny Depp. It’s about the future when AI becomes conscious and begins to change our world. Well, podcasts themselves haven’t been around that long. Mine is one of the older ones because I’ve been doing this for about 10 years now. But I want to share a story that just happened to me.

As a business owner, I must fill out a census bureau where I talk about my business and what I’m doing. I also must talk about the things I’m doing and using to help my business grow. And, interestingly, when I got this census from the government, they asked me a lot of questions. I would say about 25% to 50% of the questions were about how I was implementing AI (artificial intelligence) in my work. 

I produced that podcast right when the movie came out, and if you want to listen, it’s episode #36. It’s called Transcendence, and it was produced on March 28, 2014. And now, eight years later, this subject was a movie concept at the time, and it’s now being studied by the U.S. government. It’s about how AI is used in businesses today. That is a lot of change.

So many changes

There are so many examples. Change seems to be the new norm. Our world is changing fast, and this is just one of a plethora of examples that I can give.

Just recently, in Southern California, where I live, we had a hurricane. It was the first hurricane that I can remember since I lived in Southern California. This is just one example of how our world is changing so fast. Change is the one constant. Our world is going to be different 10 or 20 years from now. 

But we’re here to find happiness. So, let’s take a deep breath, pause, and say, “OK, our world is changing, guaranteed, and it can create a lot of anxiety, stress, or worry.”

But there are ways we can work against these anxieties and learn that we can find peace and happiness no matter what. So, let’s talk about what we can do with all the changes in our world.

Do not resist change

The first thing that causes anxiety is fighting change. If we say, “I don’t want this change! Go away,” we’re going to suffer. We’re going to be anxious or even mad because change is, in many ways, the new norm. 

It doesn’t mean that we need to embrace the change. We simply need to realize that change is part of life now. We need to learn to adapt. One of the best ways to adapt is to acknowledge the change in the world. Instead of fighting change, find ways to make life go well. There are many ways we can acknowledge change without embracing it.

What Happens If I Get COVID-19 and the Flu at the Same Time?

And once people began mingling more during the next flu seasons, widespread use of masks blocked influenza’s chances of infecting large numbers of people.

But that could change this flu season, as mask mandates have disappeared and more people are interacting in close quarters in school, workplaces, sports events, public transport, and more. Health experts are warning that flu cases could rise again this winter, and that the combination of influenza and COVID-19 together could pose a real public-health threat that sends more people to the hospital and in need of intensive care. Already, the flu season in the southern hemisphere—which runs from April to October and serves as a harbinger of what’s to come for the U.S.—has been severe, with cases in Australia three times higher than average compared to the past five years. That could mean influenza will sweep through North America and Europe with equally aggressive force this winter, alongside rising cases of COVID-19.

That opens the possibility that people could get the two infections at the same time—which experts believe could be both unpleasant and dangerous. “Are two viruses that cause huge inflammatory responses together going to make that response worse? Theoretically, yes,” says Dr. Khalilah Gates, a pulmonary critical care physician at Northwestern University.

Gates and others stress that there aren’t extensive data yet to be sure exactly what will happen when people are infected with both influenza and SARS-CoV-2. But the limited early data—some from people, but mostly from animals—are not encouraging. Already, doctors know that people who get both the flu and a cold at the same time tend to be sicker than those who are only infected with one virus. The same could be true when flu and COVID-19 combine; classic symptoms, including fever, chills, fatigue, and coughing, could become more intense for some people. In one 2021 study on COVID-19 co-infections, including 17 people who tested positive for both influenza and COVID-19 at King Fahad Hospital in Medina, Saudi Arabia, their rates of hospitalization and death were higher than those for people infected with COVID-19 a type of bacteria that can cause respiratory tract infections.

In the largest study so far looking at co-infection of the two viruses, published in April, researchers at the University of Edinburgh reported similar trends. Dr. J. Kenneth Baillie, professor of experimental medicine at the university, and his colleagues analyzed the health records of more than 212,000 people admitted to hospitals in the U.K. for COVID-19, who were also tested for other infections. People infected with influenza and SARS-CoV-2 were four times as likely to need mechanical ventilation, and twice as likely to die, compared to people who just had COVID-19.

The Key to Having More Effective 1-on-1 Meetings With Your Employees

By now, most of us have come across a version of the meme that poses the question: “Couldn’t that meeting have been an email?” Meetings get a bad rap, one-on-one meetings included. But they don’t have to be cumbersome or a waste of time and energy. They can actually be … great.

First, keep the objective of the meeting in mind. Your team members’ main objective is to get the necessary support to do a great job. This includes your help prioritizing issues and unblocking them if they are stuck. It is ultimately “their time,” and team members should “own” the one-on-one meeting to ensure they cover all of the necessary subject matter.

The best one-on-one meetings feel like a great conversation rather than a report-out. This means following your team member and guiding the conversation as a form of coaching. This means listening with an open mind, asking high-impact questions and giving thoughtful feedback as appropriate. Many managers don’t spend nearly enough time listening and can even monopolize the time by talking in place of their employees. They can miss critical data this was and also miss opportunities to find deeper solutions embedded in the employees’ narrative.

Tips for a successful one-on-one

The one-on-one conversation should be informed by a thoughtful, loosely held agenda. Encourage your team member to own the agenda that includes a prepared set of materials; this helps to guide the conversation. An agenda should include the following:

  • Updates that can’t be found within a company dashboard or data tracker
  • Support needed from the manager and other members of the leadership team
  • Questions the team member has about particular issues
  • Feedback the team member would like to receive

Request that your direct report send key information ahead of time so that as a manager, you can be prepared and come ready with questions or discussion points.

A brief check-in at the top of the meeting can help team members communicate how they are feeling about their role/job responsibilities and what it’s like to be in their position. According to, “Checking-in is an intentional practice for a team to open a meeting or session. Each participant shares what (mindset) they are bringing to the table before the work conversation starts … When everyone can remove their personal distractions, it’s easier to focus on getting the job done. A mindset check-in is about the status of your mind, not that of the project.”

However, it’s important to remember not to process this too much. Let it be their experience unless part of the check-in needs some specific support. The goal is to establish the check-in as a safe space and encourage more and more candor. Of course, there may be critical and obvious things to follow up on, and you can always ask if they need support with any specifics mentioned.

Your role as a manager is to help your direct reports learn, build capacity and execute. Part of the job is helping them learn to prioritize and problem-solve on their own; this creates capacity for you! It also gives them the gift of learning they can take for the rest of their career. In fact, I’ve heard many employees highlight managers who have supported them as being some of the biggest influences on their life. This is effectively coaching; managers should listen deeply and intentionally to a team member’s concerns, ask questions and offer clear feedback.

Although the team member owns both the meeting and the recap, managers should take their own notes to track developmental points; these can be used for bi-annual development conversations or performance management reviews. When a manager takes meeting notes in a one-on-one, it shows they value the team member with whom they are meeting.

Free weekly credit reports are available through the end of 2023.

Your credit score can make or break your ability to open a credit card or buy a new car or home at attractive interest rates.

To boost your score, you need to know where you need to improve.

Keeping tabs on your credit report — which outlines your debts, bill payment history and other financial information — can help you do that.

The three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — recently extended the availability of free weekly credit reports to consumers through the end of 2023. By law, consumers are entitled to one every 12 months from each agency, but that during the pandemic, the companies expanded access to weekly free checks.

The reports are available at the Annual Credit Report website.

“We always recommend once a year, at least, to always check your credit report at annualcredit,” said Trent Graham, program performance and quality assurance specialist at GreenPath Financial Wellness, a nonprofit providing free debt counseling services.

While the free credit report you’ll get won’t show your credit score, it can offer clues in terms of how to boost that number. You can access your credit score by paying for it from one of the three credit reporting agencies, or access it for free from your credit card company if it offers the perk.

In terms of credit scores, anything in the 700 range or above is generally “pretty good,” Graham said. The closer your score gets to the high 700s or 800s — approaching popular scoring models’ perfect score of 850 — the better off you’ll be, he said.

The national average credit score recently reached an all-time high of 716, according to FICO.

Your credit score may vary slightly by provider.

The Most Important Skill Couples Need To Master, According To Dr. John Gottman

What’s the one skill that will benefit couples the most right now? That is, what’s most important to helping you and your partner feel happier, more resilient, less resentful, and better able to endure the many stresses of marriage and raising kids? The answer, according to Dr. John Gottman, is simple: listening. That is, you must know how to listen to your partner with empathy, interest, and, importantly, without offering solutions. Whether your relationship is strong or struggling, he says mastering this communication skill is critical to success.

“Research has shown that if people stay away from problem-solving and are able to listen empathetically and support their partner as they go through this very stressful period, they don’t feel so alone with what they’re experiencing,” says Dr. Gottman. “One of the most powerful things you can do is be a great listener and just be there without trying to be helpful.”

Dr. Gottman is in many ways the father of modern marriage research. For more than 40 years, he and his wife, psychologist Dr. Julie Gottman, have studied thousands of relationships (heterosexual and same-sex) to understand what makes a marriage stable, what behaviors are predictive of divorce, and what couples can do to ensure their partnership is kind, happy, and fulfilling. Through the Gottman Institute and their breakthrough research at the “Love Lab” at the University of Washington, they’ve shaped much of modern marriage therapy, and are responsible for such findings as the magic formula for a happy marriage and “bids for connection,” among many other insights. Because of them, countless couples understand themselves and their relationships better.

The Drs. Gottman are also authors or co-authors of more than 40 books about relationships, one of the more recent of which is Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. In it, they offer eight topics — from money and adventure to spirituality and sex — and outline a variety of fun, interesting questions for couples to ask about each on a date. The conversations are not about confrontation, but rather curious exploration to help couples of all ages and stages learn more about one another.

Fatherly spoke to Dr. John Gottman about the pandemic’s impact on modern marriages, the conversations couples should be having, and how to truly listen to and validate your partner’s feelings.

COVID and the changes it brought were tough on a lot of marriages. Couples were forced to really rethink and retool their relationships. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on what relationships had to endure during that time?

Well, it seems like couples have gone in two different directions. Those who were distressed before the pandemic hit have gotten a lot worse. The relationships have included a lot more dysfunctional conflict, and we’ve seen a big increase in domestic violence.

And then other couples whose marriages were stronger before the pandemic have gotten stronger through it. They’ve had more time with each other. They’ve had more of a chance to get closer and really rethink their values as a couple and as individuals. And so, we’ve seen this split between relationships that were strong initially and relationships that were challenged initially.

The average has stayed the same really because there’s been this big diversification of these two pathways. It’s been a time of great change. It’s almost like when an earthquake hits, there’s a fault underneath for some people and this really causes a lot of damage. On the other hand, sometimes crisis is opportunity. And for some people it’s really been an opportunity to rethink who they are and who they want to be as a couple. And it’s been very productive for those relationships.

Given what couples are facing, what do you think is the most important skill they need to develop? Is there something that has stuck out to you?

Well, consistent with this finding that there are these two different pathways, the ones that have had the most trouble really need to have a way of dealing with conflict and disagreement and managing their own irritability and stress. For them, our tool, which is called the stress-reducing conversation, is critical.

Research has shown that if people stay away from problem-solving and are able to listen empathetically and support their partner as they go through this very stressful period, so they don’t feel so alone with what they’re experiencing — they really feel that their partner is their ally in going through the stresses and the changes that are happening.

It’s important that people stay away from problem-solving and just listen and ask questions — ask open-ended questions — of their partner and listen empathetically, and use touch and affection as a way of staying close. That’s probably the most important skill for those couples on that trajectory with a relationship that is very stressed.

Why We All Should Get Screened for Anxiety

Recently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released, for the first time, a recommendation that all adults under age 65 should be screened for anxiety.

Global rates of anxiety surged following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The USPSTF cited that 40% of women and 26% of men will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Given how common anxiety is, anyone may benefit from getting screened for anxiety.

What anxiety is

From time to time, we all experience some form of worry or anxiety. In some cases, anxiety can be a motivator; in other cases, it can be exhausting and paralyzing—almost pathological. In the pathological case, we may get stuck in thought loops and overthink. Further, we may experience physical symptoms, such as a tight chest resulting in difficulty breathing. To manage our anxiety, we may completely avoid potentially life-enriching experiences that might trigger it, such as social gatherings. 

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the U.S. but as a society, we have only begun to accept it as a potentially serious mental health condition. Once considered a personal weakness, anxiety was not viewed as a real mental health condition until recent decades.

From an evolutionary psychiatry perspective, anxiety serves to protect us. When our ancient ancestors lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, anxiety helped them survive. A fight-or-flight response to an incoming predator was a critical, life-saving feature of the body’s anxiety system. Today, few of us encounter life-threatening situations on the daily. Instead, many of these evolutionary features simply became anxiety symptoms (e.g., panic attacks).

The importance of diagnosing anxiety

Living with anxiety is difficult. With anxiety, an individual may avoid important life experiences and events, and have an increased risk for depression. Severe anxiety also has a high correlation with suicidal thoughts. Further, individuals with anxiety may cope by using substances, and develop substance use problems as a result. Anxiety is a serious health condition, and early intervention and treatment are critical.

Limitations of anxiety screening

There may be some disadvantages to testing for anxiety through a screener. Screeners administered by clinicians will likely be self-report questionnaires evaluating the severity of anxiety symptoms. Screening in this manner runs the risk of overdiagnosis, which may lead to unnecessary referrals to treatment and increased stress. Additionally, there are many types of anxiety, which cannot be entirely identified with a simple screener. When following up for a possible anxiety diagnosis, clinicians may need to be vigilant about considering all potential types of anxiety.

Ultimately, despite the potential barriers to anxiety screening as proposed by the task force, its implementation will benefit all of us. Mental health conditions regularly go undiagnosed in our healthcare system; by making screening routine for all American adults, detection rates may be improved. Promoting a greater focus on mental health will also help destigmatize it and increase funding and research, ultimately facilitating access to mental health resources and treatment.

Take advantage of the latest offering

After a three-month hiatus, the administration is making four rapid virus tests available through starting Thursday, a senior administration official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the program. COVID-19 cases have shown a marked increase after the Thanksgiving holiday, and further increases are projected from indoor gathering and travel around Christmas and New Year’s.

The administration is putting personnel and equipment on standby should they be needed to help overwhelmed hospitals and nursing homes, as was necessary in earlier waves of the virus. So far, there have been no requests for assistance, but surge teams, ventilators and personal protective equipment are ready, the official said.

The Biden administration is also urging states and local governments to do more to encourage people to get the updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, which scientists say are more effective at protecting against serious illness and death from the currently circulating variants. The administration is reiterating best practices to nursing homes and long-term care facilities for virus prevention and treatment and is urging administrators as well as governments to encourage vulnerable populations to get the new shots.

10 Ways To Deepen Your Bond As A Couple

And if you want to deepen your relationship and strengthen your already-strong bond, well, you have to, well, try to deepen your relationship. It’s the trying — the focusing on the little things, the willingness to be vulnerable and offer more of yourself in exchange of more from them — that make it possible.

So what helps deepen a connection? Below, according to a variety of relationship therapists, are ten suggestions. You might notice a common thread woven throughout all of these suggestions – communication (surprise, surprise). Here’s what to remember.

1. Actively Show Appreciation.

Whether it’s a note in your partner’s lunch, or a random text to say thanks for being such a kid’s bedtime savior last night, what you might think of as a fleeting gesture can build genuine closeness. The key with appreciation is to be specific in what you mention. “It can really be as simple as telling your partner how much you appreciate something they did for you, or something more complex like expressing gratitude for their support and presence in your life,” explains Dr. Callisto Adams. “Expressing appreciation and gratitude can help build positive emotions and foster a sense of connection. It can also help to improve communication and understanding, and can make your partner feel valued and appreciated.”

2. Lean Ito Conflict

Obviously, you don’t want to go around picking fights. But in all relationships, good or bad, conflict is inevitable. So, roll with it. “Many couples are terrified of conflict and see it as a sign of poor relationship health,” says couples therapist Sandra Harewood. “But healthy conflict can be a force for good, deepening the bond between a couple as it is a sign of growth, change, and transformation.” Conflict can present couples with the opportunity to explore communication and deepen trust which, according to Harewood, allows both partners to develop confidence in themselves and the relationship as a whole. “Accommodate your feelings and experiences by learning to argue well, and you’ll be less likely to be knocked off balance when things go wrong,” she says.

3. Increase Your “Bids For Connection”

‘Bids for connection,’ which are based on the research of Dr. John Gottman, refer to reaches for acknowledgement, reassurance, or validation within a relationship. And couples who “turn towards” a bid more often than not are happier and closer for it. “A bid could be a touch of the shoulder while passing in the hallway or a comment like, ‘Wow, look at that goat!’ while driving by a farm,” says therapist Erin Dierickx. “The more often they are offered and received, the more trust, satisfaction, and connection you will experience in your relationship.”

4. Have Check-Ins

More than just a passing “How was your day?” tossed off from the other room, a true check-in with your partner involves distraction-free conversation with the intent to listen. Sit down and have a five-minute check-in each night. Talk about your day, and highlight anything you’d like to talk more about when you have more time. Once a month, Wolfe also suggests a deeper check-in over dinner or coffee. “Try to have this check-in at the same time each month to establish a routine, and plan to discuss how each of you feels about how things are going in the relationship,” says Trisha Wolfe, LPCC. “Is there tension? Are you making progress toward shared goals? What can be improved on for next month?” The goal with check-ins — brief or length — is to stay on top of your relationship so issues don’t fester for weeks, months, or even years.

5. Stay Curious

Not in the sense of snooping around your partner’s unlocked phone or bathroom drawer, but through constant self-reminders that you definitely don’t know everything about them and want to learn more. “Curiosity is the secret sauce in a relationship,” says Harewood. “I’ve seen many couples get caught in the trap of thinking they know all they need to know about their partner, or that they’ve heard it all before. But, things are always changing, both for the individual and the relationship.” Staying curious and asking questions will prop the door for intimacy wide open.

3 Powerful Strategies for a Better Brain in 2023

t the end of each year, we find ourselves reflecting on accomplishments and struggles while looking ahead to what comes next. For many, this leads to resolutions around improving diet, getting more exercise, and becoming better at work or relationships. Yet far too often in the process of committing to these changes, we miss the fundamental significance of improving our brain health and function. With this in mind, consider skipping the fad diets and quick-fix strategies and instead focusing on your brain. Here are three powerful and science-backed strategies to power your brain for success in the coming year. 

1. Cut out unnecessary brain-draining media.

Our brains are incredibly energetically demanding, comprising 3 percent of our body weight but using 20 percent of our energy in a given day. Most of that energy is used by our neurons, and the amount of energy they use is directly related to how much they are being used. This means that our brain’s energy and function are a reflection of where we direct our focus. 

If you’re like the average adult, most of your focus is going to be on the media around you. American adults, on average, spend upward of 11 hours of their day on screens and listening to the radio. While there’s plenty of healthy and valuable content on our screens and airwaves, it’s also the case that media content (especially news) has grown increasingly negative and sensationalized. 

Stressful and polarizing media content activates stress-responsive parts of our brains and may increase the risk for mood issues as well as damage our brain health and function. To this end, limiting your consumption of unnecessarily stressful, draining, sensationalized, and polarizing media may do wonders for your brain health. And, at a very basic level, removing the unhelpful content frees your brain up to consume the healthier stuff.

2. Consume more of the good stuff: healthy relationships and sleep.

One of the most impactful areas of brain research speaks to the brain benefits of very simple daily habits. Besides the usual (and important) topic of eating right for brain health, here’s why relationships and sleep are fundamental for better brain health.

Quality relationships are clearly fundamental to overall health as well as brain health. Loneliness, for example, is thought to be a risk factor for worse mental health. In a recent observational study of over 12,000 people, loneliness correlated with a 40 percent increased risk of developing dementia over a 10-year period. On the other hand, having more close friends late in life is linked to a significantly lower risk for dementia, suggesting a protective effect of close interpersonal bonds. When taken together, this research speaks to the value of cultivating and maintaining close friendships. How to put it into practice? Consider setting a regular phone date, plan a trip to see loved ones, and prioritize date nights (and even group video chats). 

When considering lifestyle factors associated with better brain function and health, sleep is all too often ignored. Yet we now know that poor sleep is a risk factor for everything from dementia to depression to worse decision-making. Getting better sleep may be one of the most important strategies we have for quickly achieving better brain health. The unfortunate reality is that despite this science, most people neglect to prioritize sleep. 

A number of simple steps can be used to help improve sleep quality. These range from minimizing artificial light in the hours before bed to minimizing caffeine consumption in the afternoon. However, if sleep issues are severe or don’t respond to basic lifestyle modification, it’s likely a good idea to seek professional help with consideration for a sleep study or other testing. 

3. Challenge your brain daily.

How can we take steps to constantly move our brains toward a better state? One of the most powerful tools is to perpetually challenge our brains. This can be as simple as entertaining or exploring an opposing ideological perspective. So don’t just be adventurous with travel and new foods; consider opening up space for compassionate conversations with people who have different viewpoints. Another example is learning a new language or practicing an instrument. Even consistent word puzzles (Wordle anyone?) may help keep your brain sharp. 

When we challenge our brains, we may help form new connections between neurons through the process of neuroplasticity (a neuroscience term for the brain’s ability to reshape itself throughout our lifespans). Research has even indicated that regularly exercising our brains may help to slow down and even prevent certain aspects of cognitive decline.

How Do Credit Monitoring Services Work?

A credit monitoring service monitors one or more of your credit reports on a regular basis—usually at least one report from the big three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The monitoring provider watches for any strange or adverse activity such as new accounts in your name or inquiries suggesting that someone is attempting to open an account in your name. The provider alerts you as soon as these types of activities are detected. 

Additionally, some packages also include routine scans of the dark web and public records for signs that your personal information has been stolen or compromised. 

Cost of Credit Monitoring 

Monitoring can be free with some services, such as the one offered by Credit Karma. You might also be eligible for free credit monitoring as a result of previous data breaches, including the 2017 data breach at Equifax. 

For non-free credit monitoring services, the price can range from $10-$40 a month. 

Does Credit Monitoring Offer Benefits?

If you’re not the DIY sort, credit monitoring can be helpful for keeping an eye on your credit reports. 

Basic monitoring tells you if any unusual activity shows up on your credit report, although the service may not monitor all three reporting agencies so it’s not fool-proof. Anything outside of your normal monthly transactions (online bill-paying activity) would be reported, which could help catch fraud early. The problem is credit monitoring only alerts you after the fact, so it doesn’t necessarily prevent fraud from happening—it just catches it earlier. 

A more robust monitoring package will likely include dark web scans. These scans check to see if your information has been stolen and made available for purchase to a bad actor. This kind of information could help you head off potential fraud by closing impacted accounts or freezing your credit to prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. 

Many for-pay premium credit monitoring services include identity insurance, which could help you offset costs stemming from having your identity stolen.

Can I Monitor My Accounts Myself? 

Yes, absolutely. In fact, we recommend it—and of course, that’s free. Most of what’s offered through credit monitoring services are things you can do on your own. To monitor your own accounts, it’s important to do the following: 

  • Check your bank balances and credit card statements regularly for purchases you don’t recognize. 
  • Take advantage of your free credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies to review credit activity. Usually, you are entitled to a free report once a year, but the agencies are offering free weekly reports through the end of 2023 as a response to the pandemic. You can access your reports through 
  • Monitor your credit score for free through a service offered by your credit card or a personal finance website. That allows you to watch for unusual changes. 
  • If you’re concerned about your identity being stolen and accounts created in your name, you can proactively freeze your credit. That means you won’t be able to open credit in your name, but you can lift the freeze when you need to. Meanwhile, no one else can open an account in your name. 

Then Why Would I Purchase a Monitoring Service?

If you’re not eligible for free monitoring, purchasing credit monitoring can make sense. Here are some examples of when you might want to buy it. 

  • You don’t follow through on monitoring your accounts. (Let’s face it, it’s one more to-do task that often gets pushed to the back burner.) 
  • You were already the victim of identity theft or you know some of your information is out there.
  • You don’t want to put a freeze on your accounts for the long term. 

If you decide to purchase credit monitoring, NerdWallet recommends not purchasing from the credit agencies themselves for a couple of reasons. One, they might not offer enough identity theft coverage even though their product could cost as much as other companies. Two, when you sign up with a credit agency, you may be required to waive your right to a class-action lawsuit and agree to binding arbitration, neither of which are in your best interests as a consumer. 

If a credit agency has a data breach, as happened to Equifax in 2017, the inability to sue is bad for you. Look for another organization to provide credit monitoring. 

The Limits of Credit Monitoring

Although credit monitoring can offer peace of mind, it’s important to understand that monitoring really only tells you about something after it’s happened. It’s useful to know, for sure, because reacting early helps you. The faster you move, the less damage a potential Identity theft inflicts. But credit monitoring doesn’t necessarily stop these things from happening in the first place.

Happy Holidays from the PAF

We hope you are able to celebrate with family and loved ones this year! From all of us at the PAF, we are sending our warmest wishes to you and your families this holiday season.

We wish you the best over the next few weeks, especially good health and happiness.

We are committed to continue to find and provide you the information you need to navigate your post-football life in the most successful way possible.

Happy Holidays and may you have a safe and healthy New Year.

-Your family at the Professional Athletes Foundation.

Sleep quality more important for quality of life than sleep duration

Czechian scientists say that sleep quality plays a greater role in influencing the quality of life (QoL) than sleep duration or timing.

Their study, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, is among the first to observe the impact of changes in sleep quality over the long term.

It is also the first study to test how social jetlag, a mismatch of internal sleep rhythms and environmental demands, may affect QoL.

Lead authors Michaela Kudrnáčová of Charles University’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Aleš Kudrnáč, Ph.D., of the Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences concluded: 

“While when we sleep and how long we sleep is important, individuals who have better quality sleep also have a better quality of life, regardless of the time and length of sleep. In addition, by following [4,523] people for three years, we found that those whose sleep improved also had an improved quality of life.”

Previous studies have shown that sleep disruptions and low quality sleep may decrease the quality of life.

Defining quality of life

The Charles University researchers define the quality of life (QoL) as “an interplay between the perception of an internal state, such as the experience of happiness or feeling of good heath or satisfaction, and external events in the surrounding environment, which may include family and career.”

They based their analysis on the parameters of well-being, satisfaction with life, happiness, and meaning in life.

What is social jetlag?

Social jetlag is a term that describes the difference between biological time, determined by internal circadian rhythms, and social times, primarily determined by the external environment. The increasing use of artificial light and nightwork is largely responsible for this pervasive “circadian misalignment”.

Considering that the circadian clock regulates a host of physiological processes, health experts have linked social jetlag with negative health outcomes. These include poor sleep, hypertension, impaired cognitive performance, mental health conditions, and metabolic disorders.

Data on sleep quality, duration, bedtime

The Charles University team consulted data from the Czech Household Panel Study (CHPS), focusing on information collected over three years.

The survey interviewed all members of the sampled households. In each “wave” of data collection, the same members of the same households were asked to contribute.

Czech adults submitted a total of 5,132 self-administered questionnaires about sleep patterns, health, and work in 2018. Responses totaled 2,046 in 2019 and 2,161 questionnaires in 2020.

The drop in the sample between 2018 and 2019 was due to a blood draw requirement.

The experts studied the effect of sleep on the dependent QoL variables described earlier.

For instance, they measured life satisfaction according to responses to the question “All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole?” They gauged perceived happiness with responses to the question “Taking all things together, how happy would you say you are?”

Additionally, the study measured sleep duration, perceived sleep quality, and social jetlag.

Sleep duration was calculated according to the reported responses regarding sleep and wake times on workdays and free days. Perceived quality of sleep was based on answers to the question “How would you rate the quality of your sleep?”

The researchers calculated social jetlag “as the difference between the mid-sleep time on free days and workdays.”

Mastering the Three Expenses

What are Fixed Expenses?

Fixed expenses are the easiest ones to grasp and usually the easiest to plan for. They happen regularly and are the same cost every time. Your mortgage payment is a fixed expense. Your car payment, insurance payment, and any other set, regular payment are all fixed expenses. They’re easy to plan for because you know what they’ll cost and how often you’ll need to pay them.

What are Variable Expenses?

Variable expenses are the biggest category. These include food, utilities, entertainment, and transportation costs. A variable expense occurs semi-regularly and the cost can changes depending on a number of factors. For example, you don’t pay the same amount every time you shop for groceries, so the cost is variable. 

You can plan for variable expenses by examining your spending over a period of time and creating an average for each category. This means that each individual payment might not hit the budget exactly the way you planned, but over time and multiple payments you’ll (hopefully) arrive at your estimate.

What are Periodic Expenses?

Periodic expenses, by comparison, are the trickiest expenses to plan for because while they occur regularly, they’re usually rare (maybe once a year) and can vary widely. Gift giving falls into this category, along with maintenance and repair costs for your home and automobile. 

How to Budget for Periodic Expenses

The problem with periodic expenses is that when we’re drawing up a budget we tend to forget to consider these costs. You don’t forget to account for your rent or your electric bill because you have to pay those every month. But if you’re planning in January you might forget that by the end of the summer you’ll need money to buy your kids back to school clothes and supplies. 

It’s easy to forget about property taxes, car registrations, and the fact that your tires probably need to be replaced this year. So even though you’ve paid for these things before (many times) they can still sneak up on you and ruin an otherwise solid budget. 

The simplest way to plan for a year’s worth of periodic expenses is to do a thorough inventory of all the periodic expenses you incurred last year. Any expense that isn’t fixed and isn’t accounted for in your variable category is periodic and goes in the pile. 

Once everything is gathered, total up the cost of every expense and divide by 12. Now take that number and add it to your budget. This is the amount you need to save every month in order to cover your periodic expenses. 

It’s an estimate, of course, so some years your periodic expenses might outpace your designated savings, and some years you might have money left over. Even if it’s not exact, at least you’ll never be caught unprepared by a periodic expense again. 

The Myth of 10,000 Steps

When I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my left femur 15 years ago this summer, I thought, “I’ll never be able to walk the streets of Paris with my daughters.”

Well, I was in Paris last week, and at least some of the time, I was walking – or, more accurately, limping – along the streets with my girls. At least the garbage strike had lifted, and those streets were relatively clean!

One morning we took a Hemingway walking tour, which took us through the streets of the Left Bank, visiting sites associated with the Lost Generation – Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce; Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Sylvia Beach, and others. Along the way, our guide read us this quote from Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir, A Movable Feast:

I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out. It was easier to think if I was walking and doing something or seeing people doing something that they understood.

That quotation is one of the more famous descriptions of an idea that goes back to the ancient world (“It is solved by walking,” the 4th-century philosopher Diogenes said) and continues until today (Aaron Sorkin added a scene into the new version of Camelot that opens on Broadway tonight in which Guinevere encourages King Arthur to walk around the castle, a move that produces the idea of the Round Table).

In effect, this reverence for ambulation has taken on near scriptural status in recent years: walking is good for the body! good for the mind! good for the soul! and good for the imagination! Like leaches and whisky in their time, walks have become the go-to tonic of modern times.

Worried about finding the funds to pay your taxes? Take a walk!

The idea that walking could have abundant side effects on mental health, creativity, and well-being goes back decades, with a series of tests on rodents. Studies showed that active animals showed greater neurological activity than sedentary ones. With the addition of several tests, largely of undergraduates, this new consensus about the power of walking began to take over popular media.

More recently, academics began pushing back – hard.

Just this February, Luis Ciria of the University of Granada and six colleagues published a major study in Nature using a metareview of existing research claiming that most studies on the benefits of walking were overstated and based on flimsy data. 

Despite most of the 24 reviewed meta-analyses reporting a positive overall effect, our assessment reveals evidence of low statistical power in the primary randomized controlled trials, selective inclusion of studies, publication bias and large variation in combinations of pre-processing and analytic decisions.

Moreover, those benefits were reduced even further when other moderating factors were considered.

These findings suggest caution in claims and recommendations linking regular physical exercise to cognitive benefits in the healthy human population until more reliable causal evidence accumulates.

As it happens, within days, more reliable evidence appeared.

A massive new study released two weeks ago by Boris Cheval from the University of Geneva and eight colleagues used a new technique of sampling the DNA of 350,000 people. They provided the best evidence yet that “higher levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity lead to increased cognitive functioning.” As one of the lead researchers summarized the finding: “Absolutely, exercise is one of the best things you can do” for your brain.

Research-Backed Tips for Scheduling Your Day

But what might this look like in practice? Here are five ideas to consider, each grounded in research from Kellogg faculty.

Tackle the hard stuff first

When you’ve got a lot on your plate, it can be tempting to check off a few of the easier items on your to-do list first. And then, maybe, just a few more easy ones.

“You feel like you’re making more progress,” says Maryam Kouchaki, whose research has found that people gravitate toward simpler tasks when struggling with a heavy workload.

She and her colleagues found, for instance, that when ER physicians were given a choice about which patients to treat, they were more likely to choose an easier patient when they already had a lot of patients under their care.

However, the strategy doesn’t pay off in the long run. Over a six-year period, physicians who’d taken a trickier caseload learned to become more efficient than those who’d treated an easier caseload. “Physicians who are picking up difficult patients are the ones who learn over time, and they generate more value for the hospital,” Kouchaki says.

Because avoiding hard tasks indefinitely cuts off opportunities to improve one’s skills, Kouchaki suggests breaking more difficult projects into bite-sized pieces. That way, you still get the satisfaction of ticking items off your to-do list—but also the growth of tackling the tougher stuff.

Plan around end-of-day fatigue

Food-safety inspectors use a rigorous process to identify health violations at restaurants, schools, hospital cafeterias, and other places where foods are handed. Still, inspectors are only human, and the quality of their work can vary somewhat.

Specifically, Maria Ibanez and a colleague have found that inspections that occur later in the day result in fewer violations. Each subsequent hour an inspector conducts inspections during the day results in 3.7 percent fewer citations per inspection that day, likely due to fatigue. In addition, if inspectors begin an inspection at a time that would mean they would not finish before their normal quitting time, they finish the inspection 4 percent more quickly than usual—and catch 5 percent fewer violations. The researchers also found that the order in which the inspections occurred could also affect their quality. For instance, after an inspection that yielded a particularly high number of violations, inspectors were likelier to spot extra violations at the next joint, too.

“At the end of the day, being busy may not equal being productive.”

Jan Van Mieghem

The takeaway here is clear: it’s worth asking yourself (and perhaps measuring) whether certain sequences of tasks or times of day change the quality of your work. “That gives us an opportunity to improve performance by being smarter about scheduling,” says Ibanez.

Multitask smarter

So quality of work can be affected by scheduling—but what about efficiency?

A study from two Kellogg School professors—Nicola Persico and Rob Bray—tested this idea by altering the way Italian appellate labor court judges schedule court hearings.

The courts, which handle cases having to do with firings and pensions, are notoriously slow, and it takes multiple hearings to resolve a case. So judges typically put each new hearing at the end of the queue, finding the first open slot in the calendar and filling it. They also wait until the conclusion of the current hearing to schedule a new one.

But Persico, Bray, and their collaborators worked with six appellate labor court judges in Rome to implement a new scheduling method over a three-year period. Specifically, they scheduled hearings in advance and grouped them close together. This allowed a case to move through the system quickly once it reached its first hearing because it was unaffected by what happened with other cases.

This new method cut the time it took to resolve a case by 140 days, or 19 percent, relative to judges who used the traditional method.

While this exact approach to juggling tasks may not translate to other activities—or even other judicial hearings—the overall idea is that a lot of workers could probably get more efficient by focusing on completing a few tasks rather than simply pushing forward on many.

“All sorts of workers schedule their workflow ineffectively, in the sense that they tend to jump from one task to another too frequently,” Persico said. “They spread themselves thin, and then they achieve less than they would if they worked on something until completion.”

There are costs to collaboration

Collaboration is often described as unilaterally good—but it’s important to remember that there are costs associated with it, too.

Jan Van Mieghem and Itai Gurvich, both professors of operations management, showed in a theoretical paper that when skilled workers are engaged in concurrent collaboration—when they are all needed to execute a single task—the throughput of the entire system can suffer. This need to synchronize while coordinating can lead to a productivity loss, and workflow can slow down even further than would be predicted by the usual bottlenecks in the system.

These costs show up in real-world situations, too. A study conducted by Van Mieghem, Gurvich, and then-PhD student Lu Wang found that the productivity of one type of physician, known as a “hospitalist,” fell dramatically when that physician was required to collaborate with specialists. Collaboration had a direct effect by adding the time needed to communicate with the specialist. But it also had a “spillover” effect that ended up causing the hospitalist to spend an extra 20 percent of time on the patient’s medical chart.

Twenty-five percent of this spillover came from the increased time it took to document the conclusions of a valuable consultation. But forty-five percent came from work sequencing, or the effect of interruptions by collaborators that necessitates the hospitalist to change their workflow—switching from one chart to another, say.

“Being busy may increase interruptions,” says Van Mieghem. “At the end of the day, being busy may not equal being productive.”

Anxiety as the Path to Freedom

When you think of anxiety, you don’t usually think of freedom. But I’m going to share a secret: The biggest freedom you can have is the ability to feel anxiety in your body.

I know, it sounds crazy, right? But I promise you that’s true.

Vulnerability Is a Powerful Tool

Some people believe the biggest freedom would be to never ever feel anxiety. But, if that were true, and you never felt the tension and agitation of your sympathetic nervous system, you would not be a truly alive and sensing human. As a matter of fact, psychopaths (those folks who have no conscience and no empathy) have remarkably low levels of anxiety, and that is not a good thing. 

When people say to me they are waiting for the day they will feel no anxiety, I tell them they will experience sensations of vulnerability until the day they die. Those uncomfortable sensations are a wake-up call, inviting you to tune inward when you’re faced with limits to control over things that matter to you. That activation in your nervous system, the muscle tension and agitation of “unrest,” is simply your body’s way of signaling you to pay inner attention and soothe your nervous system, so you can access the power of emotion flowing underneath.

Unrest is the most powerful tool we have to promote our personal growth, as long as we know what to do with it. Freedom is not being free of anxious sensations; it is being able to face, feel, and soothe them, to access the wisdom of emotion—the adaptive emotions that want to help us come to terms with reality, when reality does not bend to our will.

The key is we need to be able to notice, tolerate, and really feel what our body feels like when we are anxious. We need to stay out of the “story” we make up, all the future “what ifs” and imagined scenarios, and all the backward-looking stories of “woulda shoulda coulda.” Importantly, we need to bring a precise and slow awareness to our inner experience of muscle tension and arousal. We need to carefully (with care in our hearts) stay with ourselves and sense the quality, intensity, and parameters of the tension, being willing to really feel this moment of uncertainty, this moment of “I can’t,” this moment of limits to control over an outcome that matters to me.

Like Sleepwalkers, We Tune Out of Ourselves

This is such a simple thing, yet it is so very hard to do. We are primed to move away from this experience of tightness and agitation. There is an urge to disconnect from what we feel at that moment. At a level that is below our conscious awareness, it just seems like the right thing to do, and we typically simply obey the impulse. Like sleepwalkers, we avoid our inner experience and tune out of ourselves. We use myriad ways to avoid: eating, drinking, shopping, busying, controlling, worrying, and distracting ourselves, slaves to an impulse we didn’t even recognize.

That’s where freedom comes in. When we can notice the signal from the body that tells us we are vulnerable, if we can become expert at knowing our own unique phone call (tight shoulders, fidgety fingers, held breath, clenched butt, tapping feet) as the body asks for our attention, we have a choice—the big choice that leads to freedom. We have the choice to approach ourselves then and there in that precise moment and be with ourselves in the discomfort. It is the choice of love. Or we can avoid ourselves in that moment, which is the choice of fear. And if we chose fear and avoidance, we are not free. We are busy and numb and fretful and distracted and sometimes very productive…but we are not free.

Freedom is the ability to be with ourselves in the discomfort of what is. Rather than fight with what is, rather than trying to fix it or change it or shut it down or shame it or run away from it, freedom is saying hello to what is actually happening in your life and under your skin.

3 Principles for Raising Teens Without Ruining Your Marriage

Whereas most people are warned that the blessed event of a new baby may challenge the romance in their marriage, not enough warning is given to parents of teens. Lulled by the relative calm of the school-age years, they find themselves suddenly embroiled in the challenging journey of adolescence, which extends anywhere from age 12 to 18.

Notwithstanding the love they feel for their kids or each other, most parents will agree that the teen years can challenge marital bonds. Why?

A close look suggests that the very developmental tasks that Eric Erikson maintained teens need to negotiate under the broad heading of “Identity vs. Role Confusion call into question the stability, predictability, authority, intelligence, sleep, and even sexual patterns of parents.

A Saturday night spent nervously waiting up for your teen, while blaming each other for being too lax or too rigid, rarely sets the mood for romance.

That said, it is important to consider that raising a teen need not equate to ruining a marriage. In fact, it is the last thing you want and the very last thing they need.

Three Guiding Principles

There are three guiding principles that may help you and your teen on this journey: balance, communication, and connection

They not only help adolescents deal with the transition to adulthood, but they are the same principles that help parents strengthen their own relationship.


Teens Struggle With Balance

Basic to the challenges of adolescence, most teens have trouble with balancing everything from emotions, sexuality, friends, social media, and sleep to school assignments.

Use Your Differences to Strike a Balance

Given history, gender, and personality, it is not unusual for parents to become persuaded by their teens and polarized into extreme positions.

“Why can’t I drive with my friends to Florida? Dad trusts my driving!”

  • It may actually be an advantage that you see things differently if you can use different perspectives as points of information. 
  • Clarifying the situation from both of your perspectives and from your teen’s point of view sets the stage for collaborative problem-solving.

“You’re right, Dad thinks you are a good driver and he would know. Let’s talk more about spring break and what you were thinking of planning.”

Use Mutual Feedback to Prevent Over-Parenting

An important but difficult balance for parents is helping each other support, rather than substitute, a teen’s own efforts. 

Why can’t you let your daughter find her own job?”

  • When parents trust each other to give and take feedback, they can avoid “helicopter parenting” while providing mutual support.
  • Working together not only enhances your view of each other, but it enhances the perspective and competence of your teen. 

“Mom and I are both eager to help, but we really want to know what you have in mind for a summer job.”

Distinguish Between Your Life and Your Teen’s Life 

Some parents are so enthralled with their teen and his/her activities, friends, and achievements, they abandon a personal interest in self and their relationship. They become the 24/7 support team and audience to their child.

Some parents are so worried about their teen they abdicate their role as partner to become a vigilant caretaker. 

When love, support, or even concern for a teen bankrupts a marriage, everyone loses. 


Understanding the Language of Teens

  • Anyone who has parented teens knows that communication can get challenging.
  • If you have raised girls, you may find that most issues are vocalized as high drama. Asking someone to get off the phone to help with dinner can invite hysteria, much less avoidance of the request.
  • If you have raised boys, you may be accustomed to feeling like you are with a CIA agent. If you ask too many questions or they reveal too much, there will be problems.
  • In terms of social media—cellphones, emails, texting, etc.—there seems little difference. The only thing that matters to most teens is constant communication with peers.

Mind Tricks for Cognitive Health in Old Age

Aging for the lucky among us is inevitable. Our brains shrink and the resultant cognitive slippage is scary. There are well-established ways to increase your chances of a good trajectory for cognitive aging—or at least to slow down the progression of cognitive impairmentThey include

  • physical and mental exercise (old brains like a challenge);
  • positive social relationships;
  • diets that are fiber-rich and include nuts;
  • low alcohol intake;
  • not smoking; and
  • healthy sleep. 

These strategies are behavioral. How you “live inside of yourself” is a different story.

Fortunately, there are ways in which how you experience life can help protect your cognitive functioning.

I spent several years interviewing senior psychoanalysts considered wise by their peers to discover what they had learned about human nature and the ingredients of good psychotherapy. What became clear along the way was that these high-functioning seniors, whose ages ranged from 74 to 103, had also figured out how to maintain their mental sharpness.

Trick No. 1: Play

Playful interventions can promote brain plasticity and cognitive reserve. While well into their 80s, “Dr. N.” played violin in a string quartet and “Dr. S.” played tennis, it was from a third practitioner, “Dr. B.,” that I learned this mind trick.

As we drove 40 minutes from the train station to my house, this 90-year-old psychoanalyst who had come (with her dog!) to be interviewed talked about getting her driver’s license again and buying a house in the country. Noting she didn’t have her hiking shoes on, she assured me with a smile that the ones she was wearing were good enough if we did some hiking later after the interview. It was clear, however, that physically she could no longer hike, and her stated desires were the stuff of playful shared fantasy. Here’s the trick: The young play at being grown up; as an elder, you can play at being young. The mind is fertile ground with imminent space to play.

Trick No. 2: Resilience

“Genius is the activity which repairs the decays of things,” wrote poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. With age comes inevitable loss: of persons, work, and bodily function. Resilience is recovering from losses, getting back up after being knocked down.

Interestingly, all the wise psychoanalysts I interviewed had endured hardships and traumas, and many had early losses. These people were able torebound.

“Dr. S.” was 93 when we met. Her husband passed away when she was a young mother of five, and she coped by continuing to speak to him out loud. Her trick was to keep those who are no longer in the present, present. “Dr. B.” lost her husband without warning from a massive heart attack. A woman without other family, she felt all alone, “like 2001: A Space Odyssey,” she said. After a year or so, she took a trip to a remote part of the world, where the terrain matched how she felt inside. She stayed for a day or so, taking in the full starkness of the environment. Her trick was to find a place in nature that mirrored her internal state, and by doing so, she felt shored up and able to go on.

Trick No. 3: Emotional Balance

I spoke with “Dr. B.” from the time she was 99 until shortly before her death, just shy of 104. Her wisdom about emotion spoke volumes: “I have many thoughts about the future, and I remember the past with both joy and sadness but without nostalgia. I am grateful for being able to live in the present with what feels like an appropriate mixture of awe and despair, of hope and dread.” Depression and anxiety negatively impact cognitive function, which includes a lessening of memory function, concentration, and attentional abilities.

The mind trick is to accept that in life we have both positive and negative emotions (sometimes about the same situation) and to gravitate toward the positive. This is called “affect optimization.” Elders who learned this trick do not hyperfocus on the negative and all that is wrong. Rather, they integrate negative experiences into an overall positive whole.

Trick No. 4: Purpose

Find meaning and purpose. Research has shown that purpose in life delays dementia onset (and mortality) by several years. At 100, “Dr. B.” talked about getting instruction so that she could be more computer literate. “I’m going to get to know the beast!” she said, so that she could teach a course in the fall via Skype. Well into his 80s, “Dr. S.” started a wisdom group at his local place of worship for people to share their life’s wisdoms. In her 80s, “Dr. F.” decided to write fiction. “Dr. O.,” a holocaust survivor in her 90s, speaks to groups about her experience during the Holocaust to educate the next generation so that they “Never Forget.”

Eating French fries and other fried foods linked to higher risk of anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are the most prevalent mental disorders worldwide. 

Fried foods are a major part of the Western diet and are increasing worldwide. Previous studies have found that consuming fried or processed foods, sugary products, and beer is linked to a higher risk of depression and anxiety.

Research also shows that the frying process may change the nutrient composition of foods and produce harmful chemicals. Frying carbohydrates such as potatoes, for example, generate acrylamide, which has been linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and neurological disorders.

Until now, few studies have investigated how acrylamide may affect anxiety and depression. Further investigation of this link could inform public health policy and dietary interventions for mental health conditions. 

Recently, researchers investigated the link between fried foods consumption and depression and anxiety. They found that fried food consumption, especially fried potatoes, is linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression. Was this helpful?

They further found that acrylamide plays an important role in the development of anxiety and depression in adult zebrafish. 

The study was published in the journal PNAS. 

Analyzing the effect of fried food 

To begin, the researchers analyzed data from 140,728 people from the UK Biobank. Data included fried food consumption and incidence of anxiety and depression during an average follow-up period of 11.3 years. 

By the end of the study period, the researchers identified 8,294 cases of anxiety and 12,735 cases of depression. 

Overall, they found that those consuming more than one serving of fried food per day had a 12% higher risk of anxiety and a 7% higher risk for depression than non-consumers. 

Frequent consumers of fried food were most likely to be males, younger and active smokers. 

Next, the researchers investigated possible mechanisms for the link between fried food and depression and anxiety. 

To do so, they observed how chronic exposure to acrylamide affected zebrafish over time. They found that exposing fish to low concentrations of acrylamide induced anxiety-like and depression-like behavior.

From further tests, the researchers found that acrylamide reduced lipid metabolism, induced neuroinflammation, and impaired the permeability of the blood-brain barrier.

How Managers Can Make Feedback a Team Habit

In our work as career-development experts, we help people develop the skills to succeed in their increasingly “squiggly,” nonlinear careers. One skill that both managers and individuals frequently identify as a priority area for improvement is feedback — how to ask for it, how to give and receive it, and how to establish the principles and practices to make feedback a habit that helps people grow.

The flow of feedback is important for everyone, but all too often, it ends up feeling forced, formal, and infrequent. As a result, people’s development stalls and team growth is stifled. We’ve identified these five common feedback flaws:

  1. Focus: Very few organizations or teams have a shared understanding of what feedback is and why it matters. When individuals apply their own interpretations, this typically leads to inconsistency and misunderstandings about both the purpose and practice of feedback.
  2. Formality: When feedback is tied to formal reviews and requires filling out forms, it feels like a box-checking exercise triggered by quarterly or annual HR processes. Giving and getting feedback becomes something people feel they must do instead of something they find helpful and want to do.
  3. Fear: Fears about feedback prevent conversations from getting started and insight being actioned. Concerns about having difficult conversations can lead managers to water down their feedback communication and deliver unclear messaging. And worries about what people think results in employees avoiding asking for (and being able to act on) the insight.
  4. Frequency: The day-to-day demands on managers are overwhelming, leading to many missed opportunities for real-time feedback. Feedback therefore becomes an extra task to be remembered and often gets deprioritized during busy times.
  5. Framing: When feedback is ad hoc and disconnected from people’s priorities, it can feel too generic to be useful or meaningful. Employees are left to connect the dots to their development, which runs the risk that they won’t be able to effectively act on the insight.

To overcome these challenges, managers can take the lead on creating a shared understanding of what feedback is for, increasing the speed and ease of feedback, and unlocking difficult conversations through the art of asking. Here’s how to create a culture of fearless and frequent feedback.

Create a shared understanding about feedback.

If the goal is for feedback to become part of a team’s culture, everyone needs a shared understanding of what it is and why it matters. Without this, managers may struggle to create the commitment needed for feedback to become a regular feature of people’s work.

We aren’t proposing a universal definition of feedback for everyone to use. Instead, we recommend managers involve their teams in creating a memorable description of feedback that feels fit for purpose for the team. Questions to prompt a discussion could include:

  • What does feedback mean to you?
  • When feedback is effective, how does it feel?
  • When does feedback feel forced?

From these discussions, you can gain insight to inform your shared team definition. Here are some definitions we’ve seen teams come up with:

  • Actionable insight
  • Data for your development
  • Perspectives to help people be at their best
  • Information that enables improvement
  • Ideas to help us to grow

Increase ease and speed of delivering feedback.

Managers can kickstart a new approach to feedback by making it quicker and easier for people to give insights to each other. Here are a few approaches we’ve seen teams implement successfully:

Idea 1: “Brilliant because…”

Praise is an easy place for people to start with feedback, but it rarely provides enough insight for people to action. Feedback becomes significantly more useful when the person delivering it includes more detail to support the recipient’s development. This can be as simple as managers encouraging team members to expand on moments of praise by adding “because” to their response. For example, consider the difference between “I thought that was brilliant” and “I thought that was brilliant because you stayed so calm and composed when someone challenged what you were presenting.”

Idea 2: “Idea-for-improvement” questions

Reframing critical feedback as ideas to improve can reduce people’s fear about sharing what they think. Once a month, managers can open up this conversation by asking their teams for feedback using an “idea-for-improvement” question, such as:

  • What’s one way I could help you do your job even better?
  • What’s one change we could make to improve our team’s ways of working?
  • What’s one thing that frustrates you that you think we should change?

These questions can be added into existing meeting agendas so they become part of everyday ways of working.

Idea 3: “Challenge-and-build” meetings

These meetings are an opportunity for anyone on a team to receive feedback on an idea or project they’re working on. Employees share a summary of an idea and invite people to attend a challenge-and-build meeting about it. These meetings give individuals the opportunity — and the permission — to practice feedback and share their perspective in a way that feels safe, with the emphasis on a project or idea rather than a person. Questions could include:

  • What do you like the best about this idea?
  • Why could this idea fail?
  • How might our competitors approach solving this problem?

Improve the art of asking.

Many people associate feedback with difficult conversations, which means that even the word “feedback” is wrapped up in fear. Managers can reduce that fear by focusing on asking rather than telling, particularly in difficult discussions about people’s development.

When managers start by asking rather than telling, it transforms the dynamic of difficult conversations. These questions might sound like:

  • How do you think that meeting went?
  • What is your experience of working with that person?
  • I know you’re working on your presentation skills. How are you progressing?

By asking first, managers can then adapt their approach depending on the recipient’s level of self-awareness. Feedback follow-up questions that can help someone move from awareness to action could include:

  • What could you learn from someone who you see do that well?
  • Where’s a comfortable place you could develop that skill?
  • What could you do differently next time?

How to Feel Less Stressed as a Parent

Parents are currently experiencing an unprecedented level of stress. Not surprisingly, research finds that parental stress, as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression, increased significantly following the pandemic. The stressful disruptions of the pandemic may have also increased the likelihood of families experiencing more traumatic incidents. For example, 29 percent of parents report that their children have witnessed more domestic violence, and 42 percent report that their children have experienced increased verbal and emotional abuse following the pandemic. 

At the same time, gun violence in the United States has increased to the point that death by firearms is now the leading cause of death in children(surpassing car accidents which were the leading cause of death in children for 60 years). 

These recent events have also made parents feel uncertain about what they previously considered absolute truths, such as safety at school, their health, and their access to friends and hobbies that they enjoy. Research finds that experiencing this type of uncertainty will likely increase stress and anxiety. The brain requires a lot of energy to process uncertainty. This takes energy away from other important processes in the brain and body, potentially leading to difficulty with memory and executive functioning and health issues.

Finally, many parents may also be experiencing lingering “brain fog” after the pandemic, making it harder for them to function in their everyday lives. Research finds that “brain fog” (meaning an experience of feeling confused or “out of it,” mental slowness, or difficulty concentrating or remembering) is relatively common both in people who were infected by COVID-19 and those who were not, likely due to the stress and disruptions of the pandemic. 

How can parents reduce their stress?

So how do we cope with this inordinate amount of stress? Is there anything we can do to decrease our stress levels?

1. Accept that you can’t be a “perfect” parent: A lot of our stress as parents involves feeling guilty about ways we have “failed” our kids or worrying that we might make the wrong decision for our children. Research finds that an intensive parenting style and child-centrism (meaning consistently prioritizing your child’s needs over your own) are associated with increased stress and depression in parents.

To avoid this parenting style, try to resist over-scheduling your child with activities that stress you out, prioritize your own needs occasionally, do not feel pressured to engage with your child every moment of the day, and allow your child to play independently. Also, remind yourself that being a “perfect” parent should not even be the goal. Not only is perfectionism likely to cause psychological distress for you as the parent, but being a perfectionist as a parent may also cause anxiety in your children and make them more likely to become a perfectionist themselves.

2. Learn how to tolerate uncertainty: Uncertainty is a huge source of stress, and it is even more stressful for people with high levels of “intolerance of uncertainty, “meaning people who tend to see any uncertain situation as negative. Intolerance of uncertainty is associated with anxiety and depression, and post-traumatic stress following a traumatic event. Intolerance of uncertainty may also make people less resilient, increasing the risk that negative life events lead to anxiety.

The resistance to uncertainty may contribute to engaging in behaviors aimed at reducing uncertainty, such as seeking reassurance from others, researching all possible outcomes, procrastinating or avoiding tasks, refusing to delegate to others, or keeping “busy” as a distraction, which increases anxiety about uncertainty.

If you feel like this description fits you, research on the treatment of intolerance of uncertainty suggests that you should first accept that it is impossible to be certain about everything in life. Rather than avoid uncertainty, you can seek out unpredictable or uncertain situations without seeking reassurance from others, analyzing all possible outcomes, or distracting yourself. 

3. Practice mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness may seem like an annoying suggestion to an already stressed parent, but it really only needs to take a few minutes. Research finds that mindfulness can help parents accept and not overreact to negative life events, understand their children’s emotions, control their own emotions in challenging parenting situations, and have more compassion for themselves and their children.

Research also shows that mindfulness interventions are very effective at reducing parenting stress. So how exactly do busy parents learn how to practice mindfulness? Mindfulness apps can be a great place to start! A review of mindfulness apps on iTunes and Google Apps provided expert ratings on various apps and found that Headspace had the highest score, followed by Smiling Mind, iMindfulness, and Mindfulness Daily. Another study found that the Calm app reduced stress and increased self-compassion, and improved sleep issues.

Financial Freedom in Retirement Is All About Cash Flow

If things you thought were true were actually wrong, when would you want to know?

When I was a child, I recall my mother saying that drinking and driving was against the law. For many years after that, whenever I saw someone drinking a soda while driving, I assumed they were criminals. Years later, I figured out that my mother was talking about drinking alcohol while driving.

Many people go through life believing things without ever considering the possibility that those things are actually wrong. I see it every day in nearly every conversation I have with people: the misinterpretation of financial terms, the misapplication of various wealth strategies and confusion about how much risk they are actually taking.

Why does this happen? Well, the internet gives everyone instant access to unlimited amounts of information. Unfortunately, there is rarely any context, and we have a tendency as human beings to process information as true or false based on the source and a basic understanding of the topic. If Google says it, then it must be true! As a result, people end up with a false sense of confidence and a laundry list of beliefs that aren’t necessarily true.

Misconceptions come with costly consequences

Your financial future rests on your understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and the consequences are real. Any misinterpretations you may have about money could potentially destroy your quality of life and reduce your chances of experiencing true financial freedom.

The biggest obstacle to unlearning something you have always thought was true is to accept the possibility of having inaccurate information. Once you do that, unlearning bad financial information is not as complicated as you may think.

The biggest misconception I see over and over again is the focus on accumulation. People tend to evaluate their progress or level of financial success based on how much money they accumulate. While having money in the bank is important, reliable cash flow should be the ultimate goal.

Think about it: You can survive without any money accumulated, but you cannot easily get by without cash flow. Cash flow can be generated in any number of ways: a paycheck from your job, a business you own or a passive-income source. Regardless of where it comes from, cash flow is like water – you simply cannot survive without it. 

How to know if your money is fulfilling its primary purpose

Money is obviously a big part of our lives, so we have a tendency to desire more of it. But how do you decide how much is enough?

What I find is that people often use arbitrary account balances and rates of return to assess how much progress they have made, but neither of these things actually indicates whether your money is fulfilling its primary purpose: income replacement, also known as cash flow.

While having money is, of course, part of the equation, it is the wrong measurement for success. A lot of people with plenty of money still struggle with not feeling financially free or confident, and that is a problem.

Achieving financial confidence starts with answering these two questions:

  • How much actual income do you have coming in right now that you don’t have to work to receive? I am talking about actual dollars being deposited into your checking account or brokerage account.
  • If you quit working tomorrow, how much money would you need to cover all of your expenses? This includes taxes, trips, lifestyle expenses, etc.

If you’re like most people, there is a gap between how much income you’re receiving and how much you need. (That is why you work, to fill that gap.) If you want to stop working, you’ll need to figure out how to close this gap with passive income.

How is financial security different from financial freedom?

So, how do you do that? Start by understanding the difference between financial security and financial freedom.

The idea of financial security cannot necessarily be defined by exact numbers or percentages and is often expressed as a feeling of safety. That’s why most people focus on reducing debt and accumulating money. They believe that spending less, paying less in interest and earning more on their investments is what will lead them to a successful retirement.

Having large sums of money brings a sense of financial security, but it does not create financial freedom. If you’re like most people, knowing creates more confidence than assuming, and a good way to know is to complete a Gap Report™.

Security vs. independence vs. freedom

I speak with people every week who have millions of dollars saved but don’t feel financially free. They say things like, “I think I will be OK,” or “I feel OK with what I have,” but their word choices — “I think” and “I feel” — say it all: They are not confident.

In short, if you have large sums of money, but you are still working to support your income needs, worried about market returns or uncertain about the future… that is not freedom.

How to Thrive With Your Community

Humans are social animals, and we need our communities to thrive. Whether it’s our family, friends, coworkers, or even just fellow citizens, our well-being is inherently connected to the well-being of those around us. When we get along, we share resources, knowledge, and companionship, helping us to navigate life’s inevitable challenges. And yet, it’s not always that easy. Because regardless of how strong our bonds may be, we still face conflicts, disagreements, and sometimes even outright hostility. It’s like we are in a constant tug-of-war between our own interests and those of others, and neither side can ever really win.

If we insist on everything going our way, we become selfish, alienate the people in our lives, and are likely to be ignored (or even abandoned). If, however, we constantly submit to the pressure from others, we lose our individuality, forego what we actually want, and end up resenting those whose needs are being fulfilled. Neither scenario is desirable. And in one form or another, we face almost countless versions of these conflicts each and every day.

  • Do we drive the kids to school? Or do we let them walk?
  • Do we shovel the snow in our street? Or do we leave this task to the neighbors?
  • Do we focus while at work? Or do we spend our time procrastinating?
  • Do we recycle? Or do we throw it all in just one bin labeled trash?
  • Do we pay our full taxes? Or do we take advantage of, uh, loopholes?
  • Etc.

There are many ways in which our own needs can clash with the needs of other people (or with the group at large). If we want to thrive, we have to account not only for what we ourselves selfishly want but also for the interests of other people and of our community. But how can we maintain that balance? How can we ensure that we tend to our own needs, while not infringing on those around us? How can we thrive, not just individually, but collectively?

American economist and Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom identified eight “design principles” to effectively manage group resources and development. Paul Atkins, David Sloan Wilson, and I (with Ostrom’s early help, before her untimely death) used them to create an intervention that can help you and your groups thrive.

Principle #1 Shared Identity and Purpose

The first principle is to share common ground with the people in your group. We naturally do this in superficial ways with our families by last names, or with favorite sports teams by wearing logos and colors, but in a deeper way, we do it by shared values. Helping those in voluntary groups you are part of to know and express how their chosen purposes are reflected in the group and its activities is a powerful step toward group cooperation.

Principle #2 Balancing Benefits and Contributions

Have you ever belonged to a group where some members were treated unfairly, or where leaders got all the goodies but everyone else did all the work? If so, you know how toxic this can be for everyone involved. The second principle is to care about equity, to ensure that people in your group benefit in a balanced way linked to their contributions. If you are a group leader, for example, setting that example will help the group work well together. Which brings me to my next point.

Principle #3 Fair and Inclusive Decision-Making

The third principle is to give people a voice in how decisions are made. By doing so, people are more motivated to make an effort, less stressed in the process, and happier with the final result. For instance, in a classroom, teachers should give their students a say in the learning process by involving them in setting goals, objectives, and rules.

Principle #4 Monitoring Agreed-Upon Behaviors

No rules or guidelines can benefit anyone if they are not followed. For this matter, the fourth rule is to monitor agreed-upon behaviors. People act more prosocially when they know others are watching, partially because they care about their own reputation. Be aware, however, that monitoring doesn’t become excessive, or used to force people into action. No one likes living under a microscope.

Principle #5 Graduated Responding to Behavior

When people overstep, it’s important to address the situation, but in an adjusted way. For instance, when someone has a habit of missing deadlines, you may want to start with a one-on-one conversation before considering more drastic measures. Similarly, when someone goes above and beyond their own responsibilities, they deserve to get recognized accordingly.

How daily breathing exercises may help lower Alzheimer’s disease risk

Breathing exercises done for 20 minutes two times a day helped decrease peptides associated with Alzheimer’s disease in the blood, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers say the findings indicate that these daily exercises could potentially reduce the risk of developing this form of dementia.

In he study, participants used a biofeedback unit while completing breathing exercises for four weeks. Researchers clipped a heart monitor onto the ear and connected it to a laptop in front of the participant.

There were 108 participants, with half aged 18 to 30 and half aged 55 to 80.

Half the participants listened to calming music or thought of calming images, such as a beach scene or a walk in the park. They also viewed a heart rate monitor on the laptop screen to ensure their heart rate remained steady.

The second group of participants paced their breathing to match the pacer on the laptop. When a square rose, they inhaled. When it dropped, they exhaled. This exercise was designed to increase breathing-induced oscillations in their heart rate. Their heart rates rose during inhale and dipped during the exhale.

The researchers completed blood tests before the start of the breathing exercises and again after four weeks.

They looked at two peptides – amyloid 40 and 42. Scientists say that they believe an accumulation of these peptides triggers the Alzheimer’s disease process. A higher level of the peptides in the blood could indicate a greater risk of developing the disease.

What are amyloid beta peptides?

Amyloid beta peptides are the suspected “bad guy” in Alzheimer’s disease, according to Dr. David Merrill, an adult and geriatric psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Brain Health Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California.

They may be produced in the body due to stress. If so, it would make sense that relaxation breathing would lower the levels.

“Even better would be mitigating the stressors in the first place. Healthy body, healthy mind,” Merrill told Medical News Today.

“The accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides in the brain is the first step in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis,” said Dr. Martin J. Sadowski, a professor of neurology, psychiatry, biochemistry, and molecular pharmacology at NYU Langone Health in New York.

“This process takes a number of years, and it is believed to be modulated by several factors, which remain unidentified,” he told Medical News Today.

Loneliness Is As Deadly As Smoking, Surgeon General Says

About half of U.S. adults say they’ve experienced loneliness, Dr. Vivek Murthy said in a report from his office.

“We now know that loneliness is a common feeling that many people experience. It’s like hunger or thirst. It’s a feeling the body sends us when something we need for survival is missing,” Murthy told The Associated Press in an interview. “Millions of people in America are struggling in the shadows, and that’s not right. That’s why I issued this advisory to pull back the curtain on a struggle that too many people are experiencing.”

The declaration is intended to raise awareness around loneliness but won’t unlock federal funding or programming devoted to combatting the issue.

Research shows that Americans, who have become less engaged with worship houses, community organizations and even their own family members in recent decades, have steadily reported an increase in feelings of loneliness. The number of single households has also doubled over the last 60 years.

But the crisis deeply worsened when COVID-19 spread, prompting schools and workplaces to shut their doors and sending millions of Americans to isolate at home away from relatives or friends.

People culled their friend groups during the coronavirus pandemic and reduced time spent with those friends, the surgeon general’s report finds. Americans spent about 20 minutes a day in person with friends in 2020, down from 60 minutes daily nearly two decades earlier.

The loneliness epidemic is hitting young people, ages 15 to 24, especially hard. The age group reported a 70% drop in time spent with friends during the same period.

Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by nearly 30%, with the report revealing that those with poor social relationships also had a greater risk of stroke and heart disease. Isolation also elevates a person’s likelihood for experiencing depression, anxiety and dementia.

The surgeon general is calling on workplaces, schools, technology companies, community organizations, parents and other people to make changes that will boost the country’s connectedness. He advises people to join community groups and put down their phones when they’re catching up with friends; employers to think carefully about their remote work policies; and health systems to provide training for doctors to recognize the health risks of loneliness.

Technology has rapidly exacerbated the loneliness problem, with one study cited in the report finding that people who used social media for two hours or more daily were more than twice as likely to report feeling socially isolated than those who were on such apps for less than 30 minutes a day.

6 Principles From the Navy SEAL Code That Will Make Your Team Stronger

Business leaders are constantly searching for ways to build highly effective teams that can deliver results in a rapidly changing business landscape. I’ve searched high and low, drawing inspiration from philosophy, history and literature. However, I’ve found the deep tradition of leadership established in the U.S. military, and specifically the Navy SEALs’ code of conduct, to be particularly helpful.

The SEAL code is a set of guiding principles that embody the warrior ethos of the Navy SEALs. It is a code of conduct that all SEALs are expected to live by, both on and off the battlefield. The code is based on a set of core values that are central to the SEAL ethos, including loyalty, honor, courage, discipline, respect and excellence.

These values are not just ideals or aspirations but a way of life that SEALs are expected to live and uphold at all times. They are the foundation of the SEAL ethos and are critical to the success of SEAL teams in achieving their missions.

Business leaders can learn a great deal from the SEAL code and apply its principles to develop highly effective teams in mid-sized organizations. Here are some ways that business leaders can utilize the SEAL code to build strong, cohesive and high-performing teams:

1. Build a culture of trust and loyalty

The SEAL code emphasizes the importance of loyalty to country, team and mission. This same sense of loyalty and commitment can be applied to business teams, where employees are expected to put the needs of the company and the team above their interests.

Business leaders can build a culture of trust and loyalty by fostering open communication, encouraging collaboration and creating a shared sense of purpose and mission. When employees feel that they are part of a team that is working towards a common goal, they are more likely to feel a sense of commitment to the team and the company.

2. Encourage excellence in all things

The SEAL code emphasizes the importance of striving for excellence in all aspects of life. This same emphasis on excellence can be applied to business teams, where employees are expected to continuously improve and strive for better results.

Business leaders can encourage excellence in all things by setting high standards for performance, providing opportunities for training and development and recognizing and rewarding employees who demonstrate excellence in their work. When employees feel that they are part of a team that values and rewards excellence, they are more likely to strive for it themselves.

3. Foster a culture of discipline and self-control

The SEAL code emphasizes the importance of maintaining a high level of discipline and self-control, both in training and in everyday life. This same discipline and self-control can be applied to business teams, where employees are expected to stay focused, on track and deliver results.

Business leaders can foster a culture of discipline and self-control by setting clear expectations for behavior and performance, providing regular feedback and coaching, and holding employees accountable for their actions. When employees feel that they are part of a team that values discipline and self-control, they are more likely to adopt these same values in their own work.

4. Encourage courage in the face of fear

The SEAL code emphasizes the importance of demonstrating courage in the face of fear and acting decisively and confidently even when faced with uncertainty. This same courage can be applied to business teams, where employees are expected to take risks, make tough decisions, and navigate uncertain terrain.

Millions poised to get a better credit score after medical debt dropped from reports

Folks with medical collections under $500 may see their scores increase by 21 points within the first quarter after their last medical collection is removed from their credit report, an analysis from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found. Those with debts higher than $500 could see their credit improve by as much as 32 points.

While the improved creditworthiness could expand access to credit for millions of Americans, the study found, many lawmakers say more could be done to mitigate the negative effects of medical debt.

“I am asking your companies to stop putting medical debt on these reports,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D-OH), Chair of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee told the three main credit bureau CEOs last week.

“After increasing scrutiny and pressure, one year ago, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all announced they would significantly change how medical collection debt is reported. This is a positive first step, but it is not enough.”

Creditworthiness improved

Last month, the nation’s three main consumer reporting agencies announced the removal of medical debt collections under $500 from consumer credit reports.

The move concludes a series of steps that Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have undertaken since last year following a CFPB probe on the negative impacts of this type of debt on vulnerable citizens.

In July 2022, the three removed paid medical collection debt from credit reports. They also increased the time before an unpaid medical collection would appear on a credit report from six months to one year.

With the latest effort, the CFPB’s analysis estimated that approximately 22.8 million people had at least one medical collection removed from their credit reports and 15.6 million had all medical collections eliminated from their credit reports.

Further, the CFPB analysis documented how access to credit was expended after the elimination.

For instance, six quarters after the last medical debt was removed, available revolving credit increased by an average $1,028 and the total available installment credit increased by $4,123. Additionally, the consumer watchdog noted that a 20-point improvement in credit score typically lowers the upfront fee on mortgages by 0.25% of the loan balance, or $625 in savings for a mortgage of $250,000.

Additionally, the CFPB analysis found that consumers are more likely to apply for a mortgage in the first quarter after a medical collection is removed.

The CFPB’s analysis builds on similar findings from other companies.

In a separate analysis from VantageScore, medical debt was found to provide little effects on predictive performance or borrowers payment habits. As of January, the credit score development company decided to eliminate medical debt or medical collection data, regardless of its payment status, from its VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0 scoring models.

“Someone with otherwise excellent credit could easily lose 100 points or more off their credit score because a medical bill went to collections,” Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate, told Yahoo Finance. “That could make a huge difference in terms of your approval odds and the interest rates you’ll pay on various financial products.”

Some folks remain affected

While the national credit reporting agencies have taken steps to reduce the burden of medical collections from credit reports, medical debt and the system’s lack of transparency continues to trouble some individuals.

Last year, the CFPB noted that medical debt disproportionately affects low-income families and communities of color, perpetuating the racial wealth gap – and hurting their relationship with the health care system.

The CFPB analysis also noted the difficulty individuals have in disputing medical collections and ultimately having them removed from their reports on their own.

“It’s an effort to take off things that were wrongly hurting people’s scores,” Rossman said. “It’s possible that this debt someone is being accused of failing to pay didn’t even belong to them – it was the insurance company’s responsibility, or perhaps even a billing error.”

That’s why some lawmakers say the partial removal falls short by leaving those larger-dollar collections accounts on people’ reports.

“If you have $1,000 in medical debt, you’re no less credit-worthy than someone with $500,” Brown said. “It stems from the same problem – someone in your family or you got sick… No one should have their financial future destroyed because of a medical emergency, or a sick family member.”

How to Navigate Paying Expensive Hospital Bills

According to, a 3-day stay averages $30,000. Even if you visit the emergency room for just a few hours, the bill could be high simply because hospital care is expensive in the United States. Unfortunately, these costs can affect whether people seek care at all, as this recent study reveals.

The best thing you can do in these situations is try to keep a level head and develop a game plan for verifying and paying your hospital bills. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re paying the right amount and exhausting all resources from financial assistance programs.

Get an Itemized Hospital Bill

Start by asking for an itemized bill (if you didn’t already receive one). Review every charge for accuracy. Note any charges for supplies or services you don’t believe you received.

Also, if you have insurance, talk to your provider to verify what they’ll cover and what portion you’re responsible for. Ask about specific charges to make sure you’re getting the right amount of coverage.

If you believe it’s warranted, contact the hospital or provider’s billing department to verify the charges or file a dispute. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

How to Tell if a Hospital Bill is Accurate and Justified

Figuring out the accuracy of medical charges can be difficult. Most people don’t have much experience dealing with hospital billing. But as of January 1, 2021, hospitals are now required to publicly post the cost for about 300 standard “shoppable services,” such as lab tests, X-rays, and other kinds of imaging. This is called hospital price transparency.

The idea is that you should be able to search for a local hospital to find a publicly posted list of charges. However, not all hospitals are complying with the hospital transparency law, according to this recent review, so you may have a hard time locating costs for a particular hospital.

If you can find it, the list should include the medical code associated with the service, as well as how much the hospital charges each insurance provider for that service. You can match the codes from your bill with the codes in the master price list and verify that you were charged the correct amount. Keep in mind, unfortunately, private hospitals can essentially charge what they want.

For example, here’s the list for MD Anderson, a hospital in Houston that specializes in cancer treatment. Another tool to use is the Medicare Price Lookup tool for pricing an outpatient procedure. If nothing else, it serves as a comparison. As a general trend, many hospital bills have become extremely detailed about each cost charge, possibly in response to the new transparency law.

What to Know About Hospitals Overcharging

Hospitals typically don’t charge more than they’re allowed to, but private hospitals set prices with insurance companies, and those prices have no cap to speak of. The amount they can charge is shockingly high. Costs for emergency room care can vary wildly by hospital, according to this 2017 study.

Hospitals Overcharging Uninsured Patients

If you hear of or know someone who has been overcharged, it’s likely related to a Medicare or Medicaid issue. Federal and state governments determine the reimbursement rate for services covered by Medicaid and Medicare, so those costs function as a cost baseline. Hospitals also often charge much more when the patient has private insurance.

Apply for Available Assistance Programs and Charity Care

The first thing to do is to contact the hospital’s billing department to explain your situation, and ask what aid is available. Ask for the hospital’s charity care form to determine if you fit within the qualifying income guidelines for assistance. All nonprofit hospitals must offer some form of financial assistance or charity care to reduce or eliminate hospital bills for eligible patients. For-profit hospitals may offer it as well. It’s best to fill out the hospital’s charity care form before you leave the hospital—long before any bills land in collections.

Generally, the parameters for financial assistance programs are up to individual hospitals. Most programs calculate assistance according to your income as it relates to the federal poverty level. In Washington state, for example, the charity care law recently expanded to include “all Washingtonians within 300 percent of the federal poverty level” as eligible for hospital financial assistance. It’s worth checking your state laws.

Connect with a Nonprofit

Hospitals might also offer discounts or reductions according to certain criteria. They might also offer payment plans, but it’s best to explore the possibility of charity care or discounts first before agreeing to a payment plan.

If you’re rejected for charity care, you can appeal or look for other resources. Don’t give up. MMI partners with, a national nonprofit that negotiates and advocates for patients.

Can You Sue a Hospital for Charging Too Much?

Are expensive hospital bills worth taking legal action? Likely not. Unless you believe that the charges were fraudulent (you were charged for goods and services that you never received), suing a hospital won’t help you settle your bills.

The 116 Best Gifts For Dads In 2023

If you think of us enough to buy us something, you’re 90% of the way there. And that last 10%? Ok, that’s the tough part. How do you get us a gift that is unique and useful, something we’ll not just like but actually love? You’ve come to the right place.

For our 2023 list of best gifts for dads, we’ve curated products that we know and love, ones we can say with confidence stand out from the rest of the pack. We guarantee you’ll find something here to make him smile, smell good, look good, or feel cool.

Click read more for the full list with links.

Accept, Don’t Resist, Your Negativity

When you read the title, you may have had a double take: “A mental coach is telling me to accept my negativity? How can that be?” I realize that my statement is counterintuitive, but let me show you why accepting your negativity is actually the best thing to do whenever anything unhelpful enters your mind.

To begin, negativity is one of the most common reasons why people come to me. Despite having demonstrated in your life that you can achieve your goals, your mind may be filled with negativity, uncertainty, doubt, worry, “what ifs,” anxiety, frustration, fear, or anger, particularly just before important events when positivity is so critical.

There are two reasons why you go to the “dark side.” First, regardless of your objective abilities, you may lack confidence in that ability. This disconnect is so important because you may have all the ability to be successful, but if you don’t believe you have that ability, you won’t give your best effort to fully realize that ability.

Second, that negativity keeps your expectations low, which reduces the pressure you put on yourself. It also protects you from the pain of failure if you do give it your all and you don’t achieve your goals; you have an excuse for your failure. This reaction relates to a fear of failure (a topic you can learn more about by reading my four-part series). In other words, by being negative, if you end up performing poorly (at work or in school, or in some other setting), you won’t be that disappointed because you will have expected it. And if you actually exceed your self-imposed low expectations, then it feels like a bigger victory than it might actually be (and a big relief that you didn’t fail).

Regardless of the cause of your negativity, it will only hurt you in your efforts to push your limits and realize your goals. So, the question you must ask is: “What do I do when negativity rears its ugly head in my mind?”

Resisting Negativity

Negativity is very large and heavy psychologically and emotionally, meaning once it gets in your mind, it is very difficult to remove it. The typical reaction that most people have is to tell themselves, “Stop being so negative.” In other words, you try to push that negativity out of your mind. Unfortunately, that approach usually doesn’t work. Here’s an exercise that explains why: Don’t think about a pink elephant. What did you do? You likely thought about a pink elephant, despite my asking you not to. But really, don’t think about a pink elephant, don’t think about a pink elephant, don’t think about a pink elephant. What happens? You can’t get that pesky pink elephant out of your mind. Here’s why. Imagine the pink elephant in a room and you want to get it out of the room. Have you ever tried to move a pink elephant (or any colored elephant, for that matter)? Probably not, but I think it’s safe to assume that, because of its size and weight, you would not be able to move it. Negativity is like that pink elephant.

How Entrepreneurs Can Make Money Writing a Book

In addition, authors get instant credibility, authority and opportunities such as speaking engagements, meet-the-author events, guest blogging, spots on expert panels and more. So, it’s no wonder that savvy entrepreneurs are using books today to build their personal and professional brands and to grow their businesses overall.

I will explain to you how this works and what you need to know before diving into the deep end of book writing and publishing.

Why should entrepreneurs write non-fiction books?

Since self-publishing has made becoming an author much more accessible for the general population, more and more entrepreneurs are using books to promote their brands and businesses. They are having great success using this strategy because people buy from people they like. But for them to like you, they have to get to know you. And that is the hard part.

Think about it. When you are online — on social media or checking your email — you are probably doing several things at once, aren’t you? And if you are like me, you might have a small child or two competing for your attention as well. As we speak, my daughter is making a house out of recently delivered Amazon boxes and popping the bubbles in the wrap that came along…not exactly the quiet, distraction-free environment needed to be able to soak up the information in front of me, is it?

But think about when you read a book. What do you do? Where do you go? I wouldn’t try to read a book right now in this environment. I know that just opening a book would be like a Bat signal to my 7-year-old to show me something… anything, … right away!

I know that if I want to read a book, I need to find a quiet place and a block of time, all for myself. This is what readers naturally do when they sit down to read a book. And there is no other medium today that elicits the undivided attention of someone more than a simple book. Preferably paperback.

How much does it cost to publish a book?

To be honest… a lot of money. Books are just one of those things that costs a lot to produce, especially if you want to produce a high-quality, successful one.

If you are considering self-publishing, you will have to do all the hiring when it comes to building the team to produce your book. How much you spend will depend on your current skill set and how many people you need to hire to fill in the blanks.

This may or may not include a:

  • Book/writing coach
  • Cover designer (for both electronic and print versions)
  • Developmental editor
  • Beta readers
  • Line editor
  • Proofreader
  • Formatter
  • SEO researcher
  • Amazon category researcher
  • Copywriter
  • Website designer
  • Publisher
  • Book marketer
  • Social media marketer
  • Public relations team

And more. There are a lot of moving pieces that go into a successful book.

Even someone who is experienced in writing and technologically advanced can expect to spend several thousand dollars on their book project in editing and cover design alone. More if they want it to be successful, which requires hiring public relations experts and marketers long-term or putting in all of the hours yourself.

Looking at the previous list might be intimidating, but I promise you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Remember that becoming an author in your niche puts you in front of your ideal client, who has given you their unlimited attention.

How do authors make money?

The way that authors make money isn’t through book royalties. If you publish traditionally, the publisher will keep 80-90% of your royalties anyway. If you opt for the smarter option, self-publishing, you will keep 100% of your royalties AFTER you split them with the platform you upload our book to. Either way, your royalty will be pennies compared to other opportunities to grow your brand and business.

Realistically, you might only sell 250 copies of your book, like the average non-fiction book published today. So, you need to make those sales count. You need to give the best to the readers in your writing and offer them the best options to work with you if they decide. Basically, your non-fiction book is your sales funnel.

Entrepreneurs turned authors who have figured this out are using their non-fiction books to sell or market their:


It makes complete sense. Why worry about a few cents in book royalties — that you are splitting with a platform like Amazon — when you can sell premium products and services for thousands of dollars per sale?

If you have an offer that includes even one of the sales strategies listed above, then publishing a book in your niche featuring your business is an easy decision.

More Than 70% of Americans Feel Failed by the Health Care System

Despite spending more money per capita on health care than any other wealthy country in the world, the U.S. struggles to match other nations in life expectancy and other health outcomes. The new Harris Poll survey, which was conducted from February to March 2023 and commissioned by the American Academy of Physician Associates, shows that patient satisfaction is also suffering due to the high costs, inaccessibility, and confusing logistics of U.S. medical care.

More than half of the roughly 2,500 U.S. adults who took the survey graded the U.S. health care system a “C” or below. When asked about factors that prevent people in the U.S. from getting care, cost was the most common criticism, followed by the system’s focus on profits, inaccessibility of insurance coverage, and confusion around what is covered by insurance.

Many respondents pointed to similar problems when asked about their own personal issues with the medical system. Only 27% of people who took the survey said the U.S. medical system meets all of their needs, while the rest listed complaints including how long it takes to get an appointment (31% of respondents), high costs (26%), limitations of insurance coverage (23%), and subpar focus on preventive care and wellness (19%).

The Best Way to Run a Business Meeting

Meeting etiquette is key to good business, as face-time allows for clear communication and effective decision making. But all too often, meetings run longer than they should and fail to keep attendees engaged.

Whether you’re meeting with partners, vendors or employees, showcase your boardroom brilliance with these meeting musts.

Determine the objective. A clear goal will set the tone for the meeting and determine its direction. Your goal should be specific and measurable. If you’re expecting attendees to brainstorm, ask each participant to arrive with a list of ideas.

Ask yourself if a meeting is actually necessary. Meetings can be expensive. To calculate the precise cost, multiply the hourly wage of each person present by the length of the gathering. If your objective can be met through e-mail, conference call, Skype, or even a quick one-on-one discussion, skip the meeting altogether.

Invite decision-makers. The most effective meetings involve stakeholders to ensure decisions can be made immediately. If a key decision-maker is unavailable, ask a subordinate to attend. Ideally, this person will be able to speak for their supervisor, and–at the very least–take notes and report back.

Stand up. Routine meetings designed to touch base with employees and discuss status reports can usually be accomplished in 15 minutes or less. You’ll be more likely to keep the meeting short and to the point if everyone remains standing.

Schedule strategically. If you want each meeting participant to be fully engaged, avoid Monday mornings, when everyone is catching up on e-mail. Also avoid Friday afternoons, when employees are busy wrapping up the week and looking forward to the weekend. Schedule meetings on a day and time when participants are most likely to engage.

Set a time limit and stick to it. Meetings that drag on for hours cause attendees to lose patience and focus. Attention spans are short, and time is valuable. The most productive meetings start on time and end on time. 

Prioritize the agenda. Don’t leave the most important topics for last. To ensure that the highest priority objectives are met, discuss the most pertinent issues first. That way, if someone needs to step away or leave the meeting early, you’ll still have accomplished your main goals.

Stick to the agenda. The agenda is an outline–a framework–to keep everyone on topic and to maintain the meeting’s flow. The agenda should be kept to one page and should not include anything other than main topics of conversation. Sidebar conversations waste valuable time. If participants insist on talking out of turn, step in and suggest that they talk after the meeting or schedule a separate discussion. Then segue immediately back to the topic at hand.

Taxes 2023: Here’s what to do if you can’t pay your tax bill

Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service offers some repayment options to help you manage your owed debt.

“It is a common situation for taxpayers to run into, not having enough money to pay taxes that are due when they file a tax return,” Eric Bronnenkant, a CPA, certified financial planner, and head of tax at Betterment, told Yahoo Finance. “But there are multiple options that can help you repay that debt.”

Here’s what you should know.

Short-term repayment plan

One way to pay off your tax debt is by applying for a short-term repayment plan.

“This option is available for taxpayers who owe less than $100,000 dollars [in combined tax, penalties and interest],” Bronnenkant said. “There is no formal application [set up fee] and accrued penalties and interest apply until the balance is paid in full.”

Short-term repayment plans offer a repayment period of a maximum of 180 days. You can apply online, or call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and file a formal application through a Form 9465 to set up the installment agreement.

You can pay the owed amount directly from your checking or savings account through Direct Pay or by check, money order or debit/credit card. But there are fees when paying by card.

Long-term repayment plan

If you can’t pay off your owed balance in less than 180 days, you can also apply for a long-term repayment plan, Bronnenkant said. To qualify, taxpayers must have filed all required returns and owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties, and interest.

This repayment plan requires a setup fee of $31 if you choose to pay through monthly automatic withdrawals or $130 if you opt for a non-direct debit repayment. According to the IRS, automatic payments are also required if your owed balance is more than $25,000 for individuals and $10,000 for businesses.

“Application fees typically apply but can be reduced for low-income taxpayers,” Bronnenkant said, adding that long-term repayment can have a maximum term of 72 months.

Just like the short-term repayment plan, you can also apply directly through the IRS website, or contact an IRS representative and apply through a Form 9465.

Yet Another Study Suggests Drinking Isn’t Good for Your Health

That conclusion may be surprising to anyone who’s heard that moderate drinking—usually defined as no more than two alcoholic beverages per day for men, or one for women—is good for the heart, potentially helping prevent heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks. Numerous studies have also linked the Mediterranean diet, red wine and all, with long, healthy lives.

“The idea that alcohol is good for your health is so ingrained in many cultures,” says Tim Stockwell, who co-authored the new meta-analysis and is a professor of psychology at Canada’s University of Victoria and former director of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. While there’s still some back and forth in the research world, Stockwell says that concept is built on decades of flawed science.

Many studies on alcohol and health compared light or moderate drinkers to people who abstain from alcohol, without adequately accounting for the fact that many people quit drinking because they have health problems or previously drank heavily. Many studies also focused on older adults, in whom this trend may be particularly apparent. “People who are still healthy in their 70s and 80s can continue to drink,” Stockwell says. “Those who become frail, are on medication, or socialize less [tend to] stop or cut down on their drinking.” Moderate drinkers may indeed be healthier than abstainers, but alcohol isn’t necessarily the reason.

Stockwell and his colleagues, who published their meta-analysis in JAMA Network Open on Mar. 31, set out to correct some of those issues. They reviewed more than 100 previously published studies on alcohol consumption and mortality, involving nearly 5 million research participants in all, and accounted for how “sick quitters,” older study groups, and other factors may have skewed earlier results.

When compared to lifetime non-drinkers, people who had roughly two drinks per day or less did not have a significantly lower risk of premature death, the researchers found. People who drank heavily—defined as about three drinks per day or more—had higher mortality risks than non- or occasional drinkers.

How to Increase Alignment and Productivity with the OKR Framework

But it’s not due to lack of effort. While company leaders will talk about what’s important to them in the coming business cycle, the message often gets lost because it lacks a clear framework that succinctly says what’s important. This can leave individuals and teams feeling lost or confused about their company’s goals and the impact of their work.

A recent poll found only 28% feel fully connected to their company’s purpose. Let’s fix that.

The OKR framework provides a structure for setting high-level Objectives and subsequent Key Results that leaders expect their organization will meet. Once leaders have set clear expectations, business units can use that information to create their own OKRs, followed by teams and even individuals.

During this event we’ll discuss how OKRs are being used in businesses across the globe. We’ll also share some good – and not so good – examples that will help you understand how this framework can help your entire workforce align their actions with company-wide goals, even during turbulent times.

Join Entrepreneur for a free webinar called How to Increase Alignment and Productivity with the OKR Framework, presented by Oracle NetSuite and Entrepreneur. Leading the discussion will be moderator Terry Rice. He will be joined by Arthur Wittman, a Content Director at NetSuite.

Register Now

Is It Always Good to Be in Sync With Your Partner?

A sense of connection with your relationship partner can occur at many levels. You may both laugh at the same comment or event, giving each of you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Conversely, you may both become equally angered in the midst of an argument, making it even more unpleasant than it needed to be.

Where do you believe these feelings of connection come from? It would make sense that they have some physiological underpinning. Indeed, according to a new study by University of Texas psychologist Adela Timmons and colleagues (2023), this “linkage,” as they call it, is accounted for by a variety of biological indicators.

Although complex in its root causes, physiological linkages can actually show up quite readily in skin conductance, a reflection of an individual’s overall levels of arousal. If a couple is in sync, then their skin conductance (electrodermal activity, or EDA) should show similar variations across the course of their interactions with each other. In turn, when these variations have a high degree of similarity within a couple, the question is whether a relationship benefits or not.

What Does It Mean to Be in Sync With a Partner?

Before finding out whether the U. Texas researchers were able to support their hypothesis, it’s worthwhile to consider what it means to have a similar EDA as your partner. It’s possible that each of you “react sensitively to their partners’ emotional states, easily take others’ perspectives, and demonstrate high levels of empathy toward others.” However, you could also feed off negative reactions that your partner has during one of those arguments, which would “amplify negative affect and contribute to escalation of conflict.” Some prior research in which couples were placed in a lab and told to argue showed that such high covariation in your physiological responses could be a sign of a relationship in trouble.

Because lab studies don’t take into account the natural context in which couples navigate their emotional landscapes, Timmons and her colleagues asked their 109 dating couples (average age 23 years old) to wear a wireless biosensor on their wrists during the course of a day. On an hourly basis, the couples allowed themselves to be pinged with a questionnaire that asked them to report on what activities they were engaged in at the time. They rated their accompanying emotions on scales of annoyance/irritation, and closeness/connection, as well as rating their personal mood states (stress, happiness, sadness, anxiety, and anger). A rating of relationship satisfaction overall completed the set of assessments the Austin researchers collected on their participants.

The Daily Ebbs and Flows of Connection

In tracking the psychological counterparts of hourly variations in EDAs, Timmons and her collaborators were able to establish that couples indeed varied together over the course of the day’s measures. More importantly, the extent to which their bodies responded similarly was associated with feelings of greater connection and closeness. The effect didn’t go in the opposite direction, moreover, because when they were annoyed they showed no particular physiological covariation in EDA’s.

The research team arrived at these findings after taking into account many alternate factors, such as whether partners were alone with each other, drank alcohol or caffeine or consumed other drugs, and whether they communicated in person or by phone. Other obvious potential factors also were statistically ruled out, including sex, age, and levels of education.

Looking at those other possible contributors to the EDA-closeness relationship, it appeared that when members of a couple were in a bad mood, their physiological linkage increased. The opposite occurred when they were happy. As the authors concluded, “These results suggest that negative emotional states may be more readily linked to increased linkage than positive mood states.”

Financial Freedom in Retirement Is All About Cash Flow

If things you thought were true were actually wrong, when would you want to know?

When I was a child, I recall my mother saying that drinking and driving was against the law. For many years after that, whenever I saw someone drinking a soda while driving, I assumed they were criminals. Years later, I figured out that my mother was talking about drinking alcohol while driving.

I can laugh at the absurdity of this today, but it is the perfect example of how easy it can be to carry around half-truths when you don’t know what you don’t know.

Many people go through life believing things without ever considering the possibility that those things are actually wrong. I see it every day in nearly every conversation I have with people: the misinterpretation of financial terms, the misapplication of various wealth strategies and confusion about how much risk they are actually taking.

Why does this happen? Well, the internet gives everyone instant access to unlimited amounts of information. Unfortunately, there is rarely any context, and we have a tendency as human beings to process information as true or false based on the source and a basic understanding of the topic. If Google says it, then it must be true! As a result, people end up with a false sense of confidence and a laundry list of beliefs that aren’t necessarily true.

Misconceptions come with costly consequences

Your financial future rests on your understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and the consequences are real. Any misinterpretations you may have about money could potentially destroy your quality of life and reduce your chances of experiencing true financial freedom.

The biggest obstacle to unlearning something you have always thought was true is to accept the possibility of having inaccurate information. Once you do that, unlearning bad financial information is not as complicated as you may think.

The biggest misconception I see over and over again is the focus on accumulation. People tend to evaluate their progress or level of financial success based on how much money they accumulate. While having money in the bank is important, reliable cash flow should be the ultimate goal.

Think about it: You can survive without any money accumulated, but you cannot easily get by without cash flow. Cash flow can be generated in any number of ways: a paycheck from your job, a business you own or a passive-income source. Regardless of where it comes from, cash flow is like water – you simply cannot survive without it. 

How to know if your money is fulfilling its primary purpose

Money is obviously a big part of our lives, so we have a tendency to desire more of it. But how do you decide how much is enough?

What I find is that people often use arbitrary account balances and rates of return to assess how much progress they have made, but neither of these things actually indicates whether your money is fulfilling its primary purpose: income replacement, also known as cash flow.

While having money is, of course, part of the equation, it is the wrong measurement for success. A lot of people with plenty of money still struggle with not feeling financially free or confident, and that is a problem.

Achieving financial confidence starts with answering these two questions:

  • How much actual income do you have coming in right now that you don’t have to work to receive? I am talking about actual dollars being deposited into your checking account or brokerage account.
  • If you quit working tomorrow, how much money would you need to cover all of your expenses? This includes taxes, trips, lifestyle expenses, etc.

If you’re like most people, there is a gap between how much income you’re receiving and how much you need. (That is why you work, to fill that gap.) If you want to stop working, you’ll need to figure out how to close this gap with passive income.

How is financial security different from financial freedom?

So, how do you do that? Start by understanding the difference between financial security and financial freedom.

The idea of financial security cannot necessarily be defined by exact numbers or percentages and is often expressed as a feeling of safety. That’s why most people focus on reducing debt and accumulating money. They believe that spending less, paying less in interest and earning more on their investments is what will lead them to a successful retirement.

Having large sums of money brings a sense of financial security, but it does not create financial freedom. If you’re like most people, knowing creates more confidence than assuming, and a good way to know is to complete a Gap Report™.

How Parents Can Tell If They’re Being Present

“Presence is focusing on right now, rather than having your awareness on something in the future, or worrying about the past,” says marriage and family therapist David Klow. “It’s training our minds to focus on the depth of the moment rather than fleeing to go somewhere else.”

“I hear many parents talk about missing out on the moment. They describe it feeling like their children grow up in the blink of an eye,” Klow says. “This suggests not having fully taken in the moments over the years as they were occurring. One significant downside of not being present is that life can pass us by.”

Noticing what is happening in your body can be an anchor for being present.

The idea of being present or mindful derives from Buddhist practice and was first brought to the U.S. by Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn adapted the Buddhist principles of mindfulness to Western psychology in 1979, and named his program Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction — scientific-sounding jargon intended to distance the therapy from religious practice.

It seems to have worked. “Mindfulness” is now a household term and pop-psychology standby, with studies finding that it reduces anxiety, boosts cognitive functioning, improves self-esteem, and curbs age and racial biases.

The trick is learning how to do it as a parent — because the rigors of parenting are anything but mindful. Lack of sleep makes meditation tricky, and juggling soccer practice with that piano recital sure makes living in the moment seem unrealistic.

Klow suggests parents start by focusing on their breathing, which can itself decrease stress, regulate blood pressure, and help with emotional control. This will make it easier to pay attention to other internal cues and focus on the moment rather than dwelling on the past or jumping into the future without savoring the present.

“The body is always in the moment,” Klow says. “Noticing what is happening in your body can be an anchor for being present.”

Meditation and yoga can help, too. But for busy parents who can’t even find time to breathe mindfully, let alone work yoga into their daily schedules, there’s a quicker fix — put away your smartphone, notice what your kids are doing, and give them specific feedback. After all, isn’t that your job as a parent?

“A father who is present can respond to his 4-year-old with more than a perfunctory ‘very nice’ or ‘good job,’” says marriage and family therapist Raffi Bilek. “He is noticing what his kids are up to and engaging with them rather than having his body there but his mind elsewhere.”

Becoming More Collaborative — When You Like to Be in Control

Successful leaders can fall into the trap of thinking they know what’s best for their team or organization. After all, they worked hard to get where they are and have made many tough decisions along the way. However, some leaders rely too heavily on their ability to make decisions on their own — with steep consequences for themselves, their team, and the organization.

Mike, the chief technology officer of a fintech organization and one of Luis’s clients, was facing a dilemma of his own making. He found himself questioning his direct reports — “Why is it so hard for you to follow through? Can’t you get anything right?” — and barking out orders to his peers — “I’m the CTO, right? Stay in your lane; I’ll decide what to do.”

Mike, a former military officer, seasoned professional, and ex-CEO, had joined the organization via an acquisition. Early on, it was evident that there was a clash of personalities and cultures on his team and among his peers. He was used to making all the decisions and demanded loyalty and execution. Once, he made a decision that his team knew was not going to work but had them implement it anyway. His decision cost the company a considerable amount of money. It also prompted the CEO to address Mike’s overconfidence and leadership style. As he discussed the engagement with Luis, he said, “Mike is a liability to this organization and needs to be dealt with.”

When leaders who are used to calling all the shots start working with peers and stakeholders who are as successful, hungry, and confident as they are, they sometimes find themselves at odds. Their previously successful decisive, command-and-control-leadership style is no longer a viable option. And unless they pivot their decision-making style and reposition themselves as open-minded, collaborative leaders, they might be putting their future success on the line. Thus, the overconfident, decisive leader must go through a mindset change.

Gallup research estimates that the cost of poor leadership and lost productivity can tally up to $1.2 trillion dollars per year due to disengaged employees. In organizations, decisiveness, confidence, and the ability to take and carry out bold action are highly rewarded — and can lead to costly mistakes. Of the variables that impact decision-making, overconfidence can be the hardest to improve, as it “is built so deeply into the structure of the mind that you couldn’t change it without changing many other things,” as Nobel prize–winning psychologist, economist, and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, puts it.

If you’re a leader who struggles to let go of control over decision-making, here are several ways to make the mindset and behavioral changes required to become more collaborative.

First, determine why you make decisions in isolation.

If you’re an overconfident, dogmatic leader who tends to make unilateral decisions and expect your team and peers to see them through, you first need to understand why that is. Here are some questions to ask yourself to examine your decision-making style:

Do you think decision-making is a simple gut reaction?

You have many years of experience, so your gut reaction or initial judgment may often be right. But making the correct decision is a complex process that several factors can influence. One big reason people don’t make the right decision is that they don’t have all the information they need due to a lack of input. Many decisions aren’t black and white. They require input, data, expertise, and diverse perspectives from team members and stakeholders.

Do you think other people’s opinions don’t matter?

When leaders make decisions in silos and don’t seek alignment, they signal to other stakeholders, “I don’t value your opinion.” Every individual wants to feel valued, recognized, and relevant. When leaders make decisions in a vacuum, they’re not providing any of those. However, including others in crucial decision-making can increase buy-in and accountability as the decision moves to the execution stage. It also showcases a leader’s confidence in the team, strengthens relationships, and fosters a collaborative culture.

Do you believe you own decision-making rights?

Some leaders feel that their title and position give them the right to make decisions alone. They want to be in control and rely on hierarchy and authority rather than their leadership capabilities. They must recognize their authority and power are not absolute. In fact, position leadership — where a person’s leadership power comes solely through the position they hold in the organization — is the most basic level of leadership, and staying there limits their potential.

Do you believe only you can make the right decision?

Confidence is a valued skill that is closely linked to professional success. However, confidence can become detrimental when a leader overestimates their ability, knowledge, or judgment. Perhaps they’ve fallen into the expertise trap and are more likely to “jump the gun” and take on more risk than necessary due to their perceived decision-making abilities.

Second, determine how you want to reposition yourself as a leader.

Moving from being a lone wolf to a more strategic, collaborative, and inclusive decision-maker requires you to make behavioral changes in order to influence how others perceive you. If you want to be known as an influential leader, you must encourage your team’s engagement, collaboration, and accountability for collective goals and decisions. Here are some ways to get started:

Cultivate humility.

Being humble means acknowledging you don’t know everything, and that’s OK. So, always ask yourself, What is the objective? You must reframe what success means for you. Success is not having the final word or getting your way — it’s accomplishing your business objectives. And that requires having a team that’s engaged and inspired.

Be thorough.

Abraham Maslow, a psychologist and creator of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, said: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

Staying Balanced in an Uncertain New Year

It’s easy to get caught up worrying about what the new year will bring. From economic and political changes to pandemics and climate change, the media feeds us a barrage of news stories that can easily overwhelm us with anxiety. But there are ways to manage your worries and take control of your mental health in 2023. Here are some strategies for coping with world events and knowing when you’re worrying too much.

Understand the Media Cycle

It’s essential to understand how the media works and their tactics to keep us engaged. News outlets often rely on fear-mongering to grab our attention and keep us coming back for more. This means they focus on negative stories, using sensationalized headlines and vivid language to draw us in. But this doesn’t mean that bad news isn’t real—it simply requires us to be conscious of how we consume the information and take it with a grain of salt.

Know Your Triggers

It’s essential to be aware of what kind of environment triggers anxiety or depression. For example, some people may feel overwhelmed by political news, while others might be more affected by economic uncertainty. Knowing your triggers can help you manage your emotions and cope with the stress of world events.

Find Support

Connecting with friends, family, or a professional therapist can be beneficial when navigating life’s challenges. Having someone to talk to can provide perspective, reduce feelings of isolation, and give clarity during difficult times. If talking to someone face-to-face isn’t an option, there are plenty of mental health apps and online support groups.

Practice Self Care

It’s important to practice self-care to maintain emotional balance during stressful times. Activities such as exercising, mindfulness meditation, journaling, or connecting with nature can help to reduce stress and clear the mind. In addition, taking time to focus on your physical and mental health can help you stay balanced and better equipped to handle life’s challenges.

Know When You Need a Break

The media can sometimes be overwhelming, so it’s essential to know when to take a break from reading or watching the news. If you get caught up in anxious thoughts or overwhelmed by events out of your control, it might be time for a mental health day away from the news cycle. Permit yourself to step away from all media sources for a few hours (or even days) if you need to reset your mind and soul.

Sole Proprietorship vs. LLC

Two popular options among new business owners are sole proprietorships and limited liability corporations (LLC). Which one you choose will impact the steps you need to take to start your business and the ongoing requirements for running it. It will also affect the extent of your personal liability and your business’s tax treatment.

See below for all you need to know about starting a sole proprietorship versus an LLC to determine which best fits your needs.

Sole proprietorship vs. LLC explained

A sole proprietorship refers to a single-owner business where the owner isn’t treated as a separate legal entity from the business. Under this structure, the owner keeps all business profits, but is also completely responsible for its debts.

Sole proprietorship is perhaps the simplest structure you can have, and you can get started immediately without many formalities.

So, what is an LLC, on the other hand? This type of business provides limited liability protections for your personal assets like a corporation. This means its accounts and debts are separate from your own and, if the LLC could not pay its expenses, creditors could only go after the LLC’s assets, not your personal ones.

Starting an LLC requires registering with the state and designating the members who will run it.

Both sole proprietorships and limited liability companies make suitable structures for single-owner businesses, and, before making a decision, it’s important to understand the pros and cons to both.

Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is a business you own and don’t have to formally register with the government in a particular way.

This popular choice for single-owner businesses offers simplicity in starting and operating the business. You’ll control all aspects so you can make daily business decisions, keep all profits and even change the business’ direction as you’d like. In addition, you can still hire workers like you could with a more formal structure.

Formation documents needed

A sole proprietorship doesn’t require any state document to start the business. Instead, you start the business by simply providing work for clients.

However, if you plan to use a trade name, your county or state may require filing a fictitious business name statement with your desired business name. You’ll first have to confirm availability for the name and check any restrictions on allowed business names. For example, your business name can’t include “corporation,” “LLC” or similar terms implying a different business entity type. You can consult your state or county for the list of disallowed terms.

You’ll also want to know if you need any licenses or permits for your type of work. For example, running a food service business might require licenses from the health department, food handling safety certifications, among other requirements. Obtaining these means meeting all requirements, submitting paperwork and, of course, paying fees.

Registration and filing fees

You usually don’t have to register with your state to operate as a sole proprietor. However, you’ll pay a nominal fee if you register a fictitious business name. The amount of the fee depends on the state. For example, the state of Washington charges a $5 filing fee for fictitious business names, while the state of Florida charges $50.

Depending on your line of work, you may also need to pay for business license and permits. These can include occupational licenses, operational licenses, zoning permits and sales tax permits. You’ll want to check with local, state and federal authorities to determine your requirements and costs.

Taxes and business expenses

As a sole proprietor, you wouldn’t need to file a separate business tax return; instead, you’d list your business income and deduct business expenses on your state and federal personal tax returns. Your business income gets taxed at your usual individual income tax rate. You’d also pay self-employment tax, which covers the employee and employer shares of Medicare and Social Security taxes.

You’d also need to pay estimated taxes to the tax authorities each quarter. This means estimating your annual income, so you don’t come up short. Otherwise, you could owe taxes and penalties when you file your return.

You can use your Social Security number as your tax ID as a sole proprietor. However, consider getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS if you want a business-specific number. An EIN offers more privacy than your Social Security number, boosts your business’s credibility and is required if you hire workers.

Down Payment Assistance

Let’s say, for example, you purchase a $200,000 house and you contribute 20% of the price as a down payment with a conventional mortgage (20% is usually the percentage required in order to avoid paying extra for mortgage insurance). That’s a $40,000 down payment. You would then need a $160,000 mortgage to complete the sale.

But what if you don’t have $40,000 saved? Or even $7,000 saved? That’s where down payment assistance comes in. For borrowers with limited savings, down payment assistance programs can help them overcome a potential barrier to buying a home and building equity.

Here’s what to know about down payment assistance programs. 

What is Down Payment Assistance?

Down payment assistance is usually a loan or grant provided by a third party, although some assistance programs offer tax breaks instead. These programs are typically funded by government agencies, charities, or private foundations. Assistance can work in a variety of ways.

For example, the Chenoa Fund is a program that offers eligible FHA-insured home loan borrowers 3.5% of the home’s purchase price as a 0% interest second mortgage with a 30-year term. This interest-free second mortgage helps cover the cost of the down payment and is typically forgiven as long as the borrower makes 36 consecutive, on-time payments on the first mortgage.

Most programs are similar, offering funds at little or no interest to help cover the down payment. They may even offer loan forgiveness under certain circumstances.

Who Qualifies for Down Payment Assistance? 

Down payment assistance programs are highly localized, so the required qualifications will be unique to each program. However, a few common qualifications apply to many programs, including the following: 

  • You’re a first-time homebuyer
  • You’re a low-income borrower (check the program’s income requirements)
  • The down payment assistance program is directly connected to select loan programs
  • You may be required to use a specific list of participating lenders for your mortgage

Additionally, most programs require that the property being purchased will be your primary residence. In other words, people looking to buy a second house or a rental property wouldn’t qualify for down payment assistance. 

What is Required to Be Accepted into a Program?

Different down payment assistance programs have different requirements. Some may require that you complete first-time homebuyer counseling (or an online course). Some may require that you participate in a support program to ensure that you successfully manage your payments. Some may offer benefits for consistently making full, on-time payments (or penalties for failing to do so).

Where to Find Down Payment Assistance Programs in Your Area

The best place to start is usually your lender. When shopping for home loans, be sure to ask if you might qualify for any down payment assistance programs.

Also, you can review the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Local Homebuying Programs page for your state to see what programs are available. Another good place to find links to local resources is FHA’s Down Payment Grants page. 

Do Commercial Lenders Offer Down Payment Assistance? 

Generally, down payment assistance programs are run by local government agencies and charities. You likely won’t find a program offered through a commercial or for-profit organization. However, if you do find a for-profit group offering something they call down payment assistance, be cautious. Make sure you understand all of the requirements of the program—and find out if it’s legitimate. Be extremely wary of anyone charging a fee as part of the application process. 

If you’re ready to buy a home but you’re worried you don’t have enough saved, we can help you explore your budget, clear out debt, and put your focus back on building savings. Connecting with a certified counselor is free and confidential. Better yet, you can complete your counseling completely online. Start today!

Aging Men and Irrelevance: How to Find New Purpose

My last post on the irrelevance of aging men struck a nerve, based on the number of emails I received. The post said that men need to develop their internal world to balance a loss of focus on external achievement that aging and retirement inevitably bring. The men who wrote ranged from a former professional baseball player to a retired doctor. They nearly all asked the same two questions: What is the inner world, and how is a man supposed to explore it?

Here’s one example:

I literally stumbled upon your [post] titled “Aging Men and Irrelevance” and was stunned by how directly it applied to me. I am a 72-year-old man, retired for 12 years, feeling worthless, and constantly asking myself the same question your patient did: “What’s the point?” I ask myself that question every day.

At the risk of asking what might appear to be a silly question, what am I looking for? When I explore my internal, what might I find that will help me overcome this feeling of uselessness? And how will I know when I find it?

I have written at least four separate drafts of this post to try to answer these questions. Nothing I write seems to capture what I want to say or to do justice to the poignancy of what is being asked. It turns out it’s far easier to describe the problem than to prescribe a meaningful and workable solution.

But that doesn’t let me off the hook, because this call from these men touches me deeply. (It also, by the way, proves that men can express their feelings when the circumstances allow.) It makes me feel a certain pressure to perform, to be able to give an answer that will be useful, and in 500 words or so. In addition, there is the additional pressure of a follow-up to the external performance of the first post. As of this writing, the original post on men and irrelevance has been viewed over 300,000 times. How can I achieve similar success externally while writing something meaningful about our internal world?

What I’m trying to illustrate here, in my sharing my process, is how to walk the balance between the internal and the external worlds. I feel the pain and the plea for help from some of the men this post touched. That’s internal. The external is, “How do I respond in a way that will be helpful?” I also have to let go of the hope of it performing as well as the first post, because there’s no way this one will get picked up and used by a major newsfeed as the first one was. In other words, I have to walk my talk that as we age, it’s not the numbers that matter so much, but the meaning. And finally, I have to experience the limits of what I can do and be okay with it. This is the best I can do, given the limitations of this format.

Enough about me. Let’s turn to you. What do you really value? How can you find meaning and purpose in this last part of your life? How do you figure that out? You’ve been trained, almost since birth, to perform in one way or another according to outside metrics. You’ve been stripped of a lot of what gave your life purpose and meaning as you’ve aged out of your job and your external relevance. How do you find your internal importance and your purpose now?

You’re not going to like my answer, but I respect you too much to soften the blow or try to give you an easier solution. The best thing I can tell you, the thing that has the highest likelihood of working, is to get yourself into therapy. I know, I know, that may be a huge stretch, especially if you’ve never done anything like that before. But you’re not going to be able to do what’s required from reading this or any other article or book. You spent years, if not decades, mastering your profession. How do you think you’re going to master a new line of work—your internal world—without investing in it? You may have retired from the working world but you haven’t retired from life. The malaise you’re feeling is a signal to you that it’s time to get to work again, but this time on yourself.

What I can offer is how to go about getting started on this new job. I’m going to break it down into small discrete steps that you can do, one at a time, at your own speed:

  1. Begin by researching, just for the heck of it, who you might want to see. 
  2. Ask for a 15-minute consultation (most therapists will do this for free).
  3. Schedule a first appointment with the intention of giving it a four-session trial.
  4. Either start over if you don’t feel comfortable with the person or keep going until you see the benefit.

Just don’t wait too long to get this going. In case you haven’t noticed, you don’t have that much time left. Do you want to die feeling like this?

I heard a story recently about a guru in India who was consulted for years and years by her devotees on various questions. Finally, one devotee stood up and said: “We’re always asking you questions and you’re always giving us answers. Maybe you should tell us the question we should be asking you? And then tell us the answer?”

Here’s what she replied: “The question you should ask is: ‘Who am I?’ The answer to that question is ‘Know thyself.’”

Is There Really No Safe Amount of Drinking?

That’s a marked change from Canada’s previous national guidance on alcohol consumption, which advised women to have no more than 10 drinks per week and men no more than 15. By contrast, the new report says those who drink only one or two boozy beverages per week “will likely avoid” alcohol-related health consequences including chronic diseases, liver injury, and accidents—but the safest choice, it says, is not to drink at all.

To researchers who study alcohol, that recommendation isn’t surprising. The new report reflects a long-brewing shift in the way scientists and health-care providers think about the risks and benefits of alcohol, and follows a similar statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) released Jan. 4.

For “the past 20-plus years the evidence has been building and building that alcohol is not good for your health,” says John Callaci, a researcher with Loyola University Chicago’s Alcohol Research Program.

If you grew up believing that a glass of red wine per night is good for your heart, you’re not alone. Decades ago, lots of studies suggested that light to moderate drinking—often defined as no more than a drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men—is beneficial for cardiovascular health. That finding stuck, both among the public and policymakers.

But Callaci says more recent research has called those older studies’ findings into question. Some researchers didn’t adequately account for underlying differences between non-drinkers (some of whom abstain because they have health problems) and light drinkers (who might have healthier lifestyles overall). So while it looked like light drinkers were healthier than non-drinkers, the booze may not have been the reason.

While some modern studies have found benefits associated with small amounts of alcohol, there’s been a shift in scientific consensus over the past couple decades. Researchers reexamined some previously published data on alcohol use, this time accounting for the “abstainer bias”—the idea that some people don’t drink because they have health or prior substance-abuse issues—and found little to no benefit associated with light drinking.

In 2022, the World Heart Federation released a policy brief debunking the notion that alcohol is heart-healthy. “Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is not good for the heart,” the report says, noting that some studies that show cardiovascular benefits from drinking are flawed and more recent research points to a host of chronic conditions linked to alcohol. In the past year alone, studies have found that alcohol consumption may accelerate genetic aging, shrink the brain, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Alcohol is also considered a known human carcinogen and has been linked to a variety of cancers, including those of the breast, liver, colon, throat, mouth, and esophagus.

How To Be A Man According To 15 Dads

This kind of exploration leads to healthier men who can better work their way through defeat, sadness, and the defied expectations we all experience in life. So how does this translate to parenting? What lessons do today’s fathers hope to teach their boys about “being a man” today?

That’s what we asked more than a dozen fathers spread out across the country. They all weighed in on the lessons they’re trying to teach their sons about manhood. From embracing equality, to the value of hard work, these men covered a vibrant spectrum of issues that their children will likely have to face as they grow older. They’re raising the next generation of men, and these are the most important lessons they hope to impart.

Men Go To The Doctor

“My dad passed away from lung cancer. But, also from stubbornness. For years and years and years, he refused to go to the doctor out of pride. And there’s a good chance that, had he kept up with his health instead of trying to tough everything out, he might still be here. I tell my son that it’s okay to admit when you’re weak, or hurt, because you can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re not in the best possible shape. Going to the doctor is such an easy, simple thing that a lot of guys just don’t do. And it can really end up hurting the people that love them. That’s not something a man would willingly do, in my opinion.” – Nick, 46, California

Strive To Be Good People

“For me, being a man is second in importance to being a good person. There are so many easy definitions of masculinity. Everything from not crying or showing emotion to looking a certain way can preoccupy and distract from what it means to be a good person. And that transcends being a man. If you’re a good person — kind, responsible, and accepting — then you’re a good man. I want my kids to realize that. Not just my son, but my daughter too. When she eventually grows up and meets the man she’s going to love, I want her to know what’s important to look for.” – James, 43, Ohio

Face And Embrace Your Feelings

“Men can cry. Men can blush. Men can be embarrassed or ashamed. A real man is one who is so strong — so brave and fearless — that he’s not afraid to show his true emotions, no matter what they may be. I think society conflates strength with pride quite frequently, especially when it comes to men and their emotions. Just because a man is too proud or stubborn to cry doesn’t mean he’s strong. It means he’s being untrue, to himself and the people that care about him. I think a real man knows that there are times and places when it’s okay to be vulnerable, and doesn’t hesitate to embrace them. That’s why I never tell my son to stop crying. Instead, I tell him that his sadness is valid, and that I’ll be there to talk about it when he’s ready.” – Al, 40, Montana

Fight For Equality

“I didn’t actually grasp this lesson until a few years ago, when the whole #MeToo thing was blowing up. I had some really productive conversations with friends and coworkers that made me realize how equality benefits everyone. A level playing field is the healthiest, most prolific environment for success, because it really emphasizes skill, talent, and intelligence over privilege. I want my son to have enough confidence to avoid letting any insecurity make him feel threatened. A man thrives on equality, because he knows that real progress – whether its personal, professional, educational, or whatever – can only happen if no one gets a head start.” – Patrick, 35, California

Recognize Love

“This world is full of hate. A real man can recognize and cherish love, no matter where it comes from. My father always had a hard time saying, ‘I love you’ while I was growing up. And I get it, that’s just how he was raised. And I think he’s a real man, for sure. But, I also recognize that he isn’t perfect, and that I want my sons to say, ‘I love you’ whenever they genuinely have a chance to do so. I say it to them all the time now, and they’re at that age where it’s a little embarrassing in front of their friends. But, they’ll grow out of that age. I hope they won’t ever grow out of the capacity to show love.” – Josh, 37, Michigan

Stand Up For Others

“Not long ago, my son —he’s in ninth grade — got suspended from school for fighting. He told me what happened, and it turned out he was defending a fellow student who was getting picked on by bullies. I told him he did the right thing. My wife disagreed, and eventually we landed somewhere commending him for standing up for someone, but challenging whether or not the physicality was really necessary. Bullies are everywhere. There’s a good chance he’ll end up working with — or working for — bullies once he’s grown up. And as he grows into a man, I think it’s important he knows not to be pushed around. In those cases it’s probably best not to throw down and fight, but it’s also important to stand up for the right things.” – Andrew, 43, New Hampshire

Your Team Doesn’t Need You to Be the Hero

What do you do when a high-priority project doesn’t go as planned?

Whether your team fails to deliver on its sales targets, your latest high-visibility product launch is riddled with glitches, or your marquee product faces a recall, you as a leader have a responsibility to respond to problems as they arise. 

One common instinct is to put your regular responsibilities on the back burner, roll up your sleeves, and immerse yourself in operational details. You may begin to question your team members and double-check their work as if it were your own.

This natural impulse to take control and try to fix what’s broken may seem like sound leadership. But it can lead to more problems than it fixes, says Colonel Fred Maddox, an assistant professor at the U.S. Army War College and Chief of Staff of the Army senior fellow at the Kellogg School.

“When leaders act like they’re the only ones who can solve something, it can become an issue for the whole organization,” Maddox says, “because they’re not focused on strategy and they’re doing someone else’s job.”

Leaders who interfere also signal to their teams that their input is not desired—and may not be considered—which erodes motivation. Instead of taking over, leaders should show restraint and consider how their actions and decisions impact the broader company. 

Maddox explains how to refrain from trying to solve your team’s problems alone—and free your team to grow into their own roles.

Let Go of Being a Hero

The responsibility of senior leaders in any organization is to focus on the bigger picture and not be mired in tactical processes. In a crisis, though, many leaders—and especially leaders who have risen through the ranks—can feel the urge to step into the breach. It’s here where leaders may think they are solving a problem. 

“As soon as you take over any part of execution, you’ve stepped out of your strategic role,” Maddox says. “Your skills, time, and attention are focused on tasks which are other people’s jobs, so you’re misallocating resources.” 

If your sales team loses two major clients in a week, your gut may tell you to get on the horn and try to lure them back. But appointing a senior staff member who understands your sales team’s priorities, and who has the skills to manage and communicate upwards, will free up your attention to focus on how the loss of clients impacts other parts of the business.

Even worse, if you insist on doing everything yourself, you are taking away opportunities for your team to prove that they are capable of doing the job.

“When you’re in a position of authority, it’s your responsibility to extend trust to the individuals on your team,” Maddox says. 

Acting like you are the sole person who can fix a problem disregards their knowledge and expertise. Maddox warns that it won’t be long before your team’s culture deteriorates if you step in too often to “fix” problems. 

Trust Your Team

Instead, if you constantly feel the impulse to intervene in a crisis, it is helpful to put on the brakes and reflect on why you might be overreaching.

“In the back of your head, you’re either afraid your team is going to fail, you think that someone’s not capable of handling the responsibility you gave them, or you haven’t created accountability,” Maddox says. 

Consider what you can do differently to prepare your team (and yourself) for these moments so that you can feel confident in your team’s ability to execute.

Maddox points to the military’s practice of ongoing training and simulations as a model to prepare teams for the unexpected. Though most companies would not have the resources to replicate this kind of preparation, leaders can accomplish the same goal by creating safe opportunities for teams to learn and share hard lessons. He encourages leaders to establish frequent opportunities for team members to practice new skills, supported by candid feedback. 

Every position has its responsibilities and boundaries, but leaders should always be attuned to ways their team members can weigh in and find innovative solutions. This can mean relinquishing authority to provide team members autonomy to make decisions and learn.

For example, when introducing a new skill to a team member, leaders shouldn’t rush to give instructions, but first ask how the individual would approach it, to encourage problem-solving. The goal, Maddox says, is to train team members to “walk in autonomy.”

He also advises that teams adopt a post-exercise “action review” in which participants discuss what worked and went wrong at every step of an operation. Each team member contributes so that successes and shortcomings are evaluated from multiple perspectives. 

When learning and feedback are integrated into team culture, employees are primed to take more ownership when difficult issues surface. As a result, you will no longer feel the onus to fix something which could be better addressed as a team. 

“They have the opportunity to build their confidence and skill sets in tasks that will allow them to eventually take some of the weight and burden off of you.” 

Avoid Confirmation Bias

Effective leadership awareness is about more than resisting the urge to do everything yourself in a crisis. It also means thinking critically by acknowledging the limits of your ability to gain first-hand knowledge about the crisis in the first place.

“In situations with a high degree of complexity, you are going to be reliant on others to gather more information to make the best decision possible,” he says. 

To do this, you need “multiple sensors” or viewpoints from your team members to get the full picture. “Have you considered all the variables at play?” Maddox says. “Because there’s usually more to the situation than is presenting itself in hand. Relying on others gives you the opportunity to see components that may change your decision.”

Maddox points out that leaders often are surrounded by talented staff—and may even trust those staff to react capably in a crisis—but still fail to listen to them when the information does not confirm their prior views. “We’re more attuned to listening to input that supports our decision,” he explains. “But when a person dissents, it’s harder for us to hear it and take the necessary steps to consider it, contemplate, and move forward.” 

Maddox had to confront his own confirmation bias when developing a reporting tool for his senior leaders on a division-wide initiative. He saw what he thought was a great opportunity to build a data dashboard for his colonels and generals.

“I’m thinking this is the best thing since sliced bread,” Maddox says. 

Maddox begins distributing the dashboard. His team populates it with new data every Friday. He thinks he is seeing the benefits. “In my head, this is working,” he says. 

Several weeks after the launch, he finally solicits feedback from two of the dashboard’s recipients. The first commander Maddox reached didn’t know what the dashboard was. The second commander he contacted told him it wasn’t his cup of tea, so he didn’t look at it either.

“I was so convinced it was a great tool that was so necessary,” Maddox says. “But weeks later, I learned we had created something that no one was using. That was painful, because we lost a lot of sleep putting it together.” 

To prevent confirmation bias from seeping into decisions, Maddox encourages leaders to “walk through” scenarios with team members from all angles, paying extra attention to viewpoints that contradict or challenge their own. It’s quite possible that, had Maddox listened to more voices before designing the dashboard, he would have discovered that senior leaders already had effective ways of learning this information.

“There are very few situations where the person at the top of the chain can see everything completely,” Maddox says.

Snacking on tree nuts may boost serotonin, have cardiovascular benefits

The authors of a new study recently established a link between the consumption of tree nuts — almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts — and a reduction in blood pressure, an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). They’ve just published a new study that may explain the connection.

The researchers found that tree nuts increased levels of cardio-protective L-tryptophan metabolites in plasma and stool samples collected from study participants.

The study was a randomized, controlled, parallel study that involved 131 people with obesity or overweight over the course of a 24-week weight loss and weight maintenance program.

The diet of all participants included a daily 1.5-ounce snack. Of the 95 people who completed the study, 39 individuals snacked on pretzels as a control, while 56 other people ate tree-nut snacks of the same caloric value instead. At the end of the study period, the researchers analyzed fecal and blood plasma samples from each participant to ascertain the effects of their different snacks.

People who ate tree nuts experienced significant increases in levels of blood serotonin at week 12 (60.9%), and week 24 (82.2%), compared to their baseline levels. Those who ate pretzels experienced an increase in blood serotonin levels during the maintenance phase of the study, between weeks 12 and 24.

Tryptophan is the body’s only precursor of serotonin, which is credited with supporting a range of body functions, including mood, sleep, and digestion.

The study is published in the journal Nutrients.

The research was funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation, along with the U.S. Department of Defense, VA Merit Review, and VA Career Development Award.

Healthier snacks to help the heart

According to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Americans eat 2.7 snacks a day, with an increasing number of young adults consuming as many as five or more. 

Children get about 27% of their daily calorie intake from snacks, according to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Snacking can lead to unwanted weight gain, and unhealthy snacks often wind up replacing more nutritious foods in one’s daily diet.

Tree nuts and tryptophan metabolism

Tree nuts contain substantial amounts of tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid that helps support growth and overall health.

Tryptophan is metabolized via three pathways, the kynurenine and serotonin pathways in body cells, and via the indole pathway in gut bacteria.

Disrupted tryptophan metabolism has been linked to metabolic diseases, including obesity and CVD.

The study’s corresponding author, Dr. Zhaoping Li, said the new study at least partially answers the question posed by her group’s earlier research: “One of the possible mechanisms is through [a] change of tryptophan metabolism.”

Dr. Li said in a press release issued by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation:

“We discovered some new associations between tryptophan metabolites and blood pressure, heart rate, and satiety in overweight/obese subjects, suggesting a broader impact of tryptophan metabolism in overall health, including cardiovascular health.”

“Gut microbiome and their metabolites can contribute to the regulation of our metabolism and mood,” she told Medical News Today.

There are other reasons the study makes sense, said Michelle Routhenstein, cardiology dietitian and preventive cardiology nutritionist at EntirelyNourished:

“[The authors’ interpretation of t]his study’s findings that tree nuts encourage CVD protective tryptophan metabolites and heart health makes sense due to its ability to help reduce inflammation, one of the main causes for atherosclerosis and heart disease.”

Benefits of more serotonin

Dr. Li explained the connection between eating and emotions.

“Emotional eating is a significant factor [that contributes] to obesity. Nuts may improve mood through an increase of serotonin that is one of the key neurotransmitters to regulate mood,” she said. 

The researchers were surprised to find an increase in serotonin levels in the tree nut group during the weight loss and maintenance sections of the study. Only the tree-nut group experienced increased levels of fecal serotonin.

By the end of the study, both groups had higher blood serotonin levels.

The authors speculate this final increase in blood serotonin for all participants may be evidence of the body’s response to weight loss.

“An increase in serotonin levels may be beneficial for people who are overweight or obese trying to achieve weight loss because of its role in energy expenditure and appetite suppression,” Routhenstein also noted.

Mortgage rates jump higher after nearing 6%

The rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage increased to 6.32% from 6.12% the week prior, according to Freddie Mac. Rates had been flirting with 6% in recent weeks and were more than three-quarters of a point lower than in mid-November when the rate neared 7%.

But the recent spike eroded some of the newfound purchasing power buyers gained recently, dampening spirits. The small window for refinancing has also shut for many homeowners.

“In terms of home buying, elevated rates certainly are a deterrent for potential homebuyers,” Keith Gumbinger, vice president of, told Yahoo Finance. “Still-high home prices combined with relatively high mortgage rates have crushed affordability.”

Purchase applications tumble

The number of Americans who said it’s a good time to buy fell to 17% in January from 21% in December, according to Fannie Mae. A year ago when rates were slightly above 3%, roughly 59% of respondents thought it was a good time to buy.

“Potential buyers remain quite sensitive to the current level of mortgage rates, which are more than two percentage points above last year’s levels and have significantly reduced buyers’ purchasing power,” Joel Kan, deputy chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said in a statement this week.

That was evident in the latest measure of homebuying activity.

The volume of mortgage applications for a purchase fell 6% for the week ending Feb.10, marking its second drop in three weeks due to higher rates, according to MBA’s latest survey of applications. Overall purchase application volume was down 40% from a year ago, the MBA cited, its lowest point since the beginning of the year.

“Our latest analysis shows the income needed to buy a median-priced existing home in the fourth quarter of 2022 was about 48% higher than that which was needed in the fourth quarter of 2021,” Gumbinger said. “That’s not something that’s easily overcome when incomes are only rising about 5% per year or so.”

Millions of debt collections dropped off Americans’ credit reports

The total number of debt collections on credit reports dropped by 33% from 261 million in 2018 to 175 million in 2022, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, while the share of consumers with a debt collection on their credit report shrunk by 20%.

Medical debt collections also dropped by 17.9% during that time, but still made up 57% of all collection accounts on credit reports, far more than other types of debt combined — including credit cards, utilities, and rent accounts.

Despite the reduction in collections, the CFPB noted that the results underscore ongoing concerns that current medical billing and collection practices can lack transparency, often hurting the credit scores and financial health of those most vulnerable.

“Our analysis of credit reports provides yet another indicator that, due to a strong labor market and emergency programs during the pandemic, household financial distress reduced over the last two years,” Rohit Chopra, CFPB director said in a statement. “However, false and inaccurate medical debt on credit reports continues to drag on household financial health.”

Having a debt in collections means your original creditor sent your debt to a third-party agency to collect it. According to the CFPB, common items that can slip into collections include medical debt, student loans, unpaid credit card balances and rent, to name a few.

Once in collections, these debts can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years, Experian noted, potentially harming your chances of gaining access to new credit in the future.

While pandemic-era stimulus benefits may have helped families reduce some of their overall debt, the CFPB noted that the decline in collections was mainly due to some debt collectors underreporting data.

According to the report, debt collectors — particularly those who primarily collect on medical bills — reported 38% fewer collection tradelines from 2018 to 2022. Chopra noted this could be troubling.

The “decline in collections tradelines does not necessarily reflect a decline in debt collection activity, nor an improvement in families’ abilities to meet their financial obligations,” he said, “but a choice by debt collectors and others to report fewer collections tradelines, while still conducting other collection activities.”

Fortunately, a growing share of Americans may see even more medical debt disappear from their credit history this year, helping to improve their creditworthiness.

In the first half of 2023, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will no longer include medical debts under the amount of $500 on credit reports. That followed the credit bureaus’ move last year to remove approximately 70% of medical collection debt tradelines from consumer reports. Additionally, unpaid medical debt would take a year — rather than the current six months — to show up on a person’s credit report, the bureaus said.

Those upcoming changes may still be just a drop in the bucket toward reducing medical debt, Chopra said.

“While this will reduce the total number of medical collections tradelines, an estimated half of all consumers with medical collections tradelines will still have them on their credit reports,” Chopra said in the report, “with the larger collection amounts representing a majority of the outstanding dollar amount of medical collections remaining on credit reports.”

The CFPB analysis builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s aim to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and implement new consumer protections to reduce the burden of medical debt and lower medical costs.

It also follows a string of CFPB reports citing how inaccurate medical debt tradelines could not only unfairly harm consumers’ credit scores, but also create long-term repercussions such as avoidance of medical care, risk of bankruptcy, or difficulty securing employment.

What the Most Productive Companies Do Differently

Improvements in labor productivity have been the engine of U.S. economic power and prosperity since World War II. But in the past 15 years, productivity growth has faltered averaging just 1.4% annually, compared to long-term rates of 2.2% since 1948.

These small differences add up: If the United States can get back to the long-term trend, it could be worth $10 trillion in cumulative GDP by 2030. And the benefits of productivity would help the country meet longer-term challenges like the looming national debt, underfunded entitlement programs, and the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Companies have a starring role to play in this putative productivity miracle. Our research found striking variations in productivity among leading and lagging firms within each sector. Manufacturing provides a particularly stark example, where leading firms operate at 5.4 times the productivity of laggards. Academic researchers have documented similar trends in services, particularly information and communications, which show wide disparities between leading firms and the rest.

Not only are productivity disparities within sectors quite wide — they’re also getting wider. Our research shows that in manufacturing, the gap was 25% wider in 2019 than it was in 1989. Some analysts suggest this growing gap is the result of accelerated growth among leading firms coexisting with stagnation among the rest. That’s encouraging: It suggests that if those in the rear can match the leaders, the United States could restore productivity growth to historical levels.

These productivity gaps also suggest that firms can raise their own ambitions. Doing more with less, or doing more with the same, shows up in corporate income statements as higher margins and stronger revenue growth. And in aggregate, those performance improvements lead to economy-wide changes in productivity.

Lessons from the Most Productive Firms

For business leaders looking to unlock performance, there’s something to be learned by observing the companies at the top of the productivity heap. These frontier firms are usually larger than others (though not always, as we discuss below). They are present across most sectors and geographies.

What they have in common is a playbook with the following four elements:

They capture value from digitization. 

From 1989 to 2019, our research finds a strong correlation between sectors’ productivity growth and their level of digitization. Other researchers have found a similar connection between firm productivity and digitization; frontier firms are better able to technologically innovate than their peers.

However, many firms investing in technology are not seeing its benefits. McKinsey research finds that firms typically realize only about 25% to 30% of the expected value of their digital transformations. Much of the shortfall comes from not properly updating the firm’s strategy and business model to take advantage of new digital strengths.

Frontier firms set bold business goals enabled by technology. They reconfigure their organizations to digitize their operations and capture the benefits of technology, rather than augment existing ways of working. And they drive accountability for results across the organization.

They invest in intangibles.

Frontier firms go beyond technology investments and also place bets on complementary intangibles such as R&D, intellectual property, and the capabilities of their workforce. Our research finds that frontier firms invest 2.6x more in intangibles compared to other firms.

For many of these firms, taking a long-term perspective is critical. These investments likely create a productivity J-curve, in which the early benefits of investments are small, but compound rapidly over time to create outsized long-term value.

They build a future-ready workforce. 

Frontier firms also disproportionately secure the skilled talent they need to get the most out of technology, either by attracting top talent or by an in-house investment in employee skills.

Both frontline talent and tech-savvy executives are necessary to successfully navigate the reconfiguration of complex firms. Leaders are winning the talent war by recognizing the value of employee experience, investing in on-the-job training programs, and expanding policies that make it easier for parents and aging workers alike to stay in the labor force.

They adopt a systems approach. 

Frontier companies are typically system thinkers, looking for opportunities to access new markets or collaborate creatively with stakeholders.

High-performing firms tend to be more connected to global value chains, giving them access to global markets, ideas, and talent. They collaborate with suppliers and customers to form new ecosystems that benefit from agglomeration effects and create shared pools of value. They also look for opportunities to collaborate more closely with their public-sector counterparts to solve for challenges in skilled talent and physical infrastructure.

America’s New Productivity Champions

The opportunity to apply these lessons is wide open to firms of all sizes and shapes. Many frontier firms are part of what we call the Titanium Economy — small, often privately held industrial-technology companies that are among the fastest growing and most profitable enterprises in the country. These companies are often based in smaller cities, sometimes even in rural areas, and present across a variety of sectors.

Take Dot Foods, a foodservice distributor based in Mount Sterling, Illinois, population 2,006. For Dot, everything starts with the employee. “Our volume is off the charts and we can’t staff it… we’re typically 500 employees short,” CEO Joe Tracy told us.

To attract workers, Dot rewrote its shift schedules in ways that give employees more flexibility to take time off. The company invested in automation to do the jobs that no one wants to do, like slinging cases in the freezer on the night shift. It embraced technology throughout the operation and invested time in teaching workers the skills needed to operate the equipment. It worked to integrate logistics with advanced analytics, so that customers receive the products they want as fast as possible. And it acquired ShopHero to give its customers a customized, locally branded e-commerce platform replete with video and photos. Dot Foods is now the nation’s largest foodservice distributor, delivering more than 125,000 products from 1,000 suppliers to all 50 states.

Dot’s growth story is typical of Titanium Economy companies — and the opportunity for others to join them is vast. Recent data indicates that small and medium-size companies are less productive on average than large firms. But in some sectors where niche products or services can be offered at higher price points, small companies can be as productive as their bigger rivals. These data should give plenty of encouragement to business leaders looking to drive improvements in their business.

Neither size nor sector is the full measure of a company’s destiny. To be sure, grocery store owners cannot snap their fingers and suddenly enjoy the profit margins of software makers. But almost all firms can increase their productivity to approximate that of the frontier firms.

3 Powerful Ways to Help Manage Your Inner Critic

You may not notice your inner critic that much. Maybe s/he hides in the shadows of your mind, waiting to pounce when you mess up, or something goes wrong.

Unfortunately, many of us do not know we are swimming in self-criticism until it is pointed out to us that we are drowning in it. But for some of us, the inner critic is the only voice we hear all the time. And this can be exhausting.

Self-criticism involves constant and harsh self-scrutiny, overly critical evaluations of one’s own behavior, and negative reactions to perceived failures (Löw et al., 2020).

Being self-critical is like any pattern of thinking: habitual. Whatever our Inner Critic says, we listen. We take it on board as if what it is saying is true. However, like any habit, we can change self-criticism with some work. This article outlines some key steps you can take to reduce your inner critic’s influence in your life.

Step 1. Notice When Your Inner Critic Shows Up

Cultivating awareness of your thoughts as they enter your mind is a skill that can be learned and takes practice. Consider for a moment the sky above you.

The sky sees all kinds of weather, from raging storms to brilliant sunshine and everything in between. Your ability to notice your thoughts is akin to the sky watching the weather.

Like the weather, your mind produces negative thoughts, self-critical thoughts, pleasant thoughts, and everything else in between. But you can be like the sky and watch your thoughts come and go.

  • Awareness of your inner critic can start with slowing down the momentyou are being self-critical. First, take a long, slow deep breath.
  • Now shift your attention to your mind. Ask yourself: am I being self-critical right now? Or is my inner critic showing up?

Step 2. Get to Know Your Inner Critic

Different emotions have their own distinct patterns of thinking, feeling, and being. For example, have you noticed that when you are angry, you will think differently, emotionally feel different, and have different physical sensations in your body compared with when you are experiencing sadness, contentment, or anxiety?

Your inner critic is one such self or version of the different parts of you (there can be other parts like your angry self or your anxious self and so on). Getting to know this part helps you gain insight into the different facets of your personhood (Bell et al., 2021). Alongside this, one key thing to hold in mind is this:

You are not “broken” or “damaged” or deserving of harsh internal rhetoric.

You are complex and multifaceted and experience a range of patterns of emotions and mind-body states that can be difficult to get to grips with. You did not design your brain this way. It is just how your brain has evolved over millions of years (Gilbert, 2020).

So how do you get to know your inner critic? When you notice you are being self-critical, ask yourself:

  • What is my critical self/inner critic saying to me? What tone of voice is it using?
  • What is the emotion in the voice? Inner critics tend to be harsh, cold, disapproving, frustrated, angry, and contemptuous.
  • What does it want? Is it critical to do something specific? For example, to protect you in some way, perhaps? To prevent you from doing something? Or to push you to succeed/not fail?

Step 3. Stop the Inner Critic Spiral

It is common for self-critical thoughts to spiral until you are in a pit of negativity and hopelessness. However, if you have followed the previous steps, you are halfway there to stop that spiral. The extra step here is to bring in some compassionate understanding for yourself:

  • What would I say to a friend or a young child in this situation? And can I say this to myself right now?
  • How would I say it? (What tone of voice would I use?) Let me use that tone with myself right now…
  • What would I do to help them? (What actions would I take?) How about I do … and … which will help me in this situation.

Final Thoughts

The above steps can help you reduce the dominance of your inner critic or critical self, but it can take consistent practice. Cultivating more of a self-compassionate, supportive, encouraging, and warm attitude towards yourself will help you manage your inner critic in difficult moments. If this is difficult at first, follow step three, which will enable you to tap into a compassionate state of mind that you can direct toward yourself.

Adding Exercise to Therapy May Make It More Effective

Or, they can sign up for in-house yoga classes that promote mindfulness and are followed by group discussions. Kids and teenagers, meanwhile, can have their therapy appointments while shooting hoops, traversing an obstacle course, or playing soccer in one of the clinic’s movement rooms.

The idea behind this holistic approach, says co-founder and licensed clinical social worker Melissa Novack, is to supplement traditional mental-health treatment with the healing power of movement, which has been shown in numerous studies to improve psychological as well as physical health.

“Science tells us that we’re one workout away from a good mood,” Novack says. Combining that workout with therapy is especially beneficial, she says, because clients can tap into a “sense of productivity or purpose when moving.” People who feel nervous in traditional therapy sessions—particularly kids—may also feel at ease when they’re active.

The idea of mixing movement with mental-health isn’t brand new. Wilderness therapy programs combining behavioral support and outdoor adventure have been around for decades, and plenty of clinics have adopted the walk-and-talk model to get clients moving. Other therapists integrate nature into their appointments, whether by hiking, gardening, or forest bathing.

While not all of these approaches have been formally studied, some research suggests they’re onto something. Several recent studies have concluded that mental-health treatments are more effective when they’re combined with physical activity programs, supporting the idea that therapy can be about far more than just talking.

The combination of exercise and therapy doesn’t necessarily need to be simultaneous to be beneficial, says Jennifer Thomas, a health and well-being researcher at the U.K.’s Swansea University who has studied the benefits of combining exercise and therapy. Some of the studies she analyzed for a 2020 research review involved programs that mixed exercise directly into therapy sessions, while others staggered the timing of treatment and exercise. As long as people were getting both mental-health treatment and following a specific physical-activity plan during the same time period, she says, the benefits tended to build upon one another.

“Regardless of what type of exercise you do or what you’re adding it to, there is most likely going to be a benefit for patients,” agrees Jacqueline Lee, a graduate neuroscience student at the University of British Columbia and co-author of a 2021 research review on the benefits of combined exercise and mental-health treatment.

Why does exercise have such a strong effect on mental health? That’s a question researchers are still studying, but there seem to be multiple pathways. Studies have long shown that working out releases feel-good endorphins, and animal research suggests it can also increases the brain’s supply of neurotransmitters, which may improve mood and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. Exercise has also been shown to boost blood flow to and stimulate nerve growth in the brain, which can improve cognitive health and function, potentially leading to psychological benefits including the prevention or improvement of depressive symptoms. Physical activity is also linked to better sleep, which is itself beneficial for mental health.

Yes, You Need To Prioritize Your Marriage Over Your Kids

Many assume that’s the way it should be — after all, being a good parent means putting the kids’ needs first, no matter what, right? And because in this day and age parents are expected to be more attentive and accommodating to children than ever before, that’s a pretty all-consuming job.

But many psychologists and relationship experts push back on that idea, arguing that your spouse should come before your children. The theory is that without a strong marriage and loving home, kids won’t thrive, so you’re doing them a disservice by putting your spouse on the back burner, which can lead to marital trouble and even divorce. The question of who should come first is further complicated for religious couples, who also have to figure out where God fits into the hierarchy.

That you shouldn’t ruin your marriage for the sake of your children sounds like a no-brainer. And it’s unlikely anyone sets out to do so. But it happens a lot regardless. Many couples have trouble putting the theory into practice, or they think they need to focus solely on the kids while they’re small and can tend to the marriage later when the kids are more independent, a shift that can come too late to save the relationship.

But what does “putting your wife first” actually mean and look like in real life? How do you set boundaries with your kids while being a caring parent and husband? For that, we spoke to Linda and Charlie Bloom to add context to the conversation. They’re licensed marriage and family therapists who have been married since the 1970s, as well as parents and authors of 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last. The Blooms offered a nuanced perspective to the idea of prioritizing marriage over kids, one that offers clarity and doesn’t shy away from the fact that, yeah, this stuff is complex. Here’s what they said. 

Where did this idea come from that kids should always be the top priority, and how might that be harmful?

Charlie Bloom: There’s definitely a strong cultural bias toward favoring or prioritizing the needs of children over the parents. I’m not sure exactly what the source of that is, but it might be a reaction from previous generations where the opposite was the case, where kids’ needs were put on the back burner and they were better being seen and not heard.

It’s gotten to the point now where parents are judged and ostracized if they don’t accommodate and even anticipate and provide for kids’ needs over the needs of their relationships. The danger of that is that not only will the couple’s relationship be neglected, which in most of these cases where there’s a lot of helicopter parenting going on, that’s the case. But the other thing is that children grow up with the expectation that the world is going to indulge them, which creates a sense of entitlement. We deal with this quite a bit because parents pick up this cultural bias toward favoring the needs of children above everyone else.

What’s a good example of how parents subtly neglect their partners in favor of the children?

Linda Bloom: Weeks can go by with parents not checking in with each other, but they’ll check in with their kids every day, asking what they need, how they’re doing in school, chauffeuring them to ballet and piano lessons. They think that because adults are adults that they don’t have needs. Certainly, children’s needs shouldn’t be neglected, but devote some time during the week to nourish the romantic relationship, too. I’m a big believer in regular date nights and romantic getaways; you can also trade childcare with another family and take care of friends’ kids so they can go on a romantic getaway [and vice versa]. Those are some real, tangible things couples can do.

Do you think there’s a tendency for some parents to say, “I need to focus on my kids when they’re small and can get back to tending to my marriage later?”

LB: I have strong feelings about this, because there was a segment of time when Charlie and I were in our 30s when our careers got the lion’s share of our time and energy, and our children got the remainder. Our romantic partnership got the leftover crumbs; we subsisted on starvation rations for years, and it almost broke our family up, which would not have been good for our kids. That’s why I feel so strongly that people are playing with fire when they put careers and kids first and don’t pay attention to their romantic partnerships.

You spend 25 years raising your kids — it could be a long haul, especially with multiple children. And if you’ve neglected your domestic partnership during the time you spent so devoted to your children, you might end up being virtual strangers at the end of the two decades and might not even know each other very well. You may have accumulated resentments, sometimes on both sides, by not having your adult needs met. And in the end, you didn’t do your kids much of a favor, because you didn’t give them a model of a good partnership. That leads to them feeling nervous and confused and frightened about creating committed, fulfilling partnerships when they become adults.

What, exactly, does “putting your spouse in front of the kids” look like?

CB: I’m not comfortable with that term, and I certainly hear it a lot: ‘Who do you put first?’ It’s a generic question, as if there’s one answer that applies to all situations. Ultimately, it’s a case-by-case basis. But part of it is expressing your appreciation and gratitude for your partner. We often stroke kids and acknowledge their terrific poem or great game they played, but we don’t acknowledge what we appreciate about our partners. Not protecting kids from our arguments is also part of being emotionally honest with kids and with each other.

Is It Better to Save or Pay Off Debt?

In reality, the answer is a little more complex. After working so hard to pay off your credit card debts, you may not be inclined to lose all that great progress, but once you use up your savings, it’s gone (until you can build it back up again). And while you’d hope that today’s car problems are the worst thing you’ll have to deal with in the immediate future, there’s no guarantee that another unexpected expenses isn’t just around the corner. 

So while there’s no right or wrong answer, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to make sure you’re making the best choice for your situation.

Considerations for Using Up Savings vs. Adding More Debt

Are there bills you can’t pay with credit?

The top priority for your emergency savings account is ensuring that your basic needs are met even in the event that your income is cut off. When thinking about the most important bills in your budget (mortgage, rent, electricity, food, etc.) it may be helpful to determine which can be paid with credit and which cannot. 

If a sizeable portion of your most important monthly expenses can’t be put on a credit card, you may want to make sure that you’ve always got enough in savings to handle those payments at least.

How much is your new debt going to cost you?

Carrying debt wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t so expensive. The biggest factor in the ultimate cost of a new debt may be the interest rate of the credit card you’re using to make the payment. 

A card with a favorable rate may make using credit card and maintaining your savings preferable, since the interest charges will likely be manageable. But if your credit options all come with big interest rates, that may a reason to consider using your savings instead. 

How comfortable are you going to feel operating without a financial safety net?

Leaving aside the dollars and cents, you know you better than anyone else. So consider your own feelings, values, and priorities. Would you feel comfortable moving forward without those emergency savings? Would backsliding into more debt be a real blow to your morale?

Everyone has a different relationship with money. Some people need deep cash reserves to feel safe, and some feel pretty confident that they can make it work no matter what. Be honest with yourself and let your heart have a say in the matter.

And if you need a little more personalized advice, MMI offers free, confidential financial counseling. We’ll review your bills, your debts, and your goals and help you start making the best money decisions for you and your family.

5 Strategies to Empower Employees to Make Decisions

Autonomy is a hallmark of an innovative culture. The ability to make decisions for yourself enhances motivation, which turn contributes to higher levels of performance and well-being. It also gives leaders more time to focus on the most significant and complex decisions and explore new sources of value creation. Creating more autonomy involves shifting power from the top and center of the organization to the front line by empowering people to make decisions.

It might look straightforward. In practice, it’s hard to pull off. It’s a big change for executives who have “grown up” in traditional, hierarchical organizations, in which decision-making authority is held tightly by a select few and many decisions are left unspoken.

As a result, employees aren’t accustomed to making decisions. And when they are empowered to take on more decision-making responsibility, they’re often left to figure it out themselves without clear guidance or support. Even the most capable and enthusiastic employees wonder whether they’re doing the right thing. This can feel risky, especially when they see some of their coworkers being laid off; they worry about the consequences if things go wrong.

This gap between the desire for more empowerment and capability (with confidence) is what I call the “decision deficit.” Left unaddressed, employees become frustrated that the promise of greater empowerment and autonomy isn’t followed up with actions and don’t see the opportunity to develop themselves. Leaders also feel frustrated with the lack of progress.

Here are five strategies that can help you reduce this decision deficit.

Prepare yourself to empower others.

Empowerment is a management term that consistently fails to live up to its promise, in large part because executives find it difficult to give up control. They see their role and status as tightly linked to their decision-making authority. Delegating responsibility is seen as a diminution of their power. While they might appear confident and assured, underneath they may feel insecure and lack sufficient trust in others.

Prepare yourself to delegate decisions by:

  • Reflecting on what has held you back from empowering people in the past. Was it a failure when you tried? What could you have done differently to make it a success? What were your feelings when you delegated, and what can you learn from them? What will it take to make the first step?
  • Planning for a staggered transition of responsibilities, starting with giving low-risk decisions to capable people. This helps build up confidence in yourself and others before you distribute responsibility more widely.
  • Considering it an opportunity to increase the quality of your decision-making and to explore other aspects of your role, such as innovation and growth, as you free yourself from some of your managerial responsibilities.
  • Reminding yourself why you’re doing this — which should be to give people an opportunity to develop and harness their (often greater) insight into the product, service, or market in question.

One of my clients, John,* had to re-examine his own leadership style before he was ready to take these steps. He ran a tightly managed business unit, in which he made all of the calls. But his management style — fed by his underlying insecurities about whether he was good enough — was hampering the team’s ability to innovate and meet their ambitious growth targets. Working with one of his direct reports, he identified the employees he could trust the most with some of his decisions, which marked the beginning of his empowerment journey.

Develop a set of decision principles.

Your role as the leader is to encourage your people to think for themselves — not to enact a set of rules for them. Encourage them to consider what is in customers’ and the organization’s best interests when making decisions. Establish bounds for return and risk. Highlight potential behaviors that might derail sound decision-making (for example, tiredness, myopia, or overconfidence). Insist on transparency so they’re able to communicate not only the decision, but the reasoning, as required.

These principles determine the questions any decision-maker should be able answer as they prepare to make a decision:

  • The decision: Capture and classify the problem that needs to be addressed and the decision that needs to be made.
  • Materiality: Why does it matter?
  • Timeframe: When is the decision is required by?
  • Alternatives: What are the other options? Can you examine from a different perspective?
  • Evidence: What do you know from direct experience and insights from analytics?
  • Beliefs: What do you need to believe or assume?
  • Biases: How have you mitigated potential biases, such as confirmation bias or overconfidence?
  • Criteria: How will you assess the decision?
  • Stakeholders: Who should be involved in making the decision?
  • Judgement: What have you decided?
  • Communication: How will you summarize and communicate the decision?
  • Review: What lessons can this decision teach you about future ones?

Clarify decision-making roles.

It’s essential to clarify decision roles, rights, and accountability. This starts at the top. Write down the decisions you’re responsible for, individually and collectively. Consider whether you’re the best person to make these decisions while remembering that you still have overall responsibility — delegation shouldn’t be confused with dereliction of duties.

Whether or not to delegate a decision depends on your role, your (and others’) capabilities, the materiality of the decision, and the expectations of others. The more complex and sensitive the decision, the more likely it is that you’ll retain the decision-making role. For example, one of my clients, Keith Underwood, COO and CFO of The Guardian, said that he won’t delegate when “the decision involves a sophisticated view of the context the organization is operating in, has profound implications on the business, and when stakeholders [e.g., employees, investors] expect me to have complete ownership of the decision.” Kelly Devine, president of Mastercard UK and Ireland, told me, “The only time I really feel it’s hard to delegate is when the decision is in a highly pressurized, contentious, or consequential situation, and I simply don’t want someone on my team to be carrying that burden alone.”

Identify who you can give more decision-making responsibility to, based on both their capabilities and area of responsibility, and define the scope of what they can make decisions about. Over time, encourage them to cascade their responsibility downward once both of you are confident the new system is working.

For example, the CFO and the president of a division might make the key decisions in a large commercial negotiation, consulting specialists in legal or procurement as required. Then, the business unit leader or product manager can make pricing or resourcing decisions for specific products. Similarly, the person dealing directly with customers can decide how best to respond to customer complaints.

Does Life Get More Fun as You Age?

I recently read the following quote in a magazine under the heading, Wit and Wisdom: “If you don’t have fun in your 20s, you’re never going to have fun. Life does not get more and more fun.” —Fran Lebowitz

I usually enjoy the wry humor of Fran Lebowitz, but this particular quote demonstrates neither wit nor wisdom. Unfortunately, many 20-somethings, along with children, adolescents, and middle-aged adults, regularly fall victim to this sort of ageist stereotyping. As a result, they dread getting older, believing that there is nothing to look forward to as they age.

Nothing could be further from the truth! In this post, I’ll reveal 12 wonderful things about aging that young and middle-aged people can anticipate. Most are based on survey research from around the world and not just my personal experience, although I couldn’t resist putting in my two cents here and there.

Why is it important to know the upsides of aging? Psychologist Becca Levy, in her book, Breaking the Age Code, has done massive amounts of research on how our images of aging impact our lifespan and health. Her work demonstrates that those who have positive images of aging live, on average, 7.5 years longer than those who have negative images of aging. Positive images of the older years are also linked to better health, better memory, a lower risk of dementia, and even a faster walking pace. It’s amazing that a positive view of older age can literally put more spring in your step.

Here is a quick summary of 12 major benefits of getting older:

1. You are still alive! Need I say more? Yes, it’s better than the alternative.

2. Older people are happier people. Surveys in the U.S. and in countries all over the world repeatedly confirm this counterintuitive fact. As I write in my book on healthy aging, Silver Sparks, “Polls of people…in 149 countries reveal a startling pattern…As they aged, older adults rated their life satisfaction progressively higher, with happiness rating rising gradually and steadily from age 50 through the decade of the 90s.” Life satisfaction IS fairly high in the 20s but not as high as it will be in the years after 60. Aging expert Laura Carstensen confirms that “research shows over and over that older people are happier than the twenty-somethings who are assumed to be in the prime of life.”

3. Older people are mentally healthy people. Carstensen has researched the mental health of older people and asserts that “People over the age of 65 have the most stable and optimistic outlook of all adults.” Emotional regulation also improves as we age, and depression is less common than in midlife (with the exception of the oldest old). A survey from 2016, described here, even found that “People in their 20s and 30s reported having the highest levels of depression, anxiety and stress, plus the lowest levels of happiness, satisfaction and wellbeing. Older people, surprisingly, were the happiest.” Why?

According to writer Jonathan Rauch, author of The Happiness Curve, getting older fosters a “positivity effect,” meaning older people dwell less on life’s downsides, notice positive events more than negative ones, and cultivate the “gratitude attitude.” And life is stressful for young adults. They have multiple responsibilities and life tasks, including learning the skills of independent living, finding an intimate partner, and securing a niche in the working world.

4. Older people have more choices about their work life. Not every older person is fortunate enough to have a strong financial foundation for the post-retirement years. But many seniors can design a retirement with a mixture of work options such as part-time employment, a second (or third) career, volunteer jobs, and/or just replacing work with leisure and fun. Others choose not to retire at all. As Margaret Mead famously said, “Sooner or later I’m going to die, but I’m not going to retire.”

5. Older people can focus on their own creativity and personal development, often for the first time in their life. Retirees can take a Spanish class, join a quilting group, cultivate their carpentry skills, study Greek and Roman history, write their memoirs or a novel—whatever strikes their fancy.

3 Ways to Get the Benefits of Meditating, Without Meditating

When I talk to people about meditation, there is always an underlying guilt. “I know I should, but…” 

A common complaint is that there is never enough time. We have too much to do, and when we finally get a few minutes to ourselves, we would rather spend it doing something enjoyable. 

Luckily, research shows us how meditation works. Meditation shuts down the default mode network (DMN), which produces our self-directed, automatic thoughts. This is our inner monologue. It also activates the central executive network (CEN), from where our deliberate, focused attention comes. 

Over time, meditation reconfigures the brain: The CEN becomes stronger, making it easier to inhibit mind-wandering and focus on the things that matter. This creates a cascade of benefits, from reduced negative emotions to improved interpersonal relationships.

To experience the effects of meditating in everyday life, start with a mindset shift. Your inner monologue is unimportant. Unnecessary. It not only doesn’t provide value, but it also makes normal activities feel worse. It stands in the way of peace, calm, and being really present in your life.

When a valuable thought does arise, whether it is a to-do or a creative idea, write it down. Knowing what you will do with the occasional important thought helps you forget the rest.

Then, try out these solutions:

  1. Simplify your everyday activities. Forty-three percent of the time, we are doing everyday activities while thinking about something else, aka, listening to our DMN (Wood et al., 2002). When doing daily things, actively silence the brain by turning your focus elsewhere. Focus on the sensation of the warm water in the shower, the taste of your turkey sandwich, or the color of the sky. Mindfulness is a struggle when we value our thoughts. When we devalue our thoughts, mindfulness is the natural result. 
  2. Focus on what’s in front of you. Too often, we half listen to the people around us. We hear them, but we also hear the DMN rambling. When you speak with someone, make a conscious effort to go mentally silent. Focus on them. This will activate your CEN, turn off your DMN, and create a more fulfilling interaction in the process. 
  3. Choose flow. A flow state, when we are so absorbed in an activity that nothing else seems to matter, deactivates the DMN. Take time to do the activities you love—the ones that make you lose track of time and space. Sustained attention builds the CEN, creating the same effect that meditation does. If you don’t have a flow activity, take one you like, from tennis to knitting, and talk through the steps. “Knit one, purl one,” or, “Bounce, bounce, hit.” As W. Timothy Gallwey, the author of The Inner Game of Tennis, writes, “It’s hard to be saying “bounce-hit” and at the same time overinstructing yourself, trying too hard or worrying about the score.” 

In short, meditation is a powerhouse at shutting down the default mode network. Luckily, that is something you can do whether you’re in a yoga studio or the grocery store.

What to Know About Rental Assistance Programs

What is Rental Assistance?

Rental assistance programs were originally created to distribute federal or state government funds to qualifying renters and/or landlords. Typically, a local government agency distributes the funds, whether the money comes from the state or federal level. 

Funding is often given out in response to a major need: Covid-19 is the best recent example. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 made available over $20 billion in federal funds to local governments to assist qualifying households. In some cases, new local agencies were formed to manage these funds, though in most cases, the funds were distributed to existing local housing assistance programs. 

What Rental Assistance Programs Cover 

Each program is different, with different criteria and different goals, so it’s possible you could receive funds for costs other than rent. However, generally, funds primarily help renters cover budget shortfalls in two areas, both tied to keeping you in your home:

  • Rent payments
  • Utility payments

Typically, the goal is to help families stay in their homes and keep their necessary utility services operating, such as water, electricity, and gas.

Rental assistance may also take the form of affordable rental housing. In other words, the available assistance may be helpful in finding and accessing more affordable housing, in addition to payments covering the monthly rental fees.

How to Find a Program 

You’ll need to look for programs specific to your area. Start with the list of local rental resources maintained by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Find your state and see what is available to you. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also maintains a list of renter resources, which you can narrow down by state and county. New programs are typically developed in response to a specific need, so keep an eye out for new applicable programs in your region (try an online search for your area).

How to Qualify for Relief or Assistance

Every program has different requirements, so you’ll need to check what they are for your area, but the most common program requirements are that you:

  • Live in a particular city, county, or state;
  • Have a household income that doesn’t exceed a certain amount (based on where you live and how many live in the household); and
  • Don’t live in a home where the monthly rent exceeds the program’s specified limit.

What to Do if the Local Program Ends

A program ending can pose a frustrating problem for renters. The first thing you can do is keep open communication with your landlord. It’s best if you can try right away to come up with a repayment plan that satisfies both parties. 

Also check to see if your state offers eviction protections. Many states have put special eviction protections in place for tenants who were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. While some of those protections may have expired in some states, certain states (including New York) have no expiration date on the protections—assuming the hardship took place during a specified period. Although these protections may not prevent an eviction in the end, they could provide time and resources to help you avoid a possible pending eviction.

It’s also recommended you work with a housing counselor. Nonprofit foreclosure and eviction counselors can help you understand your options, know your rights as a tenant, connect you to applicable resources, and help you work with your landlord and other creditors. 

Finally, if your landlord has filed a lawsuit to have you evicted, work with an attorney if at all possible. Depending on your location and circumstances, you may qualify to receive free legal support. Start with to find legal resources in your state or county. 

Even if you don’t have a lawyer, be sure to follow any instructions you receive from the court. You’ll typically be given the opportunity to file a written appeal explaining why you shouldn’t be evicted. This response should include information about your efforts to correct the situation, what aid or relief you’ve received (or attempted to receive), and any efforts by the landlord to help or hinder your ability to pay. 

Longer-term Solutions to Paying Rent 

It’s important to understand that most rental assistance programs are designed to be temporary solutions to extraordinary circumstances. They’re not meant to pay your monthly rent on a long-term basis. If you regularly struggle to manage bills and expenses, consider working with a free credit counselor to rebalance your budget, focus your priorities, and figure out how to make life more affordable.

The One Diet that Beats them All

An increasing amount of scientific evidence now backs up this notion. Recent studies have linked reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and cancers with Mediterranean diets. Medical News Today looked at the evidence and spoke to experts about the science behind the benefits of this diet.

Over the years, many diets have been proposed for keeping healthy or reducing the risk of specific diseases, but few of them have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.

One exception, however, appears to be the Mediterranean diet.

Increasingly, studies are showing that there are significant health benefits for people who follow this eating plan. Not only has research shown that it reduces cardiovascular disease, but it may also benefit cognition, decrease diabetes risk, reduce the risk of some cancers, and alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis. 

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is an umbrella term referring to diets based on the historic eating habits of people who live around the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the American Heart Association, which recommends this type of diet for cardiovascular health, its key features are: 

  • high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes
  • low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fish, poultry, non-tropical vegetable oils, and nuts
  • limited added sugars, sugary beverages, sodium, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and fatty or processed meats.

The Harvard School of Public Health adds to these recommendations, emphasizing the importance of healthy fats — olive oil, avocados, nuts, and oily fish.

It advises that people should eat red meat only occasionally, but get their protein from fish or seafood at least twice a week and eat small quantities of poultry, eggs, and dairy most days. 

Although water should be a person’s main drink, people may also drink one or two small glasses of red wine each day, as per the traditional Mediterranean diet.

Researchers add, however, that a healthy diet should also be paired up with some form of enjoyable physical activity every day.

Dr. Scott Kaiser, a geriatrician, and director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, noted:

“Research supports the benefits of adopting healthy lifestyle habits and indicates the critical importance this can play in shaping our future individual and collective health. […] Start with including lots of fresh vegetables — especially green leafy vegetables — and then enjoy fresh fruits— like berries — and other antioxidant-rich foods, along with fish, olive oil, and other foods rich in brain-healthy omega-3s.”

The 7 Habits of Health and Happiness

Increasingly lost amid the 24/7 frenzy of modern life is an important but unglamorous truth: most of our quality of life results from the routine physical, emotional, interpersonal, and mental habits we engage in each day. Advertising to the contrary, habits, not hacks, are the real secrets to success, health, love, progress, and fulfillment.

Consider a few examples:

  • While millions of people pursue dreams of prosperity by purchasing lottery tickets—a strategy whose success probability approaches zero—financial experts have long since identified the fundamental habits of wealth building, such as spending less than one earns, smart and consistent investment, use of compounding interest, and maintaining a long-term financial perspective.1
  • CRISPR technology is amazing, but gene therapies do not solve most modern health problems. Research conclusively demonstrates, for example, that less than half of our lifespan is explained by genetic factors.2Our lifestyle and environmental exposure habits explain most of our longevity potential. 
  • Greek mythology notwithstanding, romantic love is rarely the instantaneous result of Cupid’s arrow or Love Potion Number 9. Instead, love is demonstrably more likely to result from habits in our communication and behavior towards prospective intimate partners.3

The above illustrates just a few of the many instances where the slow force of habits exceeds the effects of even the most popular or expensive quick-fix remedies.

Just how powerful are habits? For the typical person, there is no single greater source of influence on their quality of life. Right now, beneath our noses (literally; you probably underestimate the physical and emotional effects of your breathing habits),4 and conscious awareness, habits are nudging our choices, compelling our actions, shaping our results, and, ultimately, deciding our destinies. 

If habits were part of your home, they would be the foundation. If your life were a train, habits would be the tracks on which it traveled. And if your level of health and happiness were depicted as a farm, habits would comprise the quality of your seed and soil. The science is clear: if you want a better life, you need better habits.5

The Seven Habits of Health and Happiness

If certain habits reliably produce wealth, increase lifespan, and foster love, there must also be habits promoting happiness and health. Not surprisingly, studies confirm precisely this prediction; certain habits predispose happiness and health, whereas the opposing habits prejudice us towards depression and disease.

The most practical and persuasive finding from the habit literature, however, is that habits perpetuate happiness and health and that the habits of mental well-being and happiness and the habits of physical health are mostly the same habits.6

Research shows that cardinal habits related to: 

  1. sleep
  2. self-talk
  3. physical activity
  4. relationships
  5. nutrition
  6. goal-setting
  7. stress management/coping

… either predispose our risk for depression and disease (figure above) or promote our capacity for happiness and health (figure below). Collectively, these seven habits function as the nucleus of our quality of life.

Habits comprise our mental and physical health foundation because of their repetitive influence. Although no single instance of exercise, healthy self-talk, or act of kindness toward our spouse, for example, may seem particularly significant, when repeated over time, habits’ effects compound into remarkable results.

For comparison, consider that gravity is invisible yet relentless enough to bend light and shape the universe. Water is mindless, yet it can gradually erode even the tallest mountain. And habits are unconscious, yet their quiet consistency molds our futures as skillfully as a sculptor carves a block of clay.


If the power of habits were expressed in a children’s story, they would be best represented by the humble tortoise from Aesop’s fable—discreet and unassuming, yet as reliable as Newton’s laws of physics. Facing 21st-century threats of rapid change and future uncertainty, habits are the steady and redoubtable force we can still count on to improve the quality of our lives.

Have a Retirement Bucket List?

Retirement can be a time for relaxing and enjoying some hard-earned leisure time. It’s also an opportunity to spend quality time with family and loved ones and build lasting memories with them.

Retirement is also your time to finally get around to doing all those things that you’ve always wanted to do — your retirement bucket list — but have been putting off due to the pressures of work or the day-to-day necessities of running a business.

For some people, that means going on that cruise you promised your spouse years ago. Or discovering America together in an RV. Or playing all your dream golf courses. Or finally starting that pottery business with your husband.

Everybody’s retirement bucket list is different. When I sit down with retirees, I generally hear bucket list items such as Europe, African Safari, traveling with family, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, cruises, famous U.S. parks and more… Amazing places to visit and experience.

Your Retirement Bucket List ‘Window of Opportunity’

As someone who’s worked with many retirees since starting in the financial services industry in 1994 as an insurance professional, I’ve got one critical piece of advice: Whatever is on your “bucket list,” get to it early in retirement. Don’t put it off.

Here’s why: If you’re like most retirees, you’re going to be in your best health early on in your first years after retirement. I wrote on Kiplinger about taking advantage of your first 10 years of retirement, which I call your “Go-Go Years.”

Early in retirement is when you are most likely to have these three necessary elements going for you at the same time:

  • Money
  • Health
  • Time

You have only a limited window of time when you will have all three elements in place at the same time. And none of us knows how long that window will be open for them.

Money: There Are Four Phases

Most of my clients are retired millionaires. So the “money” part of the equation is usually manageable, given proper planning and risk management.

Our goal is to help keep their money window open for a long time, sometimes for multiple generations. So if you’re starting out with a big enough nest egg, the money factor is usually manageable. At least it is for my retired millionaire clients.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to your money in retirement is that retirement is moving from the “collection phase” of your life to the “clean-up phase” to the “keeping it phase” and then the “passing it on phase.”

So it’s important to set up a retirement plan designed to help mitigate losses — you win by not losing! Warren Buffett is famous for saying a lot of things, but his top two rules of investing are: Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget rule No.1.

The other two vital items needed to accomplish your bucket list are closely interrelated: your health and your time.

Health: Don’t Let Inertia Set In

As we get older, most of us begin to lose endurance and mobility. It gets harder to keep up with the grandchildren.

What’s more, the grandchildren get older, too. And more independent. They’ll have less and less time for you. They’ll be dating and borrowing the car and working jobs or going to college — just as you did when you were their age!

Later in life, you may have other demands on your time. There may come a time when you have medical appointments multiple days a week, which might put a crimp in your travel plans.

At a certain point, some of those bucket list activities that you’ve always wanted to do with your family, friends and loved ones may not be an option for you anymore… This is not to be a downer — entering retirement can and should be a joyous time. But don’t let time get away from you. Many people take it easy for a while, and then inertia may set in. Some retirees settle into a routine, continually putting off those important bucket list tasks for one reason or another.

Another day becomes another month. A month becomes a year. And then their health might fail. Or their time runs out altogether. It’s better to pass away tired than pass away with regrets at the things you didn’t get around to doing.

9 Things Parents Can Do To Make Divorce Easier On Kids

Divorce is hard on everyone involved. But it can be especially tough on kids, particularly if a parent is so overwhelmed with the emotions of the process that they don’t tend to their children’s needs. When Austin-based therapist Katie Malinski works with divorcing parents, she starts with one simple piece of advice. “To make divorce as painless as possible on kids, parents have to understand what is hard for kids about divorce, and try to minimize those parts.”

The advice is simple yet profound. Pretty much everything about watching parents separate is confusing and difficult, but Malinski, who offers a course on how to tell your children you are separating or divorcing, says the two biggest stressors around divorce and kids are typically loss (or fear of loss) of their relationship with both parents, and being surrounded by conflict. Transitions — a new house, new school, and new caregivers — cause kids a lot of stress, too. 

As a parent navigating these tough aspects yourself, it can be hard to focus on your kids’ needs. But it’s important to do your best to minimize your kids’ stress as much as you can. Here, per Malinski, are nine important rules to keep in mind.

1. Think About How You’ll Tell Them

There are a lot of tough parts about divorce, but telling your kids that it’s happening feels especially heart-wrenching. How you choose to tell them can make a big impact on their experience. Malinski suggests writing out what you’ll say beforehand, keeping it very short, and reading it aloud several times in private where no one can hear you. “That way, you can be more emotionally present for your child’s emotions during the conversation, without being overtaken by your own,” she says.

2. Keep Conflict Low

Divorce brings a wide range of emotions. While it’s normal to feel anger or resentment toward an ex, parents must be careful of how they voice them. No, this doesn’t mean putting feelings aside. It means compartmentalizing them. Share them with your therapist or vent to a trusted friend. But by all means, avoid allowing your strong emotions to stir conflict that could come up in front of your kids. “If parents can work through their emotions and create healthy boundaries with their ex and their kids,” Malinski notes, “they are more likely to be cooperative and peaceful around or about the kids.”

3. When The Kids Are Around, Avoid Emotional Topics

You know your personal hot-button issues, the topics that, if they surface in conversation, almost always result in raised voices or tension. Do your best to avoid these topics in front of your kids. For example, if money is a sensitive subject, or your ex has a new romantic interest, Malinski suggests saving these topics for private, adult discussions. Don’t bring these things up––or anything that was a source of conflict in your marriage––when your kids are around, or you’ll simply cause unnecessary stress for them.

4. Try To Find Common Ground

You might feel like you have nothing in common with your ex, which can lead to tension. During interactions, Malinski suggests taking a deep breath, noticing any physical tension you’re harboring about the situation, and checking in on your thoughts. If any negative messages are running through your mind, do your best to reframe them to home in on the one thing you have in common: You share a child, and you both want what’s best for them. You may not like your ex, but if you work on changing the narration in your head, you can devote energy to making good decisions about your kid.

5. Show Your Kids You’re Still There For Them

Separating from your partner is probably one of the worst experiences of your life––and at the same time, your kids need you to be present more than ever. Do as good a job you can to find ways to relieve your own stress so you can emotionally engage with your child. Check in on a regular basis about how your child is doing, and if they’re struggling, always take time to listen and comfort them. “Kids need to feel like their parents are still clocked in,” Malinski says. “That means the parent needs to pay attention to their emotional state.”

6. Care For Your Child Together Whenever Possible

You might not be living together, but there will probably be times when you’ll have to cross paths with your ex. Do your best –– in a peaceful and relaxed way –– to show your child that your conflict won’t get in the way of your first priority: to care for them. For example, maybe you both show up at the preschool recital or birthday party, even if it’s awkward. Or maybe you make an effort to talk about the kids’ nap schedule and new favorite snack during “shift change. “Kids need to see both their parents in the same space pretty regularly between ages 0 and 5, which includes seeing their parents talk to each other about them in friendly, casual ways,” Malinski says.

Insomnia linked to greater risk of heart attack

As research progresses, experts are finding more and more reasons for people to prioritize sleep. One area of interest is how the sleep disorder insomnia increases the risk for other health problems. 

A​ recent review published in Clinical Cardiology examined how insomnia increases the risk of a heart attack. The review found that people with insomnia were 69% more likely to experience heart attacks. Researchers suggest that insomnia should be addressed as an essential heart attack risk factor. 

How insomnia and sleep affect health

Insomnia happens when people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Chronic insomnia occurs when the problem lasts for three months or more. Several factors can increase someone’s risk for insomnia, such as high-stress levels or chronic pain. 

W​hen people don’t get enough sleep, it can lead contribute to a variety of unpleasant symptoms and increase the risk for specific health problems. Non-study author Dr. Harneet Walia, director of Sleep Medicine and Continuous Improvement at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, explained to Medical News Today:

“Insomnia is associated with impairment in quality of life ranging from fatigue, sleepiness, mood changes, increased absenteeism, and low attention. They may also have decreased cognitive function. There are studies to suggest that insomnia is associated with cardiovascular and metabolic risk such as high blood pressure, heart attack and diabetes.”

N​on-study author Dr. Wafi Momin, a cardiologist with UTHealth Houston Heart & Vascular and Memorial Hermann, further noted the following reasons for a good night’s sleep:

“Sleep is vital in helping the body repair itself. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night helps your body recover and allows you to function normally the following day. Regular, consistent sleep also helps regulate blood pressure, sugar levels, as well as weight. These health problems are linked to heart disease such as heart attack and stroke, so getting plenty of sleep and regulating these risk factors can be of much help.”

How to Become More Adaptable in Challenging Situations

In unfamiliar, high-stakes situations, it can be difficult to remain calm and open-minded. Our instinctive reaction is to stick with what has worked for us in the past. That’s normal, and it can work well in familiar situations. But defaulting to old habits in new situations that call for new solutions is usually a recipe for failure. The challenge is that new, high-pressure situations often create a level of anxiety that triggers the very reactions that tend to limit us, stifling innovation. This is the adaptability paradox: When we most need to learn, change, and adapt, we are most likely to react with old approaches that aren’t suited to our new situation, leading to poorer decisions and ineffective solutions.

Navigating periods of turbulence successfully requires leaders to adopt a sophisticated form of self-mastery that we call Deliberate Calm. “Deliberate” refers to the awareness that you have a choice in how you experience and respond to a situation. “Calm” refers to rationally considering how best to respond, without being governed by old habits.

“Deliberate Calm” is a solution to the adaptability paradox. It enables leaders to act with intention, creativity, and objectivity, even in the most challenging circumstances, and it helps us to learn and adapt to novel challenges when the stakes are highest. The practice of Deliberate Calm — and it is a practice — changes our relationship with uncertainty.

Deliberate Calm in practice

Here’s a hypothetical example. Jeff is a sales director at a consumer goods manufacturing company facing technological and market disruptions as well as slow sales. When his boss calls with a warning that his numbers need to improve, he feels pressure, frustration, and anxiety. He responds in the style that has worked for him in the past, telling her, “I’ll fix it.” He tells himself he just needs to redouble his efforts and pull out all the stops to sell more. Except it’s possible that his new reality can’t be fixed with old approaches, and that they’ll keep him in this tough spot. What if the carrots-and-sticks method that was successful in the past doesn’t work? In this situation, setting new sales goals, building in more incentives and consequences for performance, and telling his team to work harder and do better is likely to fail or backfire. And when pushing harder in the old ways continues to fail, this is when panic can set in, triggering Jeff to pull the same levers even harder, rather than adapting to a new reality and discovering new solutions.

If Jeff were to practice Deliberate Calm, he would take a deep breath, take stock of his situation, and discuss it candidly with his boss. He would admit that he doesn’t have all the answers, that the traditional approaches aren’t working, and that he sees signs that the competitive landscape will make it harder to maintain sales. He may still feel anxious, but he’d accept that retreating to the false security of old methods is a form of denial that provides only a brief respite. He’s better off surfacing underlying concerns, managing through his own discomfort, and opening a dialogue about exploring new approaches.  He can also advocate for ways to find new responses and ask for help in developing new ideas.

Next, he should think about how to approach his sales team. In this hypothetical scenario, Jeff’s traditional carrots-and-sticks method will fail, because fundamentally new approaches are needed to solve novel challenges. Instead, he needs to explore the situation, invite new ideas, and admit he doesn’t have all the answers. The team might feel stress, but Jeff can provide some hope and optimism — along with some clear-eyed realism about the situation. He can invite his team to help discover new solutions in a way that promotes creativity and learning without fear of punishment, rather than reactive “more of the same” tactics that are showing diminishing returns. There are no guarantees, but this response is far more likely to result in new solutions and successful outcomes in the face of uncertainty.

Does the practice of Deliberate Calm actually work? Yes. We designed a Deliberate Calm leadership program for a global pharmaceutical company that put 1,450 leaders through weekly practice sessions for approximately 30 minutes per week for 12 weeks, and then measured changes in their behavior and their performance (including self-assessments and assessments by their boss, teammates, and other colleagues). The results were striking. Compared to a control group (those who were asked to try to improve the same behaviors and outcomes, but who did not participate in the program), participants in the capability program showed three times more improvement in the targeted behaviors and outcomes, including overall leadership performance, adaptation to unplanned circumstances, optimism, relational effectiveness (e.g., empathy, compassion), collaboration and teaming (e.g., fostering psychological safety), and the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Additionally, their sense of well-being improved 7.5 times more than that of the control group. Open-ended comments from the participants suggested that they experienced as much benefit in their personal lives as they did at work.

Three skills to develop to become more adaptable

How can you start? There are three major elements to cultivating Deliberate Calm:

Learning agility

is about learning from experience, experimenting with new tactics, approaching new situations with a growth mindset, seeking and learning from feedback, and applying these lessons in real time to new situations. The principle is that leaders need to be learners even in the most challenging circumstances. It is difficult to overestimate how important this is: One meta-analysis of dozens of empirical studies found that adaptability and learning agility were the top predictors of a leader’s performance and potential.

You can build this muscle by, for example, setting your intention each day for how you want to show up for challenging situations. This may sound something like: “Instead of trying to have an answer ready for all difficult, unexpected challenges today, I will approach them with curiosity and an open mind, inviting multiple perspectives.” Doing this helps you remain open to feedback, learn, and adjust your response that otherwise may have been an unhelpful default reaction.

Emotional self-regulation

is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions, and to channel those emotions into productive ways of thinking and acting. Research has consistently shown that leaders with greater emotional self-regulation perform significantly better, as do their teams. Before you can regulate your emotional responses, you first need to become aware of what triggers them and what these responses tell you, because they can provide very valuable information.

Try to keep a diary for a couple of days, writing down moments where you feel emotionally triggered, and describe your thoughts, bodily sensations, and actions in that situation. After a week, you will have a number of these entries, and you can start to see a pattern. The more you do this, the easier it becomes to be aware in the midst of an emotional response. That’s when you can start regulating, learning not only to process the unhelpful emotions but also to become comfortable with the discomfort they bring.

Dual awareness

is the integration of internal circumstances (experiences, thoughts, emotions, and responses) and external ones (an objective reading of the situation and what it calls for). We are integrating two important things — the awareness of our own emotions, assumptions, and reactive habits, especially under pressure, and the nature of the situation we are facing. By taking a moment to take stock of ourselves and the situation, we better understand not only our true motivations and intentions, but also what the situation calls for, and how our habits and tendencies will serve us in this moment. This makes it possible to observe yourself while in action — and then match your responses to the demands of the moment.

Why Your Best Thoughts Happen in the Shower or When Walking

Ever wonder why a good shower relaxes your imagination and body or why it seems to release a stream of creative thoughts about a problem that may have vexed you?

The answer lies in the fixed amount of attention your brain has to work with at any given moment. This biological limit is why trying to multitask so often degrades performance and leads to mistakes.1

When the rational mind focuses on a problem, it eats up much of your allotted bandwidth, whereas letting the mind wander while you carry out a “mindless” task lets your subconscious thoughts roam beyond the activity at hand. 

By mindless, I mean a relatively automatic routine such as walking, driving a habitual route, following your exercise workout, hiking in nature, or, yes, taking a shower.2 These are all solitary activities that let us disconnect from the outside world. They can become meditative, relaxing intervals that open us to new ideas and perspectives.

An additional benefit of the shower is that its white noise blocks outside stimulation. The roar of the water produces a partial sensory deprivation, taking bandwidth that would have been used for other perceptions, and shunting it to the mental space the mind uses to wander. Ideas incubating in the background can rise to consciousness and lead you past a creative impasse. 

Carving out mental space and freeing the mind of deliberate thought is a proven incubator of creative insight. The lack of outside stimulation can lead to the state of “flow,” in which we are deeply if absentmindedly, engaged with inner contemplations.

Two widely agreed features of “shower thoughts” are that they insights from the subconscious and the result of not thinking deliberately about anything.3 Sometimes breakthroughs occur in an “aha” moment. Two features of this kind of insight are the need for relative mental quiet and the suddenness with which they arrive when not intentionally thinking about the problem at hand.

Walking is another mindless–or should I say mindful–activity that grounds us in the present moment. Famous walkers attest to walking’s benefits and shed insight on solitary activities. During her habitual, meandering walks, Virginia Woolf honed her ability to portray consciousness and the character of thought. In one of her last novels, The Waves, she refracts six separate consciousnesses into the mind of one character, the biographer named Bernard. 

In her biographical essay, “A Sketch of the Past,” Woolf said that her novel To the Lighthouse burst forth while walking “in a great, apparently involuntary, rush … Blowing bubbles out of a pipe gives the feeling of the rapid crowd of ideas and scenes which blew out of my mind. What blew the bubbles? … I have no notion.”

In his essay “Walking,” Thoreau explained that it is nothing like exercise and is “absolutely free from all otherworldly engagements.” Nietzsche, too, walked so that he could think. In Twilight of the Idols, he wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” 

In The Boy Detective, Essayist Roger Rosenblatt explores the flâneur–a stroller who saunters and observes–a walker without purpose. Wandering feet reflect a wandering mind, going wherever the chain of associations takes you. Rosenblatt develops a lovely concept that each of us has two personalities we take on our private walks, one “for the senses, one for the intellect.” The two never meet, yet live connected “parallel lives … and side by side move into infinity.”

Showers and walking can be meditative experiences and opportunities for introspection and reflection. They are also times when great ideas can pop into our heads.

Tax Season 2023

The 2023 tax season has started.  And whether you like to file your tax returns early or prefer to wait closer to Tax Day 2023 (i.e., April 18), there are a few things you need to know about income reporting, new tax credits, state stimulus checks, and potentially smaller tax refunds—before you file your 2022 taxes.

Tax Season 2023

First and foremost, the IRS began accepting tax returns on Monday, January 23rd. The agency says that it is expecting more than 168 million tax returns this season and that many people will file early.

If you are an early filer, be sure that you have all the information you need before you file. You are responsible for filing a complete and accurate tax return, so gather your records, and double check your taxpayer identification number and PIN.

Also worthy of note: The IRS recently added more than 5,000 new customer service staff. This increased IRS staffing stems from the Inflation Reduction Act and is part of the agency’s goal to improve service this filing season. But the IRS still says that visiting the website,, is the fastest way to get tax refund information, and answers to common tax questions.

The IRS also says that direct deposit is the fastest way to get your tax refund if you’re due one. 

Free File Taxes

If you earned $73,000 or less in 2022, you can file your taxes online—for free.

The IRS Free File program operates with seven providers who each have their own various eligibility rules and products. IRS Free File has been open since January 13. If you filed your taxes through the program before January 13, your Free File provider likely held onto your return until the IRS began accepting tax returns on January 23.

If you haven’t filed your taxes yet and are interested in IRS Free File, you can go to the IRS Free File site. Follow the prompts to the online lookup tool to find the right product for you.

2023 Tax Day

This year, the tax filing deadline to submit 2022 tax returns, or to submit an extension to file and pay taxes you owe for 2022, is Tuesday, April 18. (The due date is not the typical April 15 mainly because that would fall on a weekend.)

If you live in an area that was affected by natural disasters (e.g., floods, tornadoes, wildfires, etc.), you have a little more time to file because your individual and business tax returns aren’t due until May 15, 2023. That 2023 filing extension currently applies to storm victims in Alabama, California, and Georgia.

2022 “Stimulus” Payments

If, during 2022, you received a state tax refund payment, inflaiton relief check, or other 2022 special rebate or “stimulus” check from your state,  you may have been wondering whether the amount will be taxable on your federal income tax return. 

The IRS recently announced that it won’t challenge the taxability of most of the special state payments made in 21 states.  (The IRS had recently asked taxpayers who had received the special payments, to wait to file their 2022 tax returns so that the agency could decide whether the payments would be treated as taxable income.)

Not having to report most of the special state payments on your federal income tax return is good news for many taxpayers. But, if you’re unsure whether the special 2022 state payment you received is taxable, consult a professional before you file your 2022 federal return.

How To Be More Vulnerable With Your Kids

In many ways, vulnerability is an unavoidable part of parenthood. When you become a parent, it’s normal to come face to face with your flaws and weaknesses on a regular basis. As important as vulnerability is, though, many dads struggle to intentionally express it with their kids — largely for reasons that trace back to old notions of masculinity. If that sounds like you — maybe you don’t want to let your kids down or you simply feel awkward sharing your emotions — it can be tough to display sensitivity in your relationships.

Michael Addis, professor of psychology at Clark University and author of Invisible Men: Men’s Inner Lives and the Consequences of Silence, says it’s normal to feel a little weird when you break social norms and stereotypes about your own vulnerability. But making simple changes to your communication style — and even just accepting the awkwardness — can make a significant, positive difference in your family dynamics.

Looking for ways to demonstrate vulnerability with your kids, without feeling awkward? Here are eight expert-recommended places to start.

1. Share Life Stories

Sharing life stories with your kids can be a great way to connect more deeply with them. Not only will reaching back into your personal memories give you practice with vulnerability; the process of sharing your life experiences and the surrounding lessons and emotions can also empower your kids.

“There’s research that shows kids from families where stories from the past are shared are more resilient, more confident, and better problem solvers, as they use the pride in overcoming challenges from the past as fuel to do in the future,” says Marriage and family therapist Carrie Krawiec. 

On the flip side, if you choose not to shed light on your past, you risk creating a family climate of shame and uncertainty. So start sharing your stories and memories while your kids are young, and you’ll establish a more intimate relationship and healthy attachment.

2. Say “I don’t know”

If you find yourself fixated on not disappointing family members who look up to you, you’re not alone. Sam Nabil, owner and therapist at Naya Clinics, says many fathers fall into the “superman” trap, where they find themselves pretending to be confident and capable in any and all situations, even if they are completely out of their depths.

Pay attention to situations where you’re tempted not to reveal weakness. Maybe your kids ask you to play a game or sport you’re not good at. Maybe you’re not sure how to fix your toddler’s tricycle. Either way, Nabil says it can be powerful to admit you’re not perfect.

“Simply answering a question by saying ‘I don’t know’ or responding to a request for help by saying ‘I actually don’t know how to do this’ is a great way to be vulnerable with your children, as well as modeling good behavior for them,” he says.

After you admit you’re not sure how to do something, take time to show you care by finding the answer — and make it a bonding opportunity by involving your kid in the process.

3. Say “I’m sorry”

No one likes to come off like they are in the wrong — no one more so than a father in front of his children. But failing to admit you’re wrong can have a negative impact on your family. “Not only is this behavior counterproductive in general, it is also teaching the children all sorts of wrong lessons, and moving the father very far away from being able to empathically and vulnerable communicate,” says Nabil.

Ironically, this attitude will only put more pressure on you to keep up the “perfect dad” act, which creates more distance from your kids. And when you’re not able to admit you’re in the wrong, you’ll be more likely to shift blame onto others, which teaches your kids to do the same.

A better approach, Nabil says, would be to admit responsibility to your children, and make an effort to do better next time. Start by saying, “Hey buddy, I know I promised you to make it to your game, and I didn’t. I’m very sorry. I lost track of time at work. I’ll try my best to do better this time.”

4. Be Open About Your Emotions

Another common practice among dads, according to Nabil: hiding negative feelings from your kids in order to “protect them.” But all that ends up doing is confusing your family, who will clearly see you’re distraught without knowing why.

If you display disappointment, sadness, or anger without openly talking about it, you run the risk of your children assuming they did something wrong. So instead of protecting them from their negative feelings, you could actually make your kids feel guilty for something they didn’t do.

A much better approach is to be vulnerable and share your hurt and pain with your children — albeit in a way that doesn’t scare them. For example, you could admit, “I’m very disappointed because I worked very hard last year, and still did not get the promotion I was hoping for” or even, “I’m frustrated because I had an argument with your mom.”

How to Quickly Recover From Setbacks and Train Your Brain For Success

After I noticed this, I started paying attention to people I know who are not so successful at getting what they want. And, sure enough, they were not good at recovering quickly from disappointments. They spent time beating themselves up, blaming others or circumstances, thinking about all they lost or could lose, or asking, “Why did this happen to me?” They let the problem turn into self-doubt.

Great athletes know that they can’t waste time like that. A pro golfer makes a bad shot and has just a few minutes to pull themselves together as they walk to their ball so that their next shot isn’t as bad or even worse.

A pitcher who throws a bad pitch but doesn’t have time to moan and groan about it. They must bounce back within seconds and prepare to throw the next pitch. In a sport like volleyball or pickleball, an athlete has just split seconds to recover and receive what’s coming at them.

Don’t just shake it off

A friend of mine trained in Aikido years ago. She had to take a test to earn her black belt, and part of the test was a “randori, ” meaning three other students would attack freestyle all at once. Yikes! Of course, she was taught strategies to handle this, but she told me that a big part of her training was learning to recover instantly whenever she made a mistake. If she didn’t, the next attacker would come in and nail her!

But the idea was not to just “shake it off.” She said, “If you made a bad throw, the key was to dig deeper at that moment, to call up even more energy and more determination, to let that mistake bring in even more power.”

Successful entrepreneurs don’t just “shake it off” and move on. Like the Aikido example, they use that mistake or setback to get stronger and smarter. They spend the time they have learning from the problem. Then they take those lessons learned and apply them. Focusing on the lessons versus the problem leads to more self-confidence rather than more self-doubt. You’re reinforcing that you can learn and improve and that you’ll know how to handle this situation better because you now have a new tool or more wisdom in your toolbox.

Money likes speed

In business, you’ve typically got more time than a split second to recover from a problem, and there isn’t some guy in the wings waiting to nail you if you blow a presentation or lose an important client. Usually, you have hours, if not days, to figure out what to do next.

Unlike a racket ball player or being in a randori, you usually have time to think it through before your next play. Still, successful people don’t waste a lot of time. They recover very quickly, whether they have to or not. One of my mentors always told me, “Money likes speed.”

This isn’t to say that you can’t rant and rave for a few minutes. In fact, if I let myself have a few minutes of feeling totally angry or upset, it helps clear the air and my head. But I don’t let myself stay there. I move as quickly as I can to figure out the lesson this problem offers me. Then I’ve trained myself to ask two questions: “Okay, so how will this make me stronger and better? And what is my best response right now?”

Could exercise be a potent weapon against neurodegenerative conditions?

On average, we are living longer, but we may not be living healthier. According to European Union figures, women can expect, on average, 64.5 healthy life years (HLYs), and men, 63.5.

But life expectancy in the EU is just over 83 years for women and 77.5 for men. So, on average, a person can expect to spend around 15-20 years with some sort of health problem. 

And most of those years of ill health are likely to be the later years of life, and many people will develop a neurodegenerative disease.

Estimates indicate that 14–18% of people over the age of 70 years in the United States have some form of cognitive impairment. And some 10% of people in the same age group in the U.S. have dementia, a number that rises to 33% of those over 90.

But there are ways to help extend your HLYs, and evidence is increasingly suggesting that regular physical activity may be one of the most effective ways to help your body and brain stay healthy for longer.

Exercise for mental and physical health

Exercise makes us feel better — higher levels are associated with lower levels of depression, and it is thought this is due to a natural “high” from the release of endorphins and endocannabinoids, which can last for some time after exercising — but the physical effects last longer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), regular physical activity is “one of the most important things you can do for your health.”

Medical experts everywhere agree with that statement. Speaking to Medical News Today, Dr. Emer MacSweeney, CEO and consultant neuroradiologist at Re:Cognition Health, emphasized:

“Being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your body. Exercise helps protect against many diseases and keeps the heart, muscles, bones, and brain in optimum condition. Exercise promotes [the] oxygenation of the brain and stimulation of multiple neurochemicals.”

Exercise can reduce the risk of, among other conditions, cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

And, together with a healthy diet, it is a key part of maintaining a healthy body weight — another way to lower the risk of disease.

Research has shown that endorphins can relieve pain, and may reduce both inflammation and stress responses. Additionally, exercise can increase the beneficial effects of medications and other therapies for mental health conditions, such as depression.

“Exercise is particularly beneficial for mental health due to the chemical changes which occur in the brain and body, including the release of ‘feel-good’ chemicals, endorphins and serotonin,” Dr. MacSweeney explained.

15 Signs That You’re at Risk for Depression

Recent research has shown that nearly half of us will develop major depression at some point in our lives (Schaefer et al., 2017). Knowing when you’re most at risk can tell you when to take steps to prevent an episode. Watch for these 15 signs:

1. A history of depression

No surprises here: One of the most reliable predictors of depression is having been depressed in the past. The risk is 50% after one bout of depression (not much higher than for the average person), but fully 90% after three episodes (Moriarty et al., 2020).

2. High neuroticism

Those who are high in the personality trait of neuroticism tend to experience a lot of negative emotion. Not surprisingly, neuroticism raises the risk for depression—especially when a person experiences loss or other forms of stress (Vinkers et al., 2014).

3. Overwhelming anxiety

Anxiety tends to shrink our lives through avoidance, which cuts out rewarding activities such as social contact; depression is a common result. For example, social anxiety disorder raises the risk of depression by about 50% (Beesdo et al., 2007).

4. Insomnia

Trouble sleeping isn’t just a symptom of depression; it can also be a sign that depression is coming. Research shows that insomnia more than doubles the risk for depression (Li et al., 2016).

5. Adverse childhood experiences

One of the most consistent predictors of depression is negative experiences early in life. These events can include parents’ divorce, abuse, neglect, witnessing violence, a parent’s death, and other major experiences that can leave long-lasting marks (Vinkers et al., 2014).

Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

For many people, their home is their most valuable asset. And while tapping into the value of your house might seem like a great way handle expenses when money is tight, the terms of a reverse mortgage aren’t necessarily in your best interest, and there may be a better way to balance your finances. 

Whether a reverse mortgage is right for you is nuanced. The short answer? It depends. Here’s what to know and a few considerations for moving forward. 

What is a Reverse Mortgage? 

A reverse mortgage is a type of loan that allows homeowners ages 62 and older to convert part of the equity in their homes into tax-free income with no obligation to repay while they live in that home. You’ll need to own the property outright, or at least have a significant amount of equity built up. Once the borrower dies or moves out, the lender is repaid from the home sale (or the borrower’s heirs repay the loan if they want to keep the house). 

Typically, if the borrower passes away, their spouse can stay in the home, but rules may vary so it’s important to understand the fine print to know what’s required if there are two of you. 

Despite the name, these loans aren’t the true reverse of a traditional mortgage. The lender is not attempting to buy the property from you. Instead, the lender is simply loaning money which is secured by the home’s equity. When the homeowner/borrower dies, permanently moves out, or sells their home, the reverse mortgage comes due and must be paid in full. 

Payment terms can vary. Some borrowers choose to get a lump sum payment, while others choose a line of credit or periodic payments. Whatever you choose, the infusion of cash can be appealing to people who don’t have enough saved to manage retirement, or simply come up against unexpected expenses and have no other way to generate income. 

Types of Reverse Mortgages 

Homeowners have access to three different types of reverse mortgages. The most common is the HECM (home equity conversion mortgage), but there are also the single-purpose reverse mortgage and the proprietary reverse mortgage. Here’s what to know about each. 

Home equity conversion mortgage 

The HECM is federally insured, which means it’s backed by HUD, and it’s the most popular because it has the fewest restrictions. It has no income or medical requirements, and no requirements for how the money is used. It does require the home to be your primary residence. Other terms include the following: 

  • Tends to have the highest upfront fees (often the most expensive option overall) 
  • Counseling is required before you can close (MMI offers this counseling) 
  • Comes with a variety of payment options:
    • Credit line you can draw from whenever you want 
    • Term option with monthly cash advances for a set period of time 
    • Tenure option with continuous monthly payments for as long as you own and occupy the home (it must remain your primary residence). You should consider your health and your ability to remain in the house rather than, say, an assisted living or memory care facility. 

Besides being at least 62, you must either own the house outright or have paid a significant portion of the mortgage. You also can’t be delinquent on any type of federal debt. HUD sets an annual cap on HECM borrowing, and for 2023 it’s $1,089,300. That might sound attractive, but there are a few other terms as well, which is why it’s important to explore all the details before deciding if it’s an option for you. 

Proprietary reverse mortgage 

This reverse mortgage is similar to the HECM, with two major differences, the second of which may not apply to most people seeking a reverse mortgage:

  1. The reverse mortgage is backed by private lenders (not the federal government).
  2. It’s generally reserved for more expensive homes (appraisal value of around $1 million and up).

This reverse mortgage has similar payments to the HECM, and the lower the remaining balance of your existing mortgage, the more you can borrow. 

Single-purpose reverse mortgage 

This reverse mortgage is the least common of the three, in part because it comes with the most restrictions and, as a result, doesn’t fit most people’s needs. Unlike the HECM, it’s offered by local organizations such as nonprofits or local governments. Terms for these reverse mortgages include:

  • Tends to be the least expensive option (lower/fewer fees, interest charges, etc.). 
  • Proceeds are heavily restricted (must be used for a single, lender-approved purpose such as home repairs or paying off outstanding property taxes). 
  • Repayment isn’t due until the owner sells, moves out, or passes away. Also comes due immediately if the property is condemned by the city.

The Downsides of a Reverse Mortgage 

While staying in your own home might seem like the best option—and it can be for many people—reverse mortgages have downsides. One of the main issues is that reverse mortgages can be costly, with relatively high interest rates and fees for closing costs, insurance, and servicing. All of these costs come out of the loan, leaving you with a smaller lump sum to live on. And while it’s possible to repay the loan and keep the home, it’s more likely that the home will end up being sold. If it’s important that your home stay in your family, a reverse mortgage may not be the right option. 

However, if you need funds to support you through retirement, a reverse mortgage may be a viable solution. Learn more about the pros and cons of a reverse mortgage for your specific situation before making a decision. Be sure to understand the terms for non-borrower spouses. 

Scams to Consider 

Watch out for people who pressure you to take a reverse mortgage with some kind of empty promise. Here’s what you shouldn’t be doing with the funds: 

  • Paying for anything other than daily living expenses. Be alert to someone trying to talk you into a reverse mortgage to flip a home, use for home repairs, or purchase an insurance product. 
  • Repaying unsecured debt , like credit card balances, or using it to avoid foreclosure. 
  • Helping family members with their own financial woes. 

Taking out a reverse mortgage is a major decision, and it’s important to review all your other options first. There may be other ways to reduce your expenses (downsizing to a smaller home, for example), or increase your income (picking up part-time work, etc.). If you’re struggling to pay bills, start with a free credit counseling session from MMI to see what resources are available to you. 

This Low-Effort Activity Could Bring The Love Back To Your Relationship

“We know that love feelings typically decline over time in long-term relationships and that declining love feelings are a common reason for breakups,” study author Sandra Langeslag, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and director of the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab, told HuffPost.

Langeslag and her team wanted to see if there was some way to bring the thrill back to once-romantic partnerships. To do that, they recruited 25 mostly hetero- married people for this study: Twenty-four participants had an opposite-gender spouse, and one female participant had a same-sex spouse. On average, the participants had known their partners for 11.9 years.

To get some background on the couples and collect the controlled data, each person was asked how they’d rate their current infatuation levels and attachment to their spouse, how long they’d known the partner, how long they’d been romantically involved and how long they’d been married. 

Each person also completed an assessment of their marital satisfaction and love regulation. (In social science jargon, “love regulation” is how we use behavioral or cognitive strategies to boost the intensity of our feelings. For instance, in a relationship that you want to go the distance, you may consciously choose to have positive thoughts about the other person or make a point to try something new together regularly.)

Next, the researchers had the participants view pictures of their spouse along with pleasant and neutral pictures while their brain activity was recorded. (The pleasant pictures showed strangers smiling or doing something nice, like hiking or petting an animal. The neutral pictures showed strangers engaged in mundane activities, such as grocery shopping or working on a computer.) 

Some of the spouse pictures and pleasant pictures were preceded by emotional regulation prompts, such as, “Think of one good personality trait of your spouse,” and “This man is fulfilling his dream of hang gliding.”

As the pics were shown, the participants used sliders to indicate how infatuated with their spouse they felt, how attached to their spouse they felt and how satisfied with their marriage they felt. 

In the end, Langeslag and her team found that viewing pictures of the spouse increased infatuation, attachment and marital satisfaction compared with viewing pleasant or neutral pictures. 

In addition, a pattern of electrical brain activity known as the late positive potential (LPP) was most positive in response to spouse pictures, indicating that “participants had more motivated attention to a spouse than pleasant pictures.”

5 Startup Marketing Moves That Work Even in Uncertain Times

The startup world is in disarray as I write this, and the economic outlook is not great. Many companies are performing mass layoffs, scaling back on initiatives and rethinking their entire approach to sales and marketing. It won’t always be this way — it’s a cycle — but that doesn’t make it much easier while you’re going through it. The big question every marketer seems to have is, “What can we do?”

Start with these five startup marketing moves. They make a great foundation for any marketing strategy, even in the best of times, but they’re particularly prudent in the worst. Implement these, and when the cycle comes back around, you just may find yourself head and shoulders above your competitors.

1. Talk to your customers!

When in doubt, talk to your customers. What are they going through, what do they need, and what do they anticipate happening over the next three, six, 12 months? What’s troubling them may be news to you, and what’s troubling you may not matter to them at all. Here are a few questions to get the conversation going:

  • How are things now compared to this time a year ago?
  • Are you looking to spend more, less or about the same in this area?
  • What’s your biggest challenge right now?
  • What do you think the biggest challenge will be in six months? 12?
  • What would make you buy this thing or upgrade your account?
  • What would keep you from spending money on this?
  • What are we doing that you particularly like? That you don’t?

Use these customer interviews to shape your marketing.

2. Create frictionless buying experiences

The best customer experiences remove everything that stands in the way between the customer and making a purchase. “Frictionless” is always a good target, but uncertain times like these are when you need to look for over-the-top ways to remove friction.

A few ideas to get your gears turning:

  • Build a migration tool that enables customers to switch their data from competitors to you.
  • Offer something incredible for free or at a massive discount to get people in the door — your lowest tier plan, onboarding, shipping, a managed service, etc. Hubspot did this incredibly well during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Show the product or pricing, and put the control in the buyer’s hands.
  • Do the work for customers — create templates, packages, widgets or something similar that they would normally have to invest time and energy into.

Through this, you can turn a nasty landscape into a great opportunity for both you and your customers.

3. Communicate clearly and consistently

The companies that are present are the ones that are remembered. This is especially true in times of uncertainty, volatility and crisis. The caveat is that you cannot simply repeat what everyone else is saying. You must lead.

Take a stance on a topic, flesh out your positioning and messaging, and communicate it. If there’s so much volatility that you don’t yet know what your position is or don’t have the data to make a decision, share that. Bring people into the loop. Become the go-to brand or thought leader. Getting all eyes on you creates significant leverage for your sales and marketing.

4. Bet bigger where you can

A knee-jerk reaction in uncertain times is to cut back, but think about it: All of your competitors are cutting back. This is the perfect time to double down on what’s working. You can increase the gap between yourself and your competitors. Then whenever the cycle rights itself, you’ll be so far ahead with so much momentum, no one will be able to catch you.

You still need to be responsible with your resources. If you can invest actual dollars into projects and channels that are already working or that you know your customers need, great. If you don’t have the money, invest your time.

Budgeting to Get Out of Debt

But a budget—and the act of creating a budget—can help you step back, evaluate your situation, and reduce the stress of money management. Simply taking action can help to calm the nerves. 

The Role of a Budget

If you’re struggling with debt, a budget can be your way out of the woods. It sets firm rules for what you can do with your money, and it gives you a tangible way to chart your progress. By removing the guesswork of where your money goes, it tells you when you’re on the right path—and when you’re not. 

Once you’ve figured out where your money is going, you can decide what you might like to change to meet your goals. 

How to Get Started if You’ve Never Used a Budget

Setting up a budget isn’t difficult if you have the right tools, but it does take some thought. If you don’t understand and buy into your reasons for creating a budget, you may have a hard time maintaining one. Our suggested approach includes the following steps, outlined in MMI’s Ultimate Guide to Creating a Budget:

Identify your why

The best budget begins with a clear, meaningful reason for doing a budget in the first place. What’s your why, and why now? Make sure it’s something you care about – and be as concrete as you can. It could be getting out of debt. It could be saving for your dream vacation. It just needs to be well-defined, meaningful, and motivating. 

Set your priorities

Separate from your budget goals, what’s most important to you? What makes day-to-day life fun, rewarding, and meaningful? Which activities or hobbies are most important? Determining your priorities helps you make hard choices more easily. In other words, if something rises to the top as a priority, it comes first. Basing your budget and spending around your priorities makes staying on track much easier.

Track your spending

It’s best to figure out where your money is going before you change anything about how you spend it. For example, maybe you estimate your grocery bill to be a certain amount, but it turns out you rely on take-out food deliveries more than you realized. Accurate tracking is the only way to see where your money goes.

Choose your method

What budgeting method works best for you? Pick the style that you think you’ll have the easier time sticking with. MMI’s Ultimate Guide spells out the different budgeting styles, including the 50/30/20 Rule, Zero-Sum Budget, Anti-Budget, and Money Flow. Take a look at them to see what will work for you. If you’re tracking to the penny, one of the first two might be best. 

From there, choose your budget tool. It could be a simple spreadsheet or an app like Mint, You Need a Budget (YNAB), or Digit. Pay attention to any subscription fees. For a spreadsheet template, do a simple Internet search and decide which one looks good to you. 

A Few Other Budget-starting Secrets: 

It’s not always easy to figure out where to cut back or make room in your budget when attempting to slash debt. Take a look at these low-effort ways to cut back on spending, including “batching” your shopping trips to reduce spending exposure, tallying your online purchases before hitting “checkout,” and reviewing your recurring expenses regularly. 

Paycheck budgeting is a granular strategy for budgeting each paycheck. A two-week budget might work better for you. Explore these budget secrets for other tips. 

How a Budget Helps with Unexpected Expenses 

Clear priorities are the cornerstone of a good budget. The most important expenses come first—core human requirements like shelter, food, and healthcare. 

But a budget can also make unexpected emergencies easier to navigate because your immediate financial responsibilities are already spelled out. You have all the budgeting information you need at your fingertips to make an informed decision about, for example, a sudden car repair. 

To get the money for the repair, you can see where to cut back. It’s possible that you may need to fall behind somewhere, but at least you see everything clearly. That makes the unexpected expense decision easier to map out. 

How to Break Bad Money Habits 

Sometimes we do things that aren’t necessarily bad one or two times, but over time they add up and ruin our best budgeting intentions—such as ordering take-out several times a week because we didn’t shop over the weekend. Habits that deviate from your budget are bad money habits. But don’t feel guilty! Consider these tips: 

Don’t sweat it too much

Habits are psychological—they’re patterns that develop subconsciously over time. Feeling bad won’t help you break a habit. Instead, focus on creating positive change.

Consider what triggers the habit

Lots of people stress shop. But everyone’s triggers are different – it could be anything from your emotional state to a specific time of day to shopping with another person who frequently overspends. Try to identify when the habit kicks in.

Identify what you get from the habit

Does stress shopping make you feel calm? Does it trigger a sense of belonging or purpose? If you do something that you consider “bad,” you’re likely getting something out of it. Try to figure out what that positive return is.

Experiment with alternatives

For example, maybe your relationship with your mother stresses you out. You notice that when you talk to her on the phone, you open Amazon and fill the virtual cart. What could you do instead—for free? Yoga? Exercise? Fill the cart and cancel the order? Try to find something that gives you a similar response but doesn’t involve your credit card.

How To Be More Vulnerable In Your Relationships

Please share a little more. You’ve heard the request once or a hundred times, and you can’t argue with it. You want to be more vulnerable not only with your spouse, but also with your friends, because you know what it does. It lets you express more parts of yourself. It gets you closer and that makes you feel less alone. It’s an overall win, because as Avrum G. Weiss, a clinical psychologist and author of Hidden in Plain Sight, says “we are relational and tribal creatures.”

Still, you avoid it. Maybe it wasn’t encouraged where you grew up, or you tried once, it backfired, and that emotional scar tissue makes it difficult. Maybe you don’t do it because, well, it’s scary. Sharing threatens the status quo and while it might work, it could also bring rejection and shame. That, says Daniel Singley, a San Diego psychologist, can be “kryptonite to dudes.”

There’s another fear as well. Being vulnerable brings up feelings, sometimes more than you want, and the reaction is to shut them down. With friends, you may bust balls, sending a Not Welcome signal to any talk that isn’t about sports, movies, or other approved topics. With your spouse, you might say, “Think rationally” or “Stay on point,” when they open themselves up a bit more, Avrum says. While this might sound helpful it’s really a way of protecting yourself. 

But vulnerability doesn’t mean pouring everything out. It can be more subtle. It can be whatever you want. So if you to open up to others more, what does it look like, and how do you know if you’re sharing too much or too little? There is no one model to follow, but there are a few pointers to keep in mind.

So, What Does Healthy Vulnerability Look Like?

Before anything, it’s good to define what vulnerability is, since, as Weiss says, it’s easy to think in extremes. It’s crying. It’s not screaming. “Not true,” he says. Vulnerability can be either of the aforementioned and a lot of subtler things, like saying, “I don’t really know” or “Not my best moment.” It’s about making a point to share more about yourself with other people.

“It’s just about being more open,” Weiss says.

A common decision is to not do it with everyone. You find a handful of people, based on a gut feeling that they’ll be receptive. The roadblock, Singley says, is that you can put “asterisks” by those who seem cool — the work colleague or fellow basketball coach. No, not them. Gotta keep things separate. What if they said something? So you don’t try.

But it’s in your best interest to try.

When you do, start small. John D. Kaplan, psychotherapist and co-director of Marriage Labs in Canton, Massachusetts, says to play fill-in-the-blank. “Something happened this morning and it got me feel so ________.”  AngryStressedFreaked out. Be honest.

Singley says that you don’t even need feeling words; just talk about work-life balance. Try: ‘I have no idea how I’m getting everywhere this weekend.’ It’s as universal and understood of a dad topic as you can get.

The biggest thing is to stay in the moment. The past is too heavy; the future too vague. “The present is always most personal,” Weiss says. The content itself is secondary. It’s all about how you say it. ‘We’re redoing our kitchen,’ offers nothing. But, saying ‘talking to contractors always gets me a little nervous,’ gives the person something to pick up on. “There’s a connection there, not a veneer,” Kaplan says.

That’s at least the hope, but the X factor is you don’t know. They could respond by giving no reaction, dismissing you entirely, or showing genuine interest. Everything is good information, but don’t make too much of anything. If it doesn’t work, you try again. If it does, you try again, since one point doesn’t make a pattern, Singley says.

The key is to pay attention and the big thing that people forget is that you have to look at the other person, another scary prospect. But Weiss puts it like this: Would you give a presentation with your eyes closed? Exactly.“You make hundreds of connections you don’t know based on what you see,” he says. “We have an amazing ability to be connected with people at levels that science doesn’t understand.”

How To Be More Vulnerable With Your Spouse

The same rules for vulnerability apply with your significant other, but there’s an added layer. You can’t just walk away as you can with a friendship. And there’s also a paradox, Weiss says. The closeness of the relationship makes it easier to both take risks and avoid them, because “you have more to lose.”

The challenge comes when you’re in a conversation and expected to share something, and you’re stumped. The usual “I don’t want to talk about it” is a complete shutdown and probably an ongoing source of their frustration. The better approach? Saying something like, “I don’t feel comfortable answering that right now.” It’s honest and it’s vulnerable because it’s real, Weiss says.

But the comment implies that there will be a later, and that’s on you. If you’re still nervous, open with, “This might be awkward,” or, “I just need you to listen.” It’s Communication 101 but you’re prepping your partner, causing them to ease up and listen, making it easier for the vulnerability to come out, Kaplan says.

So, How Much Vulnerability Is Too Much?

There’s no set quantity. What’s benign to one person can be overwhelming to another. It goes back to paying attention. If you see the other person shutting down with their words or actions, it’s an obvious sign to dial it back. But Weiss says it’s more important to watch yourself. If you’re starting to talk less and be less open, it’s become too much for you.

Maybe it was the time or place. Maybe you went out too strong when the desired pace is what Weiss describes as “stair stepping.” You go up one. The other person meets you and goes up another. But you can pinpoint these factors and tweak them for the next time. The answer is not to give up.

“It didn’t not work because it was a bad idea,” says Weiss. 

You keep at it, and the more you do it, the less monumental it will feel. You’ll eventually find your tribe and realize that other people, especially guys, are glad, even thankful, that you took the lead. As Kaplan says, “They’re all hungry. They’re all looking for more.”

But that worry that comes with being vulnerable? That never fully goes away, because you’re always sharing something new and going deeper. That pushes the boundaries and can be unsettling, but the unknown is where the benefit lies.

“When you get closer with another human being, it has everything to do with happiness, success and health,” Weiss says. “You feel known and accepted. You’re just gonna be a lot happier.”

The Power of Options

Ask leaders how they will respond to a crisis or a massive new opportunity, and they often will tell you they already know what to do. This is surprising because most crises and opportunities have unexpected elements. A high-powered executive whom we coach once told us, “In any crisis, I come out of the gate fast and take action. I go over, under, or through any wall in my way. With my people, I lead from the front.” To be sure, that approach has the benefit of decisiveness, but it offers a narrow path, especially in high-stakes situations. What happens when such leaders run into obstacles they can’t muscle their way through?

Another leader we coached had a different approach. He was an incredible delegator with legendary calm. This worked well until a crisis surfaced and his team started feeling lost and overwhelmed. He stayed steady, confident in his default style, telling people, “Don’t worry, I have confidence that you’ll figure it out.” They didn’t figure it out, team members began fighting with one another, and within months the company lost its market-leading position.

In our work coaching and advising senior leaders, we have found that when faced with unfamiliar or risky situations, leaders often rely on their familiar playbook. They act instinctively, falling back on behavior and postures that worked for them before. But should their operating environment experience a discontinuity, reflexes—which may still be right at times—can no longer be counted on. To be effective, leaders need to rise above their default reactions and generate more options for how to act in the very moments when they are needed most.

Few leadership roles come with a treasure map showing a direct line to where X marks the spot. That’s why the ability to generate multiple pathways to a desired destination is crucial to success. Whether it’s chasing a strategy that could drive 10x growth in a business, facing a potentially catastrophic threat, or guiding a team through uncharted territory, great leaders generate options so that when an opportunity arises or a crisis hits, they can pivot in real time and make the optimal move.

Our experience shows that leaders’ success depends on their ability to MOVE—that is, to be mindfully alert to priorities, to generate options so that they always have several ways to win, to validate their own vantage point, and to engage with stakeholders to ensure that they are along for the ride. (We lay out this framework in our book, Real-Time Leadership.To gauge your ability to MOVE, take our self-assessment at In this article, we examine the crucial second step of our model. Specifically, we look at four common leadership approaches and the scenarios in which each can be most helpful, and we introduce a process for navigating the options in real time.

The Four Stances

Dozens of research studies spearheaded by American psychologists Charles “Rick” Snyder and Shane J. Lopez demonstrate how people’s capacity to reach their desired goals can be increased by conceiving multiple possible pathways. Most people assume that success at a task is a question of perseverance or willpower. But Snyder and Lopez show that willpower must be coupled with “way power” to drive successful outcomes. Their research suggests that ideally you will have four or more options or pathways for achieving your goals (external priorities). It also demonstrates the importance of determining who you want to be as a leader in terms of your character strengths and values (internal priorities) and how you can best relate to others (interpersonal priorities).

Building on this work, we have developed an approach, called the “four stances,” to help leaders generate options for interpersonal communication. Think how tennis players nearly instantly shift their stance to make an optimal response to a ball hurtling over the net. The core concept for our approach is rooted in evolutionary psychology and how our basic reflexes (fight, flight, and so on) automatically deploy under dangerous or novel circumstances. In the more evolved world of leadership, the four stances help leaders identify and access more interpersonal options. The stances are:

  • Lean In. Take an active stance on resolving an issue. Actions in this stance include deciding, directing, guiding, challenging, and confronting.
  • Lean Back. Take an analytical stance to observe, collect, and understand data. Actions include analyzing, asking questions, and possibly delaying decisions.
  • Lean With. Take a collaborative stance, focusing on caring and connecting. Actions include empathizing, encouraging, and coaching.
  • Don’t Lean. Whereas a Lean Back posture involves observing and analyzing, Don’t Lean is about being still and disciplining yourself to create space for a new solution to bubble up from your subconscious. This stance also serves to calm you if your emotions have been triggered. Actions include contemplating, visualizing, and settling through diaphragmatic breathing.

To win in any leadership moment, great leaders need to develop and be able to access all four stances. To illustrate, let’s consider one of our clients, Isobel, a newly appointed president of a major business line at a tech company.

Isobel was in trouble and called us in. She was at loggerheads with the firm’s mercurial CEO, who had a tendency to be unreliable—contradicting himself, changing positions, and often making promises the company couldn’t deliver on.

“I’m getting a bad reputation for being aggressive at board meetings,” she told us at our first two-on-one coaching session. “I just tell the truth—someone needs to—but I’m the one getting dinged.”

As we talked, we identified a clear gap between her own and others’ perceptions. Leaning In—way in—was her default stance. As a former lawyer, she was a world-class debater, and her impact was far more powerful than she realized. It was clear she needed to overcome her reflexive behavior and find other viable ways to win. We described the four stances and asked her to consider alternatives to her default approach.

“But I need to be authentic,” she countered.

“Of course,” we responded, “but you can use other stances while still being true to yourself.”

We went through the stances one by one. In situations in which Lean In was the best choice, she saw that she could be more skillful by better calibrating the intensity of her remarks. If she could learn to Lean Back and not rush into conflict, she could slow down her reactions and be more strategic about when she would engage. If she applied Don’t Lean, she could take a moment to breathe, which could help her neutralize her activation by the CEO and keep a clear head. We were all surprised that asking about Lean With was what pivoted Isobel into a new way of operating. Drawing on Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson’s groundbreaking work on psychological safety, we asked, “What if your job at the board meeting was to make the CEO and directors feel safe?”

Isobel immediately embraced that approach, which appealed to her protective side. She spontaneously started thinking through the implications. Supporting the CEO would probably help him calm down and make the meetings less painful for everyone. In the Lean With stance, she could also tolerate his contradictions by understanding that his first reaction wasn’t always his final word. She decided that she would enthusiastically support his comments when they were in alignment with the executive committee’s assessment and refrain from reflexively challenging him when he veered off course, unless the board was close to a vote on that recommendation. After adopting this approach, her reputation with the board skyrocketed. She became known as a leader who made peace rather than war.

Putting the Process to Work

How can you adapt the four stances without an executive coach? We recommend a five-step process for addressing major opportunities and crises, whether they play out in the moment or over the long term. It will enable you to choose your way forward rather than being propelled by reflex.

Identify your default stance.

Rank how comfortable you are working with others in each stance. This simple exercise is often all our clients need to identify their default stance, but if there’s any doubt, reflect on feedback you’ve been given, such as a 360-degree review. You may think of yourself as a Lean With leader because you favor decisions based on consensus—but is that accurate? When you have power as a leader, people rarely tell you the truth about how you come across. Be honest with yourself. 

Reflect on high-stakes situations.

Is the stance you take under stress different from your default stance? Think back to instances when you were able to pivot in the moment if your default stance wasn’t leading to the desired result and compare those moments with times when you stubbornly stuck with a failing approach. What held you back from moving to a different option? Habit? Panic? How can you build on experiences when you’ve done well while avoiding mistakes?

Determine the optimal stance on the basis of whom you are interacting with.

Most leaders we work with are familiar with the Golden Rule of treating others as you would like to be treated. But the best leaders we have worked with employ the Platinum Rule—treating others as they would like to be treated, which may be different from what the leader would want in their shoes. Imagine an introvert suddenly interrupted by an extrovert who means to be helpful by offering a pep talk. Or, conversely, an extrovert in need of encouragement who ends up feeling ignored by an introvert whose intention is to offer the gift of space and time to think. To live by the Platinum Rule, become a keen observer of other people and yourself. Notice body language, tone of voice, eye contact, and reactions to what you do and how you move.

Make a plan.

When an interpersonal issue arises, make space in real time to figure out how to handle it. This beat in time may last only a matter of seconds, but the point is to pause and get clarity on your intention so that you can be deliberate in your reaction. How do you want to relate, right now? Recognize that your default stance will be pulling at you—but remember that you have the option to choose a different one. We all need to dial back on some stances and develop others.

Even if you aren’t in a situation where you must think on your feet, you can use the four stances to unlock options and create a plan in advance. Suppose you need to communicate a change in strategic direction to your team, such as a shift from a major cost-transformation effort toward a growth strategy. First, Lean In and come up with a list of options for how you might best get people on board. When you think you are finished, Lean Back and be even more objective. Ask yourself, “What else would align the team?” Then Lean With by consulting others about what they think the options are for you to create a trusting and positive climate in which the change will be best received. And then Don’t Lean and see if anything else pops into your mind. Put the issue on the back burner for a moment and let your subconscious go to work.

Look for signs that it’s time to pivot.

To create the impact you want, you need to be aware of any negative effects that a given stance is having on the people around you. This will be your signal that it’s time to adopt a new one. If Lean In is your default (as it is for many leaders), recognize that doing so too often—or too hard—can shut others down, especially when you are in a position of authority. In meetings, pay attention to how much you’re speaking compared with others. Automated transcription software can provide data showing whether your voice is (or is not) the dominant one in the room. Most leaders are surprised by how much they need to switch to Leaning Back or Leaning With. Focus on listening with the goal of understanding. Consciously catch yourself not only when you’re jumping into the conversation but also when you stop listening carefully and start thinking about your response. After someone has finished speaking, take three breaths before you reply.

Early cardiovascular disease may speed up cognitive decline in middle age

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a major cause of global mortality and disability. Although the CVD burden is declining in those aged over 50, current rates of CVD below this age have either remained steady or increased.

In high-income countries, lifestyle factors, such as obesity, lack of physical activity, and poor diet, are all increasing the incidence of CVD.

Studies have shown that cardiovascular risk factors may contribute to late-life cognitive decline and dementia but, until now, there has been little evidence that CVD might speed cognitive decline in middle age. 

Now, new research, part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, has found that premature CVD — at or below the age of 60 — may affect brain health and increase cognitive decline in midlife.

The research appears in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology. 

Long-term study

This prospective cohort study enrolled people aged between 18 and 30 years, and followed them for 30 years. Participants had follow-up examinations every 2–5 years during the study.

The participants were from four cities in the United States, just over half were female and just under half were Black. 

Dr. Sandra Narayanan, board-certified vascular neurologist and neurointerventional surgeon at Pacific Stroke & Neurovascular Center at Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, CA, who was not involved in the study, commented for Medical News Today

“The longitudinal, prospective study design over 30 years limits bias. The number and forms of cognitive assessments applied to this large cohort during this period also enabled a thorough evaluation of brain health in multiple domains such as executive functioning, processing speed, and verbal learning and memory.”

At the 30-year point, 3,146 participants, with a mean age of 55 years, underwent a range of cognitive assessments. In total, 147 (4.7%) had developed one or more premature CVD events, 126 of which were coronary heart disease or stroke. The mean age of the first CVD event was 48.4 years.

Those who had premature CVD were more likely to be male, older, Black, have had access to less education, have lower household income, and have more risk factors for CVD, such as poor diet and low levels of physical activity.

Wide-ranging cognitive assessments

Researchers tested participants in verbal fluency, global cognition, verbal memory, processing speed, and executive function.

They adjusted for demographics, education, literacy, household income, depressive symptoms, physical activity, diet, and APOE — a gene that is linked to an increased risk of dementia — when analyzing their findings.

In addition, they assessed 5-year cognitive decline in 2,722 people who underwent testing at both the 25- and 30-year points.

At the end of the study, 663 participants also underwent MRI brain scans to assess white matter hyperintensities (WMH), which are associated with cognitive impairment. The researchers also used diffusion tensor imaging to assess participants’ brain health.

Only a small proportion of those undergoing MRI scans had early CVD, as lead author Dr. Xiaqing Jiang, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, told MNT.

“Among those with MRI, 16 participants had premature CVD. More people will develop premature CVD events as they age as most participants were still under 60,” she said.

Here’s why the IRS would want to audit your taxes

If you get an IRS notice — official correspondence will only come through the mail — you should respond promptly with the requested documentation like bank statements or donation letters from charities.

Typically, if your taxes are under review, the IRS will first request more information by mail. For instance, more than three out of four of the agency’s tax reviews in 2021 were conducted by mail rather than in person.

You may also benefit from an audit. Over 17,000 of the 983,000 tax returns reviewed in 2021 resulted in additional refunds to Americans.

Here are the most common reasons the IRS may audit you.

Missing income

If you’re a gig worker or contractor and don’t include income from those jobs, the IRS will notice the missing income. In most cases, the agency gets copies of the 1099 forms from companies that you worked for. The IRS uses that information to compare with your return. If it doesn’t match up, that will trigger a review.

Too-high deductions

Certain deductions can be inflated, so the IRS keeps an eye on those. For example, it’s easier to overstate charitable donations because the agency doesn’t receive documentation on your contribution from the nonprofit.

But the IRS depends on statistical algorithms to determine if your deductions make sense based on your total income. If those deductions are too high, the agency may ask for documentation, such as a letter from the charity showing your contribution, to support your deduction.

Foreign accounts

You might need to report a foreign financial account — say, a bank account, brokerage, or mutual fund — when you file your federal taxes.

You must file Form 8938 if the total value of your foreign assets is more than $50,000) for single taxpayers or those married filing jointly) or $100,000 for joint filers on the last day of the tax year. You also must file if the total value of your foreign assets is more than $75,000 for single taxpayers or those married filing jointly) or $150,000 (for joint filers) at any point during the tax year, according to the IRS.

High earners

Those who make more than $1 million are more likely to get audited by the IRS.

For example, the IRS reviewed 0.2% of all individual tax returns for tax year 2019. That rate tripled to 0.6% for taxpayers reporting $1 million to under $5 million, 1.0% for taxpayers reporting $5 million to under $10 million, and 2.0% for taxpayers reporting $10 million and more in income.

Child dependent

Only one person can claim a child as a dependent, even if the parents don’t file taxes together. This can be even more complicated if another adult, such as a grandparent or older sibling, also helps support the child.

Why February Is a Better Month for Resolutions

It’s a month into the new year, so how are your resolutions looking? Kudos to those who’ve kept to their new goals and there’s hope for the rest of us, too. 

January represents new beginnings. Whether it’s by instinct or force of habit, we set new resolutions at the beginning of the year. More recently, there’s been a move to take a wider lens and set new intentions, referring to a bigger-picture idea of what we want to change. Either way, by now there are many resolutions that have already failed and many of those January 1stoptimists are now full of self-recrimination. We should put the brakes on that, though. Feeling we’re hopeless at changing, lazy, or worse, will keep us stuck in that behavior and certainly won’t help in getting us nearer to our goals. 

Why did we fail to stick with our shiny new resolutions? The step that we’re often missing, the vital step without which we’re not exactly doomed to failure but definitely making things too hard for ourselves, is clear-eyed reflection—beforehand. 

Most resolutions are not blinding new ideas we’ve had. Most are about making changes we’ve been considering for a while, maybe correcting some bad habits we’ve slipped into over time. As such, we’re often aiming to change habits that are entrenched. To make these alterations successfully, we need more than a dewy-eyed hopeful focus on New Year’s Day.

This was brought home to me a few years ago, one November, when I came across an unmarked manilla envelope in my desk drawer. Inside, I read some old resolutions. 

Each year, our family gets together to share our resolutions, and one time I was using my family as guinea pigs (nothing new there) and asked them to put their commitments down on paper. On re-reading, I was rather disappointed to realize that the resolutions I had been mulling over for this coming year would be exactly the same as last year. I was even more appalled when it dawned on me that the resolutions were not a year old, but two. Now, I do have some resolutions that remain more or less constant year in and year out: eat less sugar, exercise more, etc. but I thought I usually made effective progress on the stand-alone projects. The evidence of the failed intentions, goals, and objectives, all written in irrefutable ink, was more sobering than a “dry January”. 

No surprise though. Our habits are habits for a reason—they are truly engrained in us. We are often told that “we are what we do,” that our behaviors are hard-wired to us through well-worn neural pathways and, often, emotional attachments or specific meanings. As such, no early January resolution or intention will shift them without some good, hard thinking about what keeps us stuck in certain behaviors. Unfortunately, the end of the year being what it is—busy and rushed—we have little time to properly reflect on what surrounding beliefs and actions hold us in place before setting ourselves up for likely failure a few weeks into the new year.

How 5-Minute Walks Every Half-Hour Can Counter Prolonged Sitting

A new study from Columbia University in New York reports that just 5 minutes of walking every half-hour can offset some of the most harmful effects of sitting for long periods. 

The research team, led by Keith Diaz, PhD, an associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, tested five different exercise “snacks.”

They included 1 minute of walking after every 30 minutes of sitting, 1 minute after 60 minutes, 5 minutes every 30 minutes, 5 minutes every 60 minutes, and no walking. 

“If we hadn’t compared multiple options and varied the frequency and duration of the exercise, we would have only been able to provide people with our best guesses of the optimal routine,” Diaz said in a statement.

The need to sit less

There’s plenty of research that concludes that prolonged sitting, like that done in office settings, is a health hazard, even for those who exercise regularly. 

Doctors advise adults to move more and sit less. 

The question then becomes how to mitigate all that sitting while it happens.

And, according to the new study’s researchers, there hasn’t been much research giving office workers a satisfactory answer.

How the sitting and walking study was conducted

The new study was small – only 11 adults participated in Diaz’s laboratory.

Participants sat in an ergonomic chair for 8 hours, rising only for their prescribed exercise period of treadmill walking or a bathroom break.

Researchers said they made sure each participant didn’t over-exercise or under-exercise. They also periodically measured the study subjects’ blood pressure and blood sugar (key indicators of cardiovascular health). 

Participants were allowed to work on a laptop, read, and use their phones during the sessions and were given standardized meals.

What researchers discovered about walking and sitting

Researchers reported that 5 minutes of walking every 30 minutes had the best results. It was the only amount that significantly lowered both blood sugar and blood pressure.

The walking regimen dramatically affected how participants responded to large meals, reducing blood sugar spikes by 58% compared with sitting all day, the researchers reported. 

Taking a walking break every 30 minutes for 1 minute also provided modest benefits for blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Walking every 60 minutes (either for 1 minute or 5 minutes) provided no benefit. 

All amounts of walking significantly reduced blood pressure by 4 to 5 mmHg compared with sitting all day.

“This is a sizeable decrease, comparable to the reduction you would expect from exercising daily for six months,” Diaz said. 

All the walking regimens, except walking 1 minute every hour, significantly decreased participants’ fatigue and showed mood improvements.

None of the walking regimens, however, influenced cognition.

Have a ‘Happy New Year’ by Not Searching for Happiness

Hurray, it’s a new year! At least symbolically, this change is a great relief as the last three years have left an indelible mark on many people who are still trying to come out of an existential abyss. Although the recognizable signs of spring are not yet in the air, at least not in terms of the weather conditions, the emergence of 2023 portends spring-like conditions ahead as we wave goodbye to the trials and tribulations of the recent past.

Spring, as we know, is seen as a time of new life (both plant and animal) being born, as well as a time of growth and renewal. More generally, however, the spring season is perceived as a metaphor for the start of better times. So let’s begin spring—in our spirit, mind, and body—early this year. And let’s proclaim “’tis the season” to be optimistic and enthusiastic about the future. 

To be sure, wanting people to be happy throughout the year is a meaningful resolution for the New Year that is well worth keeping. Good intentions notwithstanding, “happiness” has become sort of a buzzword these days. For instance, besides a plethora of books and other publications on the subject, the happiness theme can be seen in advertising campaigns by businesses intent on squeezing out as many dollars as possible from consumers. It is as if buying a particular product or service will make people happy as a result, no matter what their personal circumstances.

Now don’t get me wrong, I would like very much to see everyone be (and remain) happy. And, yes, I’m a true believer that the key to authentic happiness lies within all of us, and therefore is within reach. However, I just don’t believe that true happiness is a commodity that can be purchased, no matter what the price. Nor do I believe that happiness comes from simply embracing the lyrics of the 1988 Grammy Award-winning song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” by musician Bobby McFerrin. As much as I like this song, I think that there is more to it than that. Much more.

Against the backdrop of the events of the past three years, there are still warning signs on the horizon that warrant serious concern, in society at large as well as in the American and global economies. Even people who are fortunate enough today to be gainfully employed are not necessarily “happy” in the face of so much change taking place, coupled with the uncertainty of what may lie ahead. And this sentiment applies not only to their personal lives but also to their work lives.

4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Achieve Massive Growth in a Recession

Today’s macroeconomic environment is marked by high inflation, low consumer confidence, abysmal stock market performance and rising interest rates. Few sectors of the economy are exempt from the current malaise, and discretionary spending by consumers and businesses alike is at an all-time low.

In times like these, it’s natural for entrepreneurs to focus on surviving rather than thriving. But recessions can actually be fertile ground for companies that are prepared to seize opportunity. Here are four ways entrepreneurs can take advantage of a recession to achieve massive growth:

1. Look for white space in the market

In a recession, many companies trim their product lines and focus on their core offerings. This creates opportunities for companies that are able to identify and fill gaps in the market.

For instance, in September, Facebook shuttered Novi, its digital wallet. The move comes as no surprise. Facebook is facing big challenges in maintaining both user and investor confidence amidst a slowdown in growth, all while its metaverse dreams flounder. But the death of Novi opens up an opportunity for a new entrant to provide a digital wallet. In fact, a phoenix has already risen from the ashes: A Web3 wallet, Martian, raised a $3 million pre-seed following Facebook’s announcement.

Just as Novi aimed to provide a simple way to store digital currencies and make payments, Martian is said to “allow users to hold, store, and use multiple digital assets.” The key difference is that Martian is being built on top of open-source technology, rather than Facebook’s centralized infrastructure.

In another example from the Web3 world, the FTX exchange famously collapsed, leaving thousands of users looking for other trading solutions. Yuriy Sorokin, the CEO of 3Commas, explains in an article that, amidst this volatility, their “goal remains the same as always: to meet the needs of every crypto investor by providing industry-leading services and professional-grade tools.”

Rather than suffer from an industry downturn, Sorokin found an opportunity to double down. These kinds of opportunities are everywhere in a recession. As incumbent companies focus on their core offerings, new entrants can swoop in and provide the missing piece of the puzzle. In another example, while Ford is reducing the production of its trucks and SUVs, Tesla is gearing up to mass produce its Cybertruck.

2. Attract top talent

From Google to Facebook to Uber, many of the most successful tech companies have announced layoffs this year. While this is devastating news for the employees who are impacted, it’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs who are looking to attract top talent.

In a recession, it’s not just big companies that are making layoffs. Small businesses are cutting back as well. But as employees at all levels find themselves out of work, they’ll be looking for opportunities that offer both security and upside potential. For entrepreneurs, this presents a golden opportunity to attract the best and the brightest to their team.

Some recruiters have already started to take advantage of the current climate. As Reuters reports, following layoffs at Google and Apple, Stack Overflow more than doubled its headcount. Stack Overflow isn’t alone, as a survey of startup tech executives found that more than 40% of them boosted their hiring plans in the first half of 2022.

If you’re an entrepreneur, now is the time to start thinking about how you can attract top talent to your company.

How to Push Your Hidden Buttons For Happiness

Pushing somebody’s buttons usually means to do specific things to anger them. But are there also buttons to push for happiness? 

Yes, there are, and those happy buttons are sometimes hidden in the brain. If you involve your partner in your quest to find those hidden happy buttons, your relationship with your partner can deepen and you’ll get closer.

Here’s my own example:

As I was preparing to visit my then 93-year-old mother in France and stay with her for the required three weeks, I started getting more and more anxious, agitated, and depressed. My life was really in California with my wonderful husband in our delightful house doing the job and activities I loved. The thought of leaving my husband for three weeks was unbearably painful. 

Yet, it was my duty to visit my mother twice a year. I was an only child and my father had died 20 years before from cancer. I had promised my dad to keep my mother happy, but the truth was that three weeks was too much for me. I was happy to visit for two or three days, but beyond three days with my mom in my childhood house, town, and country, visiting was extremely difficult and painful. Life in France wasn’t my life anymore. It was my mother’s life and she insisted that, to make her happy, I stay with her. Three weeks was the extreme minimum for her.

Two weeks before my planned departure for France, I started getting depressed and I could feel myself spiraling down even more than in previous years. I was dreading my trip.

My husband, sensing that I wasn’t my usual cheerful self, asked if I was okay.

My choices were to either tell my husband not to worry, that I had everything under control, or to confide in him and ask for his help. In the past, I would have chosen to tell him that I had everything under control, but this time I chose to take the risk of showing my vulnerability and asked for help.

I explained my spiraling down and asked: “I know there is a switch in my head I can flip to be my happy self again, but I don’t know how to find that switch. Can you help me find it?”

Together, we began brainstorming. The brainstorming felt wonderful and made us closer. It was exactly what I needed (short of canceling my trip). I wasn’t alone anymore. We brainstormed about how to transform a trip I dreaded into a trip I would look forward to. It involved finding the switch to change my point of view. That was a difficult task, but I intuitively knew it was possible. 

My husband suggested that I could find a new activity, like learning a new language, singing or dancing, anything new that I would enjoy doing in France during my mother’s nap in the afternoon or in the evenings after she went to bed. Nothing really clicked in my head, so we continued brainstorming.

Suddenly, something clicked when we talked about taking a different point of view for my visit: Taking the point of view of projecting myself 20 years into the future when my mother would not be on this earth anymore and imagining having the opportunity to come back one last time to spend three weeks with her. That was the switch, and I could feel the connections in my brain getting excited about that idea.

And that’s what I did. I went to France that time and all the following times imagining I was coming back to France many years after my mother’s death.

Because of that different point of view, I was able to fully appreciate the three weeks I spent with my mom. The last few times, I also used my husband’s other suggestion of doing a new pleasurable activity (I took dance classes) in the evenings after my mother went to bed.

What I used is called categorical perception.

What is categorical perception?

Categorical perception describes the fact that our brain puts things in different categories because our brain can only focus on one category at a time. Depending on the category our brain chooses to place a problem, our attitude towards the problem will be different.

An example is the well-known ambiguous picture of the wife and the mother-in-law, which first appeared on an 1888 German postcard.

When you look at the above picture, you can either see the picture of a beautiful young woman (the oval circle in the middle being interpreted as her ear) or the picture of a not-so-beautiful older woman (the oval circle in the middle being interpreted as her eye). You can either see one or the other, but not both at the same time.

If your categorical perception tells you to see a beautiful young woman, you will feel a completely different feeling than if you see the not-so-beautiful older woman. What you see, what you feel, and what you do will depend upon how you categorize the picture.

We can do the same thing in most situations. The same situation can be seen from a negative angle, triggering anxiety or depression, or from a positive angle, triggering happy feelings. It will be a different emotional perception depending on which category you place the situation.

In their advanced review published in WIREs Cognitive Science, Gladstone and Hendrickson study the influence of categorical perception in both speech and visual entities and conclude that “people organize their world into categories that, in turn, alter the appearance of this perceived world.”

But our mood can also influence in which category we place the situation. Research done by Liu and Colleagues, published in Psychiatry Research shows that depressed people have a perceptual bias towards unpleasant facial expressions versus pleasant facial expressions compared to healthy controls.

So, the key to finding our happy buttons is to find reasons to look at things in a positive angle in what I call “pushing the positive switch,” which is easier if done before spiraling far down and getting too depressed.


Asking for help and brainstorming with your partner early on to find a positive angle to the situation and to push your positive happy button can make you and your partner closer while making your partner feel actively engaged and useful. Those happy buttons can be deeply hidden, but once found can stop your spiraling down and start your spiraling back up. 

The power of our brain is bigger than we think it is and can be even stronger when we are in a deep, secure, supportive relationship.

As for me, in the last few years of our marriage, I have taken to the habit of confiding in my husband whenever I feel depressed and asking for help in finding that switch in my brain that makes me happy again. That switch has been different for each situation, sometimes easy, sometimes very difficult to find, but we’ve always ended up finding it.

How a new app could help people eat more fruits and vegetables

Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions.

Despite government guidelines to increase fruit and vegetable intake worldwide, consumption in Europe, the United States, and across the globe remains low. 

Recently, researchers from the University of Bournemouth released a new app called “SMART 5-A-DAY” to help users track and increase their fruit and vegetable intake. 

Prof. Katherine Appleton, professor of psychology at the University of Bournemouth and one of the app’s creators, told Medical News Today:

“The app is based on the U.K. 5-a-day recommendations, and fruit and vegetable recommendations can vary around the world based on the local fruits and vegetables available, local portion sizes, and other local nutritional concerns. Recommendations to consume lots of fruits and vegetables, however, apply everywhere.” 

The app was released in the Google Play Store for Android phones on December 29, 2022.

Why aren’t people eating enough fruits and veggies?

Research shows that knowledge about the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption is lacking and directly linked to lower overall consumption.

Potential factors impeding fruit and vegetable intake may include:

  • poor knowledge or confusion around nutritious fruits or vegetables 
  • portion sizes for fruits and vegetables
  • the number of portions needed per day 
  • the need for a variety of fruit and vegetables
  • benefits of high fruit and vegetable consumption

Increasing awareness around what constitutes adequate fruit and vegetable consumption could help individuals improve their overall health.

‘SMART 5-A-DAY’ app: How it works 

To use the app, users input what fruits and vegetables they’ve eaten after each meal and how much.

The app then converts consumption to correspond with U.K. guidelines of five portions of different fruits or vegetables per day. The app allows users to track their daily consumption over time. 

“The app only includes fruit and vegetables that count toward the U.K. recommendations, so those that do not count toward the U.K. recommendations, such as potatoes, cannot be added,” Dr. Appleton explained.

She added that one of the app’s key benefits is that it will help users recognize how few fruits and vegetables they consume, which may alert them to improve their diets. 

“Our hope is that use of the app over a number of weeks will increase understanding of these elements such that the app is not required further, but people have the knowledge themselves of what they need to do,” she said.

Possible benefits

A 2019 study on the SMART 5-A-DAY app found a modest increase in participants’ knowledge of fruit and vegetable intake recommendations.

Since that time, researchers have incorporated several updates based on user feedback and expect this will have a positive impact on the overall consumption of fruits and vegetables.

“Research has also found tracking a health-related goal is linked to a greater chance of achieving the goal,” Debbie Fetter, Ph.D., assistant professor of teaching nutrition at the University of California, Davis, not involved in the study, told MNT

“Using an app can give consumers a place to document their efforts and see their progress add up. However, it’s not a requirement to use an app; tracking a health-related goal with pencil [and] paper also works great,” Dr. Fetter added. 

How food tracking apps help improve diet 

To understand more about how the SMART 5-A-DAY app might help individuals improve their diet, MNT spoke with Sara Kostelnick, MS, RD, a sports performance dietitian at the University of Kansas Health System (not involved in the study).

“As a dietitian, I often see fruit and vegetable intake is forgotten about when making healthy lifestyle changes,” Kostelnick said. 

“Many studies have investigated tracking as a means of increasing accountability and reaching health goals that you’ve set for yourself. Translating this to meet fruit and vegetable needs can help users increase their daily fruit and vegetable consumption,” she added.

MNT also spoke about the new app with Dena Champion, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: 

“This app appears colorful, simple to use, and interactive. It includes a calculator which gives a target of 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day. This may be a helpful visual for people trying to increase their fruit and veggie consumption but aren’t sure of serving sizes or how close they are to meet this goal.”

Champion noted, however, that not everyone may find the app helpful. 

“Everyone learns differently and is motivated differently. Some people thrive on this kind of app that requires tracking foods and provides feedback, while others find this annoying or unhelpful,” Champion said.

23 Tips: Happier, Healthier, And More Fit

1. Walk in the woods.

One study shows that a 20-minute stroll through your local park can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and increase the feeling of happiness. Scientists have found that natural environments activate our parasympathetic nervous system (feelings of relaxation) while suppressing the sympathetic system (fight-or-flight feelings). If the park is too far, consider filling your favorite reading nook with more plants.

2. Commit to 27 minutes of daily mindfulness.

That’s the amount researchers found resulted in measurable changes in the gray matter of people’s brains, increasing density in areas responsible for feelings of compassion and decreasing it in areas related to stress and anxiety. You don’t have to practice mindfulness for 30 minutes straight — sit quietly and contemplate your breathing for 10 minutes in the morning and a few more at night.

3. Add turmeric to your cooking.

You might know it as the spice that turns curry dishes yellow, but turmeric also helps with life’s ills. To wit: Studies have found it to be a powerful anti-inflammatory (good for sore muscles), antioxidant (can help you feel and look younger), and a protector against heart disease. Whew.

4. Sprinkle lavender essential oil on your pillow. 

Just a drop or two can help induce a sense of calm.

5. Set up a relaxation zone in your home.

It’s important to have a stress-free space in your life, so make sure there’s a comfortable, distraction-free space in your home where you can exercise, nap, and relax.

6. Limit blue light before bed.

If you’re checking texts and email right up until lights out, you’re setting yourself up for a lousy night of sleep — and not necessarily because you’re stressing about work. The blue light emitted by your tech devices sends signals to your brain that inhibit the production of melatonin, a chemical that makes you feel drowsy. Put away your phone and laptop an hour before bed to help your night be a restful one.

7. Carve out your own space.

Contrary to what early 21st-century architects thought, it turns out that open seating plans can inhibit productivity. Workers in open offices spend an undue amount of time making phone calls from stairwells and empty conference rooms instead of sitting at their desks, research shows. Find yourself a little piece of personal space at work or home where you can take a minute for yourself to just breathe.

8. Build the perfect breakfast bowl.

Oats + walnuts + berries + cinnamon + milk = Awesome way to start your day

9. Do planks.

Planks are an essential, effective workouts move, if you do them right: Start lying face-down on the floor, torso propped up on your elbows. Engaging your core, raise your body up onto your forearms and toes, making sure your body forms one long line from shoulders to feet. Hold this position as long as you can, working your way up to 90 seconds.

10. Exercise for 51 minutes … a week. 

For as little as seven minutes of sweat a day, you can reduce your risk of dying by 33 percent, according to research. Walk, jog, ride a bike, or jump rope. Anything that gets your heart rate up counts. If that’s not motivation enough, scientists found that people who exercised for 10 minutes a day were, yes, happier than those who did not. So, you know, get after it!

11. Eat earlier.

If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, consider pushing up the hour for your evening meal: People who ate dinner earlier in the afternoon felt less hungry while raising their body’s fat-burning potential, according to a new study.

16 Small Steps You Can Take Now to Improve Your Finances

There are so many different aspects of money management that it can be difficult to find a starting point when trying to achieve financial success. If you’re feeling lost and overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Progress can be made in tiny, manageable steps. Here’s are 16 small things you can do right now to improve your overall financial health. 

1. Create a household budget

The biggest step toward effective money management is making a household budget. You first need to figure out exactly how much money comes in each month. Once you have that number, organize your budget in order of financial priorities: essential living expenses, contributions to retirement savings, repaying debt, and any entertainment or lifestyle costs. Having a clear picture of exactly how much is coming in and going out every month is key to reaching your financial goals.

2. Calculate your net worth

Simply put, your net worth is the total of your assets minus your debts and liabilities. You’re left with a positive or negative number. If the number is positive, you’re on the up and up. If the number is negative — which is especially common for young people just starting out — you’ll need to keep chipping away at debt.

Remember that certain assets, like your home, count on both sides of the ledger. While you may have mortgage debt, it is secured by the resale value of your home.

3. Review your credit reports

Your credit history determines your creditworthiness, including the interest rates you pay on loans and credit cards. It can also affect your employment opportunities and living options. Every 12 months, you can check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) for free at It may also be a good idea to request one report from one bureau every four months, so you can keep an eye on your credit throughout the year without paying for it.

Regularly checking your credit report will help you stay on top of every account in your name and can alert you to fraudulent activity.

4. Check your credit score

Your FICO score can range from 300-850. The higher the score, the better. Keep in mind that two of the most important factors that go into making up your credit score are your payment history, specifically negative information, and how much debt you’re carrying: the type of debts, and how much available credit you have at any given time.

5. Set a monthly savings amount

Transferring a set amount of money to a savings account at the same time you pay your other monthly bills helps ensure that you’re regularly and intentionally saving money for the future. Waiting to see if you have any money left over after paying for all your other discretionary lifestyle expenses can lead to uneven amounts or no savings at all.

Mental Health Expectations in a Post(?)-Pandemic World

For most people, the pandemic changed many aspects of everyday life. From the way we shop and entertain ourselves to the way we work and have meetings; how often we are in the physical workspace or meet up with friends; or even how we celebrate holidays or birthdays, nearly everyone has experienced some sort of adjustment. As the saying goes, “We are not all in the same boat, but we are all going through the same storm.”

The storm metaphor captures the fact that not everyone experienced COVID-19 in the same way: Some have endured greater stressful life events than others, such as losses of loved ones or employment. Whether the pandemic only temporarily inconvenienced your life or you’re continuing to endure adverse experiences, COVID-19 has led to some level of stress for individuals across the globe. 

How can we assess whether the weight of our stress regarding those varying experiences is bearable? Are individuals continuing with the same level of mental health as they were pre-pandemic? The World Health Organization reported a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide due to the pandemic. If you are a practitioner, how can you help your clients learn more about their thoughts and behaviors during and after COVID-19? 

What Types of Assessment Can We Use?

The COVID Stress Scales (CSS) have been developed to guide in the identification of those that may suffer from COVID Stress Syndrome (Taylor et al., 2020). COVID Stress Syndrome (Taylor et al., 2020), includes 5 domains of assessment:

  1. High emotionality regarding the health dangers of the virus and contamination (i.e., becoming infected or being able to seek treatment if infected; contamination of objects, money, or surfaces).
  2. Worries about socio-economic consequences (i.e., stores running out of food).
  3. Xenophobia (i.e., fear of foreigners who may be spreading the virus).
  4. Traumatic stress symptoms (i.e., nightmares and physical symptoms).
  5. Compulsive checking (i.e., repetitive online activity, reassurance seeking from medical professionals, etc.).

U.S. Soccer’s Gregg Berhalter on Rebuilding Trust in the Wake of Controversy

Gregg Berhalter coached the U.S. men’s soccer team in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where they achieved a memorable victory over Iran before losing to the Netherlands. Berhalter, who was a professional soccer player himself for 17 years, has coached in Europe and the U.S., and for the past four years, he’s been the head coach of the U.S. national team.

In the past couple of weeks, he’s been under another kind of spotlight. Berhalter’s decision to limit the playing time of one of his young players prompted the player’s parents to threaten to expose an incident from more than three decades ago in which Berhalter got into a physical fight with his girlfriend at the time, who later become his wife. Berhalter and his wife issued a statement in which he expressed his regret for his action at the time and his cooperation with a U.S. Soccer investigation into the matter.

Berhalter sat down with HBR editor in chief Adi Ignatius for our video series “The New World of Work.” In addition to the controversy, he discussed:

  • Leadership lessons he’s learned through coaching teams of highly competitive individuals who may not be used to working together and who are vying for limited starting positions.
  • How players can stay focused amidst the noise and distractions that come with playing sports at such a high level. (It starts by not looking for validation on social media.)
  • The differences between talent and character—and how to capitalize on both.

“The New World of Work” explores how top-tier executives see the future and how their companies are trying to set themselves up for success. Each week, Ignatius talks to a top leader on LinkedIn Live — previous interviews included Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. He also shares an inside look at these conversations —and solicits questions for future discussions — in a newsletter just for HBR subscribers. If you’re a subscriber, you can sign up here.


I’m really glad you’re doing this. I want to start with the controversy. What are you feeling about this? What have you learned from all of this?


I think it’s sadness. Our entire family is saddened by these events. It’s something we want to move forward from. As we said in the statement, it was something that we didn’t hide from back then, and we weren’t prepared to hide from it now, and that’s why we issued this statement. Actually, the events of that night 31 years ago and the lessons learned from that basically set the foundation for our relationship moving forward. It’s a loving relationship, a devoted relationship, and we have four amazing kids to show for.

I think the worst part of it for me is my heart aches for my wife, because it was her story to tell, if she chose to or not. It just really, really saddens me. But it’s moving forward and that’s the way we have to look at it together as a family. The family’s been amazing and has taken it one day at a time and moving forward.

A big reason for doing this show is because I committed to doing it. We committed to doing this before all this stuff happened and I wasn’t going to back down from it, because I said I would do it.

Just Say No to Constant Hustling

North Americans are well known for their hard-driving attitudes toward work. Blame it on the influence of the Protestant work ethic, immigrant ancestors, or the pressure of a 24/7 economy—it seems people are working longer hours than ever. Research is also revealing that even within the workday, people are not taking breaks to which they are entitled. This should result in greater productivity. Right? Wrong.

While there is much to admire about the moxie of the “hustle culture” it would appear that this has led to a place that is not conducive to either mental or physical health. Scarfing lunch at the desk is all too common. Increasingly, businesses are beginning to recognize the hazards of this “powering through” approach. As rates of burnout increase, attention is now being turned to this cultural phenomenon and its impact on both health and productivity.

The need for periodic breaks is equally true when looking at study habits. In research done on the motor skills of groups of university students, it was shown that those who took even a short break performed better. Researcher William S. Helton (2019) concluded, “No matter which type of break they were given, all of the students in the break groups performed better on the attention task than those who kept slogging away without an intermission.” (40).

Spiritual traditions have long counseled the need for periodic times of rest. They have always structured time ensuring that that period of activity is followed by relaxation. This is embodied in the idea of the Sabbath found in both Christianity and Judaism when all productive activity is halted once a week. Holidays (holy days) practiced by all the world’s traditions set aside days of the year when the focus is on rest, relaxation, and communal meals with friends and family. This is not simply a quaint and archaic practice but one that is vital to well-being.

The teachings found in spiritual works such as the Daoist text the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing) have a great deal to tell us about our relationship with time. This famously riddling text associated with the Chinese sage Lao Tzu (c 551-479 BCE) counsels the art of wu-wei or “action in inaction.” In which it is “necessary to do nothing in order to achieve all.” These periods of introversion naturally come to an end and give rise to times of action and manifestation. These cycles are, in turn, related to those of the natural world.

Our increasing tendency to push through in our tasks is no doubt related to the fact that we have become so disconnected from the natural world. Clock time increasingly overrules the rhythms of the body, which are pushed aside and ignored in the face of a time crunch.” Those whose occupations remain tied to natural cycles know that there are certain times that will result in a successful planting and harvest and all sailors know that we are subject to time and tides.

When a sense of the natural rhythms is understood, it begins to make sense that so many scientific and creative ideas have come about when the person stops actively trying to solve the problem. This is now referred to as the “shower effect.” Richard Sima (2013) writes, “Our ability to generate novel ideas and creative thoughts probably arises from our brain’s ‘default mode network,’ a constellation of brain regions that are active when our thoughts are turned inward, such as when mind-wandering.”

Spiritually based practices that press the pause button produce real and important psychological effects. They move us from the goal-oriented, driven modes of being and seeing the world. They also prevent the all too common phenomenon of rushing through life and never really engaging fully with the present moment. And they make us more productive in the long term.

Buying A House

The following is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended as credit repair or credit repair advice.

Plus, owning your own home can provide stability by allowing you to become part of a community and invest in neighborly relationships. Along the way, you build equity in your home, strengthen your credit score, and come tax time, possibly qualify for a tax deduction. 

But not everyone is well positioned to buy a home, especially if they have a poor credit score. Here’s what to know about credit scores for buying a home and how to improve yours. 

Credit Scores That Mortgage Lenders Want to See 

The baseline credit score that mortgage lenders will consider is a minimum score of 500 (read up on how a mortgage works). But that’s a low score in their view, and it will limit you to certain types of loans, likely with higher interest rates. To be able to access better mortgage products, a better minimum score is 620. For the best interest rates, 740 or higher is optimum. 

However, the rules can be different for government-insured home loans, with added flexibility for lower credit scores. VA and USDA loans have no minimum credit requirement. FHA loans allow for an absolute minimum score requirement of 500, but scores at that level will require a down payment that’s 10% of the purchase price. That can be difficult for many new buyers. If your score is 580 or higher, you’ll be eligible for the maximum funding available for an FHA loan, which is 96.5% of the purchase price. The remaining 3.5% you’ll need to provide as a down payment. 

Lenders Use Multiple Scores When Evaluating Applications

Mortgage lenders go further than credit card companies to determine if you’re a good risk for a mortgage. It’s useful to understand how they use your FICO® scores as you plan ahead.

Mortgage lenders typically want to see reports from each of the big three credit bureaus, along with a FICO score for each report. The big three are Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. The lenders will typically receive one report containing information from all three reporting bureaus, along with three different FICO scores. A FICO score is a number associated with the information in your credit reports. Scores likely vary because each bureau reports your credit history a little differently.

The mortgage lender may use the middle score for lending to you. So, if you need a minimum 580 score, your middle score might need to be at least 580. However, there are exceptions. 

Besides FICO scores, mortgage lenders often look at the information in your credit reports as well when reviewing your application. For example, even if you have decent FICO scores, a lender could turn you down if they don’t like your debt-to-income ratio or see that you owe too much money to collection agencies. Other factors include loan amount, down payment, and location of the home. 

Bottom line: a higher credit score benefits you in many different ways, but it’s not the only factor considered.

The Impact of Low Credit Scores on Interest Rates

While it’s true that all lenders are a little different, it’s standard for interest rates to be based largely on the range of your credit score. The higher your score, the lower the interest rate — and that means paying less money over the long haul for a house. 

Check out this interactive chart by FICO to see the connection between credit score, interest rate, and monthly payment. The reason higher scores benefit you so much is that they demonstrate to lenders that you’re a good risk as a borrower. In theory, a high score is the result of successful borrowing in the past with regular and on-time payments. The converse is also true: a low score can be interpreted as you being a riskier borrower. 

Of course, maybe you just haven’t borrowed much money, or you don’t have a portfolio of different types of credit. That can result in a low score even though you haven’t been irresponsible with credit cards. But to lenders, that’s a risk to them because they don’t have evidence for well-managed borrowing behavior. And the riskier the borrower, the more lenders will try to minimize the risk to themselves with a higher interest rate and other possible terms that are costlier to the borrower. 

How to Buy a House If You Have a Poor Credit Score

So, what can you do if you want to buy a house but have a poor credit score? There are a few steps you can take, including improving your credit score. That takes time but it may be the optimal path, depending on just how low your score is. 

You can also explore any government-insured loan programs that you may qualify for (FHA, USDA, VA). Those programs may qualify you to buy a house more quickly.

Homebuyer assistance programs are primarily run at the state level. Check out the programs available in your state. At the federal level, the FHA is the largest insurer of homes in the world. It’s a great place to start as long as your credit score is at least 500.

How to Improve Your Credit Score 

Improving your credit score doesn’t take anything complicated. Mostly, it takes discipline and consistency over time. Here are the best ways to improve your score. 

  • Make on-time or early payments, and never miss one. In most scoring models, on-time payment history is the single most important factor in your credit score. 
  • Reduce your overall debt to increase available credit. That means paying down active credit cards and keeping those balances low. The larger your balance compared to the available credit, the worse it can be for your credit score. 
  • Avoid too many recent credit inquiries. For example, if you try to open new cards, and they conduct a credit inquiry, that can ding your credit score. Minimize those inquiries. 
  • Try boosting your score with alternative data, such as rental payment history and utility payment history reported via a credit reporting service. Keep in mind, some of these credit-boosting services cost money, ranging from $6.95 to $8.85 per month, sometimes with a startup fee. And they may not impact the specific credit scoring model that your lender is using, but, still, alternative data is a potential option to explore. You’ll have to decide whether the monthly fee is worth a credit score bump. 

Are you concerned your credit history and score are keeping you from your dream of homeownership? Buying a home isn’t a quick process. If you want to improve your credit score, work with a certified credit counselor to find ways to reduce debt, build savings, and improve your credit health. Credit counseling from MMI is free, confidential, and available online or over the phone.

give yourself the gift of a vacation away from family

When I was 12 or 13, a friend’s mother invited me to join their family for a Thanksgiving road trip. After I persuaded my parents to let me go, we piled into the family minivan and hit the road. We stayed at a Howard Johnson, shelled pecans and ate all the traditional holiday foods my family never had.

It was the kind of holiday I had always wanted, and one I could never have had at home. It was the first time I skipped a holiday at home, but it wasn’t the last. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For years, Christmas was a forbidden word around our house. As a Hindu, my father didn’t think we should have a tree or acknowledge the holiday. I learned the truth about Santa Claus when we picked up a Christmas tree on sale at Woolworths around closing time on Christmas Eve, decorating into the wee hours of Christmas morning, when Santa was supposed to be making his rounds.

Similarly, Thanksgiving was an American holiday, one my father didn’t believe we as Indian Americans should celebrate. As a kid making cornucopias and construction-paper turkeys at school, however, all I wanted was turkey, pecan pie and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The closest I ever got to the kind of holiday meals other kids talked about was at a family friend’s house. It was usually a crowd of lawyers, former Texas prosecutors and the occasional medical examiner, a mix that made for interesting conversation. There was turkey for everyone else, and vegetarian lasagna for us.

During college, I regularly skipped holidays at home, opting to spend time with friends and their families instead. Not going home meant I could remove myself from the drama that met me whenever I walked through the front door.

In college, it was my weight that was an issue. Going home would mean hearing about how I was so fat that I was unlovable and destined to spend life alone. Down the line, skipping the holidays meant I wouldn’t have to hear about how I was quickly approaching my expiration date of 40 — a time beyond which I would have no value to the world. This conversation began when I was 21.

Not going home for the holidays meant I didn’t have to hear about how I was wasting my life or about the awful traditional men my dad was trying to meet online on my behalf. One of those men told me in our families’ native tongue that he wanted a wife to go to his village in India and care for his aging parents while he stayed in the United States. Nope.

Over the years, I skipped trips home to collect holiday pay at work and scheduled vacations over them to make the most of my limited paid time off. Two weeks doesn’t go very far when you’re an avid traveler with a penchant for far-flung destinations or an Indian American who has to travel at least 24 hours each way to visit relatives in India.

A couple of times, I opted to watch the Macy’s parade in person in New York. A cousin and I feasted on Indian food in Brooklyn after the parade one Thanksgiving.

I spent another Thanksgiving in Porto, Portugal, with a new friend made a few days earlier in Lisbon. We spent the day sampling Port wine and wandering charming European streets. We shared a delicious multicourse meal with wine, champagne and Port for less than $100.

It was exactly the Thanksgiving I needed that year, and a gift I’m grateful to have given myself.

The Best Public Speakers Put the Audience First

Several years ago, I traveled from New York to Geneva, Switzerland to be the closing keynote speaker for the World Communication Forum. I was excited to have the opportunity to speak with global leaders about how nonnative English speakers can present their ideas — and themselves — with greater clarity and confidence. For my allotted 45-minute time slot, I prepared high-quality research, relatable examples, actionable takeaways from my book on the topic, and ample opportunities for audience engagement.

But then, the conference ran late. Every single presentation and panel prior to mine exceeded its time limit. By the time my closing speaking slot arrived, I had only eight minutes to deliver my 45-minute presentation — a presentation I had flown across the Atlantic Ocean to give.

Here’s what I wanted to do: cry, insist on my full time, and then hop on the next plane back to New York.

Here’s what I did instead: managed my emotions, empathized with the audience’s wants and needs, and delivered an eight-minute presentation that gave them practical tips and tools that they could use immediately.

Here’s how it went: great. Participants shared their appreciation for my adaptability, focus, and my good humor, as well as their gratitude that I didn’t make them late for dinner.

In the moment, I chose servant leadership over self-interest.

The term servant leadership was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf, and refers to a leader who “shares power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” This is in contrast to the traditional leadership model which focuses on the power of one at the “top of the pyramid.”

As public speakers, we can often feel like we’re at the top of the pyramid because we’re at the front of the room. It can be tempting to interpret a presentation as an opportunity to showcase what we know rather than address what the audience wants and needs to know. But that makes it about us, not about them. In contrast, speakers as servant leaders demonstrate self-awareness, empathy, and foresight. Here’s how you can do the same.

What makes a servant leader?


As soon as I realized that I was going to have to cut almost 80% of the presentation I had been working on for months, I felt myself get flooded with both anger and anxiety. I was angry that other speakers went over their allotted time. I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to adapt my remarks in time to make them both concise and compelling.

And I also realized that, as a visibly expressive person, I could pass that anger and anxiety on to the audience. Emotions are contagious, and leaders must recognize that their feelings can “infect” others, for better or for worse. Furthermore, the more expressive someone is, the more likely others are to notice that expression, and mimic it.

Unless I wanted an angry and anxious audience, I had to manage my emotions before taking the stage. Chances are, you’ve experienced anxiety (among a host of other emotions) before making a presentation. Leverage that self-awareness to make sure you’re not infecting your audience. One strategy is to “name it to tame it.” Originally developed by Dr. Daniel Siegel, founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, this technique involves noticing and naming how you’re feeling as it’s happening. Identifying your emotions can quickly reduce the stress and anxiety in the brain and the body that that emotion is causing.

You can also ask yourself, “WTF?” (“What the func?”). According to Dr. Susan David, co-founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital and a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, our emotions serve a function. They’re trying to get our attention, and to remind us of the needs and values that we hold as important to us. When you present, ask yourself what functions those emotions serve. Maybe you feel anxious because you care deeply about accuracy, and you don’t want to get the facts wrong. Perhaps you feel worried because you’re motivated by harmony, and you’re about to say something that could rock the boat.

And, if you’re like most people, you feel anxious speaking in front of people in general because you value excellence (“What if I don’t do a great job?”) or acceptance (“What if they don’t like my ideas?”). Harness your drive towards excellence to practice delivering your presentation aloud to a colleague, and use their feedback to improve it. If you’re concerned about acceptance, practice with a colleague who will play devil’s advocate with you. By practicing how you manage pushback and objections, you’ll gain additional insight into your audience’s concerns, and be better prepared to address them in the moment.

Whatever your hard feelings are, know that they’re pointing you towards something you value — and towards something you can use to become a more audience-centered presenter.


If you were to ask me what the most common mistake is that presenters make, I wouldn’t say using filler words or having a boring PowerPoint or not being able to answer tough questions.

I would say that it’s leading with the ideas that they want to talk about rather than being empathetic towards the audience’s hopes and fears.

Presenting with a servant leadership approach flips this model. Rather than prioritizing your own agenda, you put the agenda of the audience ahead of yours. You seek first to understand rather than to be understood. You show curiosity, concern, and compassion for others, even if you have a different experience.

In Geneva, I wanted all 45 minutes of the stage time I was promised. But I knew that fighting for air time would be in service of me, and not in service of the needs of my fidgety, hungry listeners.

So, I prioritized their need to get the most applicable information from my presentation over my desire to tell interesting stories. I told them that I recognized that I was all that was standing between them and dinner, and that I wouldn’t make them late. And I mentioned that I knew that they had been sitting for many hours, and invited them to stand up, walk around, stretch, or do whatever they needed to do while I spoke.

Here’s an exercise you can do to help you develop the empathy you’ll need to present from a servant leadership perspective: Picture a bed — any bed. Let that bed inspire you to ask these servant leadership questions about your audience.

  • What gets them out of bed in the morning? In other words, what are they excited about and motivated by? Is it growth? Opportunity? Collaboration? Innovation? That’s one clue to what you should prioritize in your presentation. If this is an internal presentation, you will likely know this because whomever you’re presenting to will have shared these goals in previous meetings, conversations, or emails. For an external audience, you can ask the person convening the meeting, or reach out to a few attendees to ask them by email or via a quick phone call.
  • What keeps them up at night? What are they worried about? Is it time? Money? Quality? Headcount? Visibility? Viability? Reputation? Whatever it is, that’s your second clue to what you should prioritize in your presentation. Use the same strategies from above to find the answers to this question, too.

Once you know what’s in the heads and hearts of your audience, design your presentation to address those topics first and foremost. You’ll have your audience’s attention and buy-in because you’ve demonstrated empathy over self-concern.


Servant-leaders leverage their experience and intuition to draw lessons from past experiences, to understand the realities of today, and to reasonably predict the consequences of a decision for the future.

Good presenters need to be able to do the same.

As someone who has been a professional speaker and speaking coach for three decades, I knew from past experiences that trying to maintain an audience’s attention, interest, and goodwill beyond the time they were expecting to stay was a losing battle. I also knew this from my experience as an audience member myself — I regularly felt tense and frustrated when I was being asked to pay attention beyond the allotted time.

The reality of that day was that several other speakers who preceded me had exceeded their time. It was now eight minutes before dinner time after a long day. Another reality was that I had 45 minutes of content, but I no longer has 45 minutes to deliver it. I could reasonably predict that if I decided to take more time than we had left, the audience would no longer pay attention. I could also anticipate that if I tried to rush through my content, the audience would feel overwhelmed and confused — and it would undermine my credibility as a speaker. My decision was to give the audience the most important content they needed to know and to get the conference back on track.

It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but my foresight (and hindsight) informed what I needed to do to be of service.

Consider your audience.

As you think about presenting to your audience, ask yourself these questions:

What do I know about their understanding of this topic?

(And if you don’t know, ask someone who does.) If your audience has minimal understanding of your topic, include some foundational education about the topic early in the presentation. Make sure to minimize jargon, in-speak, acronyms, and technical terms that can confuse your listeners. (Remember, it’s not about demonstrating what you understand — it’s about making sure they understand.) If your audience is already educated about and experienced with your topic, then start where they are.

What if you have an audience with mixed knowledge? A presentation for multiple audiences can become confusing, so consider who your primary audience is and gear your presentation towards them. And yet, you still want to be inclusive. Try acknowledging this aloud to the group by saying, “I understand that some of you are new to the field, many of you have been working in the field for a few years, and some of you have decades of experience. I’ll start by defining some basic terms and then we’re going to get into the details they understand. For those of you who are experts, I hope you’ll add your valuable experience and perspectives to the conversation today. (I do this regularly when I am speaking to a group of experts in my own field, and they appreciate being acknowledged and included.)

We Still Don’t Have At-Home Testing For the Flu

The tests are easy to use, and for now, paid for by insurance if you’ve got it. If you don’t have insurance, you can still get the kits for free from some community health centers.

If the test shows that you’re positive, you know to stay home and mask up, and ask your doctor about taking antiviral medications that can minimize the symptoms and keep you from getting seriously ill. If you’re a parent and testing your kids, the kits can signal when to keep them at home from school.

It’s a win-win, since knowing your status means you can protect not only yourself but your community by not spreading the virus when you stay home and get treated.

COVID-19 has set a new standard of expectations for testing, and knowing whether you’re sick, that is starting to make the way the U.S. traditionally manages winter season diseases look archaic. Why don’t we have the same self-tests for other common illnesses that spread during the colder months—such as flu and RSV? Each year flu leads to between 300,000 and 800,000 hospitalizations in the U.S., while RSV sends up to 80,000 young children under five years old to the hospital annually.

“The pandemic shifted people’s expectations,” says Dr. Michael Mina, chief science officer at eMed, a digital health company that offers at-home testing and telemedicine options to help with those tests for a range of illnesses. “It’s driving people to ask, ‘why do I need to go to the doctor when COVID-19 testing has shown me that it’s totally safe and okay for me to [use self-tests to determine] if I’m positive for a respiratory illness?’”

Until the pandemic hit, at-home testing was a health trend struggling for respect. While convenient, the medical community and health regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) weren’t convinced that people could reliably test themselves at home for things like flu, and interpret the results accurately. Decades earlier, home pregnancy test kits battled through similar validation issues, as health care experts raised concerns about releasing a test that wasn’t always completely accurate and about the need to educate women about interpreting the results. Ultimately, regulators decided that the level of uncertainty was an acceptable tradeoff for arming women with knowledge about their pregnancy status and the tests became available in 1978 over the counter.

With similar reasoning, and this time driven by the urgent need during the pandemic to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the FDA authorized the first at-home rapid tests for COVID-19 in spring 2020. Millions of people have since tested themselves or their children, without a medical professional, effectively and responsibly. “The COVID-19 pandemic led to a shift in empowering citizens with the ability to test themselves for respiratory infections,” says Dr. Chaz Langelier, associate professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at University of California San Francisco. “The average person in the U.S. now has a working knowledge of the public health implications of respiratory infections on a level that wasn’t there pre-pandemic.”

The barriers to self-testing

Studies conducted on at-home COVID-19 tests showed that people don’t need a medical degree to insert a swab up their nose, swirl it around, and then insert the swab in a pre-made solution and read the resulting lines. In fact, that technology is essentially the same one that doctors and nurses use in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and health centers to test for influenza, RSV, and strep. “The average person thinks that when they go to the doctor and he or she uses a rapid strep or flu test, that the doctor is doing something complicated behind the scenes,” says Mina. “But no, it’s just the same swabbing of the nose or throat and the same lateral flow antigen test [as in the home kits]. The COVID-19 self tests have demystified how some of these medical tests are performed. And opened to door to people asking, ‘why don’t I have access to that?’”

The reason they don’t yet has to do with a number of factors, from cultural bias to the economics of the flu-testing market. The medical community has historically been reluctant to entrust self-tests in the hands of the public because of concerns about how well the people without medical expertise can collect the samples and perform the chemical reaction required to detect the presence of a virus or bacteria. But streamlined ways to contain reagents and present them in a straightforward way, such as the easy-to-use COVID-19 test kits, have made the process nearly mistake-proof, Mina says.

While that may be true of the COVID-19 self tests, the self-tests for flu that are still being developed aren’t quite there yet. Doctors have relied for years on so-called point-of-care testing that provides results within minutes about whether their patients have flu, but they have also known that the false negative rate of these tests can range up to 40%. “You trade accuracy for speed,” says Dr. Lisa Maragakis, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Such rapid antigen tests, which pick up proteins made by viruses like SARS-CoV-2 or influenza, are relatively good at detecting people who are positive, leading to low false positive rates, but a negative result doesn’t always mean the person is free and clear. Doctors take other factors into consideration, such as the patient’s symptoms and exposures, when interpreting negative results. And if needed, they repeat the test to confirm the result.

How Have You Grown This Year?

It’s the season for New Year’s resolutions and reflecting on how the year has gone. As you think about what you’ve achieved this year, I encourage you to think about the following categories. You may have grown in ways you aren’t giving yourself credit for.

If you’re a member of a couple, it can be beneficial to answer these questions together. You may think of answers for your partner that they don’t think of for themselves and vice versa. It’s also a great way to let each other into your respective inner worlds.

If there is anyone you want to get closer to or deeply connect with, like a friend or family member, the same applies. Swap answers or answer these together.

1. Have you grown through making yourself vulnerable?

Did you open up to someone? Were you open about an area of insecurity or shame? Did you ask for advice? Did you attempt to turn around missteps from the past or address regrets?

2. What’s one thing you learned from someone else this year? Have you discovered any new learning channels?

For example, during the year I’ve participated in a Reddit “bumper” group, comprised of people who, like me, had babies due in October 2022. This group has all the best aspects of an internet community and I’ve learned so many small tips from others in the group. We’ve also experienced shared joy at our new babes, and taken comfort in the sense of solidarity from all going through a similar life experience at the same time. 

3. Have you finally acted on a piece of solid life advice?

We don’t always hear life advice and immediately act on it. Sometimes it takes years. This can be due to stubbornness or resistance, or simply because a relevant circumstance hasn’t come up.

For example, I’m someone who generally doesn’t like routines. I get bored by sameness. Routines make me feel restricted. All that said, as the mother of a newborn who has struggled with breastfeeding, I’ve religiously kept to a routine of pumping every three hours around the clock for the last two months. I didn’t know I had it in me to keep this up. In this case, I wouldn’t have succeeded without the routine. Although I normally resist routines, it’s been an essential tool in this instance.

4. What’s one way that cooperating with others (or just one other person) has enhanced your skills or results?

What have you achieved through cooperation that you wouldn’t have achieved on your own?

Personal growth isn’t something we do all on our own. Others are a bridge that helps us grow our skills and make accomplishments. 

Bonus: How have you benefited from cooperating with someone who you differ from in some important way? You don’t have to share someone’s outlook 100% to be able to benefit from cooperation. For example, I “work to live” more than I “live to work” but if I only worked with people who share my outlook, I’d unnecessarily limit myself. 

Another example: I’m a vegan but one of the doctors I worked with earlier in the year is a huge advocate for a carnivore diet. I ignore that aspect of his advice but take other aspects of it.

5. What’s one way that being more flexible helped you? What’s one way that being gritty and inflexible helped you?

Some situations call for flexibility. Sometimes we discover “the juice isn’t worth the squeeze” in the process of pursuing a goal, and choose to change our goal. Sometimes we realize the way we were going about achieving a goal isn’t working and we need to pursue it a different way, but keep the same goal. At other times, we benefit from being dogmatic and persistent, no matter what.

It’s not always obvious which situation calls for which approach. However, it can be useful to reflect on our capacity to alternate between these two approaches. How and why do you choose your approach in a given situation? How have both approaches benefitted you in different ways?

Your Values Can Be Compromised When You’re Under Stress

In times of high pressure, aspirational core values can seem entirely impractical. Who has time for being “bold,” “innovative” or “connected” when they’re slammed by a barrage of emails and threatened by volatility or disruption?

In these situations, values are relegated to vinyl stickers on an office wall or words tucked away on the About Us page of a website. How many people can recall their company’s values, never mind using them as a blueprint for decision-making and the basis for team alignment and trust?

How workplace values emerge

Values are what is important. Whether you can articulate them clearly or not, you have values. Your company has values and they are set by the executive — not the marketing — team.

Leadership values shape employee behavior. If leaders value financial performance over all else, employee well-being, environmental impact or social connectivity may be neglected. Values contagion is a real phenomenon, and no training initiative will shift your culture if leadership values are misaligned or inconsistent. Employees roll their eyes at what they perceive as phony company values when leaders don’t walk the talk.

Values in distress

Distress arises when there is a misalignment of values. For example, imagine that you’re working late nights and sacrificing family time. If a core value is family, you’ll start feeling resentful toward work. Or perhaps you’re spending too much time caring for your family when a core value is productivity. You might then resent your family. There is no right or wrong; your values profile is entirely unique.

In life’s journey, purpose is your North Star and values are the flame lighting your way. The terrain may be challenging, but knowing what is important and acting in alignment reduces ambiguity and increases fulfillment. You’ll have a reason “why” and a torch to guide your “how.” If the flame of your values burns low, you — and your team — may feel lost. In an environment of uncertainty, we activate ancient survival mechanisms, including our negativity bias, to secure our safety.

Are values purely cognitive?

The missing link in values alignment is our physiological state. When distressed, under threat or unwell, our values shift from aspirational and collaborative to primal and protective.

There’s an ancient part of the brain called the amygdala. It scans input arriving via our senses and triggers strong emotions to help protect us from perceived threats. This can save our life if a lion wanders into the office. It saved the lives of our ancestors who navigated challenging environments where direct threats to survival were the norm. Fast forward to modern life, where inboxes overflow, amplified by pressure to perform and conflicting demands. We are our worst enemies because to manage complexity, we need to be calm, present and energized — yet we’re sleeping less and worrying more than ever.

9 Ways To Make Divorce Easier On Kids

It’s a crucial point to keep in mind. Pretty much everything about watching parents separate is confusing and difficult, but Malinski, who offers a course on how to tell your children you are separating or divorcing, says the two biggest stressors around divorce and kids are typically loss (or fear of loss) of their relationship with both parents, and being surrounded by conflict. Transitions — a new house, new school, and new caregivers — cause kids a lot of stress, too. 

As a parent navigating these tough aspects yourself, it can be hard to focus on your kids’ needs. But it’s important to do your best to minimize your kids’ stress as much as you can. Here, per Malinski, are nine important rules to keep in mind.

1. Think about how you’ll tell them.

There are a lot of tough parts about divorce, but telling your kids that it’s happening feels especially heart-wrenching. How you choose to tell them can make a big impact on their experience. Malinski suggests writing out what you’ll say beforehand, keeping it very short, and reading it aloud several times in private where no one can hear you. “That way, you can be more emotionally present for your child’s emotions during the conversation, without being overtaken by your own,” she says.

2. Keep conflict low.

Divorce brings a wide range of emotions. While it’s normal to feel anger or resentment toward an ex, parents must be careful of how they voice them. No, this doesn’t mean putting feelings aside. It means compartmentalizing them. Share them with your therapist or vent to a trusted friend. But by all means, avoid allowing your strong emotions to stir conflict that could come up in front of your kids. “If parents can work through their emotions and create healthy boundaries with their ex and their kids,” Malinski notes, “they are more likely to be cooperative and peaceful around or about the kids.”

3. When the kids are around, avoid emotional topics.

You know your personal hot-button issues, the topics that, if they surface in conversation, almost always result in raised voices or tension. Do your best to avoid these topics in front of your kids. For example, if money is a sensitive subject, or your ex has a new romantic interest, Malinski suggests saving these topics for private, adult discussions. Don’t bring these things up––or anything that was a source of conflict in your marriage––when your kids are around, or you’ll simply cause unnecessary stress for them.

4. Try to find common ground.

You might feel like you have nothing in common with your ex, which can lead to tension. During interactions, Malinski suggests taking a deep breath, noticing any physical tension you’re harboring about the situation, and checking in on your thoughts. If any negative messages are running through your mind, do your best to reframe them to home in on the one thing you have in common: You share a child, and you both want what’s best for them. You may not like your ex, but if you work on changing the narration in your head, you can devote energy to making good decisions about your kid.

5. Show your kids you’re still there for them.

Separating from your partner is probably one of the worst experiences of your life––and at the same time, your kids need you to be present more than ever. Do as good a job you can to find ways to relieve your own stress so you can emotionally engage with your child. Check in on a regular basis about how your child is doing, and if they’re struggling, always take time to listen and comfort them. “Kids need to feel like their parents are still clocked in,” Malinski says. “That means the parent needs to pay attention to their emotional state.”

6. Care for your child together when possible.

You might not be living together, but there will probably be times when you’ll have to cross paths with your ex. Do your best –– in a peaceful and relaxed way –– to show your child that your conflict won’t get in the way of your first priority: to care for them. For example, maybe you both show up at the preschool recital or birthday party, even if it’s awkward. Or maybe you make an effort to talk about the kids’ nap schedule and new favorite snack during “shift change. “Kids need to see both their parents in the same space pretty regularly between ages 0 and 5, which includes seeing their parents talk to each other about them in friendly, casual ways,” Malinski says.

7. Let kids have their feelings — and be respectful of how your child wants to be supported.

Many times, because parents have such strong emotions about the divorce themselves, tolerating a child’s anger or sadness can feel overwhelming and parents, mistakenly or not, invalidate those emotions. A crucial part of ensuring your child feels seen and loved through a confusing process, notes Malinski, is making space for their emotions –– even if they inconvenience you. Let them feel the full spectrum of feelings, expect those feelings to shift from day to day, and do your best to show up in the way they need, whether that’s a hug, a conversation, or special time alone with you.

How to Dispute Mistakes On Your Credit Report

After all, you’ll need a good credit score and a solid credit history if you ever plan to purchase a home or take out an auto loan. A bad credit score can even come back to bite you if you want to rent an apartment or apply for certain jobs.

But your score isn’t the only detail you need to pay attention to. You also need to keep an eye on your credit report — the document that lists your formal credit history including any accounts you have open, balances due, and payments you’ve made. 

Your report and your score are intricately intertwined. If bad information gets on your credit report due to fraud or misreporting, this can easily cause your credit score to nosedive. Likewise, a clear credit report with nothing but true (and positive) information can help your credit score reach greater heights.

That’s why, every single year, you should get a free copy of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Fortunately, this part is easy to accomplish via

How to dispute information on your credit report

Once you have a copy of your credit report from all three bureaus, you’ll want to look over all the details to make sure they’re correct. Incorrect information you might notice on your report may include: 

  • Errors regarding your name or personal information
  • Accounts that aren’t even yours
  • Accounts belonging to someone with a name that is similar to yours
  • Closed accounts that are reported as open
  • Incorrectly reported late payments
  • Accounts listed more than once
  • Incorrect balances on accounts
  • Incorrect credit limits on accounts

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both the credit bureau and whoever is providing them with information are responsible for correcting misinformation on your credit report. This means that, if a specific retailer or bank is reporting an account that isn’t yours or an incorrect balance, both the credit bureau and the retailer or bank have to work together to make things right.

If you find an error, here are the steps you should take right away:

Inform the credit bureau with the incorrect information of the mistake

The first step you should take is informing the credit reporting agency of their error, keeping in mind that it’s possible not all the credit bureaus will have the same information. You should let them know about the mistake in writing, taking special care to list important details about the mistake with proper documentation. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) even offers a sample letter you can use if you need help. 

Note that credit bureaus usually have 30 days to investigate your claim and they are required to get back to you with a response. They are also required to forward the information you sent them to the provider who shared the information with them in the first place. 

Inform whoever provided the information of the mistake

You’ll also want to provide the company reporting the incorrect information with copies of any documentation that prove an error has occurred. Make sure to include all details required to prove your claim along with copies of documentation that backs you up. The FTC offers another sample dispute letter you can use for this instance. 

Green vs traditional Mediterranean diet

A new large-scale clinical intervention trial found that a modified Mediterranean diet — called the green Mediterranean diet — is more effective at reducing visceral fat that can surround and damage organs than the standard Mediterranean diet or a generally healthy diet.

All three diets resulted in a reduction of visceral fat, but the green Mediterranean diet doubled the benefit of the “traditional” Mediterranean diet.

The study was conducted by the DIRECT-PLUS trial research team. It was led by Prof. Iris Shai of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, and Dr. Hila Zelicha, now at the University of California, Los Angeles, aided by colleagues from Italy, Germany, and the United States.

The study appears in BMC Medicine.

The green Mediterranean diet

The green Mediterranean diet differs from the original Mediterranean diet in its emphasis on polyphenols.

Polyphenols are plant compounds that have been linked to protection from type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease. They also appear to support brain health and digestion.

Polyphenols are found in dark chocolate, berries, red wine, and tea, as well as some nuts, such as walnuts.

On the green Mediterranean diet, as envisaged in this study, a person consumes 28 grams of walnuts — about seven nuts — 3 to 4 cups of green tea, and 100 milligrams of the aquatic plant Wolffia globosa (Mankai) — also known as “duckweed” — in a smoothie or shake each day. All are rich in polyphenols.

Otherwise, the diet is the same as the original Mediterranean diet, but without the consumption of red and processed meats.

For the 18-month randomized controlled trial, researchers divided the 294 participants into three groups:

  • one group followed a standard Mediterranean (MED) diet
  • one followed a green Mediterranean (green-MED) diet
  • a final group one strictly followed healthy dietary guidelines (HDG).

All groups were offered lifestyle educational sessions and physical activity recommendations, along with a free gym membership.

Researchers supplied the walnuts, tea, and Mankai, along with recipes for green smoothies.

High amounts of salty, processed foods could double stress levels

Salt is known to improve the taste of many foods, which may tempt consumers to buy more processed, salt-laden products. Common processed foods include commercially packaged bread, cereals, deli meats, soups, cheese, and instant noodles.

Increasing evidence shows that too much salt in the diet can wreak havoc on the body’s cardiovascular and renal systems. 

Recently, scientists at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland theorized that high salt consumption might also impose stress on the brain. The results from the experiment showed that high salt intake could elevate stress hormone production.

The study linked the consumption of large amounts of salt-rich food to the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the body’s stress response system. The researchers also noticed a high-salt diet led to increases in glucocorticoids, naturally occurring hormones that help regulate stress response and cardiovascular, cognitive, immune, and metabolic functions.

Matthew Bailey, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of renal physiology at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science, told Medical News Today:

“We are what we eat, and understanding how high-salt food changes our mental health is an important step to improving well-being. We know that eating too much salt damages our heart, blood vessels, and kidneys. This study now tells us that high salt in our food also changes the way our brain handles stress.”

The research team hopes that their work will encourage more public health policies that promote the reduction of salt in processed foods.

The findings appear in Cardiovascular Research.

Salt consumption is above healthy levels

Sodium is an essential element that helps regulate the movement of nutrients in and out of cells. The human body requires only a small amount of sodium, which combines with chloride to make up common table salt.

According to the 2020–2025 Dietary GuidelinesTrusted Source, Americans should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source estimates Americans eat over 3,400 mg every day.

Evangeline Mantzioris, a dietitian and program director of nutrition and food sciences at the University of South Australia, discussed the epidemic of high salt in an April 2022 podcast. She was not involved in the present study.

When we eat too much salt, Mantzioris explained: “It gets absorbed into our intestine and our blood […] It draws fluid into the blood vessels [and] increases the blood pressure against the blood vessel wall — and this is what we call high blood pressure.”

She added that aging and certain health conditions, including preeclampsia, low birth weight, and chronic kidney disease, can increase salt sensitivity. In turn, “our body is less able to deal with all the processes that it needs to keep healthy,” she noted.

How Great Leaders Communicate

And that’s why communication is no longer considered a “soft skill” among the world’s top business leaders. Leaders who reach the top do not simply pay lip service to the importance of effective communication. Instead, they study the art in all its forms — writing, speaking, presenting — and constantly strive to improve on those skills.

For example, while Jeff Bezos was building Amazon, he put a premium on writing skills. In the summer of 2004, he surprised his leadership team and banned PowerPoint. He replaced slides with “narratively structured memos” that contained titles and full sentences with verbs and nouns.

Bezos is not alone among top leaders. “You cannot over-invest in communication skills — written and oral skills,” says former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who now serves on Amazon’s board. “If you cannot simplify a message and communicate it compellingly, believe me, you cannot get the masses to follow you.”

During my research for The Bezos Blueprint, I found a number of common tactics top leaders use when communicating with their teams. Here are four to try:

1. Use short words to talk about hard things.

Long, complicated sentences make written ideas hard to understand — they’re mentally draining and demand more concentration. You’ll win more fans if you replace long words and sentences with short ones.

“If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do,” writes Nobel prize–winning economist Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow. He argues that persuasive speakers and writers do everything they can to reduce “cognitive strain.”

Software tools like Grammarly assess writing quality by generating a numerical readability score. The score assigns a grade level to writing samples. For example, a document written for a person with at least an eighth-grade education (the average 13-year-old in the U.S.) is considered “very easy to read.” It does not imply that your writing sounds like an eighth grader wrote it. It simply means that your sophisticated arguments are easy to grasp — and ideas that are easy to understand are more persuasive.

Since writing is a skill, you can sharpen it with practice. Bezos improved as a writer over time. His first Amazon shareholder letter in 1997 registered at a tenth-grade level (comparable to The New York Times). Over the next decade, 85% of his letters were written for an eighth- or ninth-grade level.

For example, in 2007, Bezos explained the benefits of Amazon’s newly introduced Kindle in a paragraph a seventh grader could understand:

If you come across a word you don’t recognize, you can look it up easily. You can search your books. Your margin notes and underlinings are stored on the server-side in the “cloud,” where they can’t be lost. Kindle keeps your place in each of the books you’re reading, automatically. If your eyes are tired, you can change the font size. Our vision for Kindle is every book ever printed in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.

Bezos chose short words to talk about hard things. When you make things simple, you’re not dumbing down the content. You’re outsmarting the competition.

2. Choose sticky metaphors to reinforce key concepts. 

A metaphor is a powerful tool that compares abstract ideas to familiar concepts. Metaphors bring people on a journey without ever leaving their seats. Chris Hadfield, a famous Canadian astronaut, is a talented speaker and TED Talks star who tapped into the power of metaphor to describe an indescribable event:

Six seconds before launch, suddenly, this beast starts roaring like a dragon starting to breathe fire. You’re like a little leaf in a hurricane…As those engines light, you feel like you’re in the jaws of an enormous dog that is shaking you and physically pummeling you with power.

Roaring beasts, leaves in a hurricane, the jaws of a dog — these are all concrete ideas to describe an event that few of us will ever experience.

In business, metaphors are shortcuts to communicating complex information in short, catchy phrases. Warren Buffett understands the power of metaphor. If you watch business news or follow the stock market, you’ve no doubt heard the phrase “moats and castles” attributed to companies that dominate an industry that’s difficult for competitors to enter. Buffett popularized the phrase at a 1995 Berkshire Hathaway meeting when he said, “The most important thing we do is to find a business with a wide and long-lasting moat around it, protecting a terrific economic castle with an honest lord in charge of the castle.”

The castle metaphor is a concise shortcut, a vivid explanation for a complex system of data and information that Buffett and his team use to evaluate potential investments.

When you introduce a new or abstract idea, your audience will automatically search for something familiar to help them make sense of it. Introduce a novel metaphor and beat them to the punch.

3. Humanize data to create value.

The trick to reducing cognitive load and making any data point interesting is to humanize it by placing the number in perspective. Showing them PowerPoint slides with statistics and charts only adds cognitive weight, draining their mental energy.

Any time you introduce numbers, take the extra step to make them engaging, memorable, and, ultimately, persuasive.

For example, by 2025 scientists expect humans to produce 175 zettabytes of data annually, or one trillion gigabytes. It’s simply too big a number for most people to wrap their minds around. But what if I said that if you could store 175 zettabytes of data on DVDs, the disks would circle the earth 222 times? It’s still a big number, but the description is more engaging because it paints a vivid image in your mind’s eye.

Famed astrophysicist and science educator Neil deGrasse Tyson once told me that the secret to science communication is to “embed the concept in familiar ground.” In other words, turn data into language mere humans can understand.

One of Tyson’s famous examples of humanizing data occurred in 1997 when NASA launched the Cassini space probe to explore Saturn. Skeptics questioned its $3 billion price tag, and so Tyson appeared on television talk shows to educate the public on the benefits of the mission. But first, he had to deal with the price shock, so he pulled a data comparison out of his rhetorical toolbelt. He explained that the $3 billion would be spread over eight years. He added that Americans spend more on lip balm every year than NASA would spend on the mission over that timeline.

To demonstrate the value of your idea, humanize data and make it relevant to your listeners.

2 Reasons Overthinking May Be in Overdrive

Overthinking is often defined as thinking about something too much and for too long. Often overthinking can pivot around a massive self-analysis. For example, “Did I do the right thing? Am I a worthwhile person? Why can’t I turn off my negative thoughts? Am I selfish?” A person often spins on these thoughts for days. In addition, fixating on one worry can lure a person down a “rabbit hole” of spiraling worries that are somehow connected to the original anxiety. 

Either way, overthinking can create a wave of anxiety and depression that is difficult to shake. Often a person finds relief in the busyness of the day because the overthinking seems to occur at night. Although this is a tough situation, it may help to consider the precipitant for a person’s overthinking. Two factors may be at play.

Before articulating the two possible contributors to overthinking, it is important to acknowledge a common experience of the emotionally intelligent. It involves a critical aspect of emotional intelligence: self-awareness. This includes the capacity to look inward at oneself and introspect to assess personal accountability, gain insight, and understand uncomfortable feelings help a person grow and evolve. It is a sophisticated gift, yet when a person’s identity is under duress, it can induce overthinking.

For example, an individual may spin after receiving negative feedback about who she is. She wishes to trust the person who provides the criticisms, but she may not be entirely convinced the assessment of her is correct. This deep confusion can elicit shame and live inside her brain for days. The predicament may trigger an intense self-inventory because the person wants to figure it out. The confusion about her identity creates a surge of overthinking.

In combination with the emotionally intelligent tendency to self-reflect, two situations involving a person’s identity may create a susceptibility to overthink. One is developmental and the other is situational. 

The years between 12 and the early 20s are often referred to as the identity formation stage in human psychosocial development. In adolescence, a person is inundated with new independence. She begins to make decisions for herself that do not involve attachment figures. For instance, what to wear, what music to listen to, what activities to join, etc. This autonomy forces her to think about who she is in the world, a daunting and overwhelming task. As she moves through the teen and young adult years, her involvement with the outside world increases and she begins to attempt to carve her niche outside of the home—an exciting but terrifying journey. Self-reflecting questions naturally crop up, like: Am I going to be good enough? Do people like me? Am I worthwhile? Am I ordinary? Am I less than? 

Often a helpful analogy to better understand this stage is to imagine a log cabin that represents the young adult’s identity. Because it is under construction, it may have a great foundation and two amazing walls, however, the young person still needs to construct two additional sides of the cabin and nail down a roof. So, a strong wind blows on the young person’s cabin and she feels as if it may crash to the ground. She feels insecure and unstable. Conversely, a gust of wind blows against an adult’s cottage, which is fully formed, and the older person recognizes the structure is sound.

What is an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

The most popular type of mortgage is a fixed rate mortgage. As the name suggests, it locks you into a set interest rate for the life of the loan (usually 30 years), unless you later decide to refinance.

That stability is why fixed rate mortgages are so popular, but they’re not your only option. Depending on your circumstances (and your appetite for risk) you may want to finance your home purchase with an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). 

How an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Differs from Other Mortgages

The defining characteristic of adjustable-rate mortgages is their variable interest rates, which are usually tied to market conditions. During the first few years of the mortgage, the rate is fixed, just like a fixed rate mortgage.

Once the fixed period ends, however, the interest rate on your loan begins adjusting regularly, sometimes as frequently as every six months. These adjustments could be good or bad for your monthly payment, depending on how the corresponding market moves, but typically you should expect your rates to increase substantially. This means that an ARM can be much riskier than a fixed-rate mortgage if you don’t plan to sell or refinance before the terms change.

What to Know About ARM Terms 

Usually, the initial fixed period for an ARM is 3, 5, or 7 years (sometimes even 10). The shorter the fixed period, the lower the interest rate, which means that – at least initially – you can often find a lower rate with an ARM as compared to a fixed rate mortgage. According to Bankrate, the average annual percentage rate (APR) on a 30-year fixed rate is up to 6.28% (as of Sept. 16, 2022) while the average APR on a 5-year ARM is 4.67%. 

ARMs are more complicated than fixed-rate mortgages due to how often the interest rate—and your payment—changes. You have several things to track and understand about the terms, including the following:

  • Adjustment frequency: Amount of time between interest-rate adjustments.
  • Adjustment indexes: The interest rate changes for your ARM will be tied to the interest rate on a type of asset, like a certificate of deposit, or a benchmark interest rate like the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR). 
  • Margin: The difference between your rate and the adjustment index. You will always pay a certain percentage over the identified adjustment index (possibly 2%, for example), which is the margin for your loan. 
  • Caps: A cap sets a limit on the amount the interest rate can increase during each adjustment period. 
  • Ceiling: The highest that the adjustable interest rate can go during the life of the loan.

Benefits of an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

Lower interest rate. The biggest benefit of an ARM is that it typically comes with a lower interest rate (APR) and more affordable payment for the first few years. 

Higher loan limit. Because of the lower APR, you may also be able to qualify for a larger loan with an ARM. 

The Drawbacks of an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

ARMs have big downsides, however, particularly if you plan to own the property beyond the life of the ARM’s fixed-rate period. Here’s what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends you understand:

  • Your monthly payments could go up — sometimes by a lot—even if interest rates don’t go up. 
  • Your payments may not go down much, or at all—even if interest rates go down. 
  • You might end up owing more money than you borrowed—even if you make all your payments on time. 
  • If you want to pay off your ARM early to avoid higher payments, you might pay a penalty.

Another downside to watch out for is a negatively amortizing loan. It’s a type of ARM that offers a monthly payment so low that each payment might not cover all of your monthly interest. The unpaid interest then gets shifted to your principal balance and increases the loan balance. That could mean that after a certain number of years of payments, your remaining principal may actually total more than what you borrowed.

When Should You Use an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

ARMS are best suited for the following types of borrowers:

Someone expecting an income boost

For example, if you’re a couple years away from finishing your medical residency and you expect a significant income boost, then maybe an ARM could work with an all-but-certain pay raise on the horizon.

You don’t plan to have the home (or the loan) for very long

Are you expecting to move in a few years? Do you plan to buy a new home before you’ve sold the old one or refinance in the near future? If you don’t anticipate maintaining the ARM past the point when the APR goes up, this might work out well for you. Just be aware of any early payoff penalties.

The most important thing to understand is that if you’re using an ARM because you can’t afford a home otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for financial difficulty in a few years. For most people, a fixed-rate mortgage is a safer way to purchase a home. 

How to Apply for an ARM

If you do decide to apply for an ARM, the process isn’t significantly different from applying for a fixed-rate mortgage. You’ll need to work with a lender or loan broker (perhaps multiple entities if you’re shopping for rates) to determine which loan products you’re able to qualify for. You’ll need to provide plenty of documentation, including the following:

  • Social security number
  • Address
  • Proof of income and employment information
  • Recent W-2s (1099s if applicable)
  • Bank account information

The lender will determine how much they can loan you based on your credit history, current earnings, available assets, and more.

Ultimately, an ARM can be a risky loan type if you don’t have a plan for the adjustable-rate years of the loan (such as selling the property). If you’re relying on the lower payment and lower APR during the first 3-7 years, you need to have a clear plan for what happens when the rate goes up.