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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Andre2.jpg
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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Andre2.jpg
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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Andre2.jpg
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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Andre2.jpg
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:

To: paf@nflpa.com
Subject line: HURRICANE IDA ASSISTANCE

  • 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 irs.gov. 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.

WHICH NUMBER TO CALL 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. 

WHAT TO EXPECT AND BEST TIME TO CALL THE IRS

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. 

INFORMATION TO GATHER FOR YOUR IRS CALL

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. 

CALLING THE IRS ON BEHALF OF ANOTHER PERSON 

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).

HOW TO HANDLE THE CONVERSATION WITH AN IRS REPRESENTATIVE

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.

WHEN TO CONSULT A TAX PROFESSIONAL

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 Match.com 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.

COMMON SIGNS OF DEPRESSION

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. 

STEPS FOR DEALING WITH FINANCIAL STRESS

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.

FIGURE OUT WHAT MATTERS THE MOST TO YOU

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.”

BEGIN THE CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE YOU TRUST

“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.  

MAKE A PLAN AND KEEP IT SIMPLE

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!

GET PRIVATE, CONFIDENTIAL SUPPORT

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 MentalHealth.gov (a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) and NAMI.org.

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.

6 THINGS YOU COULD DO TODAY TO START BEING A BETTER DAD

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?

Well…

[1] JUST BE A FAN. JUST BE A FAN.

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. 

[2] YOUR JOB IS TO BOTHER

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.

[3] START THE CONVERSATION

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

CONTACT THE UTILITY COMPANY

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. 

APPLY FOR A RELIEF PROGRAM

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 211.org and FindHelp.org 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.

SEE IF AVERAGE BILLING IS AN OPTION

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. 

TRACK YOUR ENERGY USAGE 

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. 

REDUCE ENERGY USE 

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.

LOWER YOUR LIVING EXPENSES

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.

1. ACCOUNTANT

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.

2. BICYCLE REPAIR

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.

3. BOAT CLEANING

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.

4. BUSINESS PLAN SERVICE

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!

5. RIDE-SHARING DRIVER

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

How to Make Relationship Happiness Last

You’ve likely heard the saying, “Happy wife, happy life” or “Happy spouse, happy house.” But are these popular sayings actually supported by research? 

The short answer is likely, yes. Several studies link the quality of a couple’s marriage to each partner’s individual happiness. In fact, psychologist Eli Finkel shared survey findings that show 57 percent of people who say they are “very happy” in their marriage also say they are very happy with their life overall. Whereas only 10 percent of people who say they are just “pretty happy” in their marriage say they are very happy with their life overall. 

Studies also suggest being happily married may be good for your health. Researchers Kathleen King and Harry Reis followed the recovery of patients who had undergone a coronary artery bypass graft. They found that patients who were married, rather than single, were 2.5 times more likely to still be alive 15 years after their surgery. And patients who said they were happily married were 3.2 times more likely to be alive 15 years after surgery. 

The quality of one’s marriage is related to being happy and healthy. However, the bad news is marriage quality tends to decline over time. 

It is possible that some couples might stay as happy as they were on their wedding day or even become happier over time. But on average, marital quality tends to decrease throughout one’s marriage. Many large-scale and longitudinal studies, which follow married couples for years, show a clear and consistent downward trend in marital quality over time.

But before you swear off marriage, or give the most depressing wedding speech of all time, a research study by Eli Finkel, Erica Slotter, Laura Luchies, Gregory Walton, and James Gross has revealed one way to preserve relationship quality. When couples argue or experience conflict, as they inevitably will, they can stop downward spirals by thinking about the conflict from a third-party perspective.

How to Think Differently About Conflict

One reason why relationship quality dips over time is negative-affect reciprocity, when one partner is upset or in a bad mood, their partner tends to respond in an equally bad, or even worse, mood that escalates the conflict. Responding to a partner’s accusation with criticism or contempt, for instance, triggers a downward spiral of negativity that can be difficult for couples to break.

One tip to stop the slide of declining relationship quality is for couples to use emotional reappraisal, or reinterpret the conflict in a way that makes them feel less angry and distressed. Instead of thinking of the conflict from a first-person perspective, emotional reappraisal requires couples to look at conflict from a third-party perspective, as an outsider would. How was I wronged by my partner?

To determine whether emotional reappraisal can preserve relationship quality over time, researchers Eli Finkel and colleagues followed 120 heterosexual married couples for two years. Every four months, the researchers measured a couple’s relationship quality by asking about their relationship satisfaction and feelings of love, intimacy, trust, passion, and commitment. 

After a year, married couples on average experienced a robust decrease in relationship quality. Thus, replicating previous research that showed decreases in married couples’ satisfaction over time. 

Then, the researchers implemented an emotional reappraisal intervention. For the next year, half of the couples were asked to write about any conflict they experience in their marriage from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. Specifically, they wrote how this person might think about the disagreement and how he or she could find any good that could come from it. Participants in this condition were also asked to try their best over the next year to always take this third-party perspective, especially when they experience conflict with their partner.

The other half of the participants were in the control condition. They received regular check-ins from the researchers but were not asked to think any differently about the conflict they experienced in their marriage.

‘Night owls’ may have greater type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk than ‘early birds’

Some of us leap out of bed eager to get on with the day; for others, emerging from under the covers is left until the last possible minute—often because we have been awake until the small hours. 

And most of us know that we either function better in the morning or the afternoon and adapt our working schedules to suit our ‘early bird’ or ‘night owl’ tendencies. But can our chronotype affect not only our functioning, but also our health?

Research studies have suggested that chronotype, and particularly chrononutrition—what times of day we eat — may indeed affect health, but the findings are not yet conclusive.

Now, a study published in Experimental Physiology has found that our sleep/wake cycles are associated with our body’s metabolism, with night owls having a reduced ability to use fat for energy. This may increase their risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Early and late chronotypes

A team of researchers from Rutgers University, NJ, and the University of Virginia, VA, divided a group of 51 adults into early or late chronotypes based on their answers to a questionnaire. 

All participants were non-smokers, free of cardiovascular disease, cancers, and metabolic diseases, and were sedentary, exercising less than 60 minutes a week. 

Using imaging techniques, researchers assessed the participants’ body mass and body composition. They also tested insulin sensitivity.

Participants wore an accelerometer on the right hip, during the day, for 7 days to record what times of day they were most active. Researchers compared this data with the chronotype from the questionnaire to determine whether chronotype was influencing activity patterns during the day.

After making them fast for 12 hours, researchers tested participants at rest and during exercise to assess what they were metabolizing to provide energy. They then took breath samples to calculate their fat and carbohydrate metabolism at rest and when exercising.

“Measuring metabolism during rest and exercise allowed us to see how changes in movement throughout the day could impact or relate to health.”

— Dr. Steven K. Malin, lead author, associate professor of kinesiology and health at Rutgers University, NJ

Comparing early birds and night owls

The researchers noted no significant differences in age, body mass, or metabolic syndrome between the groups. However, they did find differences in how energy sources were used by those with early and late chronotypes.

Early birds used more fat for energy than night owls. They were also more insulin sensitive— their cells used glucose more effectively, reducing blood sugar. 

Night owls tended to be more insulin resistant, meaning they required more insulin to lower blood glucose levels, and they tended to use carbohydrates as an energy source rather than fat. 

Insulin resistance indicates a greater risk of type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Malin told Medical News Today: “A key finding was that individuals with later chronotype were indeed less able to respond to insulin by promoting glucose uptake towards storage. And that observation related to how much fat was used for energy. This aligns with ideas that low fat metabolism relates to insulin resistance by either defects in the mitochondria […] or accumulation of fat metabolites that impair insulin action on tissues like muscle.”

Differences in muscle quality

The researchers found no significant difference in muscle mass between the two chronotypes, although muscle mass was slightly higher in those with late chronotypes. 

They suggest that their finding of greater fat oxidation in early chronotype may be due to differences in skeletal muscle quality rather than quantity.

Dr. Malin explained: “Based on our work so far, our sense is something is dysregulated in skeletal muscle quality. […] The ability to use fat was directly related to maximal aerobic fitness, which is partly linked to mitochondrial function. Indeed, people of later chronotype had lower fitness when measured by VO2max [maximum amount of oxygen the body is capable of using during high-intensity activities], in addition to being more sedentary through the day.”

“That lower amount of fat metabolism was directly related to how well insulin promoted glucose uptake towards storage. That is critical because stored glucose, known as glycogen, helps fuel muscle for physical activity,” he added.

Home prices decline at rates seen close to a decade ago

In August, existing homes sales fell 0.4%, marking the seventh straight month of declines and sliding 20% from the same month a year ago. Year-over-year sales dropped from $5.99 million in August 2021 to 4.8 million in 2022.

Meanwhile, the median home price, while still rising 7.7% in August on a year-over-year basis, fell 6% in the past two months. After reaching a record all-time high of $413,800 in June, it dropped to $389,000 in August.

Rate of home price decline

One average, cumulative two-month declines generally tends to be in the 2% range, said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun during a Q&A with reporters after the report was released.

“So that cumulative 6% decline is certainly unusual,” said Yun.

The last time it fell by more than 6% over two months was in September 2013 when it fell by 6.5 %, according to NAR data shared with USA TODAY.

Climbing mortgage rates

“The housing sector is the most sensitive to and experiences the most immediate impacts from the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy changes,” said Yun. “The softness in home sales reflects this year’s escalating mortgage rates.

Mortgage rates went from 2.87% for a 30-year fixed mortgage the week ending August 26, 2021 to 5.5% the week ending August 25, 2022, according to Freddie Mac.

“Mortgage rate always has the biggest impact on home sales,” said Yun. “So one can have a job creating environment, but the higher mortgage rate clearly knocks off the home buying potential.”

As prices continue to decelerate, Yun said he would not be surprised if there’s only 3% or lower year-over-year increase in median prices by December.

Housing inventory

Total housing inventory in August stood at 1,280,000 units, a decrease of 1.5% from July and unchanged from the previous year. Unsold inventory sits at a 3.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 2.6 months in August 2021.

“Inventory will remain tight in the coming months and even for the next couple of years,” Yun added. “Some homeowners are unwilling to trade up or trade down after locking in historically-low mortgage rates in recent years, increasing the need for more new-home construction to boost supply.”

Fall Is the Season for Building Mindfulness and Resilience

Whether you like it or not, fall is here. Soon the weather will get colder, the leaves will die and the nights will stretch longer than the days. Outdoor pools have closed and the holidays are coming. Another year is dying; that’s just how it goes.

At least, that’s the way autumn often is cast — as a time of aging and decay. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley compared autumn’s falling leaves to corpses in the grave. William Shakespeare called it “Death’s second self,” when youth burns to ashes. More recently, it’s become a time to acknowledge our existential dread.

For many of those who struggle with seasonal depression in the winter months, the fall is the beginning of their symptoms. A few small studies even suggest that if you are “ruminative,” or deeply preoccupied with your thoughts, in the autumn, you may be at more risk for depression in the winter. Changing the clocks in the fall is associated with depressive episodes (changing them back in the spring is not). It’s no wonder the season has so many celebrations to attempt to keep our spirits up.

Psychologists say that the feelings that often crop up in autumn stem from our discomfort with change, and an anxiety and uncertainty about what that change will bring. The melancholy we feel is a form of grief, mourning the lost sunlight, the ease of summertime, and the greenery that abounds in the warm weather.

But it’s not all bad. Fall also brings with it bright, brisk days, pumpkin patches and cozy sweaters. Somewhere in the crunching leaves, crackling fires and chilly air, you might locate a feeling of possibility, even electricity.

And all of these things — the anxiety, the promise and even the rumination — make it the ideal season to build resilience and practice mindfulness.

For Jelena Kecmanovic, the founder of Arlington/DC Behavior Therapy Institute, the fall is reminiscent of exploring the mountains near her home in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, where she spent the first 20 years of her life, during one of that country’s most prosperous eras. But in the 1990s, she was forced to flee during a bloody four-year siege of her city.

Today, she is an expert in resilience, a concept centering on the capacity to adapt to challenging life experiences. Dr. Kecmanovic described autumn as the season when we can work on our acceptance of uncertainty — embracing that unsettled feeling we may have as we move out of our warm-weather routines.

Psychologists have found that the thought of change, the ending of one thing, the beginning of another and, yes, perhaps our own mortality, underlies a great deal of anxiety. Some of us struggle with “intolerance of uncertainty,” as experts call it, more than others. This tendency was first named in the 1990s by a team of Canadian psychologists and has since been identified as a risk factor for poor mental health.

A Guide to Becoming an Effective Leader

Think of great business leaders, and Henry Ford, Madame C.J. Walker, Andrew Carnegie, Estée Lauder and Steve Jobs may come to mind. Regardless of when they rose to prominence, all were not only effective leaders but visionaries and disruptors whose innovative ideas took their companies to new levels and defined their respective industries. When considering the accomplishments of luminaries who exemplify effective leadership, what I find interesting is that beyond the obvious (intelligence, discipline, work ethic), certain characteristics span culture, industries, and even time.

More than one road to leadership

First, while there are some (Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela, for example) for whom leadership was their destiny, I also believe that effective leaders are not necessarily born as such. They can be made through desire, hard work and preparation. Some are fortunate enough to access the management track early on; growth comes quickly with the guidance of mentors who provide real-world context after years of business school theory.

Others become accomplished leaders in a nonlinear fashion, leapfrogging their way up by sheer tenacity and a willingness to go wherever the opportunity presents itself and gaining essential experience and lessons along the way. Though there are multiple paths to becoming an effective leader, all roads seem to intersect at several behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that the best leaders exhibit. Moreover, many of these traits focus not on business capability but human virtues.

Effective leaders are often described as:

Generous

Effective leaders genuinely enjoy recognizing employees rather than bask alone in the spotlight. They understand the need to trust others and delegate authority, giving decision-makers room to fly. They’ll gladly share credit for a job well done and are eager to convey lessons learned and best practices honed over the years in order to pay it forward.

Relentless

Effective leaders prepare thoroughly for the decisions and duties they must undertake yet are never content with what they already know. They thirst for greater knowledge and remain open to learning new things, receptive to new ideas and methods (including how to improve their performance).

Compassionate

Effective leaders respect the bottom line yet never lose sight of the people responsible for delivering it. When leaders demonstrate active listening, employees feel they are being heard and understood and valued and respected on a personal and professional level. And when great joy or sorrow befalls one of their own, efficient leaders empathize and don’t begrudge employees the time they need to process major life events.

Exemplary

Company culture and employee behavior reflect the attitude at the top. Efficient leaders walk the talk in every way, and employees emulate those cultural cues on everything from embracing casual wear to their commitment to corporate social responsibility; feeling secure to take earned vacation in an always-busy environment without fear of being considered “not a team player”; being willing to speak truth to power without fear of retaliation: or recognizing that pursuit of the unicorn known as work/life balance may occasionally mean that a five-year-old playing dress-up is in the background on your team’s Zoom call.

Why is It So Hard to Talk About Debt?

Talking about debt is even more taboo and embarrassing to boot. In a recent survey commissioned by Questis, a finance startup, 56 percent of respondents revealed they believe discussing money is taboo. Debt was such a taboo topic that 3 in 5 (58 percent) respondents admitted to faking financial stability on social media. 

Why Do We Feel Uncomfortable Talking about Debt?

When we’ve absorbed the cultural messaging that debt is bad, opening up about it is even more difficult. Why is that? For many people, money is something we believe we should be able to handle on our own. We buy into the idea that success is earning and saving money, and so, conversely, debt is a sign of failure. 

We may feel guilty about the reasons why we’re in debt, and we may feel ashamed about our inability to better manage the situation. 

Shame and guilt are cousins, but they’re slightly different from each other. When we feel shame, we focus our feelings inward and see our whole self, and our character, in a negative light. We feel guilt, on the other hand, when something we did resulted in a poor outcome. 

Staying silent about money issues can only feed shame and guilt. The silence affects our ability to develop good money skills. Opening up about debt—and being willing to talk about money—are the only ways through to financial health. 

How to Cope with Emotions Around Debt

First, it’s important to remember that debt is quite common. It can happen to anyone, for many different reasons, including divorce, job loss, medical emergency, major home repairs, or needing to financially support a family member or friend. Typically, most of these situations are entirely out of our control.

Second, it’s important to understand that debt isn’t a sign of personal failure – it’s not a reflection of your character. While you may worry that people will judge you for it, remember that your debt doesn’t define you. Try your best to be kind to yourself – give yourself some grace for experiencing what is a very stressful situation.

Third, remember that your debt is temporary, even if it feels all-encompassing and you can’t see a way out of it right now. You may feel overwhelmed, but with the right plan and some hard work, you can make debt a part of your past. There is absolutely a light at the end of the tunnel.

How to Talk to Your Loved One Who Has Debt

Perhaps you’re not the person struggling with personal debt, but your spouse or family member is. If you can see they need help, approach them with empathy and understanding. Make it clear you’re not judging. Also, emphasize that your love and acceptance isn’t contingent on their financial success.

Don’t dwell on the how and why of the debt—they don’t need to defend their actions. Instead, focus on the achievable steps you can take together to start addressing the debt. Help them feel supported. If you’re able, offer to help them create a plan or put some of those steps into action. If they need to talk to someone else, help them find a trusted friend or professional to ask for support.

COVID-19 Is Still Messing Up Our Sleep

In a survey conducted in July of 2,000 adults, released Sept. 13 by the Harris Poll on behalf of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, about 18% of respondents said they get less sleep now than they did before the pandemic, while 19% said they struggle to sleep because they’re worried or stressed (about COVID-19, politics, or other factors). At the university, at least, this has led to a surge in demand for help; in 2021, Ohio State’s medical center received about 29% more referrals for insomnia treatment compared to 2018, says Dr. Aneesa Das, a sleep specialist and professor of internal medicine there.

Stress can disrupt sleep, says Das, since it can boost heart rate and blood pressure, upset stomachs, and make muscles tense. However, the survey also points to another problem: bad sleep habits, including using phones before bed, sleeping at irregular hours, and spending too much time in the bedroom. The challenge, says Das, is that these habits threaten important drivers of healthy sleep, including being exposed to light at the correct times and maintaining a regular sleep schedule.

Some of this, says Das, is because many people do the wrong things to help wind down for sleep. In the survey, 47% of respondents say they use their phone before bed, and 37% fall asleep with the TV on. “Both of these are things that folks often do to try to distract their mind,” says Das. “But bright light is actually stimulating and decreases the association of the bedroom with sleep.”

The pandemic’s disruption of people’s daily schedules may have also had a knock-on effect on sleep, says Das. COVID-19 forced many people out of work or to work from home, giving them more control over when they go to sleep or get out of bed. But not sleeping the same hours every night can make it harder to fall asleep, Das says. During the pandemic, people may have also started spending too much time indoors without enough exposure to sunlight (although the survey did not measure this). This becomes especially problematic, Das says, if they spent more time in their bedrooms. “Waking up, putting your laptop on the bed, and working from home are probably the worst things we can do for causing insomnia.”

If you’re struggling to sleep, Das suggests rethinking your sleep habits. Your bedroom should be cool (ideally with a temperature in the upper 60s) dark, and quiet, and it should only be used for sleep and intimacy. Your daily schedule can also have a big impact on your sleep: getting exercise, spending time in the sun during the day, stopping caffeine consumption after 2 p.m., and keeping regular sleep and wake schedules can help, says Das. To help her own sleep, Das says that she likes to create a to-do list so she feels prepared for the next day, and she takes a daily two-mile walk.

While it can be hard to change habits (or give up your afternoon latte), improving your sleep can have major benefits on your physical and mental health. Poor sleep has been linked to a range of conditions, from a higher risk of stroke and heart disease, to increased vulnerability to obesity and depression. 

And while the pandemic has messed with sleep schedules, good sleep could help people become more resilient to its effects. After getting a bad night’s sleep, studies have shown that people even have a poorer immune response to vaccines, says Das. While this hasn’t been studied with the Omicron booster,Das notes, “I can assure you that I tell my kids, ‘Before you get your vaccine booster, we want to make sure you’re getting good sleep.’”

8 Things Happy Couples Do For One Another Without Being Asked

Indeed, partners in healthy relationships and marriages make a habit of doing things that, quite simply, they think will please the other person.

“Happily married couples think of ways to make the other person happy without being asked,” says Raffi Bilek, a marriage counselor and the director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. “If one of them is out and about and sees a bake sale, he goes over and checks if they have any chocolate éclairs, because he knows his partner loves chocolate éclairs. If she hears about a woodworking show in town, she takes a picture of the flyer so she can tell him about later because he totally into woodworking.”

While pastries and palm sander demonstrations might not be your bag, the truth remains: “Both partners have each other’s needs and interests top of mind, and they keep them there — without being asked.”

Terry Klee, a leading scholar of contemporary couples counseling in New York and Connecticut, agrees. She notes that it’s important to keep this awareness even when your spouse isn’t around. 

“One of the key traits in close to 80 percent of men and women was how often they are carrying their partner around in their mind. How much real estate they give to them,” she says. “You never want to be in that 20 percent. I always found that to be a very interesting statistic. You ask people, ‘How often do you think of Susan?’ or ‘How often do you think of Joe?’ and, if they say ‘Not much,’ track that friend’s marriage, because it’s probably not going to last.”

With this in mind, what can couples do to make sure their partners know their significant other is thinking of them? Here, per relationship experts, are eight simple gestures all strong couples make.

1. They Pay Compliments

A simple, “You look nice today” or “Dinner was delicious” can make a huge difference in a marriage. “We all want and need [compliments] from those who we love most,” says Caleb Backe, a Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics. “We want to know we are still liked, loved, and thought of.”

2. They Express Thanks

When your partner does something for you, say thank you. It sounds simple but, per Klee, this behavior goes away because partners tend to take the other person for granted. (“Well, of course he took out the trash, that’s what he’s supposed to do.”) Neglecting basic manners, however, can catch up to couples if they’re not careful. “Saying ‘thank you’ costs nothing,” says Klee. “Not saying ‘thank you’ can cost everything. Because it kind of accumulates, that feeling of not being appreciated.”

3. They Take on a Chore for the Other

After a long day of work and parenting, coming home to a full sink of dirty, caked-on dishes can be enough to defeat even the most stalwart mom or dad. The experts suggest taking it off your partner’s shoulders and giving him or her a break for the night. Even better, don’t tell them you did it and let them come home to a wonderful surprise. “Taking something off each other’s plate shows that you appreciate your partner’s hard work and want to help them and allow them time to unwind after a hard day,” says Vikki Ziegler, a renowned relationship expert, divorce attorney, author of The Pre-Marital Planner.

4. They Apologize When They Screw Up

When you’re wrong, don’t think twice about admitting it. “This isn’t true all the time,” says Backe, “but a happily married couple is one which — in my estimation — has been through a lot, has fought enough times, and now already knows enough to apologize to each other.”

5. They Do Something That De-Stresses the Other

A simple, out of the blue gesture shows that you recognize how hard they work and that they need to do something to unwind. More than that, it lets them know that you see all that they contribute to the marriage, and that can work wonders for you both. “Set up a bubble bath, light some candles, and really show that their happiness and self-care is a priority to you,” says Ziegler.

Lessons on Leadership and Community from 25 Leaders of Color

Everyone has their own sense of what makes a great leader, informed largely by what they’ve already seen or experienced. However, this “I know it when I see it” approach, known as familiarity bias, can have narrowing effects, especially when it comes to recognizing the specific attributes that leaders of color bring.

Now consider that those attributes can be the key to unlocking great leadership — for everyone.

“If I have to leave out the part of myself that is positively identified with being Black, then no matter how good I am, I am not the best I can be,” says David Thomas, the president of Morehouse College and the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School. “When I walk into a room, being Black is one of the tools I can pull out, and oftentimes it can be the most powerful one.”

To better understand the relationship between leadership and identity, we talked to 25 leaders of color across the social sector, including both nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, and drew on our client work. Our research identified several noteworthy assets — “powerful tools,” as Thomas put it — that leaders of color bring to their organizations.

To be sure, we’re not suggesting that people of color inherently lead differently by virtue of being born a certain race or ethnicity. Rather, the ways people of color move through and experience the world can affect how they lead. This goes beyond experiences of historic marginalization to include the connection, meaning, and joy that these leaders can draw on from their cultures and communities. As a result, we find that there are assets and skills that many leaders of color develop and excel at because of the experiences and perspectives their identity brings.

Importantly, because these attributes are developed, anyone can adopt them through intentional learning and engagement. Likewise, organizations can encourage that development by examining how they assess leadership competency in hiring and talent development. “Too many organizations fail when it comes to recognizing and unleashing the diverse slices of genius in their organizations,” says Linda Hill, faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School. “Most of their performance management and reward systems are designed to select individuals more suited for the present than the future.”

When studying the motivations, relationships, and skillsets of leaders of color, we found that in some cases, strengths common among good leaders of all identities — including strong communication skills, confidence, and having vision — might manifest differently in leaders of color due to differences in culture and experiences. Take innovation, for example. One leader we spoke to who works in philanthropy and is a member of the Navajo tribe makes the case that the very survival of Indigenous language, culture, and identity in the face of a history of discriminatory U.S. government policy requires innovation, and his leadership style exhibits those lessons and examples. In other instances, strengths are uniquely based in identity and therefore more common in the leadership approaches of people of color. Here’s what our research found those strengths look like in practice.

Motivation

Equal Justice Initiative founder and executive director Bryan Stevenson holds up the value of proximity — having leaders who come from the communities experiencing a particular issue — as a path to better solutions in the social sector. But proximity can also powerfully strengthen motivation by creating the elusive personal tie to an organization’s purpose that can make a leader highly valuable.

Indeed, one of the most common things we heard from leaders of color was that they felt “called” to their work. Some spoke about being driven by a desire to address challenges that they themselves or their community experienced. Others talked about the desire to create new definitions of what good can look like for future generations. The motivation of collective success and the accountability it brings are strengths that these leaders can bring to any work they do.

Relationships

Given the demographics and power structures of the U.S., people of color often learn throughout their lives how to authentically navigate and build connections across lines of differences, including both with white allies and other communities of color. As a result, their networks are typically more heterogeneous, which can be a powerful asset to draw on to learn, grow, access opportunities, and navigate challenges.

More important than simply having diverse networks is the ability to then recognize, value, and tap into what each person brings to the table. This can mean that leaders of color are good at drawing lessons from nontraditional places that can open up transformative thinking. For instance, after she heard from clients (fellow mothers) that making nutritious family dinners was a struggle, the Black CEO of a food bank in Seattle innovatively overhauled its operations by banning food donations to avoid the glut of canned foods and random offerings slim on protein and fresh produce, and the food bank now fundraises to buy all food.

Skillsets: Leading Self

The qualities of good leaders show up in several dimensions within themselves, with others, and with their visions.

Self-awareness

The starting point for developing into a great leader that experts like Bill George and Tasha Eurich often point to is a strong sense of self-awareness. Such awareness can be cultivated through self-discovery and deep reflection. That kind of journey is familiar to many leaders of color, as it can be part of a lifetime of learning to navigate racialized experiences.

W.E.B. DuBois famously wrote about the concept of “double consciousness,” or the idea that Black people have the ability to see themselves as they are and also see themselves how white people see them. To various degrees, all people of color can possess versions of double or even triple consciousness that come with intersectional identities. The benefit of self-awareness is that leaders who better understand themselves will have a clearer sense of what they want to accomplish and what talents they bring to get there, as well as what talents they’ll need other people to bring.

Comfortable with discomfort

An advantage of not being “pale, male, and stale” is the expectation of discomfort that being different might bring. This can lead to a heightened ability to adapt to new experiences, overcome obstacles (including the resilience and tenacity that comes with that), and see alternative possibilities. It is said that innovation requires a certain ease with discomfort. “The power of being an outsider is you are constantly building your own alternative,” said Urvashi Vaid, an Indian American LGBTQ rights activist and social movement strategist who co-founded the Donors of Color Network. (She passed away this spring shortly after our interview.)

Skillsets: Leading Others

At the heart of being a good leader is how you manage people. Whether leading a team or an entire organization, the goal is to both inspire others and empower them to succeed

Empathy

Based on our observations and our client work, the leaders of color we studied demonstrated a high degree of empathy, often seeking to better understand and advocate for others. Experiences of marginalization and being part of a community that has experienced injustice can create a greater recognition of the humanity of others. While this can provide obvious benefits to how these leaders approach their work, empathetic management of your staff allows individuals and the organization to better thrive. These leaders stood out for creating a sense of belonging and centering the well-being of their teams. They also incorporated practices such as four-day workweeks, office-wide mandatory time off periods, flexibility, pay equity, and creating culturally sensitive workplaces in their organizations, while often honoring families and family time.

Observation and active listening

We found that leaders of color often embrace observation and listening in their work styles, creating a more holistic understanding of situations. The ability to recognize what is not said is also a valuable skillset that offers a leader insight. We found many successful leaders of color across various identities can develop this skill by navigating a lifetime of both cultural norms within their communities as well as complex interpersonal relations and interactions that can be layered with implicit bias and power dynamics. An Asian American philanthropy executive, for example, credited her skills of being able to interpret a diversity of cultural body language across the Asian diaspora with helping to develop her listen-first, respectful leadership style that employees say feel more inclusive.

Collaborative leadership

Collaboration is widely seen as a trait common among effective leaders and organizations. The relationships and networks of leaders of color often give rise to updated models of leadership that embrace more collaboration. That might look like co-leadership. For example, the nonprofit Rooted in Vibrant Communities radically reinvented organizational leadership by naming four co-executive directors.

It might also look like distributive power structures in networks and coalitions — think the Movement for Black Lives. Or it could mean a CEO who leads more collaboratively, encouraging authentic thought partnership and inclusive decision making from across the staff. Linda Hill calls this “leading from behind” and argues that leaders who employ this style can harness people’s “collective genius” to build innovative communities with breakthrough ideas.

Skillsets: Leading with Vision

The best kinds of leaders have strong vision. Different vantage points can yield purposeful and expansive views.

Asset-based lens

Recognizing the strengths of every individual, including those you’re seeking to serve or support, can come more naturally to leaders of color because of lived experience that might include episodes where racism or bias caused their strengths — either their own or their communities’ — to be underestimated or overlooked. An asset-based lens recognizes the gifts and skills that all people and communities bring and surfaces root causes of issues. For example, feedback is a gift that can lead to service innovation, rather than a nuisance managed by a call center. Likewise, inequitable social outcomes aren’t a function of individual behaviors that need fixing but rather of persistent systemic headwinds. Focusing on root causes can lead to more effective organizations and greater impact.

Radical imagination

The “outsider” experience that comes with being a person of color can provide valuable perspective. As a result, successful leaders of color can call on a deep understanding of how to navigate existing systems while also imagining something completely different.

This can be seen in how A. Sparks leads the Masto Foundation, founded by her grandparents who were among the more than 110,000 Japanese Americans sent to internment camps by the American government during World War II. Under her leadership, instead of starting with the way grantmaking has traditionally been done, the foundation built anew. Honoring the Japanese American tradition of “gifting,” the foundation sees its own giving as an “expression of gratitude, respect, and a desire to contribute.” This means the funder is constantly trying to limit the amount of time and stress that process might cause grantees. Conversations replace formal grant applications, due diligence is focused on listening, and funding goes out the door within a month of grant determinations.

What Needs to Be Done Differently

In Bridgespan’s previous research with Echoing Green, we have seen the racial disparities of philanthropic funding up close, finding the revenues of Black-led organizations 24% smaller than their white-led counterparts and the unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations 76% smaller. Latinx, Asian American, and Indigenous leaders experience similar funding gaps to varying degrees when compared to their white counterparts. Similar disparity trends exist in the private sector. Too often, those gaps exist because the assets of leaders of color are overlooked.

What is there to gain by better recognizing the assets of leaders of color? The Building Movement Project’s 2019 Race to Lead research offers a glimpse. According to the survey, people of color and their white counterparts fare better under leaders of color. The survey revealed that staff overall are more satisfied, more likely to want to work for their organization over the long haul, feel like they have a voice in their organizations, and assess that their organizations offer “fair and equitable opportunities for advancement and promotion.”

How Your Muscles Affect Your Mental Health

You’re probably underestimating your muscles. In fact, almost everyone does. While everyone knows, for instance, that muscles are important for function—activities such as walking, climbing, and lifting—few appreciate just how important muscles are for feeling.

If you haven’t noticed this mood-muscle connection yourself, take heart; it is only a recent discovery. Surprisingly, the entire scientific community remained in the dark until approximately 2003 (1) when a team of Copenhagen-based researchers reported a remarkable discovery: Muscles at work secrete tiny chemical messengers called myokines that exert powerful effects on organ function, including brain function (2).

Through the actions of myokines, muscle tissue communicates directly with the brain about its activity, triggering a cascade of biological responses that improve memory, learning, and mood (see Figure 1 below). This newly discovered mechanism implies that a person engaging in physical activities that build and maintain healthy muscle tissue can expect to enjoy a range of cognitive and mental health benefits. Recent clinical trials show precisely this effect (3).

If anyone has ever accused you of being complicated, they really had no idea. Although you can’t tell by looking in the mirror, the body you see reflected is comprised of more than 100 trillion cells. Cells are tiny; if you put cells side-by-side in a police lineup, for example, about 200 of them would fit in a single millimeter.

But that’s just the beginning of the miracle we call you. Every cell in your body is a thriving civilization in itself, populated by hundreds of millions of proteins and other molecules, each possessing a work ethic that would put John Henry to shame. Scaled to our size, your cellular citizens fly around at the speed of fighter jets, each busying themselves completing hundreds or even thousands of life-preserving functions per second. They must maintain this frenzied pace without interruption for you to survive, totaling billions of trillions of precisely performed chemical activities every day.

If you somehow possess a superhuman imagination capable of conceiving of this cellular cacophony, you may entertain a question: what powers all this? Remarkably, the enormous energy required to run your cells ultimately comes from the oxygen you breathe and the food you consume.

The latter seems important to remember the next time you don’t feel like eating your vegetables. Digested to the smallest denominator, nutrients are converted by mitochondria—arguably the VIP citizens of your cells—into billions of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules per minute. Although even an ordinary cell may house thousands of these energy-producing mitochondria, muscle cells are mitochondrial beehives, possessing tens or even hundreds of thousands to power their operations. Once made, ATP is feasted upon by your cells like exhausted runners devouring PowerBars at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Emerging almost impossibly from this molecular mayhem is you. Every thought, feeling, and action results from and depends on this unceasing cycle of energy demand and energy production. And if it isn’t apparent from this description, the better your cells function at the level of the little, the better you feel and function at the level of the large.

This brings us back to resistance training. Given the vital roles your muscles play in energy production and brain function, perhaps it is time to begin appreciating resistance training and muscle building as being useful for more than athletes and magazine models.

Using your muscles against resistance, for example, is far more effective for strengthening your bones than any calcium supplement (4). Regular muscle activity also improves insulin resistance (the cause of diabetes and many other metabolic conditions) better than any prescription medicine.

And now we know that stimulating muscle tissue with resistance training has emotional effects rivaling those of conventional antidepressants and psychotherapies (3). Recent neuroscience suggests that we evolved brains for one primary reason: to move (5). Counterintuitive to our traditional preoccupation with thinking, the primary function of the human brain is to coordinate complex movement (this is probably why we have brains while giant but stationary redwood trees do not).

How Do I Stop Robocalls From Scamming Me?

In 2021 alone, phones in the U.S. were pummeled by more than 50 billion robocalls, according to YouMail, a robocall blocking and analysis company. That’s more than 150 calls for every person in the country. In July, that number was 3.8 billion.

The result? Many of us just don’t answer our phones unless we recognize the number.

The damage done can have serious consequences, intended and not. In addition to fraudulent marketing, ignoring unknown numbers could prove dangerous – take the hiker lost on a mountain in Colorado who was reported to have ignored repeated telephone calls from Lake County Search and Rescue because they didn’t recognize the number. Consequently, the hiker didn’t even know anyone was searching. It’s a behavior common to most of us. A 2019 Consumer Reports survey found that 70% of Americans don’t answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number. 

Are Robocalls Legal?

In general, unless a company has your written permission, it is against the law to contact you via robocall, especially if the caller is trying to sell something. There are some exceptions. According to the Federal Trade Commission, these types of robocalls are permitted by law:

  • Messages that are purely informational as long as the caller isn’t also trying to sell you something.This includes calls about flight cancellations, for example, or reminding you about an appointment or letting you know about a delayed school opening.
  • Debt collection calls. A business contacting you to collect a debt can use robocalls to reach you. But robocalls that try to sell you services to lower your debt are illegal and are probably scams.
  • Political calls to landline phones, as long as they contain required identifying information.
  • Calls from some health care providers, such as from a pharmacy reminding you to refill a prescription.
  • Messages directly from charities. But if a charity hires someone to make robocalls on its behalf, unless you are a prior donor or member of the charity, the robocall is illegal. They also must include an automated option to let you stop future calls.

How to Avoid Robocalls

Quilici offered the following advice:

  1. Get a robocall blocking app on your cell phone. This will filter a lot of the bad guy calls so you don’t have to worry about them.
  2. Let calls from unknown numbers roll to voicemail. 
  3. Do your homework before calling a number back – generally, if they claim to be a bank, say, go to the bank’s website and call the number there, and do not just call back the number that called you.
  4. Finally, if you do answer, never give out personal information and hang up if asked for it.

You can also forward suspicious text messages to 7726 (or SPAM). This free text exchange with your wireless provider will report the number, and you will receive a response thanking you for reporting it.

In addition, the FCC offers the following advice:

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer, hang up immediately.
  • Be aware: Caller ID showing a local number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
  • If you answer the phone and you are asked to hit a button to stop getting the calls, hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes.”
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
  • Be wary of pressure for information immediately.
  • If you have a voicemail account, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voicemail if you do not set a password.
  • If you use robocall-blocking technology, tell that company which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can block those calls for you and others.
  • To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.

Learn to Love Networking

We tend to have a range of reactions to the prospect of networking. Some of us love making connections and sharing information with new people. Some of us dread the awkward introductions and small talk.

And though we have probably all heard that networking is important to our career, these different attitudes mean we approach it differently. Below, our faculty discuss several social and psychological factors involved in networking—so you can assess your own approach and change it if you need to.

1. Networking’s “Ick” Factor

Maryam Kouchaki, an associate professor of management and organizations, is interested in the ick factor that many of us feel while networking. She and coauthors explored where that feeling comes from and found that networking can make people feel morally impure.

For example, in one study, participants saw partial words that could either be completed with a word related to cleanliness or an unrelated word (S _ _ P could be “soap” or “step”). They found that participants who had been asked to recall an instance of professional networking were more likely to fill in cleansing-related words than participants who had recalled forging a personal connection.

How does the aversion to networking that some people feel affect their professional careers? The researchers asked a group of lawyers about their personal-networking patterns and found that lawyers who felt dirtier after networking tended to do it less often—and had fewer billable hours.

2. How to Get Over an Aversion to Networking

Given networking’s importance to many careers, Kouchaki’s findings raises an interesting question: Can anything be done to combat this feeling of impurity? In another paper, Kouchaki and the same colleagues examined how the lens through which people view their networking can alter how they feel about it.

“We wanted to know what determines whether people feel guilty or not, and what we can do to help people get over this discomfort,” she says.

“Think about networking as an opportunity rather than a burden. That’s the biggest hurdle you need to overcome.”

— Maryam Kouchaki

Across several studies, they found that the more people viewed networking as a way of achieving a goal (as opposed to a way of preventing negative professional consequences), the less troubled by networking they felt, and the more likely they were to actually do it.

“Think about networking as an opportunity rather than a burden,” Kouchaki advises. “That’s the biggest hurdle you need to overcome.”

3. Who Else Dislikes Networking?

Kouchaki’s studies reveal one group of people with a particular aversion to networking—those who see it as a burden. But other groups have their own reasons for disliking networking.

A study by the late Ned Smith, who was an associate professor of management and organizations, looked at why seasoned professionals seem to be more comfortable actively reaching out to their networks than their more junior colleagues. After all, junior professionals often stand to gain the most from networking, so they’re doing themselves no favors if they’re networking-averse.

“We sensed this disconnect between who actually needs to be doing the networking behavior the most, and who is actually doing the networking behavior the most,” says coauthor Jiyin Cao, who earned her PhD from Kellogg and is now at Stony Brook University.

Smith and Cao explored why this is the case. First, they confirmed that higher-status people have larger networks and are more likely to work to broaden those networks. But, critically, they found that the differences between low- and high-status individuals actually hinged on something else: whether people considered status to be an indicator of quality. When people attributed their own high status to their talent and hard work, they were particularly eager to network because they were confident they had value to offer and that others would be receptive to their outreach.

“Higher-status people think, ‘I’m not just networking; I’m offering value to you,’” Cao explains. “They don’t feel like they’re taking advantage of their networking partner, which makes them come across as more authentic.”

Of course, the opposite is also true: lower-status individuals who feel they have little to offer others are less likely to network.

For those people, Cao advises to “think about the value you bring to this relationship. If you know you have value to bring to the relationship, you will feel more comfortable about doing this type of work.”

4. Status Affects How We Network

So social status affects how people generally approach networking. Another study by Smith and Leigh Thompson, a professor of management and organizations, shows that status also affects how people network when they really, really need to: when they’re at risk of losing a job.

Smith, Thompson, and coauthor Tanya Menon, at The Ohio State University, found that those who identify as having high social status tap into broader social networks when faced with the prospect of job loss than those who regard themselves as low-status individuals.

Accordingly, “If I’m a high-status person under a threat, I’ll be in a better position potentially to find the next job than a low-status person under threat,” Thompson says.

The difference does not reflect differently sized support networks. Rather, the research shows that higher-status job seekers typically reach out to a wide range of contacts, including individuals they met only occasionally in their work lives. Low-status people, by contrast, tend to share their situation with only their closest associates, such as family members and old friends.

“When people who perceive themselves as having high status face job loss, they remember the weak ties more than they otherwise would have,” Smith says. This is important because weak network ties are key sources of job-related information. “Low-status people under the same threat have exactly the opposite response; they go to dense, strong ties.”

4 Mindful Steps to Lower Stress and Improve Well-Being

Awareness of our emotions can help us see clearly how deleterious factors, such as addiction, influence our lives and give us the energy to change them. For example, Paul shared, “When I put a substance of any kind in my body that feels good, it tends to set a chain of events into action that doesn’t make me feel good. Even the first one turns me into someone I don’t want to be. There’s this saying, ‘There’re certain things that control is impossible the moment it’s suggested.’ That’s alcohol and drugs for me. When addiction was manifesting itself in heavy ways for me, I think I was looking for something. I was looking for something the world isn’t offering—something that made me feel whole and connected. The practice of mindfulness is the most direct route to that feeling. It takes some hard work, courage, and commitment, but there is no moment at which it’s not possible.”

Through Paul’s self-awareness of his emotional tone, he was able to see how much better meditation made him feel overall compared to alcohol and drugs. Through this realization, he came to care for his emotions by fostering a personal mindfulness and meditation practice and acting on the insights that arose from it. There are specific practices that encourage us to take a moment to pause, check in with our emotional tone, and respond to that emotional tone in a considered way. One approach that we teach in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based College is the STOP practice. 

The STOP Mindfulness Practice

One way to connect with our emotions and emotional wisdom is to use the STOP practice. The STOP practice can be used periodically throughout the day. It’s a useful habit to get into. Evidence suggests that it helps with emotion regulation, especially when feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed. But you can use it any time, as it is good training for being “here” every moment, whether that moment is pleasant, unpleasant, or somewhere in between.

Here’s how to do the STOP practice:

  1. S: Stop what you are doing.
  2. T: Take a breath.
  3. O: Observe and open yourself to thoughts, feelings, and the physical manifestations of the experience (tension in the shoulders, for example).
  4. P: Proceed by doing something to support an effective response to the experience. This might include skillfully responding to someone who just asked you to do something, taking a short walk to take some space from what just occurred, hugging that family member or friend who just smiled at you, or deciding not to have another alcoholic beverage.

In our research, the STOP practice was frequently reported as useful. One participant shared: “Alarm bells go off in my head, and I know I need to stop, take a breath, open toward me, and proceed. And then I remember to be kind to myself” (Nardi et al. 2020). 

The STOP practice can help regulate strong emotions. The Mindfulness-Based College study showed significant protective effects against depression over the school term. In the people randomly assigned to be in the control group (who waited to take the course until the following term), depressive symptoms increased as exams and term papers mounted. The people randomly assigned to take the Mindfulness-Based College course, while facing the same stressors, showed resilience. Their depressive symptoms stayed stable in the face of the term’s stressors (Loucks et al. 2021). Other mindfulness studies in youths (ages 12 to 25 years) showed similar findings (Dawson et al. 2019).

I invite you to take a few opportunities each day to STOP—not only when you are feeling stressed or unsure but as a way to be in the moment, whether to feel the beautiful sun shining on your face, fully notice the smile of a child, or feel the sadness in your heart. A big part of mindfulness is coming to know yourself, including where your emotions are at right now, and recognizing that emotions may shift from moment to moment or have steadiness. One of the best ways to come to know our emotions better, and thereby care for and harness them to serve ourselves and others, is to stop and observe our feelings with curiosity, gentleness, and kindness. I invite you to try the STOP practice now, or at your next opportunity when the time feels right.

How to Talk to Your Partner About An Expensive Purchase

“The reality is it’s rare in our lives that we only have one goal,” says Paul Edelman, financial coach and owner of Edelman & Associates.

You could have just gone and bought the thing, except you know that making a unilateral decision on something expensive is not how it works in a relationship. If you did, then you’d never be able to fully enjoy it.

You must talk about the potential big purchase with your partner. You know that. You just might not want to because the purchase feels completely selfish, or because you’d have to admit to something that you’d like to have and that comes with a risk of rejection. These feelings cause you to think less clearly and when you do bring it up, make you more likely to choose one of three incorrect paths:

  1. Don’t say anything, guaranteeing you’ll get nothing.
  2. You do say something, but it’s in the form of, “Gotta clean out the garage to make some space. Just giving you a heads up.”
  3. You present it like a discussion, asking for your partner’s feedback but with no intention of taking it, which makes things even worse.

By doing any of these three things, “you’ve made a charade of it,” says Marilyn Wechter, a St. Louis psychotherapist and financial therapist.

So what’s the better approach? Advocate less and look to build consensus. It means saying what you want but also remaining flexible to a solution that you may have never imagined. It also requires some preparation.

What to Consider Before Having the Conversation

Usually when we really want to buy something, we tend to hyper-focus. Edelman says to think of a stage. Right now, the “boat” is the only thing on it, but you need to fill the space with the other priorities in your life and the stuff that might not make the purchase doable.

Start by thinking about why you want the thing you want. It could be because you believe you deserve it, that you’ve always wanted one, or that your partner just got something. It helps to know if anxiety, fear, or jealousy is driving the decision, which could help explain why you hesitate to bring it up.

Then after figuring out your goal, think about the other goals in play. Those include what your partner might want, the plans you share, like saving for college; and maintaining the health of your relationship, because this isn’t like buying a car where you can go all-out with a salesperson who you’ll never see again. This is your partner, and, whatever you do has to be thought out and planned together.

You’re not winging it,” Edelman says.

It’s also not a mind-reading exercise. If you’re not sure what your partner wants, ask. By taking into account everything in play, the stage fills up, and you can work on how to possibly integrate all the pieces.

How to Talk About Making An Expensive Purchase

Teeing up this conversation doesn’t have to be anything more than, “I have something to talk about. I’d like to buy X… How can we make this work?”

You want to share why it matters. That could be as basic as the purchase would make you happy, because your partner doesn’t magically know. But be careful about how much you talk. It’s easy to start advocating, Edelman says; persuasion turns into pressure, and, as Wechter adds, “if I impose something on you, all you can do is be reactive.”

The ultimate thing to remember is that you want the discussion to be a discussion, and, in any discussion, people mostly just want to be heard. When they do, no one feels the need to dig in. You both talk and then the brainstorming comes, Wechter says. 

Maybe you say, “I get this now. You get the next splurge.” Maybe your partner suggests that you rent over buying for this year or take a weekend instead of a week vacation. None of it might look like what you envisioned, but because you came about it together, it’s a plan that works within the restrictions of your life, and, with that, you no longer feel any urgency or frustration.

The conversation can also take the edge off of the feeling that wanting something that isn’t about the kids or your future is selfish. That worry makes you act impulsively, or makes you end up keeping everything to yourself. Your thoughts and anger build and they become “the myth you tell yourself,” Wechter says. When you get the words out, they lose their power and you learn that what you want may not be so impossible, because now it’s a shared burden rather than a solo act.

As for the object of your affection being completely self-indulgent? Maybe it is, but you’ve come to an agreement with your partner about it, and if they’re good with it, stop wasting time and energy wrestling with a term.

As Wechter says, “Selfish is okay as long as it’s not being destructive.”

Someone Took Out a Loan in Your Name. Now What?

If this happens to you, getting the situation fixed can be difficult and time-consuming. But you can set things right.

If someone took out a loan in your name, it’s important to take action right away to prevent further damage to your credit. Follow these steps to protect yourself and get rid of the fraudulent accounts.

1. File a police report

The first thing you should do is file a police report with your local police department. You might be able to do this online. In many cases, you will be required to submit a police report documenting the theft in order for lenders to remove the fraudulent loans from your account.

2. Contact the lender

If someone took out a loan or opened a credit card in your name, contact the lender or credit card company directly to notify them of the fraudulent account and to have it removed from your credit report. For credit cards and even personal loans, the problem can usually be resolved quickly.

When it comes to student loans, identity theft can have huge consequences for the victim. Failure to pay a student loan can result in wage garnishment, a suspended license, or the government seizing your tax refund — so it’s critical that you cut any fraudulent activity off at the pass and get the loans discharged quickly.

In general, you’ll need to contact the lender who issued the student loan and provide them with a police report. The lender will also ask you to complete an identity theft report. While your application for discharge is under review, you aren’t held responsible for payments.

If you have private student loans, the process is similar. Each lender has their own process for handling student loan identity theft. However, you typically will be asked to submit a police report as proof, and the lender will do an investigation.

3. Notify the school, if necessary

If someone took out student loans in your name, contact the school the thief used to take out the loans. Call their financial aid or registrar’s office and explain that a student there took out loans under your name. They can flag the account in their system and prevent someone from taking out any more loans with your information.

4. Dispute the errors with the credit bureaus

When you find evidence of fraudulent activity, you need to dispute the errors with each of the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You should contact each one and submit evidence, such as your police report or a letter from the lender acknowledging the occurrence of identity theft. Once the credit reporting bureau has that information, they can remove the accounts from your credit history.

Take a Mental Vacation This Weekend

We all know that we work too much in the United States.

The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a minimum annual leave for workers—a minimum number of paid vacation days in a year granted to employees.1. 

The average American worker toiled for 1,791 hours in 2021.2 This was 428 hours more than the average worker in Denmark and 442 hours more than a worker in Germany. In 2021, we worked, on average, 184 more hours than a worker in Japan and 195 more hours than a worker in… Slovenia. I don’t know about you, but these numbers surprised me. I am not sure how many hours I was expecting someone in Slovenia to work, but I sure am jealous of their work-life balance over there. All I know is that a small part of each of us likely dies inside when we take stock of these comparisons.

There is a laundry list of problems with our work culture: lack of a national paid parental leave benefit, stigma around using vacation and sick days, the systematic undervaluing and under-compensating of professions like teaching, etc. It could be easy to become bitter and cynical and… stop there, but that is not what a reader of Psychology Today is about, right? What can we do?

Treat Your Weekend Like a Vacation

A group of researchers wanted to see if prompting employees on a Friday to “treat this weekend like a vacation” would allow them to enjoy their time off more and be more emotionally and mentally refreshed upon going back to work the following Monday compared to being prompted to “treat this weekend like a regular weekend.”They surveyed 441 full-time employees before and after the following weekend and found that workers who were primed to live out their weekend like a mini vacation reported that they were more focused on the present moment, which translated to more positive emotions, less negative feelings, and greater satisfaction when back at work. 

Takeaway: Actually behave as if your weekend is like a vacation. That means actually not working. Resist the urge to do one more thing for work, check or respond to work emails, or do work-like tasks such as chores or dealing with obligations (given any realistic constraints). 

Actually Take Your Vacations

A 2000 study following middle-aged men at high risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) for nine years found that taking more frequent vacations was correlated with a reduced likelihood of dying from any cause and specifically, with a reduced risk of mortality due to CHD.4 Another study investigating the impact of taking time off showed that three days after employees took a vacation, they reported improved mood, better quality of sleep, and less physical complaints than before vacation. Interestingly, five weeks after vacation, individuals in the study still reported having less physical complaints than before their vacations.5

Be Present

When you look back on your life, will you remember the work emails you responded to or will you remember the quality time you spent with your cat, dog, friend, family, love of your life, or even yourself? Will you remember the extra tidying you did around the house or will you remember the spontaneous adventure you had around town or in nature? As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Happy Labor Day

Let’s take a quick moment to wish all of our fellow former players a happy Labor Day, and hopefully a long-weekend spent with your family and friends.  Your past experiences as part of the NFLPA created a bond with labor unions across the country, and even the world.  We thank you and all of the hard working men and women in America for your dedication, day-in and day-out.

From all of us at the Professional Athletes Foundation, we wish you and your family the best heading into the fall!

How to Lower Your Cholesterol Naturally

In the years following World War II, physicians in the U.S. and Europe noticed a surprising phenomenon: rates of heart attack and stroke fell dramatically in many places. Autopsies from this period also revealed reduced rates of atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of fatty arterial plaques that causes cardiovascular disease.

At first, experts were perplexed. But as time passed, many concluded that wartime food deprivations and the forced shifts in people’s diets—namely, big reductions in the consumption of red meat and other animal products—contributed to the heart-health improvements. Later work, particularly the famous Framingham Heart Study, helped establish that blood cholesterol levels, driven in large part by a person’s diet, tended to overlap closely with cardiovascular disease.

The idea that the foods a person eats could raise or lower their risks for unhealthy cholesterol levels and disease was, at first, a radical and controversial one. While there’s ongoing debate about the relationship between red meat and poor health, the links connecting diet, cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease are beyond doubt.

Cholesterol is a waxy compound that your body uses primarily to make hormones and to firm up the walls of cells. “Our body needs some cholesterol for day-to-day functioning, but the amount our body needs is relatively small,” says Dr. Laurence Sperling, the founder and director of the Heart Disease Prevention Center at Emory University in Atlanta.

Different parts of the body, including the brain and the blood, contain cholesterol. It’s the oversupply of cholesterol in the blood, specifically, that causes problems—specifically low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is also known as “bad cholesterol. Too much LDL in the arteries can “form a fatty streak, which is the precursor of atherosclerotic plaque,” explains Dr. Francine Welty, a cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and former chair of the American Heart Association’s lipid committee. LDL, therefore, is the primary building block of arterial plaque.

The two main diseases associated with clogged arteries—coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease—are both among the top three causes of death worldwide. More than 1 in 4 deaths are caused by one of these two conditions, and managing or lowering your blood cholesterol levels is a proven way to prevent these diseases. Sperling says ideal or “target” cholesterol levels vary depending on a person’s age, sex, and health status. But, optimally, you want to keep your LDL cholesterol below 70 mg/dL. While drugs can help people get there—and in some cases may be necessary—he says that non-pharmacological approaches are just as important. “Lifestyle and behavioral approaches are the foundation of cardiovascular prevention for all,” he says.

Here, experts detail the most impactful lifestyle changes to make to lower your cholesterol. A proper diet, they all agree, tops the list.

How to eat to lower your cholesterol 

One of the biggest trends in diet and nutrition advice is a movement away from talking about specific micronutrients and optimal daily servings of this or that food group. Instead, nutrition experts now talk a lot more about broad patterns of healthy eating. This means limiting certain foods while prioritizing others, rather than trying to hit narrow targets.

“Something I tell a lot of my patients is that the Greek derivation of diet is diaeta, which means a way of life,” Sperling says. “Dieting shouldn’t be torture, or something you maintain for a month. It should be a meaningful and purposeful change you can extend throughout your life.”

In this spirit, he says one of the most important changes you can make is to pack your meals with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Many of the most effective and evidence-backed cholesterol-lowering eating plans—like the Mediterranean diet—prioritize these foods, he says.

Meanwhile, reducing your intake of animal products—especially red meat and processed dairy foods—is a move that research has repeatedly tied to cholesterol improvements. “I’ve run the lipid prevention clinic at my hospital for 31 years, and the first thing we tell people is to lower their intake of saturated fats,” Welty says. She mentions red meat, butter, and dairy as foods people should aim to cut down on—not eliminate necessarily, but reduce—if they want to improve their cholesterol. Many Americans consume saturated fats, from eggs and dairy products to red meat, with almost every meal. This sort of immoderation is a problem. “The Japanese have some of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease in the world, and that may be because they eat much less red meat and saturated fat than we do in America,” Welty says.

It’s worth noting that saturated fat is a controversial topic in nutrition research. Some experts have argued that saturated fats get blamed for health problems that are likely caused by processed meats, refined carbohydrates (like those found in sugary or packaged foods), and the trans fats in fast foods and some packaged snacks. Others have argued that if people avoid meat and dairy but end up eating more processed or refined carbs, that’s an unhealthy trade. On the other hand, experts generally agree that trading saturated fats for some of the healthy foods mentioned above—such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts—is a highly effective way to improve your cholesterol scores and heart health. “If you decrease the saturated fat in your diet, that’s one of the best ways to lower LDL,” Welty says.

She adds that protein-rich soy-based products—from tofu to soy milks and yogurts—may also be good substitutes for meat, butter, milk, and other conventional saturated fat sources. “People in America are fixated on protein, but Americans don’t really like to eat soy products,” she says. This is unfortunate because research stretching back several decades has linked soy to improved heart health and lower blood cholesterol levels. “If you need to replace saturated fats with other proteins, soy would be a good option,” she says.

Leading with Confidence in Uncertain Times

Serena crunched all the numbers and made the best estimates possible when she was preparing the coming quarter’s sales projections for the product she managed. She used lessons from her graduate studies in statistics and decision science. Informed by historical trends, economic forecasts, and market projections, she estimated a total sales volume of 1,000 units. In addition, she estimated a 15% probability that sales would fall below 900, and a 15% probability that sales would surpass 1,100. When she finished presenting her forecast, the first comment was from the CEO; she leaned back, scowled at Serena, and said, “I don’t pay you to be uncertain.” 

Many of us, like Serena’s CEO, imagine they want perfect predictions made with absolute certainty. For people like that, the current economic moment has brought a particularly acute apprehension. The business press reports robust jobs numbers and low unemployment, but high inflation and anemic economic growth. The news is rife with speculation about whether recession looms, even while some government officials offer rosy forecasts and comforting words. It is a complex picture that leaves substantial uncertainty about the future. Should your company invest in hiring additional staff or scale back in case a recession brings a decline in sales?   

If you are looking for fool-proof strategy for obtaining certainty, we have bad news for you — the world is complicated and markets are difficult to predict. But, if you are looking for ideas to manage the uncertain future, we have good news. There are tools for thinking through uncertainty and using it to plan and make decisions. These tools are useful in everyday life and every economic climate, regardless of whether the world is at war or at peace; whether the economy is growing or shrinking; and whether we are in a bull or a bear market. Here, we share five tools for thriving in an uncertain world.  

Think in Expected Values 

The essence of rationality is selecting the course of action with the highest expected value. Computing expected value is as easy as multiplying the value by its probability. For example, the expected value of a gamble that pays $20 with 50% probability is $10. If you could play this gamble every day of your life at a cost of $9, you would come out ahead in the long run. You should take the chance every day, even though half the time you would lose $9. On losing days, you may feel sad that you got unlucky, but you need not regret your choice to play; it was a good choice, given what you knew at the time you made the choice.  

Jeff Bezos pitched early investment in Amazon.com using the logic of expected value. He saw a large potential upside of his online retail business, but also acknowledged substantial risk. He warned early investors that there was a 70% chance he would fail and their investment would become worthless. But the potential rewards attached to that 30% chance of success, he argued, was enough to outweigh the 70% chance of failure. In fact, a dollar invested in Amazon.com when the company went public in 1997 would be worth $1,840 today. Let’s say that, at the time of the IPO, there was a 70% chance of failure and a 30% chance of a return of $1,840 for a dollar’s investment. That would give a dollar’s investment an expected value of $552 (which is $1,870 multiplied by 30%). That expected value makes investment a good idea. 

The logic underlying expected values acknowledges that the future is uncertain and our decisions should reflect that. Some of the uncertainty in the world is simply irreducible. It is folly, for instance, to pretend you can predict the coin flip or the roulette wheel. Likewise, many of the social and economic systems in which we operate are sufficiently complex that it is functionally impossible to predict their operations perfectly. 

History is replete with confident forecasts from smart people that, in retrospect, look ridiculous. Take, for example, Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak’s pessimistic prediction in 1985: “the home computer may be going the way of video games, which are a dying fad. For most personal tasks…paper works just as well as a computer, and costs less.” Or consider Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich’s gloomy forecast in his 1968 best-seller, The Population Bomb, that the world would run out of food and “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s. In a complex world, we should forecast with humility. Give up on the pretense that you can anticipate precisely what will happen. Usually, though, the answer isn’t to just shrug your shoulders and say “I have no idea what will happen.” Instead, think about the range of possibilities and the likelihoods of each. Explicitly considering how you might be wrong can help you be more humble.  

We often ask participants in our studies to report their confidence in different ways. One matches the way we are most often invited to forecast the future: They report a best guess and their confidence in it. For instance, we ask them to estimate the high temperature, one month out, in the city where they live. When asked this way, across studies, people on average claim to be about 70% confident that the actual temperature will be within 5 degrees of their guess, even though they are only right 30% of the time. 

A second way to forecast is to estimate the likelihood of each of several possibilities. For instance, I can break the range of likely temperatures into a set of ranges, each 10 degrees wide. When people estimate these likelihoods, the highest probability assigned to any 10-degree range is lower — typically a bit below 50%. Now that’s still overconfident relative to their 30% hit rate, but it’s a lot better.  

Use the Wisdom of the Crowd 

Even experts tend to have too much confidence in their estimates, and most of us have too much confidence that we can find the right expert. The Wall Street Journal asks expert economists to predict key economic outcomes for the upcoming year. There is huge variation in their predictions. How should you use the distribution of expert forecasts? Many would use the advice of the top expert. That’s basically what the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates advocated: 

First of all, ask whether there is any one of us who has knowledge of that about which we are deliberating? If there is, let us take his advice, though he be one only, and not mind the rest.

A different approach relies on the wisdom of crowds. In his 2004 book on popularizing that idea, James Surowiecki argued that simple rules of aggregating judgments within a group — including using a mean or median, or majority vote for yes/no decisions — typically outperform more complex decision-making strategies. Business professor Rick Larrick and his colleagues show the benefits of a “select-crowd” strategy, which consists of choosing a small number of expert individuals and averaging their opinions. Averaging the estimates of all of the economists in the WSJ survey is a better strategy than selecting the estimate of the best predictor from the previous year. But averaging the top five predictors from the previous year outperforms a simple average all of the economists’ opinions. 

It is our craving for certainty that leads us to chase a single expert, the one who can make perfect predictions. And this craving also makes us vulnerable to charlatans who lie to us and pretend they know; or worse yet, those megalomaniacs so overconfident that they sincerely believe they know. Beware the leader, entrepreneur, or political candidate who claims certainty about an uncertain future. They reveal more arrogance than insight. 

Calibrate Your Confidence 

Many self-help and business books could leave you with the impression that your challenge in life is to maximize your confidence. Shouldn’t you want to be optimistic? “One of the most important qualities of a good leader is optimism,” Disney CEO Robert Iger wrote in his 2019 memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime. “People are not motivated or energized by pessimists.” Our advice to accept uncertainty could make you look indecisive or, worse yet, pessimistic. Good leaders should strive for confidence, right? 

Wrong. Striving for maximum confidence can lead to all sorts of bad decisions. Overconfidence about your future earnings could lead you to spend more than you have. Overconfidence about your invincibility might lead you to take risks that could shorten your life expectancy. Overconfidence about your popularity can lead you to behave in annoying and offensive ways. Overconfidence about your success can undermine investment in the effort required to achieve it.  

Good expected value calculations require accurate estimates of both the probability and the payoff of different options. That is not easy when wishful thinking leads you to overestimate the probability of desirable outcomes. Conversely, if you are a defensive pessimist, you may be tempted to overestimate the risk of disaster, so as to motivate yourself to avoid it. Both are biases you should try to banish from your expected value calculations. You want accuracy. Once you have calculated both value and probability as faithfully as possible, then you can consider your attitude toward risk. If you are risk averse, then you will require that uncertainty be offset by higher expected values. On the other hand, risk seekers will be willing to accept lower expected values in return for the chance at a jackpot. 

Decision analyst and former professional poker player Annie Duke, in her book, Thinking in Bets, describes how gamblers help calibrate each other’s confidence by challenging implausible forecasts with the question, “Wanna bet?” This can be a fun game to play with your colleagues if you disagree about something. Instead of arguing, bet on your beliefs. Write down everyone’s forecasts and resolve the bets later. 

This can be a useful way to get better at calibrating your confidence: keep track and keep score. Get in the habit of making probabilistic forecasts of uncertain events. Then go back and see how often you were right. When you claimed 90% confidence you would meet a particular deadline, how often did you do it? If your confidence is perfectly “calibrated” you’d have met that deadline 9 out of 10 times. 

Managers can help others in their organizations get better at calibrating their confidence by collecting predictions and scoring them later. Will a development project stay on schedule? Will the project stay on budget? Record everyone’s estimates of these probabilities and then score them and publicize them later. Share the results so that people are aware of their own accuracy. Encourage those who report to you to honestly report their uncertainty. Don’t be like Serena’s boss, who, by demanding certainty, encouraged inaccurate and overconfident forecasts.   

How ‘Micro-Breaks’ Can Help You Feel Better at Work

Not very long at all, according to a new research review on “micro-breaks,” which the authors defined as a break of 10 minutes or less. The findings were published on Aug. 31 in the journal PLOS ONE. People who took breaks experienced statistically significant boosts in their wellbeing—making them feel more vigorous and less fatigued. The results, based on a review of 22 previously published studies that included 2,335 participants, indicate that those who took micro-breaks had about 60% better odds of feeling energetic, according to Patricia Albulescu and Coralia Sulea, co-authors of the study and researchers at the West University of Timisoara in Romania.

The research was less conclusive on whether micro-breaks improve work performance, however. The benefits varied from study to study and across different kinds of tasks, and ultimately the effect wasn’t statistically significant, although the researchers found that there was improvement as the breaks got longer.

However, there’s robust evidence that for your average worker with a sedentary job, little breaks can have a big impact, says John P. Trougakos, professor of organizational behavior and HR management in the department of management at University of Toronto-Scarborough, and an expert on breaks. (He was not involved in the new review.) By combining both short and long breaks into the work day, workers will feel better and produce better quality work.

Here’s what to know about micro-breaks, and how they can improve your work day.

Why micro-breaks are important

Trougakos argues that the studies in the new review miss an important factor: fatigue tends to worsen over time. Since the experiments in the 22 studies were constrained by time, it wasn’t possible to measure the ways in which being tired at work can create a vicious performance cycle.

“The more fatigued you get, the more effort you have to put in to keep performing. So you actually are expending more and more effort and doing it less and less efficiently,” says Trougakos. “Short breaks, whether it’s a 10-minute break, a 5-minute break, standing up and stretching, you’re kind of giving the person a chance to stop the depletion cycle, but also re-energize themselves a little bit.”

Overall, Trougakos says, while there hasn’t been much research on micro-breaks and performance, science suggests that short breaks are important. That includes studies with an ergonomics angle, which have found that resting your eyes and stretching is necessary to avoid eye strain and skeletal fatigue—discomforts that can distract and drain workers. Not taking sufficient breaks can also negatively affect workers’ sleep quality and life outside of work, and gradually lead them to feel burned out. Studies suggest highly productive employees tend to work in relatively short spurts, with long breaks—according to one study published by a productivity tracker company, spending 52 minutes working for every 17 minutes of break. “The idea is: you don’t work more to be more productive; you work smarter to be more productive,” Trougakos says.

The ideal breaks

The breaks you need might depend on what you’re doing; for instance, activities you enjoy might drain you less than a task you hate or that causes you a lot of stress. As a general rule, however, Trougakos recommends spending about 90 minutes working, followed by a 15- or 20-minute break. Over the course of that working period, you’d also be taking micro-breaks. Trougakos suggests a short stretch break every 20 or 30 minutes, as well as a break to “get away from the task” somewhere in the middle of those 90 minutes.

But what is the best way to rest during these short breaks? While there’s evidence that some things are good for everyone, like stretching, relaxing, or light to moderate physical activity (think: taking a walk), Trougakos says, the best break depends on an individual’s preferences. For instance, an extrovert might choose to grab a coffee with their work friends, while an introvert might duck outside with a book. The key, he says, is that you have control over what you do during your break.

To be sure, Trougakos admits that some managers and companies will be nervous about permitting their employees to take so many breaks. Flexibility is key—employees have different needs for breaks, which might vary depending on the task or even from day to day. However, in many cases, Trougakos argues that the shift to hybrid schedules and working from home has given organizations and workers a novel opportunity: to branch out and find new ways to work to maximize productivity. While permitting break flexibility might feel counterintuitive to companies, it actually fits with what most employers value: to “get people to be fully productive, but also be healthy and have a balanced life,” Trougakos says.

Should you buy a house or rent?

In just six months, Sam Brinton, a real estate agent in Salt Lake City, has witnessed a complete reversal in buyer sentiment.

“It’s a night and day difference,” he says.

Last year, even as the pandemic housing market pushed home prices ever higher and bidding wars were an expected part of the homebuying process, buyers were motivated enough to stay in the game. 

The last few months have been the opposite.

“They are confused and hesitant now. Many buyers are sitting on the sidelines because the market has cooled down so much,” says Brinton.

The cooling housing market has further fueled the demand for rental units, driving rental prices even higher.

Why are people thinking about renting?

It’s been a nerve-wracking time for homebuyers grappling with still-soaring prices for existing homes despite rising inventory, falling home sales and volatile interest rates.

The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate went from 3.22% on Jan. 6 to 5.55% on Aug. 25, according to Freddie Mac.

Existing home sales fell for the sixth consecutive month with sales down 6% from June and 20% from one year ago.

The wait-and-watch approach by buyers is prompting a high share of home sellers to drop their asking price. More than 15% of home sellers dropped their asking price in the 97 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, according to a report from Redfin.

In pandemic boomtowns, it was much more drastic.

In Salt Lake City, for instance, 56% of homes for sale had a price drop in July. Nearly 70% of homes for sale in Boise, Idaho, had a price drop in July, the highest share of the 97 metros.

“Last year, the market forces pushed you into a home and pushed you into doing it sooner than you wanted . It was like ‘now, now, now high, high, high.,” says Brinton. “Whereas now the market forces are pulling you away. Even someone who’s ready to go is kind of dragging their feet.”

he median existing home sales price climbed 11% from one year ago to $403,800 in July, marking 125 consecutive months of year-over-year increases. However, it was down by $10,000 from June’s record high of $413, 800, according to National Association of Realtors data.

Should you buy or rent a home?

The median monthly asking rent in the U.S. surpassed $2,000 for the first time in May, rising 15% year-over-year to a record high of $2,002.

Asking rents were up over 30% in Cincinnati, Seattle, and Nashville, Tennessee, and nearly 50% in Austin, Texas.

In July, the national median asking rent was up 14% year-over-year to $2,032.

“Rent prices have gone up in the last 18 months, much faster than any other time in recent history,” says housing analyst Logan Mohtashami. “So the question is, ‘Can you tolerate the rent increases on a yearly basis?‘”

With a home purchase, even at a higher interest rate, a buyer is opting for a fixed payment plan, says Mohtashami. And if mortgage rates go down next year, homebuyers have the option to refinance.

Readjusting and the Pursuit of Happiness

In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud observed that struggle is intrinsic to the human condition. As a psychiatrist, I help people deal with it. That includes helping them to direct that struggle towards finding happiness.

I help people identify the source(s) of their unhappiness and work through ways that help them 1) stop hurting, and 2) begin to experience a much-improved state of mind relative to their initial problem. Notice how contextualized and open-ended that second task is. 

Happiness (or, rather, getting there) involves work, tailored to each individual in some particular aspect of their lives. The goal, which many patients achieve at least to some degree, is to experience less conflict or struggle; more personal freedom; greater clarity about themselves and/or others; more contentment; and at the far end of the spectrum, maybe even joy.

Always, we focus on the patient’s learning to take the initiative, to direct his or her mind towards whatever they need to find in order to feel happy. At work, it could be finding a sense of purpose after aimlessly drifting. It could be finding a way to feel valuable after retirement. We examine a patient’s thought processes; their pratfalls; their finding the incentive to continue. 

Because the goal is proceeding towards happiness, the question of incentive—i.e., motivation, the will to keep going—turns up no matter what the patient’s ultimate concerns. Patients set about finding mental energy, the personal wherewithal to make a difference in how they proceed through life. Ultimately, I have observed people’s committed struggles to feel better about where they are, who they are, and what they still can accomplish.

I define the domains of happiness around those that continually (unremittingly) involve my patients:

Work and Money. This is about pursuing happiness in professional life. How do we balance the need to work with all the stress indigenous to a work environment? How do we choose an occupation when we love doing one thing but something else pays more? Work and sacrifice seem to run in tandem. It’s as if taking up a profession, or even just holding a job, is a constant balancing act where personal preference, financial reward, and even ethics are constantly jostling for importance in a complex calculus that changes over the course of our lives. 

My patients struggle to define their relationship to work at various, crucial inflection points along the way. They adapt and transcend disappointment. They find more in work than merely a source of financial security or a way to structure their lives.

Wellness and Personal Growth. Wellness refers to an individual’s continued growth across and balance among several dimensions of life: the physical, to be sure, but also emotional, social, and professional. It may also include a spiritual dimension, which is not so much a belief in God as a capacity to listen to your heart, live by your principles, and be fully present in whatever you do. In this posture, spirituality means curiosity and openness to experience; you learn about being human, and allow yourself and others to be who you (or they) really are; you see opportunities for growth in the challenges that life presents. Thus, whether “wellness” is or is not physical, it takes work. It takes commitment, and a sensitivity that extends beyond oneself.

Vitamin D supplementation

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 5% of adults around the world live with depression.

While there is no available cure for depression, symptoms are often manageable through treatments including psychotherapy and prescription antidepressants. 

Prior research has explored the causal relationships between vitamin D, inflammation, and depression. For instance, a 2013 study linked low levels of vitamin D to depression. Another study from 2011 suggested that vitamin D levels may help regulate inflammation, which is linked to depression. 

Until now, however, systematic reviews and meta-analyses investigating the link between vitamin D levels and depression have delivered mixed results. 

But a new study has systematically reviewed and meta-analyzed randomized controlled trials (RCT) that examined the efficacy of vitamin D supplements in reducing depressive symptoms compared to a placebo. 

The researchers found that vitamin D supplementation equal to or exceeding 2,000 individual units (IUs) per day may help reduce depressive symptoms, although they noted their results have “very low certainty.”

The study was recently published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition

The impact of vitamin D supplementation on depressive symptoms

For the study, the researchers examined 41 RCTs including 53, 235 people in their analysis. They looked at data including age, vitamin D levels at baseline and post-treatment, and data on depressive symptoms. 

They also included details of vitamin D supplementation, including: 

  • duration
  • dose
  • type
  • frequency
  • possible calcium supplementation or add-on medications 

Overall, the researchers found that vitamin D supplementation had a small to moderate effect on depressive symptoms. 

Effect sizes were slightly larger among people with baseline vitamin D levels below 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) — the borderline for low vitamin D levels — than those with vitamin D levels above this threshold at baseline. 

The researchers also noted that while doses up to 2,000 IU daily had a small to moderate effect, those who took over 4,000 IU daily had a larger effect. 

What’s more, vitamin D supplementation appeared to have a larger effect when taken for less than 12 weeks compared to longer periods of time.

3 Types of Burnout, and How to Overcome Them

Take a moment to bring to mind a person who’s burned out. You’re likely picturing someone who is overbooked and overwhelmed, drowning in multiple demands and competing priorities.

But, burnout is far more nuanced than simply being busy and tired.

For years, it was believed that everyone reacted to chronic workplace stress in the same way. But research has revealed that burnout manifests itself in different ways depending on a person’s work environment as well as their internal resources, including dedication to their job and coping mechanisms.

Let’s take a closer look at the three types of burnout and how you can overcome each one.

Overload Burnout

Overload burnout occurs when you work harder and more frantically to achieve success, often to the detriment of your health and personal life. This is the type of burnout that most people are familiar with, and it’s also the most common.

Overload burnout typically affects highly dedicated employees who feel obligated to work at an unsustainable pace. As a result, they drive themselves to the point of physical and mental exhaustion.

Professionals with overload burnout tend to cope by venting their emotions to others (i.e. complaining about how tired and overwhelmed they are). This subtype is also quick to jump into problem-solving mode, creating more work and responsibility for themselves, which only exacerbates their stress.

Signs to watch out for:

  • You overlook your own needs or personal life to fulfill work demands
  • You invest more than is healthy in your commitment to your career or ambitions
  • You endanger your well-being to achieve your goals

How to address it:

Researchers note that the way out of overload burnout is two-fold. First, it’s important to develop stronger emotion regulation skills, such as naming and processing your emotions and reframing negative self-talk. For instance, you could reframe the belief that you need to work all the time to be successful to “enjoying my life helps me become more successful.” After all, resting is not a reward for success. It’s a prerequisite for performance.

Second, it’s crucial to separate your self-worth from your work. “Consequently, by learning to keep a certain distance from work…,” researchers Jesús Montero-Marín and Javier García-Campayo write, “individuals could avoid excessive involvement and prevent burnout.”

Strive to diversify your identity — to create self-complexity — by investing in different areas of your life beyond work. You might decide to devote time to your role as a spouse, parent, or friend. During the pandemic, one of my clients restored an old identity by renewing his pilot’s license. Volunteering with the Civil Air Patrol proved to be a healthy forcing function to get away from his computer, while also contributing to his sense of well-being.

Under-Challenged Burnout

You might be surprised to find out that burnout can result from doing too little. Under-challenged burnout could be considered the opposite of the overload subtype. It occurs when you’re bored and not stimulated by your job, which leads to a lack of motivation. People with under-challenged burnout may feel underappreciated and become frustrated because their role lacks learning opportunities, room for growth, or meaningful connection with co-workers and leadership.

Workers who feel their tasks are monotonous and unfulfilling tend to lose passion and become cynical and lethargic. They cope with the stress of being under-challenged through avoidance — distraction, dissociation, or thought suppression (i.e. ordering themselves to “Stop thinking about that”).

Signs to watch out for:

  • You would like to work on assignments and tasks that are more challenging
  • You feel your job does not offer you opportunities to develop your abilities
  • You feel that your current role is hampering your ability to advance and develop your talents

How to address it: 

When you’re demoralized, it can be hard to care about much of anything. Lower the stakes by simply exploring your curiosities. Set a goal to learn a new skill in the next 30 days to kickstart your motivation. Start small and don’t overwhelm yourself. Perhaps you spend an hour or two a week learning to code or devote 20 minutes a day practicing a new language.

Making strides towards something that feels fun and meaningful to you creates a flywheel of momentum that can lift you out of a funk. Even if the skill isn’t directly related to your job, you’ll likely find that the positive energy spills over to reinvigorate your passion for your work — or that it inspires your career to move in a new direction.

You might also try job crafting to turn the job you have into the one you want. Again, baby steps are key. Focusing on incremental changes can add up to big results. Take my client, Alice, a product management lead. As the pandemic wore on, she increasingly felt underchallenged by her role, which mostly comprised of team performance management. So, I gave her an assignment. For two weeks, she tracked what tasks created the most psychological flow. A clear pattern emerged: Talking to customers lit her up, as did solving challenging workflow problems. Alice’s manager was ecstatic when she proposed a new research project combining those skill sets to innovate the company’s core product.

Neglect burnout

The final type of burnout is the worn-out subtype. This is also called neglect burnout, because it can result from feeling helpless in the face of challenges. Neglect burnout occurs when you aren’t given enough structure, direction, or guidance in the workplace. You may find it difficult to keep up with demands or otherwise feel unable to meet expectations. Over time, this can make you feel incompetent, frustrated, and uncertain.

The worn-out worker copes through learned helplessness, which occurs when a person feels unable to find solutions to difficult situations — even when ones are available. In other words, people with learned helplessness tend to feel incapable of making any positive difference in their circumstances. In other words, when things at work don’t turn out as they should, those with neglect burnout become passive and stop trying.

Signs to watch out for:

  • You stop trying when work situations don’t go as planned
  • You give up in response to obstacles or setbacks you face at work
  • You feel demoralized when you get up in the morning and have to face another day at work

How to address it: 

Find ways to regain a sense of agency over your role. Try creating a to-don’t list. What can you get off your plate by outsourcing, delegating, or delaying? Look for obligations you need to say “no” to all together and hone the skill of setting stronger boundaries. A great place to start is by identifying situations where you feel an intense sense of resentment. This is an emotional signal that you need to put healthier limits in place.

Likewise, consider talking to your boss about your workload. You could explain how you’re currently spending your time and ask, “Are my priorities consistent with yours? What would you like me to change?” Or, “If we could take Project A off of my plate, then I’d have more time to focus on our team’s strategic priorities and ultimately deliver on the key goals we’ve evaluated against.” Your manager will likely be thrilled you’re thinking about the big picture and taking initiative.

Most importantly, focus on what you can control. Outside of office hours, be bullish about self-care. Create routines and rituals that ground you, such as a daily walk or journaling practice. When you feel helpless about changing tides at work, some semblance of predictability is essential.

How to Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

It pays to learn about the mortgage process so that you’re ready when the right house comes along. Here’s what to know about mortgage preapproval and prequalification. 

WHAT PREAPPROVAL FOR A HOME LOAN MEANS

When a mortgage lender preapproves you, they’re stating they would be willing to provide you with a loan of a specific amount. It’s a tentative declaration that isn’t a commitment, but it tells you the lender determined what your finances are and feels comfortable loaning you the specific amount listed in the preapproval letter. That number gives you a ballpark range of what you can afford when you shop for a house. 

IS PREAPPROVAL REQUIRED?

Generally, no, but some sellers may require it. Preapproval shows house sellers that you’re a serious buyer, and if you’re shopping in a competitive region, being preapproved can give you a leg up. 

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS FOR PREAPPROVAL

Getting preapproved is similar to applying for a mortgage. Every lender will have slightly different requirements, but you can expect to be asked to provide the following information:

  • Social security number
  • Address 
  • Proof of income and employment information
  • Recent W-2s (1099s if applicable)
  • Bank account information

HOW IS PREQUALIFICATION DIFFERENT FROM PREAPPROVAL?

Prequalification is much easier and more informal than preapproval. Prequalification requires only basic information. In fact, some lenders may not even need to pull your credit report to prequalify you for a loan. Prequalification primarily benefits you, the buyer. It can help you understand your mortgage budget (how much you can afford to borrow), so you can set your expectations when you begin shopping for a house. Prequalification typically requires sharing the following information with a lender:

  • Income 
  • Assets (including savings)
  • Expenses
  • Debts
  • Credit score

With that information, the lender should be able to give you a rough idea of how much of a mortgage loan you might qualify for. Use it as a gauge rather than a sure thing. 

HOW LONG DOES THE PREAPPROVAL PROCESS TAKE?

The length of time for preapproval will vary by lender. You could have an answer in less than 24 hours or it could take up two weeks. But most lenders will let you know if you’re preapproved within a few business days. 

How long your preapproval lasts will also vary by lender. Generally, you can expect you’ll need a new preapproval after 90 days. However, it’s important to understand that preapproval isn’t a guarantee of a specific loan amount, and the further you get from your initial preapproval date, the more likely it is that changes to your finances might lead to a change in terms. (For example, maybe you forgot to pay a hefty credit card bill and your credit score took a hit, which no longer qualifies you for your preapproved interest rate.) Even if your preapproval hasn’t expired, the loan terms you get when you apply for a mortgage could look different from the deal you were expecting. 

FINDING A GOOD LOAN OFFICER 

Word of mouth, talking to friends, and consumer reviews are a good way to find a trustworthy loan officer. If you’re using a realtor, that person might have a relationship with a loan officer that they can vouch for. 

Ideally, you should try to get preapproved with multiple lenders to see what kind of rates and offers you can get.

ARE LARGE LOAN COMPANIES TRUSTWORTHY?

It’s certainly fine to use larger companies like Rocket Mortgage or Better Mortgage. They may have more modern conveniences than smaller companies have, such as a faster approval process, for example. Just like any option, make sure you know what you’re getting into and compare options whenever possible.

Tangled Titles Disrupt Generational Wealth: How Homeowners Can Respond

According to a 2022 Bankrate survey, 74% of Americans rank homeownership as the highest gauge of prosperity. Despite its challenges, most people still consider homeownership a vital part of the American Dream. 

However, these efforts are undermined by tangled titles, a property title that doesn’t accurately reflect a homeowner’s claim to a residence. Most often, tangled titles happen when a homeowner dies without a will. As a result, children or grandchildren may live in a deceased relative’s home without ever transferring the deed to their name.

This puts heirs at a practical and financial disadvantage, preventing the probate process from properly transferring property after death without a will. It also puts them at risk of housing instability. The results can ruin generational wealth as people can’t access the home’s equity, sell the property, or transfer ownership to heirs. 

Simply put, tangled titles disrupt generational wealth for families across the US, making it more difficult for people to climb out of poverty or advance prosperity by leveraging their most valuable asset – their homes.

UNDERSTANDING “TANGLED TITLES” 

While tangled titles only impact a small percentage of homeowners, they play an outsized role in disrupting generational wealth. In addition to preventing people from accessing a home’s value, property title issues make it difficult for people to purchase insurance or receive benefits from federal or local agencies, while at the same time obligating them to pay real estate taxes and fulfill the practical responsibilities of homeownership. 

It subjects people to the burdens of homeownership without many of the most impactful benefits. What’s more, tangled titles primarily impact the Black community. A census analysis by a local PBS and NPR affiliate found that 87 percent of tangled titles belong to Black-owned homes. 

The causes are both tragic and historical. For generations, Black people were locked out of the judicial system. Meanwhile, they chose not to consolidate heirship and didn’t list just one person in a will because it offered some protection against racist and unethical entities that might try to take their homes away. If bad actors didn’t know who owned a property, it was more difficult to force them out. 

There was also an element of culture. Purposefully tangled titles meant that there was “family land” or a “family home”. It meant that no matter what happened, family members would always have a place where they could gather. 

An analysis of tangled titles in Philadelphia by the Pew Charitable Trusts demonstrates the impact on homeowners and communities. According to the analysis, Philadelphia has more than 10,400 tangled titles for homes with a median value of nearly $89,000. While the home values are lower than the citywide average, these properties are collectively worth $1.1 billion, a significant amount of family wealth that goes untapped and unused. 

The consequences can be devastating and far-reaching. Tangled titles mean that people don’t legally own their homes, and resolving the conflict can be difficult and expensive. 

HOW HOMEOWNERS CAN RESPOND TO A TANGLED TITLE

There are several ways that heirs can resolve a tangled title.

Families can decide to transfer the deed to one person’s name, split the property between multiple people, or form a cooperative. This can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. In addition to the cost, this process is often slow and setbacks are common, requiring genealogy records and other references that are challenging barriers for many people. 

Regardless of the approach, resolving tangled titles can be a costly, time-consuming process that many homeowners can’t afford. Fixing a tangled title requires a specialized attorney, which means people have few options when selecting legal counsel. Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that total costs, including subsidized legal counsel, fee waivers, and other public assistance, exceed $9,000. 

There are several excellent companies helping people address tangled titles, and nonprofit organizations are a good place to start. Unfortunately, there isn’t a big national organization that does this work. Consequently, there often aren’t enough financial or personnel resources to get to everyone quickly, and the longer it takes, the more protracted the problem becomes. Contacting your local legal aid organization is a good way to connect with groups that can help.

Right now, homeowners can protect themselves and their heirs against tangled titles by formalizing an estate plan that describes the intentions for the property while designating one person to inherit the property to avoid future title issues. Taking care of a tangled title before it becomes a critical issue can preserve wealth and minimize disruption.

While MMI doesn’t offer services for untangling titles, this problem often arises when homeowners face financial hardship and need to extract value from their homes. Anyone struggling with repaying credit card debt, balancing income and expenses, or recovering from a natural disaster can contact MMI today to find answers and develop solutions with the help of a qualified representative. Confidential counseling is free and available online for your convenience.

Homeownership is considered one of the foundational elements of building and transferring generational wealth. Tangled titles disrupt this process, requiring more resources, greater awareness, and a comprehensive response to help people keep and capitalize on their most valuable asset.

The Ripple Effect of Depression

Sometimes I can practically diagnose a patient with depression even before meeting them. Just hearing the exasperation of a family member who contacts me to schedule a consultation for their spouse, parent, or adult child is a telltale sign that major depression is at play. These are well-intentioned, caring people but they are worn out by trying to lift their loved one out of their depressive state. 

Depression Is a Family Affair

Depression doesn’t just affect the sufferer. Chronic depression has a ripple effect. Close family and friends often feel worried, scared, helpless, annoyed, frustrated, and guilty that they can’t cheer up or energize their loved one. It’s often only when they are totally exhausted—when they feel they “can’t do it anymore” and have given up on the idea that they can rescue their loved one—that they acknowledge they need outside help.

This was the case with Ruth.* By the time Ruth’s adult daughter called me, she and her husband were at their wits’ end. I heard the desperation in her voice as she described Ruth’s chronic lethargy. She and her husband had been caring for her mom for two years as she became a virtual recluse at home. Ruth had been a vivacious, active woman but now, in her 60s, she was physically and psychologically dependent on her children. They lived nearby, did her shopping, and arranged for her meals, cleaning, and home care. Terrified that they couldn’t bear the load any longer and guilty about feeling overwhelmed, they called me for a consultation.

“I’m a mess” were the first words out of Ruth’s mouth when I met with her. She looked disheveled, sad, and anxious and was as confused as her children about her condition.

“I don’t know what happened to me.”

It had been 10 years since Ruth’s husband had died. She’d adjusted to being a widow and had enjoyed time with a boyfriend until two years ago when she suddenly lost her appetite, couldn’t sleep, and became anxiety-ridden about “everything.” She became afraid to leave the house—with no apparent cause for her fear. She had a hard time getting to sleep and an even harder time getting up in the morning. She told me she only stayed alive because her kids are so devoted to her and “it would kill them if I did anything to myself.” She had considered canceling the appointment her children had arranged with me. “There isn’t anything or anyone that can help me,” she said in a whisper. “My mother had something like this. It’s just going to be how I die.”

Classic Signs of Major Depression

Everyone gets down from time to time. But major depression is not “the blues.” Ruth had classic symptoms of the condition. She lost her appetite for food and for life. She no longer wanted to go out and socialize. She had trouble falling asleep, lacked the energy or desire to get out of bed in the morning, suffered from anxiety, and her relationships with family and others were disintegrating. She felt helpless and hopeless. She had thoughts of suicide.

Like many family members who are caring but worn out with a loved one who becomes dysfunctional, Ruth’s children were losing sympathy and patience.

“My mother is just more of what she always was,” her daughter told me. “She’s just being passive-aggressive, trying to get more and more of our attention and time.” From her children’s viewpoint, there was no rational reason why Ruth was being so lethargic, ineffectual, and dependent. With no medical ailment to explain Ruth’s sudden inability to care for herself, they couldn’t understand why she didn’t just “snap out of it.” But people who are severely depressed—usually due to genetic, biological, hormonal, and/or situational factors—act paralyzed because that is how they feel. Their despair is so heavy that it seems almost tangible. Their depression cannot be overcome by sheer force of will. 

It was possible that Ruth hadn’t fully grieved her deceased husband and would benefit from exploring her unresolved feelings in psychotherapy. But, first, we needed to get Ruth’s depressive symptoms under control. I explained to Ruth that her disparate symptoms were all part of one condition: major depression, a condition that is very treatable. She sat up straight in her chair, eyes wide open, and, for the first time in our meeting, seemed energetically engaged. She seemed somewhat shocked but reassured to learn that there was a clear explanation for what she had been experiencing.

After establishing that there was no underlying medical condition contributing to Ruth’s depression, I presented some medication options and recommended an antidepressant that has an energizing effect. I told her we would start slowly, at a very low dose, and gradually increase to a therapeutic level to minimize any possible side effects. I explained that it can take a few weeks for the medication to “kick in” but she might see a slight lightening of mood early on, which usually bodes well for a successful outcome. I told her to call me if she had any questions and concerns and that we would meet in two weeks to review how things were going. Once she regained some energy, we’d start setting goals. Step by step, she would get back to grocery shopping, cleaning her home, and contacting old friends.

With Ruth’s permission, I invited her daughter into the consultation room and shared her diagnosis and treatment plan, Ruth and her daughter seemed visibly relieved. They had just been presented with a roadmap to recovery. They could see light at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t Focus on Your Job at the Expense of Your Career

You have a vision for your career and where you’d like to end up. You may even know what to do to get there. But there’s an obstacle in the way: your current job.

For some lucky professionals, simply executing well is the path to recognition and eventual promotion to the position you want. But for many others — especially if the job you covet involves a different skillset or requires building connections with new colleagues – the intense time requirements (and brand positioning) of your current role may actually inhibit your ability to advance. Over time, this can become a serious handicap, in what Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen term“focusing on your job at the expense of your career.”

In my book The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World, I write about how to simultaneously navigate two realities: meeting the short-term needs of the moment (i.e., doing your job to pay the bills) while positioning yourself for long-term success. Here are four principles you can follow to make progress, even if you’re feeling overburdened by current expectations.

Analyze the strategic value of your activities.

In order to understand which parts of your job are most — or least — aligned with your future vision, create a Venn Diagram, with one circle representing your existing responsibilities, and another the job description you aspire to. Odds are, at least some areas will overlap.

You can use this diagram to help you identify the tasks you’d like to maintain (current tasks that will carry over and be relevant in your new role), stretch toward (ones you don’t perform now but will need to in the future), and hopefully jettison (ones that have no relevance for your desired position).

Enlist allies.

It’s rare that we have total discretion over our workload and responsibilities, so you’ll need to enlist allies — especially your manager — to help you achieve your vision. Assuming you have a good relationship, you can go to them and explain the career path you’d ultimately like to take. “I’m committed to doing a great job in this role,” you could say, “and I’d also like to position myself for success in the future. If you’re willing, I’d love your help in strategizing around how to make that work.”

Then, you can share your analysis with them and ask for their help in identifying and recommending you for stretch assignments or opportunities to help you develop new skills and contacts (for instance, sending you to an industry conference or nominating you for a cross-departmental committee so you’ll have the opportunity to make new connections). You can also raise the prospect of shifting unwanted tasks off your plate, though it may need to be done over time (and with your commitment to train others in the necessary protocols). It can also be useful to reach out to other supportive colleagues — in your department and elsewhere — as they may be aware of opportunities that your boss isn’t.

Manage your brand.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to career advancement is having to reinvent your personal brand. It’s not (in most cases) that you’re perceived negatively. It’s simply that people can’t imagine you in a more senior role, or in a new context, because they’re used to thinking of you in a certain way and fail to question those assumptions. That’s why it’s essential – even as you’re still performing your current role — for you to start shifting the narrative.

Just as the classic advice is to “dress for the job you want,” you should also raise your level of conversation, as though you’re already in your desired position. If you want to be promoted, start asking higher-level strategic questions in team meetings. If you’re planning to shift functional areas, read up on your new domain and begin posting about it on social media, or mentioning it in conversations with colleagues.

In particular, think about shoring up perceived weaknesses that you fear may disqualify you. If you’re never worked overseas but that’s commonly required for your ideal next position, think about other ways to demonstrate aptitude, like taking language classes or taking an executive education program in the region you’ll be dealing with. You want to “prepare the terrain” so that when the idea is raised about you getting promoted or landing the position you want, the goal is for those around you to say, “Oh yeah, I could see that.”

Be willing to experiment with “120% time.”

Google (now Alphabet) famously encourages its employees to use 20% of their time on experimental activities outside the scope of their current job requirements — and that creativity has born fruit for the company, such as the creation of Google News. It’s also led to major career advancements for the employees who utilize it. In The Long Game, I profile one marketer who landed a coveted job at X, Alphabet’s “moonshot factory,” as the result of a volunteer project he undertook using 20% time.

16 Easy Exercises That Can Improve Your Posture

Have you been slacking in the posture department? 

Thanks to our smartphones, iPads and more, many of us spend our days with our necks craning down to stare at our devices. Working from home has also created complications, affectionately referred to by experts as “pandemic posture.”

Fixing your posture can not only relieve back or neck pain, “it can also have a significant impact on all things related to our respiratory function, core and pelvic health,” explained ­­­­Trista Zinn, a trainer and founder of Coreset Fitness.

Taking tiny steps toward improving your posture is the best way to go. Here are 16 exercises to try to help get you standing and sitting straighter.

Seated Row

“This exercise works all the muscles of the back, and helps counterbalance the weight of the chest and support the spine,” explained Sebastien Lagree, a trainer and founder of Lagree Fitness. 

Sit cross-legged or straddle a bench with cables or bands wrapped around a doorknob or floor mount in front of you. Next, pull the handles back toward your rib cage. 

“As you continue to pull the handles toward you, focus on lifting the spine or sitting taller,” Lagree said. “Each time you pull the handles in, aim to sit higher.”

Bent-Over Rows

If you don’t have a cable system at home, or access to a gym, grab some free weights and perform bent-over rows. 

“Strengthening the muscles that retract the scapula leads to better posture,” said Dr. Alejandro Badia, an orthopedic surgeon in Miami. “This also helps avoid shoulder pain, which often occurs when we slouch or work in a slumped position.” 

Bend your knees and lean your upper body forward, keeping a straight spine. Start with your arms straight down in front of you with your palms facing your body, then pull the weights back, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Try not to over-extend the movement: Stop right when you get to where your pockets would be on your pants ― i.e., near your hips. Lower your weights and repeat the movement.

Cat-Cow

This is an equipment-free exercise, and a popular yoga move. Get into an all-fours position on your hands and knees. From here, arch your back, bringing your chest and head up while your stomach drops down. 

“You then move the opposite way, round your back towards the ceiling, bring your stomach in and your chin to your chest,” said Joy Puleo, a pilates instructor and Balanced Body Education Program Manager. Hold each position for a second or two and repeat eight to 10 times. 

Want to Fight Less? Stop Policing Your Partner’s Feelings.

As a therapist, I often see couples descend into arguments because they struggle to accept and attune to their partner’s emotions. One of the biggest triggers for these arguments is when they put words into each other’s mouths, telling them how they should or shouldn’t feel.

Here’s an example: A client of mine, we’ll call her Mindy, recently shared a story. She arrived home from work one day and told her partner that she feels so frustrated by her commute that she’s thinking of quitting. Her partner responded, “I don’t understand why you’re so frustrated. It’s just a part of life. I always just put on a good podcast.” This aggravated her. “You know what? Screw you,” she said. “I’m just going to just stop sharing things with you now.”

John, another client, discussed sharing how angry he was with the cancer doctors treating his mother. His partner responded by saying “I don’t think that’s how you really feel. I think you’re actually sad but you just never know how to do that. You’re just always so angry.” John, frustrated, responded with, “I can be angry if I want to be angry. This is my mother we’re talking about!”

As these two examples illustrate, sometimes, telling someone how they should feel causes a more activated argument. Sometimes, it can cause the quiet kind of argument we have in our own heads — like when another client, Ari, was sharing with their spouse how upset they were with some employees. “Well, do you really have a reason to feel upset with them?” their partner said. Ari responded with “Maybe not” out loud, but silently thought: that’s the last time I try to process what’s happening for me with you.

We know that showing understanding, curiosity, and sensitivity towards others’ emotions tends to create the most bonding and lead to fewer arguments. However, people don’t often follow through on these things. Instead, it’s incredibly common to dismiss, question, judge, or tell the other person how they should feel. It’s a recipe for disconnection and frustration. 

Why These Fights Happen

If responding this way to emotions leads to disconnection then why do we do it?

Simply put, we humans tend to forget that other people are different from us. You can see this evidenced in how often people respond to others’ choices by saying something like, “I would have never done that” or to their feelings by saying “Well, that’s not how I would feel about that.” One of the biggest blocks to resolving conflict that I see in the couples therapy office is people refusing to open up to the idea that there can be more than one way of feeling, thinking, and experiencing the same event.

There’s also the idea of complex stories. Each of us has a complex story written around our emotional world. It’s colored by our biology, personality, culture, history and even how we are physically feeling in the moment. When you put more than one person together, it becomes doubly complex.

Finally, there’s the fact that emotions are inherently vulnerable. Our emotions are encoded into us as a way to help us navigate the world safely. We show them to others in order to get our needs met. For example, if I am crying, my tears are a symbol that I am in distress. If I am laughing, my giggles are a sign I want to play. If I cry and you don’t respond to my distress, I feel as if my signaling isn’t working. This is scary for human beings because we’re pack animals, and feel threatened if we believe members of our group aren’t properly responding to or reading the signals.

So What Can We Do?

When it comes to emotional connection, people tend to respond to each other in one of three interactional patterns:

  • Cutting Off: This might look like dismissing or seeming aloof to the emotions of others.
  • Enmeshment: This looks like trying to be an authority on, and being too involved in, the emotional world of others.
  • Differentiation: This looks like being present with the emotions of another person without trying to control them through cutting off or enmeshment.

In order to respond well to loved ones, we have to learn how to differentiate. Differentiation means being able to remain connected to yourself while being connected to another person. It requires us to identify our own feelings and beliefs and recognize that we cannot control other people’s feelings and beliefs.

Here’s a relevant example. When Hector and Ebony had their first child, Ebony felt a lot of anxiety. She would often express to Hector that she was too afraid to sleep at night in case she missed the baby crying out for her. Hector didn’t feel as anxious as Ebony. He felt confident that the baby was okay and that he was able to sleep at night.

However, because Hector was well differentiated — meaning he knew his perceptions and feelings could be different than his wife’s — he was able to be there for Ebony. Of course, he wished she wasn’t so anxious. But instead of merely saying “You have nothing to be anxious about,” he attuned to her and could say, “It makes sense you’re anxious. Tell me more about what’s been worrying you the most at night.”

If Hector wasn’t well differentiated, Ebony’s difference in experience would feel threatening to him. This is because poorly differentiated people aren’t confident that they can hold onto their own beliefs in the face of someone else’s. Instead of risking the discomfort of allowing the difference to exist, poorly differentiated people tend to authoritatively claim that their way is the only way. They tend to tell others how to behave more often and put pressure on people to conform to their way of being.

If Hector wasn’t well differentiated, he might say something to Ebony like, “I would never allow my emotions to overtake me like this. You just need to do what I do and lay down at the end of the night and go to sleep. The baby is fine.”

6 Ways to Improve Your Differentiation

When couples can improve differentiation, they’re able to navigate each other’s emotional worlds better, avoid arguments, and improve connection. Here are a few tips that can help. 

1. Understand your narrative

As I mentioned earlier, we all have a complex story around our emotional world. Take time to understand your own story. What was it like for you growing up when it came to emotions? Did people tend to try to control other people’s feelings? Or were people open and responsive to them? What do you believe about emotions? Are they mostly helpful or mostly unhelpful? How does it feel in your own body when you’re having emotions? And how does it feel in your body when other people are having emotions? Beginning to understand yourself will strengthen your ability to stay connected to yourself in the face of difficult emotions.

2. Speak for yourself

Learn to speak for yourself during emotion-based conversations rather than getting silent or putting words into the other person’s mouth. Do your best to police yourself when you do either of these things and then move towards identifying what’s going on for you.

For example, let’s say you tend to cut off. You catch yourself falling into this habit. Great. But instead of simply falling silent, share, “I feel overwhelmed right now and part of me just wants to be quiet.”

If you tend to get enmeshed, instead of telling someone what they should feel, talk about how you feel. Tell your partner “I feel so anxious when I hear about your workday,” instead of “you really shouldn’t be feeling so anxious about your work.”

3. Validate

It’s crucial that you learn to do this for both yourself and the other person. For example, if your partner is angry about something that doesn’t make you angry, you can say to yourself: I am struggling to fully understand why they are so angry. I don’t feel angry about this at all and that is okay, while also being able to say, It’s okay for them to feel angry even if I don’t.

Depression Might Be Trying to Tell Us Something

Until recently, a central tenet of biomedical psychiatry was that depression is caused by low serotonin levels. A recent study has debunked that claim, to great publicity. In response, some researchers have called for “doubling down” on the search for biological causes of depression. I want to present something radically different.

What if depression is purposeful, rather than pathological? What if it’s a designed response to a problem of life, not a disease?

Evolutionary Psychiatry

Some researchers over the past 30 years have argued that depression isn’t a disease but an evolved adaptation. Though there are a number of specific hypotheses, they all share the idea that depression is nature’s way of telling us that something in our lives isn’t going well—particularly with our social interactions. 

One of the first of these hypotheses was the social competition hypothesis. In this view, depression originated in prehistoric competitions over resources. When I find myself “outcompeted” by another person for a prized resource, depression saps my incentive to fight. 

A second, more general, view is that depression is nature’s way of helping us detach from unrealistic life goals. Low mood takes away my motivation to strive for unrealistic goals and lets me focus on realistic ones.

A third hypothesis is called the social risk theory. This view sees depression as a response to the threat of exclusion. Through depression, I communicate that I’m a “low social risk” to others, and I convey the need for additional support from close friends and relatives.

A fourth is the analytical rumination hypothesis. It stems from the observation that people with depression often mull over their perceived failures. This suggests that the purpose of depression is to help us focus attention on complex social problems.

Evidence for the Design Hypothesis

Unfortunately, evolutionary hypotheses cannot be tested directly. They require drawing evidence from a large number of different areas. And, the fact is, there’s not a lot of funding available for testing them. 

Still, there are some intriguing lines of evidence suggesting that depression is an adaptation, not a disease (see del Giudice 2018 for a review).

Depression occurs worldwide, with a high incidence and strong genetic risk. That’s often a sign that it’s playing some important role in our lives. If it were a disease, we wouldn’t expect it to be so common, especially among people of reproductive age.

It’s long been recognized that depression is more likely to be triggered by perceived social losses, rather than nonsocial losses. It’s more likely to be triggered by factors such as divorce or humiliation, rather than losing a house or car.

Depression shows high comorbidity with other disorders with a strong social component, such as social anxiety disorder. Also, depressed people tend to be highly vigilant to the threat of social rejection.

Even if depression is an adaptation, that doesn’t mean it always has a positive outcome. In some cases, depression can become unregulated and spiral into something quite destructive.

For example, depression can have a “self-reinforcing” character. Depression can lead to social isolation, which can reinforce depression. Rumination over one’s perceived failures can reinforce patterns of negative thinking.

Moreover, even if depression helped our prehistoric ancestors, that doesn’t mean it’s always useful today. For example, if depression is caused by having unrealistic life goals, it doesn’t help that we’re surrounded by media telling us our worth as human beings is connected to our accomplishments.

Cheaper flights are finally here for travelers

The average domestic airfare per ticket will drop to $286 round-trip this month, down 25% from May when the average round-trip ticket topped $400, according to Travel booking app, Hopper’s pricing forecast released this week. The average fare should remain below $300 through September, before notching upwards ahead of the holidays.

Don’t expect air travel to get any easier as fares drop, though, with trip delays and cancellations remaining a stubborn problem. For the smoothest flight, the two key tips are timing both booking and your travel right.

“Many airlines plan to maintain capacity below 2019 levels through the end of the year to prevent future disruptions,” Andrew Heritage, senior economist at Hopper told Yahoo Money, “meaning more customers vying for fewer available seats this fall and holiday season.”

Air fares are sinking more than usual from their summer peaks in time for fall getaways. But time is of the essence when it comes to snagging a deal.

The average domestic airfare per ticket will drop to $286 round-trip this month, down 25% from May when the average round-trip ticket topped $400, according to Travel booking app, Hopper’s pricing forecast released this week. The average fare should remain below $300 through September, before notching upwards ahead of the holidays.

Don’t expect air travel to get any easier as fares drop, though, with trip delays and cancellations remaining a stubborn problem. For the smoothest flight, the two key tips are timing both booking and your travel right.

“Many airlines plan to maintain capacity below 2019 levels through the end of the year to prevent future disruptions,” Andrew Heritage, senior economist at Hopper told Yahoo Money, “meaning more customers vying for fewer available seats this fall and holiday season.”

Why prices are dropping

A dip in fall ticket prices is generally not noteworthy. Airfares typically fall between 10% and 15% as demand in late August through mid-October dips when kids go back to school, the weather gets cooler, and carriers are eager to boost travel.

“But this year’s decline from the highs of summer is steeper than usual,” Heritage said. “High jet fuel prices and pent-up demand coming out of two depressed summer seasons” pushed this summer’s airfares during the peak vacation months to abnormal highs.

Airfare for June and July averaged $357 per round-trip ticket versus $285 last year, according to Hopper data.

Currently, U.S. Gulf Coast jet fuel is $3.34 per gallon, up from $1.88 a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. In late April, the price per gallon briefly topped $5 and has hovered around $4 per gallon most of the summer. Jet fuel prices typically account for anywhere from 15% to nearly a third (30%) of an airline’s operating expenses, according to Heritage.

If You Want Your Pitches to Improve, Use These 3 Simple Tips

When starting or running a business, most people will tell you that a high-quality pitch to investors or potential partners will sell your venture itself. The investors, partners and potential clients will line up if you’re skilled with language and can tell a unique, captivating story and explain financial returns. So, the story goes…

That thinking is misguided.

The most extraordinary concepts in the world won’t sell if no one knows about them. It lies on your shoulders to get out there and talk about your ideas and concepts – no matter how much they may speak for themselves. Your pitch is the power fueling the process of letting people know about your business or projects.

Most people think a pitch is something to be feared and avoided at all costs. It’s those unknown moments when the world can come crashing down on you.

The pressure to convey everything about your hard work in a few simple sentences — or in a few short minutes — can bring people to their knees (literally, as they double over with fear). It’s basically public speaking and only a rare handful like that.

The truth, however, is simple. Powerful pitching is a skill that can be learned, just as is good writing. The most significant difference is that it may take years and years to become a skilled writer, but it may only take a few hours to become powerful at pitching.

As someone involved in hundreds — if not thousands — of pitches worth millions of dollars, I know how true this is. I’ve been on both sides of pitches to (and from) the corporate world, production companies, studios, investors, and major television networks.

I used to think it was all about how polished my public speaking skills were. The real truth is that the talking piece is only one aspect of the bigger picture.

Several elements of a pitch bring great results, and it isn’t all about how well you perform during the presentation.

You may have far more control over a pitch meeting than you think

I started focusing on the other parts of pitch meetings and saw the success rate of our business increase dramatically. We now have more than 11 TV shows approved by major networks and approval from more than 50 networks worldwide to be our affiliates. For every 15 TV shows we pitch, about 11 get approved, which is far higher than the industry average.

This broader view doesn’t work in just the media industry — my insights apply to any industry, as I’ve seen repeatedly when I coach people on everything from phone accessories to artificial intelligence.

Today I want to walk through three simple ways to listen with your eyes and improve your pitches. Paying attention to any of these secrets will help you drive your big meeting closer to the direction you seek.

The complete list is a lot longer than three items, but pulling these three from my book, One Sense Ahead, is an excellent starting place to get you skipping happily out the door after a meeting.

1. Pay attention to the body language of the people in the room

Are they distracted and looking at their phone or notepad or documents? This shows they have too much on their mind, and you need to be quick and brief to get their attention. Are they slouched back in their seats, showing they’re relaxed but possibly not interested? If so, you need to have a powerful attention-getting distractor to get things rolling. Don’t immediately launch into your rehearsed pitch.

Most people are so laser-focused on getting their point across about their concept or business that they forget the simplest of all pitching ‘rules’ — think more about the other person than yourself.

2. Pay attention to how the person across the table is breathing

Yep. You read it correctly: breathing. Who cares about that as long as the person is there?! I know that’s what you’re thinking, but the reality is that people tell you a lot about themselves by the way they breathe. Are they breathing through their mouth only? Or their nose? How ridiculous is this, you ask? I can hear you screaming at the screen or thinking it loudly in your mind as you want to stop reading my words… and yet… aren’t you curious about where this goes?

I notice every detail about a person when I’m in a meeting with them, and it gives me clues on how to steer the conversation. You’re the one doing the pitch, so it’s to your advantage to be able to steer anything at all. If another person is in the “decision-making chair,” their chair matters most.

Regular vigorous or moderate exercise linked to lower risk of death

It is well known that being physically active can help you lead a healthier and happier life. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing several long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Studies show that physical activity also boosts self-esteem and mood, and can also help people to have better quality sleep. However, while getting enough exercise is important, the intensity of the exercise should also be considered.

A recent analysis published in Circulation investigated the link between long-term physical activity intensity and the risk of death. 

The study found that adults who perform two to four times the currently recommended amount of moderate or vigorous physical activity per week had a significantly reduced risk of death.

The 2018 physical activity guidelines recommend that adults engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, and 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. However, a growing number of people are performing higher levels of more vigorous exercise to maintain health and improve fitness. For example, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has become increasingly popular. 

However, there have concerns about the potentially harmful effects on the cardiovascular health of an excessive amount of vigorous physical activity. Although, there is limited and sometimes conflicting evidence to support this.

This new research, conducted by Lee et al., involved analyzing data from 2 large cohorts of participants: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, collected from 1988-2018. 

In these cohorts, participants completed questionnaires about their physical activity up to 15 times during the follow-up period. They were asked to report the average hours they spent on various activities, including walking, jogging, running, swimming, bicycling, aerobic exercise, playing squash/racketball or tennis, while also logging low intensity exercise and weightlifting.

Study author Dr. Dong Hoon Lee explained to Medical News Today the implications of this research for people who want to increase their own activity levels.

“Our study showed that many people can get significant health benefits by performing the recommended physical activity (150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity) so it is important to stay active. For those who are looking for the optimal health benefits from exercise, they can aim for higher levels of activity (2+ times the recommended level).”

– Dr. Dong Hoon Lee

Benefits of moderate and vigorous exercise

The analysis showed that the greatest benefit for reducing the risk of death was observed among people who reported around 150 to 300 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity, 300 to 600 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both. 

Prof. Becca Krukowski of the University of Virginia, who was not involved in the study, explained to Medical News Today how this research has real-world implications for people looking to improve their own health.

“These results indicate that either moderate and vigorous physical activity can have positive benefits for longevity and health. These results are consistent with previous research indicating that 300 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity may be necessary for those who wish to maintain a weight loss,” said Prof. Krukowski.

7 Ways to Snap Out of ‘Parenting Fog’

There are those mornings when you can’t think straight, when packing your kids’ lunches redlines your brain’s tachometer, and it’s hard to imagine how you’ll complete all the steps it takes to get them out the door for school. And sometimes those mornings turn into days, days full of instances where you can’t recall that detail from that work project, and jumping from one task to another goes as well as a failed obstacle run on “American Ninja Warrior,” and when ‘what was I doing again?’ becomes your constant internal refrain.

It can feel, at times, like your brain is stuck in a fog. These days, unfortunately, there is the possibility you suffer from actual ‘brain fog,’ a quasi-clinical term for various slow-processing symptoms tied to serious conditions, not the least of which is long COVID. But, just as likely, what you’re experiencing is the physical and emotional fatigue that often comes with parenting.

Call it ‘parenting fog,’ or by its more widely used name — burnout. And you probably know it by its signs: forgetfulness, trouble focusing, listlessness, irritability. It’s important to note here that these can once again be symptoms of, or precursors to, something more severe: clinical depression. But if what you’re experiencing is more of a mental rut, there are some physical, psychological, and social tweaks you can make to your routine to help get your head out of the fog and get yourself back up to speed. Here are a few to remember. 

1. Identify Your Stressors

What are the things that stress you out about your day-to-day process? Identify them. Write them down. Then choose between finding ways to improve those situations, or letting go of trying so hard to make them perfect. Either way, hone in on them and decide how to approach them in a healthier way. “Because trying to tackle everything at once is even more overwhelming and it really would be to your detriment to try to figure out and solve all those things,” says Naiylah Warren, a therapist for the mental health app Real. This approach is specifically helpful, Warren says, if your fatigue is combined with irritability or a short temper.

2. Ask For Help

It’s important to identify your support system, says Warren. Ask your spouse for their input, or ask them to swap certain duties with you for a day or two to mix things up and break up the routine. If you have family or willing friends or neighbors near you, tap them in to help out periodically.

3. Stop Pursuing Perfection

“Parent burnout is very real and every parent has been there,” says Jen McConaghie, a mom of four and the founder of the parenting guide “This Time of Mine.” For parents feeling both overwhelmed and disconnected, she says it’s important to remember that parenting feels hard because it is, in fact, hard, not because you’re doing something wrong. It’s important for parents to let go of preconceived notions of perfection, both for their children’s behavior and their own. “Move away from guilt and make intentional choices you can control,” she says. “For example, ‘I should stop yelling’ can become ‘I could keep yelling, or I could practice a new coping strategy.’”

4. Force Yourself to Get More Sleep

It’s easy to say you’re going to get more sleep at night, but to actually do so you just have to make small changes to your evening routine that actually get you to bed earlier — without your phone in hand. Warren says that, as much as possible, even experienced parents should try to follow the old adage for new parents: sleep when your kid is sleeping.

5. Exercise

Mental exhaustion and so-called brain fog have physical symptoms, including inflammation that slows down neural pathways in the brain. “Exercise has been shown to have atrophic effect[s] on the brain and improve both brain circulation and regeneration of neurons,” says Dr. Maura Boldrini, director of the Quantitative Brain Biology Institute at Columbia University. Exercise has been proven to boost endorphins, too, and when those endorphins and neurons are flowing, your brain works faster and your mood gets better. It’s science.

Ultimate Mind Hack Flips Emotional Reactivity Into Calm

I vividly remember the time a client came to see me and was very upset by the rudeness of a friend she had seen that week. “Tell me what happened,” I said. “Well, I saw her crossing the street and I called out her name, but she just ignored me and kept on walking.” So upset and hurt was my client by her friend’s action—or rather, non-action—that she decided not to talk with her anymore.

We’ve all felt disrespected by others at some point or another. But in my client’s case, I felt there was a lot of room for misinterpretation because of a style of thought known as mind reading. As it implies, mind reading suggests that you fill in the blanks on what someone is thinking without really getting hard evidence. 

The mind hack I’m referring to in this post uses mindfulness to flip reactivity into peace and calm. 

In my client’s case, I suggested we brainstorm other possible reasons why her friend didn’t respond. After a while, the client came up with a list of reasons, such as 1) the friend was focused on traffic to safely cross the street, 2) the friend didn’t hear her name through all the noise on the street, 3) the friend was engrossed in her own world of thoughts and things she needed to do, and 4) the friend was late for an appointment. 

After our brainstorming, the client decided to call her friend and check in to see if she was okay. Later, my client reported back that her friend never heard her call. She was simply trying to navigate her way through several important errands that day. 

As we eventually dug deeper into the belief systems of my client, she described that she was never affirmed and truly seen in her family of origin. As a result, she was always on the lookout and ready to judge others as being non-affirming—even if they were friends walking along a busy street! The new awareness helped her become more curious about how her own mental schemas and beliefs were coloring her world and behaviors. 

With Mindfulness, It’s Not About You 

With mindfulness, we develop the mental habit of viewing persons and events—even those annoying and difficult ones—with a more curious, open, compassionate, and welcoming perspective. This seems like a good place to cue up a quote from Jesuit priest and spiritual teacher Anthony De Mello:

When you’re upset, your window is blurred. And … you’re going to straighten out all the buildings because your window is blurred with the rain. Could we clean your windows first? … We see people not as they are but as we are. And it’s amazing how in the beginning we saw people as rude; then when we change, we see frightened people. They’re so scared, poor things, that they’re driven to hostility. Then you’re understanding, you’re compassionate, whereas before you’d react with anger, with hate.

So, when our window is blurred by an inner landscape of beliefs, we can easily get upset for no reason. In fact, the case could be made that reality just happens as it is, and that we make ourselves upset. For example, it’s rainy and cold outside (or too hot and humid), and you don’t like it because it makes you unhappy or uncomfortable. But the rain is just the rain, the cold is just the cold, and the heat is just the heat. 

That doesn’t mean we can’t engage in changing things or making them better, but when we do so from a place of reactivity, we aren’t seeing things clearly. As a result, we may do more harm than good. Reactivity is suffering, and if you react from your reactivity, you can only produce more suffering. 

Practice: Turn Reactivity Into Calm

With this practice, you’re going to demonstrate to yourself how mindfulness can put reactivity to rest. Spoiler Alert: This won’t stop rude drivers from cutting you off or turn an insensitive boss into a caring leader. 

To begin, find a quiet place where you can reflect or journal for the next five minutes. 

  • Right now, think of an annoying event that occurred recently. Maybe someone cut you off while you were driving. Maybe you couldn’t meet a deadline for a work, school, or other project. Maybe you were stuck behind a long line of people at the store. Whatever your annoyance, what were you feeling in the moment? Write this down in detail, including how it affected tension in the body and change of mood. 
  • Now, let’s imagine we could turn back the clock. Only this time, you’ll re-experience the event as if you possessed a newfound superpower—the ability to be like Teflon to whatever comes your way. Actually, your superpower is the ability to be more open, curious, accepting, grateful and compassionate. For example, if your annoyance was with another person, your superpower would open your tender heart—so you would be aware of how that person might have been late for an appointment or not feeling well. You could also use your superpower to shift your attention to be more curious toward something you could have gratitude for—even during the annoying event. In other words, your superpower helps you to not take anything personally!
  • Again, visualize or journal a do-over of the annoying event, only this time picture yourself using your Teflon superpowers. What does this feel like? How different is this from your initial reactivity of the same event?

Feeling Off? It Could Be ‘Ambient’ Stress

More than 36% of U.S. adults experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression in August 2020, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By January 2021, the number was above 40%.

It’s not hard to see why. A novel and scary virus was spreading without vaccines to slow it. Cities and states were in various degrees of lockdown for much of 2020, with many people forgoing special occasions and visits with friends and family. Isolation and fear were widespread, and people had every reason to feel acutely stressed.

But even as lockdowns lifted, people got vaccinated, and life resumed more of its normal rhythms, many people continued to feel…off. In an American Psychological Association survey published in October 2021, 75% of people said they’d recently experienced consequences of stress, including headaches, sleep issues, fatigue, and feeling overwhelmed.

Now, more than two years into the pandemic, many people still haven’t bounced back. One reason could be “ambient stress”—or “stress that’s running in the background, below the level of consciousness,” says New York-based clinical psychologist Laurie Ferguson, who is director of education development at the Global Healthy Living Foundation, a nonprofit that supports people with chronic illnesses.

“There’s something amiss, but we’re not registering it all the time,” Ferguson says. “We’re always just a little bit off balance. We kind of function at a level like everything’s fine and things are normal, when in fact, they’re not.”

In a 1983 article published in the journal Environment and Behavior, researcher Joan Campbell described ambient stressors as those that are chronic and negative, cannot be substantively changed by an individual, usually do not cause immediate threats to life (but can be damaging over time), and are perceptible but often unnoticed. “Over the long run,” Campbell wrote, these stressors could affect “motivation, emotions, attention, [physical] health, and behavior.”

Campbell cited examples like pollution and traffic noise, but it’s also an apt description of this stage of the pandemic. In March 2020, the pandemic was an in-your-face stressor—one that, at least for many people, felt urgent and all-consuming. Two years later, most people have adapted, to some degree. Most people are vaccinated, the news isn’t broadcasting the latest case counts 24/7, and life looks closer to 2019 than 2020. But, whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re still bearing the psychic toll of two years of death, disease, upheaval, and uncertainty, as well as smaller disruptions like changes to our social or work lives, Ferguson says.

Even ambient stress can have health consequences, as Campbell pointed out. Humans evolved to deal with short-term stressors, but we’re not as good at coping with chronic stress, explains Laura Grafe, an assistant professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr College. Chronic stress has been linked to conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep issues, and mental health and cognitive disorders.

What to Know About Credit Card Consolidation

But if you start losing track of the different balances and what you owe, the monthly payments can feel overwhelming. 

Credit card consolidation brings multiple credit card debts together into a single debt, and therefore a single monthly payment. It can make monthly bills easier to manage and offer you peace of mind. But is consolidating your credit cards really worth it? That depends on a few factors. 

PROS AND CONS OF CONSOLIDATING

Broadly speaking, consolidating can be helpful when it achieves the following for you: 

  • Reduces the number of payments you need to manage
  • Reduces your interest charges
  • Creates a faster timeline to becoming debt-free

The downside? Consolidating credit card debt doesn’t do you any good if you’re simply kicking the can down the road. In other words, if consolidating doesn’t help you pay down your debt, moving it around doesn’t gain you any benefit. 

In fact, consolidation could make your debt situation worse if your old credit cards remain open and you’re still struggling with the original issues that got you into debt in the first place. You might end up charging to your old cards while you’re also paying off a consolidation loan, taking on even more debt than you had before you consolidated. 

So, if you do decide to consolidate, make sure you understand the terms of the new payment and the interest rate, and be sure to make a plan for paying off your debt. 

THREE WAYS TO CONSOLIDATE CREDIT CARD DEBT

DEBT CONSOLIDATION LOAN 

You can consolidate multiple credit card debts into an unsecured loan. This process involves shopping for a personal loan and weighing the available options. You may want to begin by checking with your bank or credit union to find out what terms they offer. 

When you apply for a debt consolidation loan you’ll need to fill out some paperwork, provide evidence of your financial situation, and submit to a credit check. A poor credit score may make it difficult to land a consolidation loan with the kind of terms that will make debt repayment easier for you. If you’ve already begun missing payments, you may have hard time qualifying for many consolidation loans.

If you’re approved, the loan is used to pay off all your outstanding credit card balances, setting them back to zero. The lender may or may not require you to close the other credit cards. Then you start making payments on the loan. 

BALANCE TRANSFER 

With this method, you transfer all your card balances to a new credit card, somewhat similar to a debt consolidation loan. You find an appropriate card with favorable terms, such as 0% introductory APR for 12-18 months, apply, and hope to be approved. As with a consolidation loan, the better your credit score, the more likely it is that you’ll be approved. 

If you’re approved, you then use the new card to pay off the balance on your other cards, effectively transferring those balances to the new card and then making payments on that one card. 

This method can help you get ahead if it comes with a 0% interest rate, but keep in mind it will bounce back to a regular APR once the introductory rate is over. Many promotional rates may also expire immediately in the event that you miss a payment. 

DEBT MANAGEMENT PLAN 

A debt management plan (DMP) includes some of the better attributes of a consolidation loan (single monthly payment, reduced interest rates), but isn’t a loan and doesn’t require strong credit to qualify.

To begin a DMP you connect with a nonprofit financial counseling agency to review your finances and ensure that a DMP is a good fit. At MMI, you can complete this process entirely online. If the DMP makes sense for you, you’ll begin your plan by making payments to the agency handling your DMP, who will in turn make payments to your creditors. Your creditor accounts are closed as part of the process, and most creditors offer significantly reduced interest rates for participating on a DMP, which is why most plans are paid off in less than four years. You can also cancel your DMP at any time, which makes it a slightly less risky option.

HOW CONSOLIDATION AFFECTS YOUR CREDIT SCORE AND OTHER TIPS

How debt consolidation impacts your credit score depends entirely on the method you choose. Taking out a consolidation loan may temporarily lower your credit score due to the credit inquiry and the fact that the average age of your accounts will go down. (Older accounts are better for a good credit score, and your consolidation loan is brand new.) 

Closing old accounts usually hurts your credit score temporarily, so any method that involves closing accounts can ding your credit, at least in the short term. Keep in mind, if debt consolidation helps you make on-time payments and successfully reduce your debt, the benefits can soon outweigh the hit to your credit score and your score should recover quickly.

Debt consolidation isn’t a magic bullet. It can be a very helpful tool if you’re committed to reducing your debt, but to make it work, you need to have a plan and timeline in place to guide you out of debt.

Home sellers are realizing it’s no longer their housing market

A growing number of home sellers have been forced to readjust their home prices in recent weeks. According to Redfin, an estimated 6.1% of homes for sale during the four weeks leading to June 19, asked for a price drop – a record high as far back as the data goes, through the start of 2015.

That comes as mortgage rates hit 5.70% last week and are nearly 2.5 percentage points higher than the beginning of 2022, relegating some buyers to the sidelines with busted budgets.

“If you overprice your home in any market, you’re going to feel resistance,” Lizy Hoeffer, owner and mortgage broker at Cross Country Mortgage LLC, said. “In the last three years, sellers have been able to get basically whatever they want for their house. We’re just not in a market like that right now.”

‘Buyer budgets don’t stretch as far as they used to’

The dream of homeownership is slipping out of grasp for many would-be buyers as costs rise.

“Homeowners thinking about moving should know that while recent sellers have enjoyed favorable housing conditions that included high prices and fast sales, the tide is shifting,” Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale, told Yahoo Money. “Higher rates and home prices mean that homebuyer budgets don’t stretch as far as they used to.”

According to Realtor.com, rising mortgage rates have increased the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home an estimated 60% more than last year. The median monthly mortgage payment has jumped by $513 from the start of the year through May, according to a recent report from MBA.

For instance, in the most populated county of Washington State, King County, the average price is over $1 million, according to Adriana Perezchica, real estate broker and owner of Via Real Estate Group. Despite the challenges, Latinos there – which comprise a large portion of her clientele – are buying in the outskirts for an average of $550,000.

Head Trauma Can Result in Chronic Sleep Disturbances

A single, severe traumatic head injury, or repeated multiple concussions that are typical of collision sports, can result in chronic sleep disturbances that can persist several years after the incident. Recent studies describe the mechanisms that link sleep disturbance and neurodegeneration.

Concussions cause mechanical injury to the brain that has functional consequences. The sudden acceleration, deceleration, and or rotation of the head may cause axonal shearing or avulsion. This type of injury alters the functions of neural circuits that underlie mood, learning and memory abilities, and sleep. A large majority of brain trauma victims report trouble initiating and or maintaining sleep or sleeping for excessive periods of time. These symptoms may persist for several years after the injury due to the neurochemical changes that are induced by the trauma.

Repeated concussions may lead to excess accumulation of amyloid-β and τ-proteins, which are implicated in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep disturbances, even minor ones such as a single night of sleep deprivation, can result in the accumulation of toxic amyloid-β and τ-protein. The accumulation of amyloid-β and τ-proteins alone are also sufficient to disrupt slow-wave sleep. Head trauma initiates a vicious cycle of sleep disturbance leading to the accumulation of these proteins, which then leads to more sleep disturbance. One important phase of sleep, slow-wave sleep, appears critical for the clearance of amyloid-β and τ-protein by the brain’s glymphatic system. Most head trauma victims probably do not get enough slow-wave sleep.

A recent study examined various sleep parameters, including, total sleep time, difficulty to fall asleep, restlessness, time to wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency, and how much each stage of sleep contributed to the overall night of sleeping, after head trauma in 896 athletes.

Sleep disturbances were commonly reported within a week of head trauma. Such disturbances included poor sleep quality, excessive daytime sleepiness, and perceived changes in sleep duration, with both sleeping longer and sleeping less being reported. There was an apparent dose-response relationship between the number of head traumas experienced and the severity of sleep disturbance reported. Although most of the athletes in this analysis were males, the study noted that females are more likely to report poor sleep quality following head trauma.

These changes are unfortunate given that good quality sleep may reduce the histological changes. Sleep scientists speculate that the brains of those people who reported sleeping longer than usual after head trauma may be trying to increase the amount of slow-wave sleep to maximize the glymphatic drainage. Conversely, those who report sleeping less than usual after head trauma may be susceptible to the loss of slow-wave sleep, which may be contributing to cognitive decline in later life.

Studies of head trauma victims have led to a better understanding of the connection between sleep quality, the deposition of toxic proteins, and the increased vulnerability to the development of age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Unfortunately, no clinical studies have yet identified effective ways to improve sleep quality in these victims.

It’s Time to Reimagine Employee Retention

This is a challenging time for managers. Alongside their day-to-day roles, many are facing a never-ending cycle of reskilling and recruiting on their teams. The need to reskill isn’t new, with the OECD estimating that 1.1 billion jobs are liable to be radically transformed by technology in the next decade. However, managers are now being asked to close the skills gap at the same time as they’re responding to pandemic-prompted resignations.

According to Gartner, the pace of employee turnover is forecast to be 50–75% higher than companies have experienced previously, and the issue is compounded by it taking 18% longer to fill roles than pre-pandemic. Increasingly squeezed managers are spending time they don’t have searching for new recruits in an expensive and competitive market. Unless efforts are refocused on retention, managers will be unable to drive performance and affect change. Leaders need to take action to enable their managers to keep their talent while still being able to deliver on results.

From Constrained Careers to Retention Reimagined

Although managers are undoubtedly navigating dynamic market conditions, one of the primary reasons why people look to leave remains the same: a lack of career progression. That same Gartner report found that 65% of employees are now reconsidering the role of work in their lives; however, only one-third are open to internal opportunities providing part of the solution.

Limited awareness of roles and a perceived lack of support from managers means that for many, it has become easier to leave and growthan squiggle — that is, change roles and develop in different directions — and stay.

Even the most supportive managers face a tough choice in response to this challenge. Investing time and effort in their employees’ career development is often at odds with the metrics they’re measured against. Research from Mercer finds that eight out of 10 companies focus on individual goals whereas just five out of 10 work toward the goals of the broader business unit. Managers who optimize for individual performance are likely to become more territorial about their talent. By keeping the “best” people on their team, they achieve the best outcomes. However, this is often to the detriment of individuals’ career development and the organization’s ability to access its own talent. The unfortunate outcome is that the people managers most want to retain feel constrained and become more likely to leave, risking the performance metrics they were so keen to protect in the first place.

The solution to the career development conflict this creates lies in taking a fresh look at how retention is managed. Managers need help with three things. First, they need help shifting the focus of career conversations from promotion to progression and developing in different directions. Second, they need help creating a culture and structure that supports career experiments. Finally, managers need to be rewarded not for retaining people on their teams but retaining people (and their potential) across the entire organization.

The following three solutions enable managers to support people in growing beyond their teams and increase the chance that top talent will choose to stick around.

Solution 1: Focus career conversations on progression, not promotion.

Career conversations today are often rushed, low quality, or even skipped in favor of day-to-day responsibilities. However, career conversations are one of what Gartner refers to as the “moments that matter” if managers want to retain people. The purpose of a high-quality career conversation should be two-fold: to give employees the permission to be curious about where their career could take them and the practical support to make progress.

Strength spotting

Individuals often struggle to see their strengths, which makes it even more challenging to figure out how those strengths could be applied across different roles and parts of an organization. Career conversations give managers the chance to not only share strengths-based feedback (“I see you at your best when…”) but also to discuss how those strengths might be useful in other teams. They can help employees spot the value in not only what they’re delivering but how they make work happen. For example, there are few teams that wouldn’t benefit from a brilliant problem solver or creative collaborator. Helping employees go beyond being aware of their strengths to understanding how those strengths could be applied in different situations is often the first step in increasing an individual’s confidence to start exploring career possibilities within an organization.

Happy Fourth of July!

This weekend we hope you have the opportunity to spend some quality time with family and friends and take some time for yourself.

Taking care of yourself is key to staying healthy both physically and mentally, and with a long weekend for many of us, now is a great time to slow down and do a few things that bring a smile to your face.

Whether it’s a long weekend, a week long summer vacation, or just a few quiet hours to yourself, make sure you are treating yourself with some mindfulness, self-care and self-love.

This summer is a great time to double down and stamp your own personal Passport to Wellness!

From your family at the PAF, Happy 4th of July.

Colorectal cancer: More evidence that Western-style diet may increase risk

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is any cancer affecting the colon, hence “colo,” and rectum, hence “rectal”. It is the third most common and second deadliest diagnosed cancer in the United States, claiming over 50,000 lives every year.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA recently observed that CRC tumors with high levels of pks+ E. coli bacteria correlate with diets rich in red and processed meats and empty calories.

They believe that unhealthy foods may stimulate the cancer-inducing activity of colibactin, a substance deriving from E. coli, in the gut.

Their findings appear in Gastroenterology.

Dr. Shuji Ogino, chief of the Molecular Pathological Epidemiology Program in the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was the study’s corresponding author.

E. coli, colibactin, and diet

E. coli is a normal part of the gut microbiome. However, certain strains of this bacterium hold a distinct cluster of genes known as the polyketide synthase (pks) island.

These pks+ E. coli strains produce colibactin, a toxic metabolite that can damage DNA and trigger cellular mutations that promote CRC.

Consumption of a typical Western diet — also sometimes called an “American diet” — consisting mainly of red and processed meats, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, can cause intestinal and systemic inflammation, precursors to colorectal tumors.

A poor diet is also tied to an imbalance of intestinal microbiota, another factor related to CRC. Furthermore, prior studies have linked E. coli and other bacteria to this cancer.

Consequently, Dr. Ogino and his team suspected that a Western diet might induce a stronger risk for tumors with considerable amounts of pks+ E. coli. Up to this point, though, they did not know whether the diet’s correlation with CRC varies by gut bacteria.

Why Microsoft Measures Employee Thriving, Not Engagement

At Microsoft, where we work on the People Analytics team, that means learning what the data can tell us about how our employees aspire to live their lives meaningfully. In particular, we landed on a new way of measuring thriving, at both work and outside of it, that goes beyond engagement only.

In this article, we share how and why we came to this measurement — and how your own company can learn from our experiences.

Why Thriving Is the New North Star

Prior to this year, we conducted one lengthy, annual survey that tracked employee engagement. It often took months to digest and plan actions around. Yet, we consistently encountered challenges in building a shared definition of engagement across the company. And often, despite employee engagement scores that would seem to indicate that things were going well, it became clear that employees were struggling when we dived deeper into the responses. To us, this was a reflection that we hadn’t yet set a high enough bar for the employee experience, and it motivated us to do better in measuring what matters.

So, we started asking employees for feedback through a shorter yet more focused survey every six months, for which we partnered with employee success platform Glint. This new approach is helping us stay closer to employees’ feedback and take clearer and more immediate action in response.

We also sought to define a new, higher bar that went beyond engagement only, drawing inspiration from many sources. One was what Our Chief People Officer, Kathleen Hogan, calls “The 5 P’s.” Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy, it breaks down employee fulfillment into five key, successive components: pay, perks, people, pride, and purpose. In a time that has prompted many to reflect on the role of work and career in their lives, it felt critical to recalibrate our listening systems to measure our progress towards that end goal — a sense of purpose. We were also inspired by Ross School of Business’s Gretchen Spreitzer and colleagues’ research on thriving as the antidote to languishing. As we moved beyond employee engagement, we decided to focus on our own version of employee thriving.

At Microsoft, we define thriving as “to be energized and empowered to do meaningful work.” This is the new core aspiration we have for our employees, one that challenges us to push ourselves every day so every employee can feel they’re pursuing that sense of purpose. Our focus on thriving isn’t just about recovering from the impact of the pandemic or matching pre-Covid employee sentiment scores. It’s about coming out the other side and doing even better.

What It Looks Like to Thrive

When our first employee survey data came back earlier this year, we began benchmarking our thriving for the first time. We looked at not just how many people reported they were thriving, but calculated company-wide averages based on responses from a five-point scale — if an employee selected “strongly disagree,” that translated to an individual score of zero, and “strongly agree” would be the equivalent of a 100. This ensured our insights took into account all positive, negative, and neutral sentiment.

After analyzing the results, we found that thriving averaged a 77 across the company — a number we see as strong, but one we can still work on. When we broke down thriving into its three components, we saw that meaningful work (79) and empowerment (79) both scored higher among employees than energized (73).

To understand the employee experiences behind the numbers, we dove into the open-ended survey responses. Three key themes stood out.

Culture matters.

What we saw was that employees who were thriving and not thriving were both talking about culture, but in vastly different ways.

Thriving employees talked about a collaborative environment and teamwork with colleagues, an inclusive culture with autonomy and flexibility, and well-being support. These comments reference examples such as being able to have honest, non-judgmental conversations on difficult topics, with a focus on finding solutions.

Employees who weren’t thriving talked about experiencing siloes, bureaucracy, and a lack of collaboration. In these comments we hear a lack of agency and a sense for being a cog in a machine. In other words, the opposite of being empowered and energized to do meaningful work.

Thriving takes a village.

Diving deeper into the numbers, it’s clear that everyone has a role to play. At Microsoft, we’ve long studied importance of managers, and we know their role has been more crucial than ever as they helped their teams navigate through uncertainty. It’s heartening to see our managers shine during such a difficult time. “My manager treats me with dignity and respect” scored a 93, meaning almost every employee selected “strongly agree” — but this also means we still need to ensure that’s the experience for every single employee. We also saw high scores in confidence in manager’s effectiveness (87) and managers’ support for careers (85), showing strong sentiment that managers are helping their teams succeed at the company.

While we see these scores as strengths, they’re strengths we want to keep building to ensure a positive lived experience for all employees.

Thriving and work-life balance are not the same thing.

As we think about how to support thriving, it’s important to distinguish it from work-life balance. While thriving is focused on being energized and empowered to do meaningful work in your role, work-life balance reflects employees’ personal lives, too. Employees rated their satisfaction with work-life balance as a 71, and while it’s encouraging to see work-life balance improving, it hasn’t fully recovered yet to pre-Covid levels. And there are times when thriving and work-life balance can move in different directions.

For example, an early-in-career employee who feels underutilized in their role may have great work-life balance from a perspective of hours and workload, but not feel energized while they’re at work or inspired by the meaning and impact of what they’re working on. On the other hand, there are times when people can thrive and feel so fulfilled by the hard work it takes to make progress on a big project that they can make a short-term tradeoff on work-life balance.

We know that work-life balance may ebb and flow, but wanted to learn from employees who both rated their work-life balance highly and said they were thriving in that work-focused portion of their life. So, we compared the 56% of our employees who said they were thriving and reported higher work-life balance to the 16% who were thriving but had lower work-life balance scores.

By combining sentiment data with de-identified calendar and email metadata, we found that those with the best of both worlds had five fewer hours in their workweek span, five fewer collaboration hours, three more focus hours, and 17 fewer employees in their internal network size. This reinforces what we know from earlier work-life balance research and network size analysis, which showed us that increased collaboration does have a negative impact on employees’ perception of work-life balance. It also confirms that collaboration is not inherently bad — for many employees, those times of close teamwork and striving toward a common goal can fuel thriving. However, it isimportant to be mindful of how intense collaboration can impact work-life balance, and leaders and employees alike should guard against that intensity becoming 24/7.

Challenges for Thriving on the Road Ahead

As more and more companies look closely at how they listen to and help their employees, it’s important to spend time understanding what your north star is — and to make sure it’s connected to the outcomes you are trying to drive as an organization. This new era of hybrid work won’t work for employees if you’re not listening — or if what you’re listening for doesn’t evolve along with them and how they do their jobs. There isn’t a singular one-size-fits-all solution out there, but paying close attention to how your employees thrive is one path forward.

We know this is just the beginning of our journey to understand this in our own organization. Looking holistically at the written responses from those who weren’t thriving offers more clues about where else we can improve for our employees. For example, while employees scored “I feel included in my team” highly at 86, by far the most common thread among those who were not thriving was a feeling of exclusion — from a lack of collaboration to feeling left out of decisions to struggling with politics and bureaucracy. We’ll continue to focus on ensuring inclusion is felt as part of our culture across all teams and orgs.

Ultimately, every score, whether high or low, gives us a baseline to keep listening, learning, improving, and adapting to new changes that still undoubtedly lie ahead. As we enter the hybrid work era, we’re excited to keep studying the numbers even more deeply to understand how thriving can be unlocked across different work locations, professions, and ways of working.

The Truth About Fasting and Type 2 Diabetes

These plans involve going without caloric foods or drinks for an extended period of time—anywhere from 16 hours to several days—and they have become increasingly popular. Research has also found them to be effective for weight loss.

Doctors often advise people with Type 2 diabetes to lose weight, which can have beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin sensitivity, as well as on the progression of the disease. For this and other reasons, experts are actively looking at the effects of intermittent fasting among people with Type 2 diabetes. However, there are some safety concerns. “People with diabetes should be those who benefit most from intermittent fasting,” says Benjamin Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah. “But these diets also present some of the greatest potential safety issues because of the medications that people with diabetes are typically taking.”

Horne has co-authored several recent papers on the effects of intermittent fasting among people with diabetes. One of them, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2020, looked specifically at the risk profile of these practices. “It’s so easy to start an intermittent fasting regimen on your own, so our main focus was on the safety issues surrounding fasting when you have a diabetes treatment plan already in place,” he says. Based on his and others’ work, Horne says that for most people with Type 2 diabetes—particularly those who are not taking medications to control their blood sugar—the research indicates that intermittent fasting is both safe and likely to be beneficial. However, intermittent fasting isn’t right for everyone. Here, Horne and other experts explain the possible risks of intermittent fasting plans, as well as the benefits and best approaches.

The risks of intermittent fasting 

Low blood sugar, a.k.a. hypoglycemia, can cause a rapid heart rate, sweating, shakiness, and other symptoms. If severe, it can induce weakness, seizures, or even death. People with Type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for hypoglycemia—especially if they go long periods without eating—and this was one of the first dangers experts looked at when assessing the safety of intermittent fasting. “If you are taking medications that are aimed at reducing the amount of glucose in your blood, together with fasting these can cause potentially fatal hypoglycemia,” Horne says. “It’s not a minor safety risk.”

How to Be Happy

The United States ranks 19th on the World Happiness Index. What can we learn from the strategies of Finland (#1), Denmark (#2), Switzerland (#3), Iceland (#4), and the Netherlands (#5)? They’re not ideal places, and, yes, their affluence is key, but what are they doing that we can add to our lives here? 

Finland

Finland is known for sisu, which can be defined as selfless stamina and a rough, fearless outlook that is motivational. Applied to its housing policies, for example, sisu is behind the program called Housing First: You are entitled to have a permanent home, but the rest is up to you. The idea is that with a place of your own, you’ll have more sisu to solve your other problems, from ending substance use to getting job training to accessing mental health services.

Denmark

Denmark is famous for hygge. That outlook is reflected in its generous approach to childcare. From paid leave for both parents to a 70 percent subsidy for childcare for children six months to five years old, the policy keeps families from stressing out. 

Holland

Gezellig, in Dutch, means, more or less, cozy-schmozy, a warm, head-to-toe feeling, an inner glow. When you’re physically and mentally healthy, you feel gezellig. The latest craze in the Netherlands is cow hugging, which takes gezellig to new levels.

Iceland

Due to its small population and tiny geography, Iceland is a natural place for community cohesion. Well-being is a focus through increased government support for gender equality, fair housing, and access to medical care. 

As Icelandic governmental psychologist Dóra Guðmundsdóttir noted, “the biggest predictor for unhappiness is having financial difficulty. Those who find it difficult to make ends meet have the lowest happiness score of all groups, lower than those without a job and those with the lowest income.”

Who are the leaders creating policies that lead to happy people?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but all of the top-five happiest nations are either led by women or have a majority or near-majority of women in top posts. Sanna Marin is the Prime Minister (PM) of Finland. As the Social Democratic Party leader, she has a cabinet made up of 12 women out of 19 ministers. Mette Frederiksen is the PM of Denmark. Katrín Jakobsdóttir is PM of Iceland. Switzerland has a Federal Council of seven ministers rather than one leader, and the current Council has three women, all in prominent positions. Holland’s PM is Mark Rutte, but Sigrid Kaag is its First Deputy PM and there are five women ministers in its 12-person cabinet.

We experience happiness as individuals, but well-being is often due to situations far beyond our personal lives.

Homeownership: Understanding Hidden Costs

DOWN PAYMENT 

How much do homebuyers put down as a down payment on their new homes? Because home prices vary so greatly by region, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to find an average dollar amount. According to a 2021 survey by the National Association of Realtors, however, the average down payment is 12% of the purchase price. 

That average varies significantly depending on the age of the homebuyer. Young homebuyers (ages 22-30) only put down 6% on average, depending on the cost of the home, while older homebuyers paid more than 20%. Why the discrepancy? Older homebuyers tend to already have a home (and equity in that home). Younger homebuyers relied more heavily on savings (84%), while older homebuyers drew on the sale of their previous home (55-60%).

HOME SALE CLOSING COSTS

On top of your down payment, you’ll have other closing costs. These are the fees associated with purchasing a house. They could include the following: 

  • Loan origination fee
  • Points—these are optional, paid in exchange for a lower interest rate 
  • Home inspection report
  • Appraisal 
  • Credit report
  • Deed recording
  • Notary fees

Some of these fees may be paid by the seller if you negotiate that outcome. Closing the sale typically takes 30-45 days before you can move in. 

INSURANCE/TAX COSTS

On top of these fees, there are also several types of insurance costs that might be rolled into your mortgage payment through a mortgage escrow account. These include the title insurance policy premium (if you buy title insurance), homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and a private mortgage insurance premium. 

Your mortgage lender manages these premiums through the escrow account, and you pay monthly allotments to your lender. For you, it’s all part of the mortgage payment, and you may not even realize what portion is the actual house payment, and what portion is homeowner’s insurance or property taxes. 

Not everyone needs private mortgage insurance (PMI): buyers who put down less than 20% for their down payment are typically required to purchase this insurance because it protects the lender if you default on the loan. 

COMMON HOME MAINTENANCE COSTS

Now that you own a home, there’s no landlord to call if your dishwasher begins to malfunction or if your roof starts to leak during a heavy rainstorm. It’s up to you to handle any repairs or replacements, and these costs can be a shock to new homeowners. 

If, during the buying process, your home inspection turns up any unexpected discoveries, such as a leaky roof, you can advocate for the seller to address the issue before you close. But they may say no, so it’s important to factor in future potential costs to your overall budget. 

Here are few other costs you likely didn’t need to think about as a renter. 

Heating and cooling systems. If your furnace or AC unit break, you’ll probably need to call an HVAC professional for repairs. Even a healthy system will need to be serviced, usually twice a year.

Plumbing. This includes maintenance of sinks, toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, and any of the associated pipes. You might be able to handle a simple sink blockage yourself, but a deeper pipe blockage might require a professional. 

Roofing. A new roof can set you back a pretty penny.

Painting. An exterior professional paint job also isn’t cheap, but it extends the life of the house and minimizes other rot repair. 

Pest control. Infestations of carpenter ants, borer beetle, or mice can cause true damage to foundational elements of the home.

Landscaping. Many people handle their own lawns and gardening, or soon learn to, but tree trimming might require a professional. 

Appliances. They can stop working suddenly and it’s up to you to service or replace them. 

Lighting and electrical work. Replacing lighting might be a feasible DIY project, but more complicated electrical work may require a professional. It’s always best to play it safe with electrical systems to avoid injury.

Home furnishings. When people buy a new home, they usually want to upgrade furniture and décor, paint the interior, and purchase new linens for the bathroom and bedroom. But buying new items all at the same time can put a real dent in your budget if you haven’t planned for it.

Home utilities. You may be accustomed to paying some utilities as a renter, but with a new home, you may have new bills you didn’t cover as a renter. These can include garbage, water, sewer, and recycling. Even if you did pay those bills while renting, they may be higher in your new home if it’s bigger. 

By factoring various costs into your overall budget, you can prepare for the costs of homeownership and not purchase more house than you can afford.

How to Craft a Fulfilling Career

Carter Cast, a clinical professor of entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School and author of The Right—and Wrong—Stuff: How Brilliant Careers are Made and Unmade, describes the disconnect between our stated values and our actual behaviors as an “integrity gap.” 

These gaps often emerge gradually, when we find ourselves making incremental values trade-offs that begin to erode our sense of personal integrity. 

For example, an MBA graduate may take a role that requires a heavy workload and plenty of work travel, vowing not to lose touch with good friends and committing to stay only as long as it takes to acquire specific job skills. They realize that the rigors of the job may threaten to affect their relationships and hobbies. Yet, they are willing to accept this grueling situation, knowing it is for a limited time. 

Until it isn’t. The money is nice, and two years becomes three, then four, then five. Soon enough, their personal life does not remotely reflect their intentions. 

Avoiding an integrity gap can be achieved through reflection and consistent recalibration, says Cast. Below, he shares tools to keep your values and actions more closely aligned.

Commit to Regular Self-Audits

Understanding both your values—those things important enough to you that you don’t want them to be part of any trade-offs—and your motives—those things that give you energy and fulfill you—is critical to making better career decisions. Gaining that understanding takes a bit of self-reflection. 

“Check in with yourself on a regular basis,” Cast says, “about what motivates you and what you consider to be most important in your life. If you do that, you’ll be less likely to find yourself in a job that no longer aligns with your values.”

Maybe you’ve stayed too long in a job where you work every weekend, or no longer feel you are progressing or being challenged. Maybe you just want more time with people you love. Recognizing that can be tough, especially for high-achieving people. 

“For a number of years, I was not very self-reflective,” Cast says. “I just put my head down and worked. But in my early forties, I realized that I had an empty personal life. I was lonely and realized that progressing in my career wasn’t enough. I needed to recalibrate and create the context for a richer, more balanced life.” 

Eventually, Cast realized the importance of having a keen sense of what motivated and energized him. This knowledge helped him identify jobs congruent with those motivations. 

“I asked myself: How can I get paid to do what I love? That question fueled my self-exploration,” Cast says. “I began to listen to my inner self and started making changes in my life to follow it. That meant realizing I loved teaching and counseling people. From there, it dawned on me that I really wanted to be a teacher, not a c-suite executive.” 

Cast suggests conducting a two-part audit. First, create an activity-by-activity list of how you spend your time, drawing from the past month of activities in your calendar. Then, label each activity by whether you consider it an “energy creator,” “neutral,” or an “energy reducer.” Cast color-codes his audit—red for energy reducers, yellow for neutral activities, and green for energy creators.

At the end of the month, pull out the audit and look for trends. Do certain activities give you energy? If so, how can you create a work environment where you do more of that? Do certain activities demotivate you? Can you take them off your plate?

“I was 38 years old and I felt stuck, and I did this very exercise at a Comfort Inn Suites in Colorado one night,” Cast says. “I actually pulled out my resume to refresh my memory and started listing all the activities I’d done in different assignments. I had a list of about 50 work activities.” 

When Cast assessed his audit, he saw that many of the tasks that motivated and inspired him were not part of his current job. He took that as a sign and left that job within a couple of months.

“I realized that it wasn’t just about progressing in my career,” Cast says. “It was about finding ‘good work’ that was a heartfelt expression of myself, work that energized me and had meaning both to me and to those with whom I interacted.” 

Set Boundaries 

Armed with the result from your time and energy audit, you can begin reconfiguring your overall calendar to draw closer to the activities that energize you, while articulating where your limits are.

For example, if your job demands long hours which negatively impact your family, set defined boundaries to make the work more tolerable. This might mean eating dinner with your family a certain number of nights a week or capping the number of late-night calls you are willing to take.

“Most integrity gaps emerge when we ignore—or never set—our non-negotiables,” Cast says. “It’s up to you to know where that line is. What are your non-negotiables? That’s something to think about before you dive into a new job.”

“It’s up to you to know where that line is. What are your non-negotiables? That’s something to think about before you dive into a new job.”

— Carter Cast

What Beginners Should Know About Credit Cards

Credit cards let you spend money you might not otherwise have, which is both the biggest pro and the biggest con of credit cards as a concept. Used mindfully as a tool, credit cards open up all types of convenient doors, but if used unwisely, they can also dig you into a financial hole. 

THE UPSIDE AND DOWNSIDE OF CREDIT CARDS

The Pros. Putting purchases on a credit card and paying off the balance within a short period of time is more than just convenient. 

  • Using credit allows you to purchase and enjoy things you want or need without having to wait until you’ve saved enough money. 
  • It also saves you from having to take a costly short-term loan for an unforeseen emergency. 
  • Credit cards often reward you with points for your spending, which you can often utilize for cash back, money toward travel, and other bonuses. 

The Cons. The ability to spend money you don’t actually have can be extremely damaging if you don’t have the means to repay your new debt quickly. Because the money doesn’t feel “real,” it’s all too easy to keep whipping out the card with no thought to what happens when the bill comes due.

The key is to spend within your means and pay off credit card balances in full every month (if possible) to avoid interest charges and any possible account delinquencies. In other words, don’t expand your spending just because you can. 

HOW CREDIT CARDS WORK 

A credit card gives you access to a revolving line of credit from a card lender. Revolving credit is credit you can keep using over and over as long as you repay some or all of your balance each month. The amount you borrow can’t usually exceed the account’s limit, although some accounts may allow you to go over, but charge fees in the process. 

The card itself is simply a fast way to share your information with vendors to authorize the transfer of borrowed funds from the lender to the vendor. 

Before you get the actual credit card to use, you sign an agreement with the card lender. The agreement spells out how much you can borrow (your credit limit), when payments need to be made, what fees are involved, and how your interest rate will be calculated and charged.

HOW INTEREST WORKS

Your credit card comes with an annual percentage rate (APR). That’s the interest rate charged on any balance not paid off each month. The lender charges you interest in exchange for lending you money. APR is used to calculate how much your credit card debt is going to cost on top of the account balance itself. The higher the APR, the more interest you will owe on any balance carried over month-to-month. 

In its most basic form, your APR determines how much interest will accrue after one year. For example, let’s suppose the APR on your credit card is 25%. If you have $1,000 in credit card debt, a 25% APR would end up costing you roughly $250 in interest over one year.

HOW CREDIT CARDS BUILD YOUR CREDIT SCORE

In many ways, credit cards are a requirement for building a strong credit history and a solid credit score. You have to use credit (wisely) to get access to more credit. That’s the only way to prove your creditworthiness to lenders. Simply avoiding credit is possible, but it can put you in a vulnerable position later by leaving you with no credit history. 

To establish a good credit record, stick with the following guidelines: 

  • Never miss a payment. Payment history is typically the biggest factor in most credit scoring models. Even a small number of delinquencies (months when a due balance went unpaid) can drive down your score. 
  • Don’t max out your cards. Avoid using any more than 50% of your credit limit if possible. The more of your available credit that’s being used, the more detrimental that is to your credit score.
  • Keep accounts open. The older your accounts, the better. Avoid constantly opening new accounts and closing old ones. 

BEST WAY TO START FOR NEW CREDIT CARD USERS

If you’re just starting on your credit-building journey, your options may be limited. One option is being added to another user’s card (such as the card of your parent or guardian). A better option is to start with a secured credit card. 

Secured cards are backed by an initial deposit from the card holder, typically no more than $500. Your deposit functions as your card’s credit limit. You can then use the card just like you would any other card to make purchases and pay the monthly balance. 

Although it may feel like you’re essentially borrowing from yourself, you are actually borrowing from the lender and building a credit history. The deposit is there as collateral to eliminate risk to the lender. If you don’t pay your bill, the lender reimburses themselves from the deposit.

After certain period of time (usually 6 to 12 months), the card will convert to a normal credit card and your deposit will be returned.

TIPS TO AVOID CREDIT CARD DEBT 

If you establish good habits around credit card use, you can use it successfully as a tool and not wind up in trouble. Try sticking to these rules:

  • Treat credit like you would a debit card and avoid spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need. If you’re spending money you don’t have, make sure that you have a plan to manage the debt.
  • Repay your monthly balance in full every month—or as often as you can—to avoid paying interest fees. 
  • Set up your payments so they post automatically. Missing a payment can be costly.
  • If debt starts to feel overwhelming, don’t avoid it! Too many people avoid their monthly statements and stop answering the phone once things start going in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, avoiding the problem inevitably just makes it worse.

6 Strategies for Managing Disappointments

When outcomes don’t live up to our expectations, when our hopes are rejected, we feel disappointment—a distinctive combination of frustration, sadness, loss, and anger that can have ramifications for future behavior.

We can feel disappointment over a range of outcomes—large, small, and in between. The greater the disparity between outcomes and expectations, the greater the disappointment. Managing our disappointments helps us in the short term by tempering the initial sting of an unpleasant outcome. And it helps in the long run by showing that avoiding disappointment shouldn’t deter us from seeking change and opportunity.

Here are six strategies for managing disappointment.

1. Remembering Why We Took the Chance in the First Place

After a disappointment, it’s useful to set aside the outcome for a moment and recall the reasons and motivations for our efforts. Most of us concentrate on getting through the present, so afterward, it takes effort to remember what led to our actions. Outcomes often obscure the primary influences.

By placing ourselves back in time and recreating the original context, we can better understand our initial choices. In that way, we can accurately evaluate our reasons and motivations without the influence of hindsight bias. 

2. Acknowledging Our Feelings

We really did want the job, and the rejection was unpleasant. We shouldn’t dwell on the outcome, but we also shouldn’t engage in premature positivity. Accepting the emotion of disappointment, however painful, allows us to understand our disappointment more fully.

This understanding then removes the power of disappointment and diminishes its future influence, opening us up to a wider spectrum of opportunities later. If we know how disappointment feels, it’s not as ominous when deciding about future endeavors. Moreover, recognizing our disappointment makes us more self-aware in general.

3. Evaluating Our Expectations 

Were our expectations realistic? Depending on our answer, we may change our approach or our expectations. In Worstward Ho, Samuel Beckett wrote, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Although Beckett didn’t intend inspiration, his words can be interpreted that way. And they can also be augmented. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Try again differently, possibly succeed.

The 5 Basic Skills for Handling Relationship Problems

You’re not rattled so quickly, can mentally turn crises into problems, and develop a solid core of competence that increases your self-esteem and helps you feel confident.

Relationships are no different. Yes, there’s plenty of information out there, and if you get into the weeds, you’ll probably find about 300 things to worry about and have to do right. But you don’t need to worry about those 300. Here’s a shorter list: Five core skills that, like handling the house, car, and kids, can make your life a bit easier:

1. Control Your Anger

If you have that 0-to-60 temper, blow up at the drop of a hat, or even do that slow burn/fed-up, periodic but damaging explosion every once in a while, you need at some point to learn to rein it in. This isn’t about just relationships but running your life. If you can’t, not only will you hurt your relationships and, with that, your life, but you can easily develop a me-against-the-world stance where the only problem is other people who make you angry rather than you—a lonely and anxious life.

If this is a struggle for you, tackle it—with therapy, medication, meditation, something.

2. See Control as Anxiety

Yes, some folks are controlling to be controlling. For them, it’s about power and manipulation and using others as objects to get what they want, but for most, control is tied to anxiety. You constantly feel micromanaged by your boss, but likely she’s a worrier who is always looking ahead at possible worst-case scenarios. The control can feel more suffocating when you are living with someone, or even worse if this has been going on for years. 

Control as anxiety means that the other person gets anxious, and their automatic response is to get you to do what they want you to do. If they can, and you do, they are less anxious. To help you feel less like the ten-year-old under the thumb of an obsessive parent, substitute the control you feel for their problem with anxiety.

Next, instead of snapping and saying, “Get off my back!” say, “Tell me what you’re worried about.” That’s the driver; that’s what puts the problem back in their court. But you need to practice saying this calmly: Think less about you feeling like a victim and more about the other struggling.

3. Look for the Problem Under the Problem

You feel your partner drinks too much or is too rigid or lazy, driving you crazy. At this point, the problem is yours, not theirs. For them, what you consider a problem is for them likely a solution to another underlying problem: that drinking helps them deal with stress, that rigid is about structure that reduces anxiety—or that lazy is in the eye of the beholder and is about different priorities or view of how to live your life.

Rather than complaining or trying to micromanage all the time, stop and ask about the problem under the problem: I’m feeling upset about _______; how do you think about it differently; help me understand better why you do what you. By doing this, you change the conversation, avoid slipping into a power struggle, and have an opportunity to find better ways of either seeing the issue differently or together solving the problem in a better way.

Alzheimer’s: 6 aspects of the condition that are often misunderstood

The Alzheimer’s Association will be observing Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month this month to increase awareness about Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias. 

To mark this event, the Alzheimer’s Association recently published an article describing some of the common misperceptions about the condition as described by individuals with early-stage AD.

Dementia describes a group of symptoms characterized by memory loss, language problems, changes in mood, and deficits in thinking and reasoning that interfere with daily life activities. AD is the most common form of dementia, affecting over 6 million individuals in the United States.

AD is a progressive disease involving a steady worsening of dementia symptoms over time. Individuals with AD are often able to function independently in the early stages of the disease but have to increasingly rely on their caregivers for daily activities as the disease progresses. 

Individuals with a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease may have a difficult time coping with their diagnosis and need support. Although friends and family members often have the desire to be supportive, they may avoid interacting with the individual with AD due to the fear of negatively impacting their mood.

Avoiding engagement with individuals with AD promotes a sense of isolation and stigma, and can harm their feeling of self-worth. Below are some of the common misperceptions about AD held by friends and family members according to individuals with early-stage dementia.

Recognizing autonomy

Due to better surveillance, individuals are increasingly diagnosed at earlier stages of AD. 

It is important to recognize that such individuals with early-stage AD are still capable of living independently and continue to have goals that they might want to accomplish.

Caregivers and family members could help individuals with AD plan for their future and maintain a good quality of life as their disease progresses.

An AD diagnosis does not define a person

Individuals with AD maintain a sense of self until the final stages of dementia and family members should be careful not to view them simply through the prism of their illness. 

AD does not alter the individual’s preference for activities or relationships. Individuals with AD continue to relish meaningful daily life activities, including meeting friends and family members, until the later stages of the illness. 

Dr. Peter Rabins, professor emeritus at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, told Medical News Today: “In the early phases of Alzheimer’s disease, many people can maintain their usual level of social and personal interactions. As the disease progresses this may become harder if friends and long-term acquaintances distanced themselves from the person.”

“At every stage of the disease, it is more important that a person interacts with others and less important exactly what is said.” 

“People sometimes worry that they will say the ‘wrong thing.’ The key, though, is to talk with the person at whatever level they are able to interact. Talk about old times, good memories, and how their favorite sports team is doing. Go on walks, bring the grandchildren over, or perhaps just sit and hold hands. Even at the end stage of the disease communication through touch can be powerful and rewarding.” 

– Dr. Rabins

The bad vibes economy

This is perhaps not the best way to run a business, but it is indicative of the current mood — a lot of people have a sense that something’s just off in the economy, or it’s about to be. There’s this nagging sentiment that we’re in a precarious spot, that there’s some economic boogeyman lurking just around the corner.

This sense of dread is so pervasive that it might surprise you to hear that many aspects of the US economy are generally in good shape right now. The unemployment rate is low, and the labor market is strong. Job openings are at near-record levels, and many workers who want to find something better are doing so. Household and corporate balance sheets are strong. Business profit margins are coming down some but are not disastrous. The stock market is faltering, but the worst troubles seem to be concentrated to the high-flying tech sector that was bound to cool off a bit. Stock market investors are still much wealthier than they were five, 10 years ago. 

The elephant in the room is, of course, inflation, which is high and, for most consumers, just incredibly annoying. Rising prices are cutting into wage gains for workers. The average price of gas nationally was $4.91 as of June 7, climbing just as many Americans get ready to hit the road for the summer.

“Everything else is going swimmingly, but the inflation is painfully high. People can’t get around that, psychologically,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. Add to inflation over two years of a pandemic, war in Ukraine, mass shootings, and political dysfunction, and it makes it hard to say you feel good about anything, including the economy. “It’s just a noxious brew that’s come together and is weighing very heavily on the collective psyche at this point.”

The Federal Reserve is tightening monetary policy to try to combat inflation, which could push the economy into a recession. Regardless, the breakneck pace of the recovery from the pandemic recession is slowing down.

The economy isn’t terrible, but a combination of factors make it feel like it is — and that it’s only going to get worse, even though that’s not at all a foregone conclusion.

Inflation, not fun

Inflation in the US is at levels the country hasn’t seen in decades, and people, frankly, hate it. A recent poll from FiveThirtyEight and Ipsos found that over half of the country says inflation is the most important issue facing the country, well ahead of issues such as political extremism, gun violence, and climate change. Pew found that 70 percent of Americans say inflation is a very big problem, with no other issue coming very close.“IT’S JUST A NOXIOUS BREW THAT’S COME TOGETHER”

Inflation can be really painful for consumers, especially on items such as food and gas that they can’t really skip buying. It’s also always staring them in the face in a way that other facets of the economy are not, at least not so obviously.

If you have gotten a raise over the past year — and many people have — it was likely a one-time thing. “It’s not like every week your boss is like, ‘Hey, we gave you another raise.’ With inflation, it’s a constant creep,” said Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed. Gas prices, in particular, are almost unavoidable, even if you’re not filling up your tank. “How many goods and services do we have where the price is prominently displayed on large signs?”

The inflation issue weighs heavily on how people perceive everything else to be going. Many members of the public appear to believe the country is already in a recession. That is very unlikely to be the case, though the economy did shrink in the first quarter of the year.

The way people say they feel about the economy doesn’t necessarily align with how you might expect them to if the country were in a dire economic situation. Consumers are still spending, though more appear to be dipping into their savings to do so (and it’s not clear if they’re taking home less due to inflation). In late 2021, a survey from the Fed found that Americans were reporting the highest levels of financial well-being since the survey began in 2013, even though their perceptions of the broader economy declined. The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson recently named the scenario a sort of “everything is terrible, but I’m fine” situation. 

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index in May fell to its lowest level since August 2011, driven down by how consumers feel about conditions for buying houses and durable goods and their outlook about the future of the economy because of inflation.

“We’re at levels that would be consistent with a bigger recession,” said Claudia Sahm, a former economist with the Federal Reserve. “There is no way, given the labor market, given consumer spending, that right now we are in a recession.”

Sahm pointed out that last time consumer sentiment was so low, the US was in the midst of the debt ceiling crisis and still climbing out of the Great Recession, and there was turmoil in Europe. Essentially, a lot of things were bad. Now we’re in a similar scenario — people feel bad about a lot of things, which translates into how they’re feeling about the economy. Consumers are “just really pissed off about the world,” Sahm said. There’s still Covid, there is again turmoil in Europe, there’s growing anger over politics. Practically no one says they’re happy about the direction of the country. “When we think about the world, the economy, it’s not so separable.”

A recession isn’t for sure looming, but it feels like it is

In early June, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon warned an economic “hurricane” is on the horizon, citing the Fed shrinking its balance sheet and the Russia-Ukraine war’s impact on commodities prices in his reasoning. “Right now, it’s kind of sunny, things are doing fine, everyone thinks the Fed can handle this,” he said. “That hurricane is right out there, down the road, coming our way. We just don’t know if it’s a minor one or Superstorm Sandy.”

5 Good Ways to Construct Habits

Many people are interested in establishing better habits. There are easier and harder ways to do this. We have more affinity for developing some habits than others. When you utilize this knowledge, it can make habit curation easier.

1. Use natural deadlines.

Have you ever tried to construct a “fake” (self-imposed) deadline to get yourself to do something? That rarely works very well.

In contrast, research shows that externally-imposed, short deadlines successfully influence our behavior.

This quirk of human nature can work against us when it leads us to prioritize relatively unimportant tasks with imminent deadlines ahead of more important work that has no or a far way deadline. However, we can also use this phenomenon to serve us. How?

Use natural deadlines to support your habits.

Two examples. 

  • I currently have monthly doctor’s appointments. I get labs drawn the day before each appointment. I don’t like having blood drawn, so often I will put this off. However, I want to review the results with the doctor. That motivates me to keep up the habit. The doctor also complimented me on how conscientious I am about it, so now I want to keep up my ‘star pupil’ status!
  • My trash company picks up our trash and recycling on Wednesday mornings. That motivates me to tidy up and fill up the bins on Tuesdays. If I don’t use that space in the bins each week, it’s permanently lost as I can only put out what fits in the bins. 

2. Observe when you already do the behavior you’re trying to make a habit.

My latest book, Stress-Free Productivity, is about using self-knowledge to personalize your productivity. Instead of adopting other people’s systems and suggestions, you can reverse-engineer your own. If there is a behavior you do sporadically, identify if there is any pattern to when you do it.

“When” could be related to time (e.g., day of the week, month of the year), or it could be related to circumstance (e.g., when your partner is out of town or when your kids go back to school after vacations).

If you already have a bit of a habit, you can strengthen it, including to built habits of doing behaviors you enjoy more. For example, I like listening to author Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast specifically on road trips. But, I don’t always think about doing this or downloading episodes ahead of time if I have poor service.

3. Observe your best windows of self-regulation.

Most of us have windows of time when we’re more focused and on-task than other times. My best windows are Mondays to Wednesdays, from when I wake up until about 1 pm.

Work with your natural rhythms rather than against them. If a habit is critically important, plan to do it within your best windows of self-regulation.

Too often, people plan to do their most important tasks when they’re already exhausted from other work. For example, you think you’ll work on your most important long-term project at 3 pm after you’ve finished all your urgent work to-do’s.

4. Use “resets.”

Research shows that when our existing habits are disrupted, we’re most apt to build new habits. You can engineer this through different types of “resets.” For example, periodically delete all your YouTube or podcast subscriptions, and see which ones you miss.

If you’re even more game, you can do the same with paid memberships, like Costco or Netflix. Periodically cancel all (or some) of them and try a habit reset.

What other ideas do you have for how you could “reset” your current habits and allow new ones to emerge in their place organically?

Why do so many men skip regular health checkups?

According to a national survey conducted in early May 2022 in the United States, one-third of men do not think they need annual health screenings.

Close to two-thirds of the individuals surveyed believe they are “naturally healthier than others in general.” Furthermore, almost two out of five of the participants shared that they often turn to social media for medical advice.

The Harris Poll conducted this online survey for Orlando Health in Orlando, FL. The market research and consulting firm interviewed 893 U.S. adult males aged 18 and older.

Dr. Thomas Kelley, family medicine specialist at Orlando Health Physician Associates, is certain that most of these men are deceiving themselves. He notes that “[i]t is statistically impossible for the majority of men to be healthier than the majority of men.”

According to Dr. Kelley: “Even if you think you’re healthy and you’re not experiencing any symptoms, there can be developing issues that often go unnoticed and can also be life-threatening if left unchecked [including] rising blood pressure that can be a ticking time bomb for a heart attack or stroke, as well as colon cancer, which is one of the most deadly yet preventable cancers that exist.”

The real picture

Although a substantial proportion of the men surveyed believe that they are healthier than most other men, the facts tell a different story.

As Dr. Kelley warned, the National Vital Statistics Reports say that heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death among men in the U.S.

And according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source (CDC):

  • 13.2% of men in the U.S. aged 18 and older are in “fair or poor” health
  • 14.1% of men aged 18 and older smoke cigarettes
  • 40.5% of men aged 20 and older have obesity
  • 51.9% of men aged 20 and older have high blood pressure and/ or were taking medicine for hypertension
  • men in the U.S. die an average of 5 years earlier than women.

Stop Splitting Yourself in Half: Seek Out Work-Life Boundaries, Not Balance

Early in my career, I learned to split myself in half. There was a “work Lindsay” and a “personal Lindsay,” and they were never meant to be in the same place at the same time. The underlying notion, rampant across the business world, is that it’s somehow weak to show any signs you’re a person. Better to turn off those personal matters, even if they’re as simple as needing to go home and cook dinner or as mundane as the consequences of spilling coffee on your blouse before a meeting. It all had to stay where it belonged: the personal side and the business side. I was supposed to be chasing the much-discussed work-life balance, constantly trying to force these two sides to be equal. I ended up ignoring my whole self as a result.

Then a transition point in my life changed my perspective. I was changing jobs, before I started Casted, and I’d just read a book that got me thinking about priorities: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. In the book, McKeown characterizes essentialism as “the relentless pursuit of less but better,” a disciplined approach that asks us to sort the “trivial many” from the “vital few” as we choose where we will focus our energy and effort. That perspective spoke to me — the answer wasn’t a transactional notion of hours at my desk or away from my desk — I needed to consciously identify what mattered most to me and take control of my time and attention.

I realized something crucial: No one was going to come to me and say “You should probably work less,” or “Don’t respond to your emails tonight.” Those nudges may happen more now in companies, but work will always fill the cup you give it. As I transitioned into the new job, I had an opportunity to try to put my new perspective into practice. My focus shifted away from the dichotomy of a work-life balance and toward the idea of boundaries around my priorities, my “vital few.”

As I kept working through my perspective on this, I experienced two more life-changing milestones. First, I started working with my executive coach, who helped me understand that business is human. The pursuit of a work-life balance had taken the humanity out of my work. She showed me how ridiculous it was to think your personal life wouldn’t impact your work life and vice versa. The second milestone was starting Casted and stepping into the role of CEO and co-founder. Those milestones led me to a realization: The pursuit of work-life balance is a myth. I seek out boundaries that preserve and nurture my whole self.

22 Family Adventures For The Bold

Sometimes you just want to go to the beach. Swim, lounge, nap, enjoy a cocktail at 4:59 p.m. It’s a relaxing vacation but, let’s be honest, not very memorable. It’s not the kind of time you’ll look back on later in life and say, that trip sure was something, wasn’t it? “Bucket list,” “epic,” “once in a lifetime” — these are the descriptors for a different type of vacation. One that requires planning and prep. One that requires patience and some fortitude. An experience that becomes core to the family lore — bringing everyone together with repeated retellings, long after we’ve settled back into our routines at home.

This list is your launching pad: 22 family-friendly adventures for the bold. The trips all have been experienced by the editors and adventurous friends of the editors of Fatherly, who can vouch that they’re the kind of adventure you’ll talk about for years to come. These are all suggested with a big caveat: Don’t jump into anything that isn’t labeled “Easy” if you’re new to the activity. Families with young children (under 6) should probably stick to Easy or Moderate. And don’t plan a trip based solely on the write-ups below. Planning is part of the fun. Get inspired, do some research, and then call a park ranger (you will find no more helpful person to give a kind but firm real talk). The world awaits.

Boating

Motor to a private island, paddle down the Mississippi, rip through serious whitewater, and packraft through a mountain pass.

Reserve Your Own Island In The Adirondacks

Level: Easy

Location: Upstate New York

At roughly 6 million acres, Adirondack Park could encircle the Everglades, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon and still have tons of room to spare. Designated as a conservation area in 1892, the Adirondacks are a unique mix of private and public land, half of which is constitutionally protected as “forever wild.” For a gentle introduction to the rugged splendor of this region, you can’t beat island camping on the Saranac Chain of Lakes, which offer the feel of a wilderness escape that’s also just a short paddle and drive from the historic village of Saranac Lake.

There are 87 campsites scattered across the islands and shoreline of Lower and Middle Saranac Lakes — and all of them are reachable only by boat. Most campsites have a rustic outhouse and a stone fire pit, and that’s it. Because the camps are set far apart from one another — and because there’s a prevailing culture of responsible, respectful use — you won’t see other tents or necessarily even hear other campers. By day, paddle to one of the micro islands for a picnic lunch in the shade and swim off the great granite boulder piles. By night, cook over an open fire and listen to the loons.

Paddle Through Canyonlands National Park On The Green River

Level: Moderate

Location: Utah

Before they converge to form Utah’s wildest whitewater, the Green and Colorado Rivers meander gently toward one another for some 100 miles, through vast desert and high-walled canyons. Stillwater Canyon (on the Green River) begins roughly at the boundary of the Canyonlands National Park, and continues for 52 miles through some of its remotest stretches, with otherworldly excursions to rock formations like the Doll House and the Maze, and opportunities to view petroglyphs and sacred sites of the Ancestral Puebloan people. 

Because it’s a tough, steep drive down to the launch point at Mineral Bottom, Stillwater Canyon tends to be quieter and less crowded than the Colorado — and as its name suggests, you can expect four to six days of mellow flatwater paddling. Canoes must take out at Spanish Bottom, at the top of Cataract Canyon, where the Class II-V rapids begin.

With no designated campsites, you’ll have to scout them out — in high water in early summer, they may be fewer and farther between. In low water in September and October, sandbars expand camping options, but paddlers may encounter short rocky stretches and minor rapids.

Tackle The Whitewater In The Nation’s Newest National Park

Level: Hard

Location: West Virginia

New River Gorge was the hidden secret of whitewater enthusiasts, Appalachian adventurers, and birders for decades. No longer. In 2020, New River Gorge National Park told a nation what a sizable group of outdoors enthusiasts already knew — one of the most pristine, rocking places in America, full of roaring rivers, mountain biking, hiking, pristine woods, and some gnarly BASE jumping off the world’s longest single-span bridge was everyone’s for the taking.

You have all sorts of Whitewater here and can choose by experience and how adrenal you want your trip to be — whether the more mild upper New River (Class I-III) or the bumpier, heart-pumping lower New River (Class II-IV). If you’re experienced and ready for one of the best runs of whitewater anywhere, the upper Gauley River is for you. Just make sure you’re in shape and ready for one wild ride.

Hike Up, Float Down The Delaware River

Level: All In!

Location: Delaware

Hike in, camp, float out. There’s no more romantic way to adventure — and when you pick a gentle river like the Delaware and a hilly but entirely surmountable (and vista-full) hike like the Delaware Water Gap via Appalachian Trail, you can bring the kids along. The best part: It’s a boating adventure that doesn’t need someone to pick you up. You just float back to where you began.

The Hike

Start here: Kittatinny Point. Take the Appalachian Trail for 4.8 miles north. Go to: Sunfish Pond to the Worthington State Forest Campground on the Delaware River along the Garvey Spring Trail (1 mile). Float: Along the Delaware River back to Kittatinny Point.

Camp Under The Stars In The Florida Keys

Level: All In! 

Location: Florida 

Between the Everglades National Park and the curved arm of the Florida Keys are thousands of islands — many of which are privately owned, and many of which fall within the boundaries of state and national parks. From remote micro-keys to the popular spoil islands of the Intercoastal Waterway, there are both reservable campsites (with some amenities) and rugged backcountry sites that take skill and determination to reach. 

The water trails winding through this scattered archipelago — including the Ten Thousand Island Wilderness Refuge and the mangrove forests of Everglades National Park — offer abundant opportunities to see marine wildlife, including dolphins, manatees, and sharks. But permits, careful planning, and prior experience are required. 

More accessible are the Spoil Islands of Indian Lagoon (reachable only by boat, but no reservations necessary). And for families looking for a remote camping adventure without all the paddling, book the ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park, 60 miles off the coast: Snorkel crystal-clear waters by day and sleep under the clear glow of the Milky Way at night.

Click Read More for adventures all across the country.

Satya Nadella is building the future

LISTEN HERE

Hey WorkLifers, it’s Adam Grant. Welcome back to Taken for Granted, my podcast with the TED Audio Collective. I’m an organizational psychologist. My job is to think again about how we work, lead, and live. Today, my guest is Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft–where he’s worked since 1992. He’s widely admired for transforming the culture, building the cloud business, and steering a 700% gain in shares. His approval rating on Glassdoor is nearly perfect, and this conversation will give you a sense of why: he exudes care, curiosity, and humility. He’s also a big fan of cricket and poetry. And as a computer scientist, of course he loves data–and Microsoft has gathered quite a bit on the future of work. So enjoy.

[00:00:54]:
There was a time and I’m not going to locate it, but you can, when Microsoft was externally known [00:01:00] for a lot of internal competition, forced rankings that pitted people against each other were pretty popular and you came in and challenged that dynamic and said, look, we want to collaborate. We want to be one Microsoft.

[00:01:09] Adam Grant:
Can you help us understand how you made that change? 

[00:01:13] Satya Nadella: 
Being essentially the first non founder CEO, I felt the real need to, in some sense, refound the company or borrowing the phrase that Reid Hoffman users, which I like a lot, because from time to time, companies need that moment where you need to reground yourself and starting with. The sense of purpose and mission, like why do we exist? And if we sort of disappeared with anybody, miss us to remind, because I think every one of us who work in any company need that anchoring in order to then go on to make all the decisions and work we do. And then the other one was to really put forth the culture that we aspire to.

[00:01:52] Satya Nadella: 
And that’s where I bought it from Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset. Uh, which has been a godsend to us because, you know, it’s really helped us go from this, know it all to learn it alls. And that mission and culture has given us, perhaps Adam, more of that permission to look inwards, look to what systems, processes, behaviors, make us successful in the first place and reinforce them. And then the same thing, what systems, processes, and behaviors make us sort of not successful. And then. 

[00:02:25] Adam Grant: 
So, is this the future? Are we in it right now? Or what is it coming? 

[00:02:30] Satya Nadella: 
You know, we definitely are in it and it is going to evolve. I think our expectations of what to read and how we work have gone through a real structural shift, but I think we’re still figuring it out in terms of this next phase, before long-term trends truly step up.

How Does a Mortgage Work?

WHAT IS A MORTGAGE?

A mortgage is a type of loan specifically used to purchase a piece of property such as a primary home, a second home, rental, condo, or apartment. A mortgage is an agreement between you and a lender, such as a bank or credit union, that gives them the right to reclaim the property if you fail to make the payments as agreed. The property is used as collateral to secure the loan; you won’t technically own the property outright until the mortgage has been paid in full. 

A mortgage comes with terms and conditions related to the principal (the amount you borrowed), fees, interest rate, a repayment period (when it’s paid in full), and a payment schedule that tells you what the monthly payment is and when it’s due. 

HOW DO I QUALIFY FOR A MORTGAGE AND WHAT IS INVOLVED? 

Qualifying for a mortgage starts with finding a lender willing to offer you a loan based on your specific financial profile. You can apply directly with a lender or you can work with a mortgage broker, who will help you find a lender. The broker’s job is to compare lenders and find loan terms that work for you. They’ll also handle all the documents, verify your income, pull your credit score, and negotiate terms with the lender. 

Typically, the lender will pre-qualify you for a mortgage that is worth a certain amount. Pre-qualification is a hypothetical: if you applied for a home loan, this is what we’d be able to offer you. You’ll need to provide some basic information about income, expenses, and debts, and possibly consent to a credit pull. 

Getting approved is more involved. Most lenders will consider your credit score, which also partially determines the type of mortgage available to you. The higher your credit score, the better the terms regarding interest, loan principal amount, and other loan features. A low credit score might mean you don’t qualify for a mortgage with certain lenders. 

Your loan officer will let you know what documents are needed, but they’ll likely ask for your recent tax documents (W-2s and returns from recent years), recent paystubs, and recent bank statements.

WHAT IS A DOWN PAYMENT? 

A down payment is the amount you contribute to the purchase of a home from your own funds. The bank loans you the balance remaining after your down payment to purchase the property. For example, if you purchased a $200,000 home with a $40,000 down payment, you’d need a $160,000 mortgage to complete the sale. You’d own 20% equity in the property, and the lender would own 80%. 

Generally, the more you can pay upfront, the better. Larger down payments typically mean better terms. The less equity the bank has in your home, the lower the risk is to them, and the better the terms for you, including a more favorable interest rate. A larger investment also means a smaller mortgage and a smaller monthly mortgage payment. 

However, it’s important not to sacrifice your financial security by stretching too thin for a down payment you can’t afford. You’ll want to seriously consider your budget before deciding on the amount of your down payment. Make sure you have enough in reserve for emergencies, home repairs, and other financial surprises. 

DIFFERENT TYPES OF MORTGAGES

CONVENTIONAL MORTGAGES

Lenders issue conventional mortgages to consumers with good-to-great credit (typically a 620 or higher FICO score) who can afford a substantial down payment. These mortgages aren’t backed by the federal government. If you put down less than 20% of the sale price as a down payment, you may be required to carry private mortgage insurance (PMI). Also, your debt-to-income ratio can’t be over 43% for most loan programs, though some allow as high as 50%. 

GOVERNMENT-INSURED MORTGAGES

These three government-backed loans are an option for certain homebuyers with lower credit scores and not much savings for a down payment:

FHA LOANS

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) backs loans, typically for borrowers with lower credit scores. If you have a FICO score of 580 or higher, you can secure 96.5% funding. You’ll need to provide the other 3.5% as a down payment. For a lower FICO score (as low as 500) you can still get 90% funding with a 10% down payment. 

FHA loans also require mortgage insurance, regardless of your down payment amount, but it functions differently from PMI. These loans include two mortgage insurance costs. One is called Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium, an upfront fee of 1.75% of the loan amount, which you can roll into your loan amount or pay during closing. The other is called Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP), a monthly premium, typically between 0.45% and 1.05% of the loan amount. You can’t get rid of the monthly premium unless you refinance into a different loan type. 

VA LOANS 

VA loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, so they’re limited to members of the U.S. military and their families. Typically, a VA loan doesn’t require a down payment, PMI, or minimum credit score.

USDA LOANS 

Backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA loans are intended for low-to-moderate income families in rural areas. The property you’re purchasing needs to be located in an eligible rural area as defined by the USDA. Depending on your income level, you may or may not need to provide a down payment. You will have to pay an upfront fee of 1% of the loan value (can be rolled into the loan), as well as an annual fee, which is determined by loan amount, income level, and other factors.

FIXED-RATE VERSUS ADJUSTABLE LOANS

Mortgages come with different time-frame terms and interest rates. 

  • Fixed-rate loans lock you into the same interest rate for the life of the loan. Typically, fixed-rate mortgages are for 15 or 30 years, but other term lengths may be available (up to 30 years). These loans provide consistency for budget planning. 
  • Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) come with variable interest rates, typically tied to market conditions. For the first few years, the rate is usually fixed and then begins regularly adjusting, sometimes as frequently as every six months. The interest rate may be lower than a fixed-rate mortgage during the “fixed” portion, but it can spike over time and become unaffordable. If you don’t plan to sell or refinance in the near future, an ARM is riskier than a fixed-rate mortgage. 
  • Interest-only mortgages let you pay only toward the interest for a certain period of time, usually five years. After that period, the payments increase as you start paying toward the principal. You might choose this option if you plan on selling or refinance quickly, or if your income will increase before the payments do. 
  • Balloon mortgages behave as a typical conventional 30-year mortgage does for 5-10 years, and then the remaining balance comes due all at once. It’s another product that’s best if you plan to sell or refinance before the big payment comes due. 

DO I NEED PRIVATE MORTGAGE INSURANCE? 

You’ll likely need private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you take a conventional mortgage and can’t provide a down payment of at least 20% of the home’s purchase price. PMI provides extra protection to the lender if you default on the mortgage. When a lender owns more than 80% of the equity in a property, there’s an increased risk to them that they may not be able to fully recoup the original loan amount if the house is foreclosed and re-sold.

In the event of defaulting, the lender will want to re-sell the property to recoup the loan amount – but home values can be volatile. So, until you have paid down the balance below 80% of the original sale price, you’ll have to pay this added insurance cost.

Sleep quality may decline as global temperatures rise

Reduced sleep quality affects human mental health and cognitive functioning. 

Some retrospective, self-report studies suggest that sleep quality reduces during warm weather. However, they may lack reliability due to their basis on memory instead of objective measures. 

As a result, whether outside temperatures affect sleep quality remains unknown. 

Recently, researchers analyzed a global sample of sleep data from sleep-tracking wristbands. 

They found that increased outdoor temperatures are linked to lower sleep duration.

“Studies from multiple disciplines have repeatedly shown that poor sleep is implicated in a range of negative health outcomes, from reduced immune function to worsened cardiovascular outcomes to poorer mental health,” said Marshall Burke, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University, who’s not involved in the study. 

“Poor sleep also erodes performance at work and at school. The fact that temperature effects are so widespread and that hot nighttime temperatures will become increasingly common in coming decades, make these findings very important,” Prof. Burke told Medical News Today

The study was published in One Earth

Sleep quality and temperatures

The researchers examined 10 billion sleep observations for their study, comprising over 7 million repeated daily sleep records from 47,628 adults across 68 countries on every continent, excluding Antarctica. These observations included nighttime sleep duration and sleep timing: sleep onset, midsleep, and offset. 

The researchers then compared this data with geolocated meteorological and climate data. 

They found that increases in nighttime temperature reduce sleep duration regardless of location and that effects intensify as temperature increases.

They noted that the probability of sleeping less than 7 hours increases gradually up to 10°C, and when the temperatures exceed 10°C, the chance of reduced sleep increases at an elevated rate.

Nighttime temperatures higher than 25°C were linked to 14 minutes less sleep than those sleeping at temperatures below 10°C. 

Certain demographics were more affected than others. A one degree Celcius increase in minimum temperature affected the elderly twice as much as other groups. 

Those living in poorer countries were almost three times more affected than those in wealthier countries, and women were significantly more affected than men. 

They further found that people do not adapt to sleeping in warmer temperatures meaning that sleep quality is generally poorer in warmer climates than in cooler ones.

5 Powerful Types Of Trust Every Relationship Needs If You Want It To Last

A happy marriage rests on unquestioned trust.

If you want a fulfilling marriage, you must know how to create this kind of trust.

Most couples think of trust exclusively in terms of being sexually faithful, which is essential, but there’s more to the definition of trust than just cheating.

Strong healthy marriages reveal five specific kinds of trust husbands and wives give one another. So, we suggest you go over the following list and check which kinds of trust you bring (or do not bring) into your marriage. Ask your spouse to do the same and share your results. This is an excellent way to clarify where your trust is solid and where it needs work.

1. Trust that you will both be sexually faithful.

Without sexual fidelity marriage becomes unworkable. Partners can recover from cheating or an affair but need professional help to do it. Keep your commitment to remain sexually faithful. If you’re unhappy in your marriage, get counseling and not a part-time lover.

2. Trust that you will not harm, reject or control one another.

rust thrives in an atmosphere of safety and security. Hurting one another, either physically or verbally, and then rejecting one another, creates fear which undermines trust. With control comes mistrust so make sure your love is not filled with a lot of possessive clinging which pushes your partner away.

3. Trust that you love one another, without ulterior motives.

You and your spouse need to feel sure you’re loved for yourself and not for some ulterior motive. That includes your looks, your money, your family, and your partner needs someone to feel superior to or be a buffer against being alone and lonely.

How to Regulate Anxiety

We might call the times we live in, ‘”The Second Age of Anxiety.” 

Surveys and clinical data indicate the highest levels of anxiety since the post-war publication of W. H. Auden’s legendary poem, when the shadow of nuclear holocaust loomed.

Young people are especially afflicted in this second coming of the Age of Anxiety, faced with uncertain futures and threats permeating their phones and their schools. Men are by no means beyond the grip of noxious worry, but women suffer more disorders, with a wider range of worries about the well-being of others.

Now more than ever we need to understand the function of anxiety and how to reduce its negative effects, while enhancing its positive aspects. Yes, anxiety does have positive effects.

The First Signal

Anxiety is the first signal of the mammalian alarm system. In all animals it signals a possibility of harm, deprivation, or sexual failure. In social animals, it also signals possible abandonment or isolation. In humans, it also signals loss of status or esteem. 

Types of Anxiety

Temperamental: We’re born with an emotional tone that includes a certain propensity to anxiety.

Situational: Test-taking, driving, public speaking, performance, first dates.

Symptomatic of something else: Emotional disorder, stress, depletion of physical resources (tired, hungry, ill).

Beneficial Anxiety

In small doses, anxiety is a vital feeling. Without it, we’re ill-prepared for the important tasks of life. We’d be killed crossing the street.

Actual or anticipated change in the environment, memory, or imagination stimulates anxiety. Anxiety tells us to pay attention—something bad might happen. It shuts out most information to keep us focused on the pending change. Anxiety about accidentally starting a fire gets us to stop thinking about what we’ll have for lunch, and focus on prevention—checking the gas, turning off the iron, servicing the furnace.

Among anxiety’s beneficial signals are those that tell us to improve:

Self-acceptance—when we’re too self-critical

Self-care—when we need to sleep, eat-well, exercise, practice self-compassion

Relationships—when they need attention and repair.

Problem Anxiety

We lose the benefits of anxiety when we construe it as a stop signal, rather than a caution signal. When we interpret anxiety as a red light, rather than a yellow light, we undermine its motivation to improve our health, well-being, safety, and relationships.

In problem anxiety, all signals mean that something bad will happen, and we’ll be unable to cope with it, or the cost of coping will be too great.

Characteristics of Problem Anxiety

Scanning—taking in lots of superficial information, making focus more difficult, increasing error rates

Thought-racing—thoughts that occur rapidly bypass the brain’s reality-testing

Thought-looping—thinking the same things over and over

Self-consciousness—I might be judged

Vigilance— looking for negatives; judging others.

Anxious people tend to be controlling, but not with malicious intent or desire to dominate. They try hard to avoid feeling “out of control” by keeping the environment from stimulating anxiety. Never mind that people hate to feel controlled, which means continual frustration. Attempts to regulate emotions by controlling the environment increase vigilance and worsen anxiety.

Anxiety vs. Fear

Had a Sleepless Night? You Are Not Alone

The Insomnia Diaries: Year Three

29th June

Sleep statistics: 0 hours, 0 minutes: a ‘white night’ (or nuit blanche, as they call it in France)

Eleven forty-seven PM. A door slams as the neighbour’s teenage son comes home from the pub. An hour later, the last Tube rumbles past and I thump my pillow over to find a cool spot. I refuse to open the window because of my fear of hearing the first bird of morning, confirmation that the next day is about to start and I have failed, yet again. Failed. In my quest to sleep, which one would think is a basic human right.

But I am not a POW whose captors breach the Geneva convention. No-one has stolen my sleep from me. I am not wired up to electrodes, a neon light is not shining in my face all night long. I have black-out blinds, and a king-size bed, all to myself. My enemy is my brain, and a body that has forgotten how to shut down.

I turn over again, pulling the duvet with me until it twists up like a chewed stick of Wrigley’s. Where shall I put my thoughts now? I’m too exhausted to read: the words dance in front of my eyes, and it’s physically tiring even holding up the book. Some nights I write novels in my head, with whole character arcs. But I’m too tired to put pen to paper.

Tonight, I switch on the radio station TalkSport, where there is an early-hours show featuring two acerbic DJs called ‘The Two Mikes’. I have no idea why I listen to this, but something about their banter about things so irrelevant to my own life is comforting and nixes the guilt I feel about ‘abandoning’ my family, friends, and work.

Now it’s 03.56: Just me, and the red numbers on my alarm clock. I see some grey light poking under the blinds. Planes start circling overhead. The milkman delivers his cargo (who still gets milk delivered in this day and age?). And now, the kicker: the birds start the dawn chorus that signals the start of another interminable day. 

People the world over salute the sun, and I absolutely hate it.

What to Do After Losing Your Job

It’s a terrible way to feel, but there’s always something you can do. Creating a plan and taking real action is the best way to combat that negative feeling and put yourself in a position to weather the storm. If you ever find yourself facing an unexpected unemployment, consider the following ten steps to be your unemployment checklist. 

DECIDE BETWEEN RESIGNATION AND TERMINATION 

How the job ends matters. If you find yourself able to choose between voluntarily resigning or being fired, think carefully before choosing. In certain instances if a work situation is untenable and the writing is on the wall, you may consider resigning in order to avoid the potential stigma of having been fired. Sometimes an employer may inform you that you are being fired and then offer to let you quit if you’d prefer. It seems like a kind gesture, but usually it’s nothing of the sort. 

Voluntarily resigning may make future job interviews less tricky, but by doing so you also forfeit your right to unemployment benefits. Which is more valuable to you – the unemployment check or the job reference? Be clear on what you’re agreeing to and what that impact is going to look like. In the immediate aftermath of learning that you’ve lost your job, you may make a snap decision based on the high emotion of the moment. Take a little time before deciding. It makes a big difference. 

FILE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT

Presuming you haven’t resigned or been fired for cause (meaning that you were fired for engaging in an illegal or unethical behavior), you’re likely eligible for unemployment benefits. The amount of your benefits will vary depending on your prior income and the process for application is different in every state. So go to your state’s unemployment office website and begin that process immediately. The sooner you apply, the shorter you’ll have to go without at least some income. 

CONTACT YOUR CREDITORS

Even with unemployment benefits, your money is going to be extremely tight until you find a new job. And when you’re in a financial crisis, one of the first expenses to suffer is going to be your creditor payments. 

Get out ahead of that inevitable issue by contacting your creditors directly to let them know about the situation. Many creditors offer short-term hardship programs that could significantly reduce your payments for six or 12 months. Some may even let you miss a set number of payments. (It’s important to note, however, that in most of these hardship programs interest continues to accrue, meaning you won’t fall behind, but your balance may increase.) 

See what your creditors can offer you. Some won’t be able to do anything for you, at which point you’ll have to weigh the cost of keeping your accounts current against the more important cost of maintaining your household. But at the very least, you need to pick up the phone and see what’s possible. 

MAKE A DECISION ON HEALTH INSURANCE

Maintaining your health insurance coverage through COBRA can be expensive, but dealing with a medical emergency while uninsured can be even more costly. You need to decide what you’re going to do about health insurance while you’re laid off. If you have the ability to be added to a spouse’s insurance plan, begin that process right away. 

MAKE AN HONEST ASSESSMENT OF YOUR FINANCES 

How much is unemployment paying you? How much do you have in savings? What are your living expenses? Where can you cut back? 

You’re not going to be able to wing it at this point, so it’s important to create a detailed list of your available funds and ongoing financial responsibilities. You may also want to sort your expenses into different categories based on priority. 

CREATE YOUR UNEMPLOYMENT BUDGET 

Once you have the raw numbers it’s time to create a spending plan to see you through your unemployment. Bear in mind, your finances may be especially irregular during this time, so you might consider using short-term, week-to-week budgets, especially if your unemployment checks arrive weekly. 

Understand what elements of your budget are optional and which are not, and try to keep your expenses as basic and necessary as possible. 

PREPARE YOURSELF TO BECOME A JOB APPLICANT 

Being a good job applicant has never been as simple as just having the required skills and experience. As a job applicant you are essentially a product that needs to be sold. And just as cautious consumers do a lot of research before making a purchase, so too do employers research their applicants before making a hiring decision. 

Becoming a desirable job applicant begins with a well-constructed resume, but it goes much further. Consider your online presence. We’d like to imagine that our social media accounts are a part of our civilian life, so to speak, and shouldn’t have any bearing on our job prospects, but that’s simply not the case. If it’s online, it’s more than likely public, and you have to assume that the things you post on social media could very well be viewed by someone in charge of evaluating you for a job. 

So think about how you present yourself online. Don’t go on Facebook and badmouth the company that let you go. Don’t go on Twitter and say things – even as a joke – that a reputable company wouldn’t want to be associated with. If you need to clean up your social accounts, now’s the time. 

GO TO WORK FINDING A NEW JOB

When you’re unemployed, your job becomes finding a new job. It’s time-consuming and often very defeating, but you need to treat your job hunt like the work that it is. Be diligent. Put in the hours. Set aside a specific portion of the day for job hunting tasks and be consistent. If you mirror your job hunting hours with your previous working hours, it can help you to maintain a schedule and avoid the kind of lengthy periods of inactivity that can lead to anxiety or depression. 

DON’T NEGLECT YOUR HEALTH, HOBBIES, AND RELATIONSHIPS

Just because your budget needs to tighten up doesn’t mean that no need to stop living your life. People in the midst of unemployment very often begin to isolate themselves because they’re too ashamed to be around friends and loved ones. Joblessness also has a tendency to lead people to stop taking the time and effort to exercise and maintain their hobbies and interests. 

Adding additional layers of misery to an already difficult situation isn’t going to improve anything. Be sure to stay active during a layoff. Spend the necessary time hunting for a new job, but once those tasks are over, let them go and focus on personally fulfilling ways to spend your time. Stay physically and mentally fit. Continue interacting with friends and family. Don’t forget to continue being you

FOCUS ONLY ON THE THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL 

Finally, during the course of your unemployment, there will be things you can control and things you cannot. It’s natural to worry about things that are out of our control, but try to focus your time and energy on the things you can actually do to actively improve your situation. Let go of everything else. Eventually, with a lot of hard work and determination, you’ll make it through to the other side. But until then, stay positive and stick to the plan.

How to Get an Emergency Loan if You Have Bad Credit

Not only is the cost a source of stress, but so is the emergency itself. It’s normal to experience a double dose of anxiety, fear, and worry in these situations. 

Other common debt triggers include medical emergencies, divorce or separation, job loss or reduction, major home repairs after a natural disaster, or stepping in to help another family member. 

Many families don’t have wiggle room in their budget to handle sudden, unexpected costs, and recent inflation has made paying bills that much harder. Nearly two-thirds of American families live paycheck-to-paycheck, according to a 2022 LendingClub report. Even folks who earn six figures are struggling to cover costs, depending on where they live, with 48% living paycheck-to-paycheck. 

If you have bad credit, it’s even tougher to find a lower-interest personal loan (also called an installment loan). Poor credit compounds the situation because it reduces your options. Here’s what to know about emergency personal loan products if you have bad credit. 

HOW DOES YOUR CREDIT SCORE AFFECT EMERGENCY LOAN TERMS? 

The lower your credit score, the more limited your options are for a favorable loan. A poor credit score may lead to a higher interest rate, higher fees, or a low loan amount—or you might not qualify for a loan at all. Traditional banks and credit unions use your credit score as one component to calculate your loan terms. 

However, these institutions typically don’t provide small personal loans ($3,000 and under). You’re probably going to be limited to payday loans, or an online lender such as Upstart, Best Egg, or Avant. 

Because some of these online lenders specialize in serving borrowers with poor credit, a low credit score may not be a barrier. These alternative lenders may weigh evidence of satisfactory income more heavily than credit score. However, you won’t have access to low interest rates with a low credit score – those are reserved for consumers with stellar scores. 

WHAT RISKS SHOULD I BE AWARE OF WITH EMERGENCY PERSONAL LOANS?

Try to avoid payday loans (or fast cash loans) whenever possible. These lenders charge high interest rates and may require you to pay back the loan in full within 14 days or by the end of the month, which can be difficult for someone facing a financial emergency. 

Beware of companies offering guaranteed loans for an upfront fee. These loans may be scams because no one can guarantee you’ll receive a loan. Legitimate lenders won’t ask for an upfront fee to guarantee a loan.

Research lenders and look for online reviews. Make sure you understand the terms being offered. Interest rates and fees on small, personal loans tend to be high, even from legitimate online lenders, especially on loans for people with poor credit. Rates will usually be higher than the lender’s advertised rate, which is almost always reserved for those with pristine credit.

LESS RISKY ALTERNATIVES TO AN EMERGENCY LOAN

Savings. If you have savings to dip into, that’s the best way to avoid the high-interest trap of an emergency loan. Of course, many people with a financial emergency don’t have adequate savings to cover it. If you don’t, consider whether you could borrow from family or friends or ask for an advance on your paycheck. 

Credit card. Believe it or not, putting an unexpected expense on a credit card, even one with a high APR, is usually a better bet than taking an emergency loan from a payday or online lender. If your card doesn’t have a sufficient credit limit or you don’t have a credit card, work on building credit and opening a card so you have a working alternative before an emergency pops up.

Retirement savings. If you have a 401(k) or IRA, you may be able to borrow against the balance in the account. The particulars of the loan or withdrawal will depend on the rules of the retirement savings account you’re trying to borrow against. If you’re making an early withdrawal from an IRA, you should expect to pay a fee (typically 10%). If you’re taking out a loan against your 401(k) you may be barred from making further contributions until the loan is repaid. Borrowing against your retirement comes with risks, so make sure you understand what’s at stake before borrowing. 

Payday alternative loan. If you belong to a credit union that offers payday alternative loans (PALs), you might be able to qualify. They’re a much more affordable option to payday loans or online lenders. If you aren’t a member of a credit union that offers these types of loans, ask about eligibility requirements for membership. PALs come in small amounts ($1,000 and below), interest rates are capped at 28%, and they allow repayment in one to six monthly installments. 

WHERE CAN I GET AN EMERGENCY PERSONAL LOAN? 

If you have no alternative but to turn to a payday or online lender, MMI recommends exploring the online lender option first. It’s a better option than risking a debt-trap cycle with a payday lender. Three online lenders that are well-reviewed are Upstart, Best Egg, and SeedFi. 

If cash is so tight that an unexpected emergency can throw your finances into total disarray, it’s time to talk to an expert. The debt and budget experts at MMI can help you evaluate your budget and create a plan to shed debt, trim your spending, and start saving for rainy days. We’re here to help with confidential counseling.

The Secret to Being More Charming (Without Being Obnoxious)

While captivating to watch, the display can induce jealously because it can seem like it’s an innate talent that a person either has or doesn’t possess.

But that’s not the case. Anyone can learn how to be charming. And when wielded well, charm is not the bastion of other people and the goal is not something other-worldly. In fact, the end result is actually pretty basic and applies to every relationship: to make someone feel good.

“You make the other person feel understood, valued, and loved,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of The How of Happiness. “It feels very obvious but it’s a very powerful idea.”

While charm is certainly a skill and might come easier to some — i.e. the extroverted — it doesn’t require being well-read or witty. True charm is about being present and interested in what another person has to say. Does it require effort? Like anything with a payoff, it does. But the good news is that there’s nothing definite that has to be done, although the following tips can help.

Take Your Listening Up a Few Notches 

Listening is about giving someone focus, but it has to be more than smiling and nodding your head. Silence can come off as a lack of interest or even create discomfort. What you want to do is respond to what’s being said and do it quickly. Research has shown that people feel more connected when that happens. Lyubomirsky adds that you can even overlap your words with the other person. Rather than being rude, it’s a kind of trading-off and friendly banter.

At the most basic level, you want to show genuine curiosity and that comes from asking them things. First, you get facts, but then you go into the more detailed stuff, like “What got you into baking?” or “What does it feel like to bulldoze a house?” The underlying message  is, “Please tell me more.”

“We’re swayed by someone paying attention,” says Zoe Chance, assistant professor of marketing at Yale School of Management and author of Influence is Your Superpower. “We like people who ask questions and we really like people who ask follow-up questions.”

Use the Person’s Name

It sounds too simple, right? But our brains get activated by it and it’s a very charming move. It’s the reason why hearing it can wake us up or how we can detect it during a loud party, Chance says. Importantly, it also shows that you’re paying attention.

Give Compliments

And all they have to be is small. Compliments convey belonging and respect. “They say, ‘I see you, and I like something about you.’ Feeling accepted like that is really important to people’s sense of self,” says Vanessa Bohns, associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University, author of You Have More Influence Than You Think, and researcher on the topic. 

But people don’t usually give them, which is why it’s all the more charming that you do. People underestimate their impact and there’s the awkwardness or perceived awkwardness. We think the other person will focus on our phrasing or what we decided to compliment, and of course, we don’t want to be offensive or make anyone feel objectified, but for the most part, it’s not a worry.

“They just hear something nice about themselves and that feels really good,” she says.

But Be Ready to Adjust

Being charming requires effort but you also need to know when it’s time to quit. Not all gym days are 10s. The same goes for conversations. You might have finally gotten someone to talk by asking about their favorite vacation spot, but you still find the person boring. It’s all right to politely remove yourself, but the thing about charm is while the interaction may have done little for you, the other person walks away feeling, “Cool guy.” There’s little downside to putting in a couple of minutes, of that, because you end up bolstering relationships and becoming well-regarded, even popular. “Charming people benefit,” Lyubomirsky says.

Why Acupuncture Is Going Mainstream in Medicine

As a pain management specialist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., he didn’t anticipate leaving behind the short-term use of opioids altogether, since they work so well for post-surgical pain. But he wanted to recommend a remedy that was safer and still effective.

That turned out to be acupuncture.

“Like any treatment, acupuncture doesn’t work for everyone, but the majority of my patients who have tried it have found relief,” he says. “When I started looking into studies, I discovered how much evidence there was behind this treatment, and that made me feel comfortable suggesting it as an alternative or a complement to pain medication and other treatments.”

That blend of anecdotal success, research-backed results, and growing level of openness from the medical community are all driving the popularity of acupuncture as a therapy. According to a 2021 World Health Organization report, acupuncture is the most widely used traditional medicine practice globally, and it’s gaining traction in the U.S. In 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services began covering acupuncture for the first time for chronic low back pain.

Although scientists don’t yet understand all the nuances of how it works, research indicates it can have a significant effect on certain conditions, and it shows promise for others.

What is acupuncture?

The goal of acupuncture is the same now as it was thousands of years ago when it was first developed in China: restoring balance to the body, says Kevin Menard, a sports medicine acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner in Sag Harbor, New York.

The practice is based on how energy, or qi, flows through the body along a series of channels called meridians—similar to the way nerves and vessels carry messages and blood throughout every system.

“According to Chinese medicine theory, each meridian is related to a specific organ, and placing thin needles at certain points along these meridians can effect certain changes in the body to restore homeostasis,” says Menard. The needles aren’t the type you’d use to draw blood; they’re very thin and flexible, almost like bits of wire.

Placement along the meridians is believed to cause reactions like sending more blood or lymphatic fluid to specific organs or allowing muscles to release in a way that reduces tension on joints and bones. The needles may also stimulate nerves and tweak nervous system regulation to result in a relaxation response, which relieves pain, Mikhael says.

Acupuncture is also thought to stimulate the immune system and control inflammation, Menard says, two effects that can bring benefits throughout the body. Depending on the condition or injury, relief might happen with just one treatment, but it usually takes a series of sessions, Menard says, especially if an issue is complex or chronic.

What the research says

Research on acupuncture has been extensive, and so far, robust evidence supports its effectiveness for some, but not all, conditions. According to one analysis published in February 2022 in the BMJ that analyzed more than 2,000 scientific reviews of acupuncture therapies, the science is strongest behind acupuncture’s efficacy for post-stroke aphasia; neck, shoulder, and muscle pain; fibromyalgia pain; lactation issues after delivery; lower back pain; vascular dementia symptoms; and allergy symptoms.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) finds that acupuncture for pain relief tends to have the most evidence, especially for conditions that have become chronic like osteoarthritis and lower back pain, as well as tension headaches. A review of 11 clinical trials also suggests that acupuncture may help with symptoms associated with cancer treatment, the NIH notes.

That’s been a booming area of interest for the field, says Sarah Weaver, an acupuncturist and massage therapist at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Minnesota, which focuses on integrative health professions, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. For cancer patients, sessions there can focus on reducing nausea, numbness, and tingling (called neuropathy), brain fog, low appetite, acute and chronic pain, and mood challenges that come with cancer care.

“Often, people with cancer want to add complementary treatment that doesn’t affect their chemotherapy or radiation, and that’s where an option like acupuncture can be helpful,” she says. “It’s the reason more healthcare systems are bringing this treatment into their integrative care options.”

What’s next in the field

Acupuncture is far from a proven and accepted therapy for most conditions—even for the ones that show promise. That’s in part because the studies that support it are sometimes not high quality, and the field lacks standardized protocols that would better allow it to be scientifically evaluated, the recent WHO report finds.

For instance, one 2016 research review analyzed studies looking at acupuncture for substance abuse and addiction. Among the 83 research articles included in the review, the researchers found substantial variations in study quality, acupuncture frequency, how long needles were left in the body during treatment, which points along the meridians were used, and other potentially important factors. That made it difficult to evaluate how effective the acupuncture really was. The field also lacks clear terminology and universally accepted agreement about the location of acupuncture points, researchers argue.

‘Transformative’ retirement reform package passes the House and heads to the Senate

“Oftentimes in this chamber you will hear the phrase transformative,” said Ways and Means committee chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) as the bill neared passage. “Sometimes it’s hyperbolic but on this occasion, this is transformative legislation.”

Expanding on a landmark 2019 retirement bill, the bill aims to further expand Americans’ ability to save for retirement and increase their options for doing so. If it passes the Senate, SECURE 2.0 could be a boon for savers from people still paying student loans to retirees behind on their bills.

“SECURE 2.0 is fundamentally designed to make it easier for people to save,” Susan Neely, American Council of Life Insurers President and CEO, told Yahoo Finance Live on Monday. She added there’s “a lot going on in this bill that will be great for retirement savings and it has momentum, thank goodness.”

The bill unanimously cleared the House Ways and Means committee about 11 months ago. Despite the bipartisan support, it languished as lawmakers wrangled over a separate retirement proposal that Democrats had hoped to include in the now-moribund Build Back Better Act.

Now, the resurrected SECURE 2.0 — endorsed by outside groups like AARP and the Red Cross — heads to the Senate where lawmakers of both parties have expressed support for the ideas contained in it and advocates hope it could earn a vote in the upper chamber in the coming months.

“In this bill, we take serious steps to address the savings gap,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), another of the bill’s key backers, said on Tuesday. “I’m hopeful the Senate picks it up and moves it quickly.”

Here are a few ways the bill could change the way Americans save for retirement.

New options for those nearing retirement

Proponents note Secure 2.0 will give retirees — who are living longer than previous generations — more flexibility as they manage a longer retirement.

For one thing, it gives workers more options for “catch-up” contributions as they near retirement, up to $10,000 per year. Another key provision gradually raises the age for taking mandatory distributions from 401(k) plans or IRAs to 75 from 72.

Some lawmakers want to take things even further with required minimum distributions. “My goal is to get rid of it completely,” Brady said of the age restrictions on distributions during an appearance at the Bipartisan Policy Center Solutions Summit streamed on Yahoo Finance in 2020.

On Monday, Neely also highlighted provisions that will makes annuities or other lifetime income options more accessible which, she said, “can be really really helpful in rounding out your retirement.”

A recent study found that one in three adults have less than $5,000 in retirement savings and nearly half (46%) have taken no steps to prepare for the likelihood that they could outlive their savings.

Automatic enrollment and increased access

According to the latest government data, only about half of private sector workers participate in a retirement plan at work. Many don’t participate because they have no access, but many simply haven’t signed up for available benefits.

To remedy this situation, the bill would push more employers to automatically enroll new employees into their company’s retirement plan if one is offered. Studies have shown that employers with auto-enrollment retirement plans have higher rates of participation.

The bill also includes inducements to help employers, particularly small businesses and nonprofits, with the daunting start-up costs of offering new plans. Employers can also receive credits for matching workers’ contributions. Currently, only 42% of part-time workers have access to a retirement plan at work.

An idea around student loans and retirement

One part of the bill that will surely get the attention of younger people would allow people to save while paying down student loans.

The idea here is to allow businesses to contribute to employees’ retirement accounts when workers make student loan payments. In other words, if you put $100 towards your student loan, your company could “match” it with up to $100 going into a retirement plan like a 401(k).

Data from Bankrate suggests that college graduates with student loans often have to delay other priorities. Thirty-four percent report having delayed emergency savings, 23% say they have delayed buying a home, and 29% have delayed retirement savings.

In a recent webinar co-hosted by Yahoo Finance and the Bipartisan Policy Center, Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA) touted these provisions in particular as “a thing that I think everybody can get behind because it’s incentivizing people to save.”

Brady adds that the provision “really recognizes reality of newer and younger workers in the workforce and finding smart ways to begin to help them to save.”

How to Be a Better Mentor

Here’s a collection of some of our favorite insights and research from Kellogg faculty about how to do mentorship right.

Teach Skills—but Don’t Stop There

The mentors who have the biggest positive impact on the success of their mentees tend to be highly skilled and very successful themselves, according to a study by Kellogg professor Brian Uzzi and his colleagues.

An analysis of the careers of more than 37,000 scientist mentors and mentees confirmed that having a mentor who is at the top of their game improves a mentee’s odds of ultimately becoming a superstar themselves by nearly sixfold. 

But here’s something surprising. The study also suggests that the most successful mentees are those who go off to work in a different subject area, charting their own paths. 

“When a student gets this ‘special sauce’ and they apply it to being a mini-me of their mentor, they still do well. But if they apply it to an original new topic of their own, they do even better,” Uzzi says. 

This special sauce, the researchers argue, goes far beyond specific technical skills or subject-matter expertise, and includes tacit knowledge of how groundbreaking work is ideated and produced. This highlights the importance of mentors and mentees spending time and working through problems together, rather than simply ensuring that discrete skills are mastered.

Allow Mentees to “Own” the Relationship

A good mentor makes it clear that their mentee is the one in charge of their own career. Mentees should be the ones setting the agenda for any meetings.

Diane Brink, a senior fellow at Kellogg and a former Chief Marketing Officer at IBM, argues that making the mentee’s agenda a priority keeps them from being swayed towards a career path they may not be interested in following. And it takes pressure off the mentor to act as an all-knowing guru.

Being a mentor is less about telling mentees exactly what to do—only they can decide that—and more about showing up for them, listening to them, and offering nonjudgmental support. 

“As a mentor, your role is to help guide and facilitate how that individual solves a problem or tackles an opportunity,” Brink says.

“As a mentor, your role is to help guide and facilitate how that individual solves a problem or tackles an opportunity.”

— Diane Brink

“You’re asking questions and providing context for greater clarity. You’re not the person who’s going to have all the answers.”

Help Them Think Beyond the Next Job

Here’s another thing mentorship is not, according to Brink: lining up your mentee with their next gig. “That’s not your role,” she says.

It’s a common misunderstanding, and it can set the mentor–mentee relationship off on the wrong foot. Mentors should be clear about what they cannot or will not do about, say, an upcoming promotion and instead encourage mentees to view their careers with a wider lens than they might otherwise. What is their potential? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

“One of the things that I will do throughout my mentoring relationships is to encourage the individual to think about where they see themselves four or five jobs from now. I think it forces the person to think more broadly about their development plan and the types of challenges and potential assignments that they should consider so that they can get there,” she says.

Don’t Be Afraid to Have Tough Conversations

Good managers often find themselves managing an employee’s performance in their current role, while also preparing them for future roles—a task that involves a significant amount of mentorship. 

“Think of yourself as a coach who’s there to unlock the potential of the person,” says Carter Cast, a clinical professor of entrepreneurship at Kellogg. “You work with the talents and gifts of each person so they can do more of what they do well.” 

He stresses the importance of passing along negative feedback about an employee if it is constructive and will help them in the future—even if they are performing just fine in their current role. At times, he says, this can involve “several very hard, very direct conversations.”

He recalls how a senior VP at a Fortune 50 technology firm called Cast nearly a decade later to tell him that their conversations about his inability to partner well with others had been crucial to his career development.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Cast says. “Thinking back, those conversations were so uncomfortable for both of us. But I think he realized later that I wouldn’t have gone through the discomfort if I didn’t care about his development. He wasn’t a lost cause. He was just missing an ingredient—the ability to enlist the support of others effectively—and he had to go find it.”

Consider Career Development at the Organizational Level, Too

While mentoring generally takes place between individual mentors and mentees, organizations wanting to maximize the career potential of their employees—and deepen their own future pool of leaders—should consider spreading the benefits of career development widely.

Very widely. Bernard Banks, a clinical professor and associate dean of leadership, is a fan of betting on everyone. Which doesn’t mean that you can’t differentiate among whom you give which opportunities. But it does mean that nobody should be left behind to stagnate or find their own way. Providing informal training sessions, offering new on-the-job experiences, and encouraging individuals to build mentor–mentee relationships can be relatively inexpensive, but meaningful.

Banks says that this approach not only cultivates leadership across the organization but helps retain talent as well. “Many times you’ll see individuals say, ‘I left the firm because I didn’t feel like anyone was taking a marked interest in my development,’” he says. “Sometimes people construe that as, ‘They just didn’t send me to this course.’ But it’s more than that.”

How to Learn a Valuable Lifetime Skill: Self-Soothing

Most people don’t give much thought to self-soothing. Yet it is a powerful ability to have and one of the most important life skills you can learn.

Self-soothing can get you through some of the most challenging days or moments of your life by helping you manage feelings of hurt, anger, sadness, or grief. It can make you more resilient as a person. In fact, a 2019 study, (Sar and Sevda, et al.), found that shame-prone women who engaged in purposeful self-soothing were better able to get their emotional needs met.

For many, self-soothing comes naturally because they learned it organically from their parents. This happens simply and automatically when parents soothe their children.

By listening carefully to a long story about something hurtful or unfair that happened to their child that day; by sitting with calm, quiet empathy through their small daughter’s tantrum; by lying next to their child to help him fall asleep after a nightmare; by smoothing their distraught child’s forehead. These are the ways that emotionally present parents teach self-soothing to their children.

Children who receive enough self-soothing from their parents grow up having it for a lifetime. They never need to give it much thought. But this is typically not the case for those who were raised by emotionally neglectful parents.

Why Emotionally Neglectful Parents Can’t Teach Self-Soothing

There are many different types of emotionally neglectful parents. They may be so self-focused that they’re not aware of their children’s emotional needs, much less meeting them. They may be doing their best to keep the family afloat financially so that they’re too exhausted, or not present enough, to respond to their children emotionally. Or, they may seem like wonderful parents in every way, providing their kids with virtually everything they need except for one essential, powerful thing: emotional awareness and support.

Some of these parents are unaware of emotions in general, not just their children’s. They didn’t receive soothing themselves when they were growing up, so they don’t know how to give it to their kids.

In some ways, it doesn’t matter why your parent fails. What really matters is that they failed you. Now, as an adult, you can learn how to provide it for yourself.

The Good News

Fortunately, self-soothing is not complex or difficult to learn. In fact, for most people, it’s mostly a process of self-discovery, trying different ideas, and observing the outcome. As you go through the process of learning self-soothing, an added benefit is getting to know yourself better on an emotional level.

Since every human being is unique, the things that will be soothing to you will be specific to you. 

4 Steps to Learn Self-Soothing

  1. Make a list of possible activities that you think might be soothing for you. You will have this initial group of possible strategies ready to try when you need them.
  2. Watch for strong feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, or any other feeling that is too sharp or painful to manage. These are your chances to try out your list.
  3. Try different strategies at different times, since different strategies may work in different situations and with different feelings. Try one strategy and if it doesn’t work, try another.
  4. If one of your strategies isn’t good, mark it off. Add new ones as they occur to you.

It may be helpful to think back to your childhood. What comforted you as a child? How about earlier in your adult life? Perhaps you’ve already found and used some things that work for you.

Make sure any strategy you add to your list is healthy. Avoid eating, spending, drinking, or anything that is excessive. Also, keep in mind that we are not looking to avoid a feeling altogether. Avoiding just makes a feeling more powerful. We are trying to soothe the feeling enough that you can tolerate and think through what you’re feeling and why which reduces its overall power now and forever.

Exercise may protect brain health by lowering cardiovascular risk factors

A new study investigates the mechanisms involved in the relationship between exercise and brain health. 

Previous research had shown that larger gray matter volume can help protect against dementia by improving brain function.

The new study shows that insulin resistance and BMI mediate the relationship between larger and smaller brain gray matter volumes (the part of the brain involved in processing information).

The research is published in the April 2022 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. 

The corresponding author of the study was Dr. Geraldine Poisnel, of the Inserm Regional Research Center, in Caen, Normandy, France.

Studying glucose metabolism and brain volume

The study involved 134 people with an average age of 69 who had no memory problems. The participants filled out a physical activity survey covering the past 12 months. They also had brain scans to measure glucose metabolism and brain volume.

The metabolism of glucose in the brain provides fuel for the brain by generating adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) — a key molecule for maintaining the health of neurons and other cells. ATP is also key for generating neurotransmitters. Reduced glucose metabolism in the brain can be seen in people with dementia.

Gray matter development peaks at age 2–3 years. It begins to decrease afterward in some areas of the brain, but the density of the gray matter increases. From an evolutionary perspective, the higher processing ability of the human brain and its development are due to this increase in density.

In some studies, larger total brain volume, estimated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has a weak correlation with higher intelligence in men and a very weak correlation in women with the ability to do well in intelligence tests.

In contrast, brain tissue deterioration and loss of volume is a significant contributor to lower cognitive ability later in life.

In the new study, researchers included 134 people with an average age of 69 who had no memory problems. The participants filled out a physical activity survey covering the past 12 months. They also had brain scans to measure glucose metabolism and brain volume.

Body mass index and insulin levels affect brain health

In the new study, researchers gathered formation on cardiovascular risk factors including BMI and insulin levels, as well as cholesterol, blood pressure, and other factors.

The researchers examined the relationship between insulin and cardiovascular disease. The metabolic abnormalities that insulin causes raise the risk of cardiovascular complications, which in turn affect brain function.

Researchers found that insulin and BMI levels did not affect the metabolism of glucose in the brain. 

Alzheimer’s disease marker not affected

The research demonstrated that the amount of amyloid plaque in the brain that contributes to Alzheimer’s Disease was not affected by exercise.

Medical News Today contacted Dr. Raeanne Moore, associate adjunct professor of psychiatry at UCSD in La Jolla, CA. 

Dr. Moore, who was not involved in the study, was asked about the study results. She shared with MNT:

“This study adds to the growing body of research on the positive benefits of staying active on brain health, especially as we age.” 

“[T]here is an urgent need to identify markers of cognitive decline,” added Dr. Moore. “Decreasing insulin levels and losing weight are modifiable factors that can be improved with a healthy diet and exercise.”

She added, “It was not surprising that higher physical activity was not associated with how much amyloid plaque people had in their brains. There is growing evidence that vascular risk factors on cognitive function are mediated by the amount of tau pathology in the brain and not an amyloid burden

Spirit and Soul: Discovering a Personal Meaning

In late 1991, I was walking down the hallway of the hospital visiting a friend. I glanced in a room and saw a young man that I had briefly known, named Mark. He was lying quietly with his eyes closed and a tear running down his cheek.

I walked in the room and asked him if he remembered me, which he did. He explained to me that the doctors had told him that morning that he had little time left. 

Mark had moved to the city recently and hadn’t made any close friends. His parents had “disowned” him because he was gay. He was all alone.

I asked Mark if he had any thoughts about what was next on his spiritual journey. Did he believe in an afterlife? His response was profound: “I just want to die and be forgotten.”

Because of the profoundly intense sadness of that statement, he is one of the lost souls of the AIDS crisis whom I remember most. That response burned into my heart. No one should have to die alone. No one should die with that level of shame. Mark is a soul that will live with me forever.

I sat with Mark for quite a while, simply holding his hand while he cried, and hopefully giving him one small hint of connection.

Wherever Mark is today, his light still shines bright in my heart. Most of us perceive death and afterlife from different perspectives, however in my mind, the souls that have left us physically still remain in our hearts and memories. As long as we remember them, their soul is alive.

Is that a form of spirituality? Are spirit and soul connected?

What is soul? It’s easy to recognize the soul in artists and musicians. Not only do they feel compelled to release their talent and expression, but others are moved by the reflection of their soul. Many of us are not gifted to create music, but we feel the incredible connection to the soul when we hear it. The same is true for art or performance. So many statements express it: “I felt in awe.” “I can’t explain it.” “It brought tears to my eyes.” Tears are the number one symbol for feeling your soul. They are your emotions solidified.

That feeling of spirit and soul can be expressed in our everyday lives. Seeing a young child play and giggle, or watching them explore something new, or crying in fear … we are watching their souls be created. We feel animated. It is their soul that animates our spirituality.

For many, religion is the basis of spirituality. It is community. It is motivation and purpose for why we are here and where we are going. A modern definition of religion is, “The subjective experience of a sacred dimension. It is the deepest values and meanings by which to live. It is one’s own inner dimension.”

For others, spirituality is not about religion. It is connecting to an energy outside of oneself. It is about connecting to the universe. Humility. Finding meaning.

It is these beliefs that can make us strong through a challenge in life. 

Finding the purpose and discovering a personal meaning can completely change perspective when living in fear and hopelessness.

We might very well have broken our closest connections when we go through a trauma. Finding something to trust, other than ourselves, can begin a new journey when we feel like no one can help us. Hope is always waiting in our souls.

Spirituality can also be defined as acceptance. Acceptance of others can be calming and result in greater awareness. Acceptance of yourself and your life as it is at this very moment is as important as acceptance of others. Accept yourself. Be compassionate for your life. And please, more than anything else, accept and respect the beliefs and spirituality of others. It is beautiful, not competitive.

Difficulties in our lives will challenge our faith. The reality is that those difficulties can only strengthen it, but we have to truly contemplate and make every attempt to find the positive forces of our soul, or our spirituality, whatever that might be. Mark did not have time to find that last stage of acceptance. At the young age of 23, he never had the chance to find hope.

Ask yourself three questions:

  • If I could tell the entire world one message, what would it be? Pretend you just won an Oscar, you are standing in front of the microphone, and the entire world is waiting for your message. It is criminal to say something as horrible as, “I really don’t have anything planned.” Or, “I guess I just want to thank my family.” As an old entertainment writer, I can tell you that when you thank someone in an acceptance speech, you make one person very happy, and the rest of the world is bored. So what is the message that you would like to convey to everyone?
  • Secondly, what is a gift you have that you think you are meant to give to the world? I don’t mean a literal gift, but a trait, a talent, or knowledge. What is your soul?
  • The third question is what you still hope to learn from the world that it can give back to you. What is something that you still hope to experience or learn?

As Mark faded in his final hours crying, there was no question that his soul was completely filling the room, and yet he was not aware of it. He felt he had no purpose. 

His soul wrote this post.

7 Benefits of Temporary Habits

When people think of habits, they often consider any habit that’s not permanent as a failure. For example, Jack starts running every day, then stops. Jack might consider that a habit failure.

In terms of public policy, the goal is also usually for the public to develop permanent habits—for example, recycling or conserving water.

However, in ordinary life, temporary daily habits can have a lot of value. 

The value of temporary habits

Temporary habits can:

1. Help you become efficient.

Let’s say you take on a temporary habit of making a homemade lunch from scratch every day. When you force yourself to do this daily, you’ll find ways to become efficient at it. Even if you don’t keep up the daily habit forever, you’ll still have those efficiency hacks in your toolkit. Unlike hacks you read about, when you develop your own hacks, you’ll know they work for you personally. They’re not gimmicks. (I teach how to develop your own efficiency hacks, in a lot more detail, in Stress-Free Productivity.)

2. Help clarify your values.

When you do an activity every day, it’ll help you see whether it really reflects your values, likes, and priorities. When you’re actually doing the activity every day (rather than imagining doing it daily), does it seem like you’re living your best life? Or does it seem like you don’t want to spend a big swath of your life doing that activity?

Here’s an example:

  • When I write most weekdays, that feels really good to me. I feel creatively energized by it. It makes my life feel on track. That creative act seems to infuse my life generally with more creativity.
  • In contrast, when I go to the gym every day, I realize I don’t want to be spending my life inside a dark gym. It makes me realize I prefer more naturalistic exercise. 

3. Distinguish reality vs. ideals (and false social messages.)

In our minds, we often think doing an activity every day, with extreme consistency, would be ideal. Sometimes when we attempt to do that activity daily for a sustained period, we learn that it’s not sustainable to do it every day, and a frequency less than that would actually be more ideal for us.article continues after advertisement

4. Help you understand how your priorities fit together. 

Daily habits are incredibly limited in real estate. Often it’s not so much time that’s the limiting factor, but focus and energy. Many of us have too many activities we highly value in our lives to do them all every day.

For example, I homeschool my child. Sometimes, I can “phone this in.” For example, I can print a worksheet with questions and hand it to her.

On other days, I need to devote some time, energy, and attention to helping her manage an aspect of her school work she’s struggling with emotionally. For instance, she’s a really confident reader, but much less confident at writing her own stories. On days I need to help her manage her emotions, I will drop some of my personal habits to make room for this. Sure, technically I might have time to do both, but I might not have the mental energy for both.

When you attempt to do an activity every day, you’ll gain an understanding of how your priorities sometimes compete. You’ll sometimes learn that, even though a certain activity is valuable to you and you enjoy it, doing it daily crowds out other things that are important to you. There’s a science and an art to figuring out how you can swap your habits in and out to make enough room for all your priorities without jeopardizing your habits.

5. Make behavioral sequences automatic.

Habits are effective because they make behavioral sequences automatic and save us from using unnecessary brainpower and excess decision-making. Because of this, habits make behaviors easier. The more automatic a habit becomes, the less conscious self-control it requires. 

But habits don’t need to be permanent to have these benefits.

I used to live in New York City. I took the subways multiple times almost every day. Subway riding became an automatic habit. I could’ve used the ticketing machines and swiped my ticket with my eyes closed. Before entering a subway car, I’d always glance to make sure it wasn’t more empty than the other cars (as that was a sure sign there was a bad smell or the air conditioning was broken in that car.)

Subway riding is enough of an over-learned habit for me that, when I’m back in New York visiting, all my prior learning takes back over. 

Our habits are sometimes the most useful for a season. For example, I’m currently pregnant. When I switched to side sleeping, I started getting a sore shoulder. Within a few days of this happening, I reinstated the system of pillows I used the last time I was pregnant so that I stopped getting the sore shoulder. I resumed the habit of setting up the pillows upon getting into bed each night.

Many habits work best as daily habits but are most useful for specific seasons of your life, rather than a lifetime. 

What habits are like this for you? You might literally have different summer, spring, fall, and winter habits, as an example. 

It’s useful to keep up temporary habits long enough that the sequence of behaviors involved becomes automated in your long-term memory. But, you don’t necessarily need to keep doing the habit every day to maintain that benefit. 

6. Build a skill quickly.

Sometimes concentrated learning (through daily doing) is the best way to build a skill. Once you reach the level of proficiency you’re after, you might not need to do it daily to retain the skill.

Your Life’s Roadmap—Just Begin Anywhere

Many, if not most, of us live our lives by endlessly dealing with challenges and then enjoying ourselves when we can. We often don’t have the time or energy to make decisions and choices to experience what we envisioned when we graduated from high school. What happened to those dreams?

We spend a lot of time reacting to our circumstances instead of creating the life that we want. The problem is that any time you are anxious or frustrated, you are reacting to some unpleasant event from the past that was kicked up by the present. That is how every living creature survives. 

We learn what is safe versus threatening and attempt to live our lives in a range that is neutral or safe. It is also well known that avoiding danger is a stronger driving force for behaviors than seeking safety. In addition to avoiding physical danger, humans strive to avoid mental threats, which have the same impact on our nervous system and body. Research has shown that the physiological responses are the same.1 But since we cannot escape from our thoughts, all of us have some level of a constantly activated nervous system that wears us down. There nare many ways to de-energize this process, required for healing. 

The other facet of healing is moving into the part of your brain that experiences pleasure and is safe. It is a process and an acquired skill. As with becoming a virtuoso violinist, it requires repetition to make it a habit. It is the only way to affect the subconscious operations of your brain.

ReaCtive to Creative

If you move the letter “C” from the middle of the word “reactive” to the beginning, you have the word “creative.” If you can create some space between your stress and reactivity, you can substitute a more rational response, and, with repetition,, your brain physically changes (neuroplasticity). A foundational step is expressive writing, which creates space between you and your reactivity.

Creating structure to organize your life lowers stresses. You see them more clearly and make better proactive decisions. It also creates some “space” and perspective. If you can’t see all the aspects of a problem, it is harder to solve. But if you do, then you can create small behavioral changes that become habitual. 

While an important aspect of this journey out of pain is to learn and adopt an organizational system, at the same time it seems overwhelming. So, the first step is to do something—anything. You may not have the energy to figure out what you really want at this point. But just get started. 

Begin–Anywhere

Start small—very small. I presented a template of a personal “business plan” earlier in this leg of the journey. You may have felt that you don’t have the bandwidth to do this or that you just can’t do it. Don’t worry about it. Just do something (anything) to start the process. Here are some suggestions, and whatever works for you is the key:

· Take piece of paper every morning and write down one optional goal of something you want to accomplish. Just one. It may be as simple as staying out of bed for 15 minutes longer than usual.

· Then write down five things you might do to create more order in your life. 

· It might resemble your usual to-do list, but it is a more thoughtful set of actions. 

· One of the to-do items could be creating some time for your self-care. 

· What routine might you create to center yourself and connect with the day – with or without your pain?

How to Overcome Feelings of Shame about Personal Debt

They may feel like they’ve failed themselves or their families. They may avoid honest conversations with loved ones for fear of revealing just how bad their financial situation is. They may feel utterly hopeless because they can’t see a way to get out of debt.

Shame can prevent people from seeking help. They may worry about how others will think of them if they reveal how much they owe or how much they’re struggling to pay their bills. That worry creates inaction, which allows a bad situation to get worse. The fear and shame get bigger and bigger.

How do you break that cycle? By recognizing that debt can happen to anyone. It’s not a sign of failure or evidence of any weakness. 

Fortunately, expert financial guidance from someone who can also lend an empathetic ear is the best way to overcome the financial and emotional challenges of burdensome debt —and start a plan to become debt-free.

WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO STRUGGLE WITH DEBT?

Many Americans simply can’t pay what they owe. Debt doesn’t discriminate, but the challenges consumers face often change depending on demographics. For example, while people with high incomes tend to carry greater amounts of total debt, people with lower incomes hold a greater proportion of debt compared to their income. This proportionally higher debt-to-income ratio makes it all the more difficult to manage unexpected debts. 

Student loan debt also burdens some groups disproportionately—with minority groups and women bearing more impact. In addition to carrying a larger proportion of student loan debt, women tend to earn less than men (84 cents for every dollar earned by a man), once again making debt that much harder to shake. 

According to a 2018 study by Capital Group, women are also less likely to want to discuss their personal financial situation than men are. So not only do particular populations face more difficulties in paying down their debt and saving for retirement, but they also feel less comfortable discussing their finances and seeking help. This combination can cause a vicious cycle that feels inescapable.

WHY MIGHT SOMEONE HAVE FALLEN INTO DEBT?

Debt is rarely a choice. Most debt is a result of events and circumstances that are difficult – if not outright impossible – to control. Even debt that stems from poor budgeting or overspending is usually tied in some way to psychological needs or behaviors that you may not be able to control.

Some of the top triggers that push people into debt include:

  • Divorce or separation
  • Job loss
  • Medical emergency
  • Major home repairs after a natural disaster
  • Supporting another family member

For example, Debbie was retired when Hurricane Sandy severely damaged her Florida home. She lived frugally, but quickly fell into financial difficulty due to extensive repairs on her house and physical illness from invasive mold. She couldn’t cover the repairs without assistance. After some online research, Debbie found Money Management International’s (MMI) Project Porchlight. She received expert guidance from an MMI counselor who also connected her with other helpful resources to put her on the path to recovery. 

A lack of understanding of the American financial system can also be a debt trigger. Diana, a Colombian immigrant, found herself trapped paying high fees to a credit repair company while sending money home to her mother and maintaining an expensive lifestyle. Her situation caused her deep financial stress—but the thought of reducing the monthly payment she sent to her mother created a deep sense of guilt. With the help and understanding of the Hispanic Center for Financial Excellence (HCFE), a program of MMI, she was able to get back onto solid financial footing. 

Whether the debt is outside of your control or not, your feelings can be complex and difficult to navigate. Bottom line: debt is stressful, and for many, it’s embarrassing. You may feel anxious, depressed, fearful, overwhelmed, and even physically ill. When a problem seems insurmountable, people can feel demoralized. But there is hope. 

HOW TO OVERCOME DEBT SHAME AND STIGMA AND SEEK HELP

The first step in dealing with personal debt is beginning to talk about it. Getting started can be the hardest part of the process, but once you do, you’ll find it gets easier. You’ll also find that breaking down the taboo of talking about money and debt can lighten the weight of these negative emotions. MMI clients report feeling significantly less anxious after completing their first counseling session. 

Simply having a plan and being able to make progress on that plan can make a huge difference in your outlook. When working with an MMI counselor, we help you focus on small, achievable steps, building momentum as your debt starts to disappear. 

Contact MMI for a private and confidential counseling session and we’ll talk you through all your options. You don’t have to navigate this experience alone. You can complete most of your counseling online and counselors are available by phone, chat, and email.

How to Prevent Your Drive to Succeed From Making You Miserable

Many of the so-called success stories I’ve spent time with are filling a void. They work to feel worthy, they binge on Netflix or alcohol to numb pain and they obsess about achieving to distract from their existential duress. They post certain things on social media to pacify their perceived inadequacy and try to feel better about themselves by looking good on the outside. They busy themselves by getting what they want, only to realize they never wanted it in the first place. 

To start up a business, entrepreneurs have to stop working as an employee and start thinking like a boss. However, many owners fail to let go of the paradigm of thinking that their authentic happiness, freedom and fulfillment are only worthy when goals are attained. They plan their work as if how they feel at the end of the day and their life does not matter. Each day ends up feeling forced and they’re constantly facing friction by choosing between time with loved ones or making money.

It doesn’t have to be this way

A few generations ago, earning was for survival and safety. More recently, it shifted to earning and giving our family options. 

Now, entrepreneurs can earn as a natural byproduct of doing what makes them feel good. Ultimately, our fulfillment is infinitely more important than hitting targets and buying the next thing.

What stays behind is the legacy of the feeling we leave people with.

We can only make people feel as good as we feel

Well-being comes down to balancing what brings us joy while simultaneously having the discipline to execute the strategies necessary to physicalize goals. 

Many get stuck too far on one side of the pendulum and find themselves not feeling good. On one side, people work hard and don’t do anything they love. On the other side, people do what they love and live in the flow, but avoid what doesn’t feel favorable, therefore not creating the growth or results they want. Neither of these options is optimal.

It’s my job to be an active, conscious vehicle who serves other people and enjoys the life I’m blessed to experience each day. Being driven and enjoying life don’t have to be in conflict when you frame it correctly. Connecting your work to something bigger than your ego’s subconscious fears is essential to feel fulfilled. 

You’ve gotta have faith

Creating and transforming your life and business needs to come from your vision backed by belief, not your subconscious fears.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my job fulfill my potential to create an impact?
  • Is my work more superficial than what God, or the Universe, is calling me to do?
  • Where can I redirect my energy?

The ability to reflect and redirect is what makes us powerful beyond measure. You get to consciously create the life you live. Make it count. 

Cognitive impairment has more than doubled since 2009, study suggests

Dementia is characterized by a gradual deterioration in cognitive function, impacting memory, judgment, language, and other cognitive abilities. Over 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are around 10 million new cases per year. 

Initial concerns that point to dementia include subjective memory concerns (SMC) — when no clear impairment is found from psychometric testing, and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) — when there is objective evidence of decline.Both SMC and MCI increase dementia risk. 

Until now, few studies had examined people who present symptoms of SMC and MCI to healthcare providers, and even fewer have explored their prognoses. 

Recently, researchers from University College London examined records of SMI and MCI and their progression into dementia. 

They found that at a 3-year follow-up, 45.5% of those with SMC and 51.7% of those with MCI received a dementia diagnosis. 

They also found that rates of SMC and MCI as recorded by healthcare providers are lower than those reported in community surveys, suggesting that a minority of people who experience memory loss consult their general practitioner (GP) and have it recorded. 

“Given the increased understanding of the importance of cognitive concerns over the past decade, and how this may signify incipient dementia, it is likely that the increase in recording of cognitive decline is a result of doctors’ better understanding of the need for more detailed assessment of objective cognitive function,” Yen Ying Lim, Ph.D., associate professor at Monash University, not involved in the study, told MNT

The study was published in Clinical Epidemiology

Data analysis

The researchers used the IQVIA medical research database, which collects over 18 million anonymized patient records from over 790 U.K. primary care facilities. 

They used data from 1,310,838 individuals with memory concerns and 1,348,796 individuals with cognitive decline. The people were between 65 and 99 years old and contributed data to the database between January 2009 and December 2018. 

Data included diagnostic records of SMC, MCI, and dementia, alongside covariates including age, sex, and social deprivation. 

The researchers noted that SMC reports remained stable over time and affected 4.3% of individuals. However, they increased with age from 3.66 cases per 1,000 people among those aged 65–69 to 17.89 cases per 1,000 between 80 and 99 years old. 

They also noted that females and those with higher levels of social deprivation were more likely to record SMC.

Over the study period, 1.1% of the participants reported MCI, with 38.4% of these people also reporting SMC. 

Unlike SMC, MCI reports increased over time, from 1.32 cases per 1,000 people in 2009 to 3.5 cases per 1,000 people in 2018. 

Rates of MCI also increased with age from 0.65 cases per 1,000 people aged 65–69 to 5.17 cases per 1,000 among those aged 80–99.

One Superfood to Support Your Heart

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. However, it can be prevented through lifestyle factors like diet. 

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting 5- 6% of calories intake from saturated fatty acid (SFA), and replacing SFA and trans-fats with monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fats for better heart health. 

Avocados are rich in MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats. Studies have found that their regular consumption reduces triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and total cholesterol level. 

Most studies on avocado consumption have focused on cardiovascular risk factors. Studies investigating the link between avocado consumption and cardiovascular events could improve understanding of the fruit’s health benefits. 

Recently, researchers have investigated the link between avocado consumption and cardiovascular events. 

They found that higher consumption of avocados was linked to a lower risk of CVD and coronary heart disease (CHD). 

“The […] results are significant and strengthen previous findings of avocados’ association with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease [as well as] reducing heart outcomes such as fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction,” Bhanu Gupta, MD, cardiologist at The University of Kansas Health System, not involved in the study, told Medical News Today.

“Point to be noted: avocado consumption does not lower the risk of stroke in the study. Another point to be noted: avocado is not a replacement for healthy dietary fats such as olive oils, nuts, and other plant oils.” 

– Dr. Gupta

The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).

Data analysis

For the study, the researchers used data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS)and the Nurses’ Health Studies (NHS). Both studies are ongoing and began in 1986 and 1976 to examine the effects of health and lifestyle on the incidence of serious illness in male and female healthcare professionals. 

For the present study, the researchers included 62,225 females and 41,701 males who did not have a history of heart disease, stroke, or cancer. 

The researchers examined their medical records for incidence of myocardial infarction and stroke, dietary surveys taken once every 4 years, and risk factors such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes from self-reports and physician diagnoses. Participants were tracked for 30 years. 

By the end of the study period, the researchers noted 14,274 incident cases of CVD including 9,185 CHD events and 5,290 strokes. 

The researchers noted that males and females with higher avocado intake tended to have higher total energy intake and a healthier diet with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. 

After adjusting for major dietary and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that having two or more servings of avocado per week was linked to a 16% lower CVD risk and 21% lower CHD risk compared to those who did not eat avocados. 

They further found that replacing half a serving per day of mayonnaise, margarine, butter, egg, yogurt, cheese, or processed meats with the same amount of avocado was linked to a 19–31% lower risk of coronary heart disease. 

They reported no significant association between stroke risk and avocado consumption. However, they noted that replacing half a serving per day of plant oils with an equivalent amount of avocado was linked to a 45% higher stroke risk.

Links Between Low salt diet and heart failure

Doctors have long recommended decreased salt intake for heart failure or other cardiac problems. However, research is still ongoing about how effective low sodium intake is in reducing events of hospitalization or emergency room visits. 

A recent study published in The Lancet found that while low sodium diets might help improve the quality of life for people with heart failure, they did not reduce clinical events like hospitalization or emergency room visits. 

Heart failure and low salt diet recommendations

Heart failure is when the heart cannot effectively pump blood to meet the body’s demands. As a result, the body cannot get the nutrients and oxygen it needs. Heart failure is chronic. 

People with heart failure can experience a variety of symptoms, including the following:

  • Shortness of breath, persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Swelling because of the buildup of excess fluid
  • Feeling tired or fatigued
  • Increased heart rate, feeling heart palpitations

The New York Heart Association (NYHA) Functional Classification is one standard used to classify heart failure. This system places people in one of four categories based on how much their heart failure interferes with their ability to do things and their symptoms brought on by activity. 

Many organizations and doctors encourage people who have heart failure to reduce the amount of salt in their diets. In theory, reducing the amount of sodium helps to prevent fluid overload in people with heart failure. 

Dr. Edo Paz, cardiologist and vice president of Medical at K Health, who wasn’t involved in the study, explained to Medical News Today:

“We have long instructed patients with congestive heart failure to limit consumption of sodium, as sodium can lead to fluid retention, which can result in heart failure exacerbations.”

Researchers in the current study found that reducing sodium intake can benefit people with heart failure. 

However, they found it might not help prevent hospitalizations and other adverse clinical outcomes. Their findings offer more insight into the recommendation for sodium intake for people with heart failure.

Improved quality of life

The study in question was a randomized trial that included over 800 participants in six different countries. Participants were adults that met a specific definition of chronic heart failure (NYHA class 2-3). 

Researchers placed participants randomly into one of two groups. The intervention group went on a low sodium diet where they consumed less than 1,500 mg of sodium daily. The control group received the standard of care for the region where they were located.

Researchers specifically looked at the incidence of three main events over 12 months:

  • Hospitalization related to cardiovascular problems
  • Emergency room visits related to cardiovascular problems
  • Death from all causes

They also looked at a few other outcomes, including if following a low sodium diet improved the quality of life and NYHA classification among participants. 

The researchers saw that the hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and all causes of death were not reduced for participants in the low sodium diet group compared to the control group. 

However, they did discover a moderate benefit on quality of life and in the NYHA scale classification in the group that had reduced sodium intake. 

Dr. Paz offered the following summary of the study’s results:

“[F]ollowing a low salt diet did not reduce death or trips to the hospital in people with congestive heart failure. Despite this fact, there still was a signal for benefit in some key endpoints favoring a low salt diet, including functional assessments.”

Study limitations and continued research

Study author Professor Justin A. Ezekowitz explained to MNT that this was “the largest trial of its type testing whether or not dietary sodium reduction for patients with heart failure alters the risk for future clinical events.” 

However, he pointed out that they did not have “the opportunity to test this strategy before in a large pragmatic trial that is driven by clinical events.”

The study had several other limitations. First, the study authors note that they only followed up with participants over 12 months. Therefore, it is possible that reducing sodium in the diet could have long-term impacts that the researchers did not observe. 

Due to the nature of the study, there was potential bias because researchers knew who was in the control and intervention groups. 

The researchers also acknowledge that participants in the control group might have reduced their sodium intake independently. 

As the trial was ended early, results might also overestimate the risks and efficiency related to the interventions. Finally, the study may have included patients with varying health risks because of how participants were selected. 

These results indicate that reduced sodium intake doesn’t significantly impact clinical events. So, researchers recommend that medical professionals look at it like other medical treatments and weigh the benefits based on each patient’s unique needs.

How to Make Better Joint Decisions With Your Partner

Joint decisions are part and parcel of parenting. Hell, the journey often kicks off with the joint decision to start a family. From there, couples face a steady march of choices What should we name our baby? Should we move closer to family? Do we have another child? What color do we paint the nursery? What show do we watch in the one hour of silence we have before we both conk out? 

But making decisions together as parents can be difficult. The sheer number of choices that need to be made and the stakes involved in each can overwhelm. The turbulence of the last few years hasn’t made it any easier — doctors are sounding the horn about “decision fatigue”, where near-constant risk assessment affects people’s ability to make choices.

“Difficult decisions already put people in a vulnerable place, and they’re more difficult to make during times of stress,” says Silva Depanian, a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified anger management counselor in the Los Angeles area. “When we’re generally stressed, we’re in survival mode, so we’re more defensive and panicky.”

In survival mode, a person’s approach to problems can become more individualized, she adds.  They think, How will I survive?rather than operating as a unit and prioritizing what’s best for the relationship.

However, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in relationship dynamics and gender role expectations made decision-making for couples increasingly complex, concluded the authors of a European study published in 2018. As the roles of caregiver and wage earner in partnerships blur and blend, roles might be renegotiated daily, they wrote. A 2020 study noted that couples tended to revert to more traditional notions of gender expectations —which can affect perceptions of whose opinions hold more weight in decision-making — due to pandemic-related effects in the labor market.

Still, research shows that couples tend to become more traditional in their attitudes toward gender roles after becoming parents, says Nikki Lively, LCSW, certified emotionally focused therapist and clinical director of the Transitions to Parenthood program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

Lively noted that, in particular, gender roles involving power and influence can often become issues for parents.  “Sometimes women don’t have as much power outside the home so in the home, they want to feel heard. Or sometimes men don’t recognize how they use their power at home,” she says.

So, this is all to say that making decisions as a couple is hard. A harmonious and equitable approach to joint decision-making takes skill – but it can be learned, our experts say. Here’s how couples can make the process as smooth as possible.

1. Consider the source

Decisions tend to be based on the ideas and values people are exposed to growing up. Many people never challenge these because our brains naturally look for evidence that we’re right, not evidence that disproves our version of reality, Depanian says.

Each partner, therefore, enters a relationship with a different ability to share power and compromise.

“Those raised in homes with permissive parents are used to doing as they please, and they bring that strong will into their marriage,” says Wyatt Fisher, a psychologist and relationship coach in Boulder, Colorado. “If you were raised as an only child, you don’t have much experience having to share or compromise. [And] if you were raised with an authoritarian parent where you had no voice, you may give in too easily as an adult.”

People might feel strongly about certain aspects of parenting that relate to things they experienced (good or bad) when they were children.

“In those moments related to parenting, people can get defensive and critical because the stakes feel so high,” says Lively. “Everyone wants to be a good parent and wants what’s best for their child.”

Cultivating an awareness of how you and your partner approach joint decisions can help you make changes to unhelpful patterns.

2. Learn to listen better

When parents don’t see eye to eye on an issue, it helps to slow down, be curious, and ask questions. But poor listening skills can derail that agenda.

People typically think they’re listening to another person when what they’re really doing is hearing their partner’s words while thinking about all the reasons their own view is the correct one, as well as when it will be their turn to say so.

“People get defensive when they feel unheard,” Depanian says. “And they typically feel unheard when their emotions are brushed aside.”

A lot of people don’t understand that listening means hearing the other person out and trying to understand their perspective, says Jenny Yip, Psy.D., board-certified clinical psychologist, adjunct clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the USC Keck School of Medicine, and executive director of the Little Thinkers Center in Los Angeles.

When you’re talking about a big decision, try to slow down and pause after your partner has finished speaking. This allows both of you an opportunity to reflect on what was said, and for your partner to elaborate if they want to.

3. Start with a spitball session

If you have the time, simply sit down and talk about your feelings without feeling pressured to make a decision quickly. There’s therapeutic value in taking time to get to know where each person is coming from before you get down to brass tacks.

“Not that the things we say aren’t meaningful, but sometimes the first five things we say aren’t really what we mean,” says Lively. The therapist tactic of responding, “Tell me more,” can be helpful for laypeople, too.

“I try to get people to see it’s never a dead-end if you safely stay with an idea or feeling for long enough,” she says. “But people usually won’t do that if they feel criticized. Feeling safe and invited to open up, on the other hand, fosters growth.”

4. Put it in writing

Even though it might sound like homework, Lively says it can be enormously helpful to write the decision you’re facing at the top of a piece of paper.  Identifying the problem is an important first step that can be less obvious than couples might think. Many couples Lively sees in therapy are surprised to discover that initially, they weren’t even in agreement about what the problem was.

“Stressed people might see their partners as the problem, but the problem is the problem,” she says. “It’s important to clearly identify the end goal you’re both trying to work toward.”

Another tactic recommended by Yip: Writing out why decisions might be valuable and meaningful to you. This can also help pinpoint the issues at hand. Each partner should write a list of pros and cons about how to target the problem, she says, and then compare their lists.

Are Fast Cash Loans Legitimate?

Also known as “payday loans,” these short-term loans are marketed as a helpful stopgap to consumers who have no savings. They’re meant to be a short-term loan fix that you pay back as soon as your paycheck arrives. That sounds enticing, but is it too good to be true?

Fast cash loans are legitimate, and they’re legal in 37 states. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good idea. In practice, people who are already struggling to make ends meet struggle even more to repay these kinds of loans. According to a recent Consumer Finance Protection Bureau report, nearly half of those who took a payday loan rolled it over at least one payday, accruing fees along the way.

Taking out a fast cash loan can create a vicious cycle of repeat borrowing and exorbitant fees that cost much more than the original financial shortfall itself. Here’s what else you should know about them.

HOW A FAST CASH LOAN WORKS

FAST CASH LOANS ARE TYPICALLY SMALL

Many states have set limits on the allowable limit, typically around $500, though some states allow a higher limit. This interactive map by Experian shows each state’s limit. The National Conference of State Legislatures also provides details on allowed limits and fees by state.

INTEREST RATES TEND TO BE HIGH 

Fast cash loan rates are typically higher than the rate offered by a traditional lender. Some payday lenders charge a transaction or finance fee instead, which can be costly. Fees may range from $10-$30 per $100 borrowed, according to the CFPB. On a two-week borrowing period, a $15 fee per $100 equals a nearly 400% annual percentage rate. By comparison, a traditional credit card’s APR typically runs 12-30%.

Let’s say you borrowed $500—that’s a $75 fee. Even a $20 fee on a $200 loan can create difficulties if things are so tight that you had to borrow to get to next Friday.

THE REPAYMENT PERIOD IS SHORT 

Usually, repayment is required within 14 days, or possibly within the month. It’s guaranteed through an automated withdrawal from your bank account or a post-dated check, and the lender pulls the owed amount as soon as your paycheck is deposited.

PAYDAY LENDERS AREN’T TRADITIONAL BANKS OR CREDIT UNIONS 

Quick cash loans are offered through payday loan stores or stores that offer financial services, such as pawn shops, rent-to-own stores, or stores with check-cashing services.

NO CREDIT CHECK IS REQUIRED 

Unlike traditional financial institutions, fast cash lenders aren’t really concerned about your past credit history. Your credit score is almost never considered, nor is your employment history or debt-to-income ratio. According to the CFPB, all you need is a bank account in decent standing, identification, and a steady source of income.

It’s important to note that your credit score isn’t affected (positively or negatively) by a fast cash or payday loan. That’s because these lenders don’t tend to report the loan, or the payments, to any credit reporting bureaus. So, unless you default on a loan and it gets sold to a collection agency, it’s unlikely to ever show up on your credit report or impact your credit score.

ALTERNATIVES TO A FAST CASH LOAN

Coming up with an alternative may not be easy if you and your extended family are already on financial thin ice. But, if possible, you’d be better off dipping into your savings if you have it, or using your credit card, which has preferable fees compared to payday loans. You might consider borrowing from friends or family or asking for an advance on your paycheck. All of these options are typically preferable to taking a fast cash loan. 

If you do decide to take a fast cash loan, you should always read reviews and check with the Better Business Bureau first. Also, double-check the fine print and make sure the fees don’t exceed the maximum in your state.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ALREADY HAVE A FAST CASH LOAN

We recommend prioritizing paying off the fast cash loan as soon as possible, no matter what your other financial commitments are. Make it your top priority to get out from under the fees, even if those fees feel manageable now. 

If you’re able, cut your spending in other areas to come up with the cash to pay off the loan. Or take temporary, extra work to bring in additional money. If you’re juggling multiple debts, you may be able to roll these debts into a consolidation loan through a traditional lender with more reasonable fees. 

For military families, be aware that the Military Lending Act provides protections to members of the military. Perhaps most relevant, lenders cannot charge more than 36% interest (including fees), which protects members from exorbitant payday loan fees.

Involuntary Memories and Depression

Have you ever been for a walk or a cycle and suddenly had memories of your past popping up in your mind? Tried to get some work done but found yourself constantly distracted by unintentional memories of past events? Or suddenly been flooded by memories while doing the dishes? These spontaneous memories that seem to arise from the blue are often referred to as involuntary memories, and most people experience them quite often in everyday life. Because these memories can have quite an impact on mood, they have also become an increasingly hot topic among researchers studying depression. So let’s have a close look at what exactly involuntary memories are, and the role they play in depression.

1. Involuntary Memories Seem to Arise Out of the Blue

Involuntary memories pop up in our minds spontaneously and without any deliberate effort to think about a personal past event. In that way, they differ from memories that we think about voluntarily or intentionally, such as when we reminisce about a holiday with a friend or try to remember what we did for our birthday last year. Unlike voluntary memories, which are typically experienced as deliberate and effortful, involuntary memories are normally experienced as sudden and unexpected.

Because of this sudden and unexpected nature, it can often feel like involuntary memories arise out of the blue. However, if we take a closer look at their content, we might realize that they relate to cues in our environment or to our own thoughts or feelings in some way. For example, on a summer day, we might spontaneously start thinking about a sunny day in the past when we went to the beach with friends. Or, if we are feeling happy or sad, this might evoke memories of past events when we felt happy or sad. So, although involuntary memories feel like they arise out of nowhere, they are, in fact, evoked by cues in our current situation or environment.

2. Involuntary Memories Often Refer to Specific Events

Involuntary memories also differ from voluntary memories in that they more often refer to specific events, such as a lunch date you had last week, as opposed to more general descriptions of repeated events, such going to yoga class on Monday mornings, or events that stretch over an extended period of time, such as traveling by train through Europe last summer. In addition, some research suggests that involuntary memories are higher on characteristics such as clarity, vividness, relevance to current life situation, and personal importance. Researchers believe that this may be because past events that provide a distinctive match with our current environment, thoughts, or feelings, or grab our attention due to factors such as vividness or importance are more likely to spontaneously come to mind than memories that are less attention-grabbing or do not provide a distinctive match with our current situation or surroundings.

3. Involuntary Memories Can Have a Large Impact on Mood

Involuntary memories also differ from voluntary memories in the way they impact our mood and emotions. Compared to voluntary memories, involuntary memories more often cause physical reactions such as smiling or crying. They also more often have an impact on mood, especially negative mood. Researchers believe that one possible reason for this may be that involuntary memories arise so suddenly that it may be difficult to prepare for and engage in effective emotion regulation when they come to mind. Emotion regulation refers to different strategies that people use to manage their emotional experiences, some of which are more effective than others in reducing negative emotions and mood.

How to Regain Trust

Though most of us strive to be honest, we sometimes fall short of that goal. We find ourselves lying or otherwise behaving deceptively. It turns out that in a given week, over 90 percent of people report telling at least one lie. When lies are discovered, they can damage or destroy people’s trust in each other. Regaining that trust is a challenging process. 

What Is Trust?

Trust is our intention to make ourselves vulnerable based upon the belief that others will treat us well. It is a confidence that others will foster positive outcomes for us. When we trust people, we rely on them in important matters. We share our deepest secrets with them. We make ourselves materially vulnerable with them. We place our fates in their hands. Trust is the glue that binds people together. For us to maintain cooperative relationships with each other, we must be able to count on one another. 

We trust people when we sense that they are competent, benevolent, and honest. A competent person has the ability to produce good outcomes for us. A benevolent person intends to make good things happen for us. An honest person has the integrity to let us know how they are going to treat us. Having trust in others makes dealing with them more predictable. It lets us know that they will be there for us, and it allows us to efficiently work with them in collaborative ways. 

Most people are somewhat trusting by default. When a stranger speaks to us, we typically assume that they are speaking truthfully. However, if a stranger on the street asks for $1000 and promises to return it tomorrow, your trust may rightly be lower. In high-stakes situations, we only trust people if they have proven that they are trustworthy.

People prove that they are trustworthy through their actions. They show us evidence of their honesty and dependability. People incrementally gain our trust by repeatedly demonstrating their honesty and dependability over time. 

Breaking Trust

Trust is particularly fragile. It is a precious commodity that can take years to cultivate but can be squandered in an instant. When someone violates our trust, usually through dishonesty, neglect, or disloyalty, we usually feel upset, hurt, angry, sad, and foolish. We come to distrust that person because they violated our faith and confidence in them.

Oftentimes, when people violate our trust, we withdraw from them if we can. We don’t risk placing ourselves in a vulnerable position with them again. We also become vigilant, looking for any evidence that they might undermine us or let us down again. 

Rebuilding Trust

If we violate someone’s trust and we want to try to rebuild that relationship, recovering the lost trust can take considerable time and effort. If the violation of trust is severe enough, restoring trust may be impossible. Rebuilding trust comes down to three processes: admission, atonement, and restoration. We must own up to our failings.

Not only do we need to admit where we think we have fallen short, but we also must also understand and accept where the other person believes we have failed them. Apologies, remorse, and contrition are necessities when rebuilding trust, but they may not be enough. We may also need to accept punishments and penance for our failings.

When people feel wronged by trust violations, they may feel that some proportional form of retributive justice is needed to rebalance the relationship. Trust can also be helped by putting in place rules that constrain future trust violations. Perhaps changes can be made that remove the temptations or secrecy that led to the original trust violation.

Finally, actively signaling and promoting a culture and intention toward integrity, trust, and transparency can strengthen trust. Regularly discussing trust, honesty, and integrity with the aggrieved person can reassure them that being a trustworthy person is your central goal. If we do violate someone’s trust, it is often a long journey back to a trusting bond, but the destination is worth it.

What Does the Navient Student Loan Settlement Mean for Borrowers?

In January 2022, Navient, one of the country’s largest student loan servicers, reached a $1.85 billion settlement over allegations it defrauded students with deceptive and predatory loan practices. The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought against Navient by 39 state attorneys general, and it provides some borrowers with student loan relief. 

The allegations: Navient directed struggling borrowers toward costly forbearance plans rather than into more appropriate income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. As a result, borrowers accrued unnecessary interest that bloated their loan balances and pushed them further into debt. Had borrowers received appropriate guidance, they could have been placed in an IDR plan with reduced payments, in some cases as low as $0 per month, depending on income. 

WHAT KIND OF STUDENT LOAN RELIEF DOES THE SETTLEMENT PROVIDE? 

The settlement provides two kinds of relief. Keep in mind, it’s limited and doesn’t apply to many borrowers. 

Private student loan cancellation. Borrowers who took out private student loans with Sallie Mae to attend for-profit colleges between 2002 and 2014 may be eligible for loan cancellation (aka discharge). The balance or a portion of the balance you owe could be canceled, and any payments made after June 30, 2021, could be refunded. 

Eligible borrowers may include those who were issued a subprime loan (made to borrowers with low credit scores) or those who attended a specific non-profit school. Check the settlement information for a list of schools. 

Restitution. Borrowers with federal student loans who were steered into long-term (2+ years) forbearance periods—periods of no payment—rather than receiving counseling on income-driven repayment plans may receive a “restitution” payment of $260. Loan forgiveness isn’t being offered to these borrowers. 

WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT ELIGIBILITY?

To be eligible for federal loan restitution—the $260 payment—you must be a resident of one of the 39 states that sued Navient. The restitution-participating states are: AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, TN, VA, WA, and WI. 

To qualify for cancellation on certain private subprime loans, borrowers must reside in any of the above restitution-participating states, or Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, or West Virginia. A military address postal code also qualifies. 

Review the information at navientagsettlement.com for more details on eligibility. 

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I QUALIFY? 

You don’t need to take any action to receive benefits, so if you’re not sure you qualify, don’t worry. Navient will notify all borrowers (in writing) who receive private loan cancellation or restitution payments.

Right now, the best thing is to make sure your contact information is up to date with the U.S. Department of Education and Navient. Go online to studentaid.gov to review and update your information and then call or go online to Navient to review or update your information for any private loans. 

If your loans are canceled due to the settlement, you may owe taxes on the forgiven amount. It’s worth checking with a qualified tax professional about the tax implications. 

HOW THE PUBLIC SERVICE LOAN FORGIVENESS (PSLF) WAIVER FACTORS IN

As part of the settlement, Navient must reform its counseling practices. The servicer is required to explain forbearance, deferment, and income-driven repayment plans to borrowers, as well as help them determine the best repayment option for them. 

Navient is also required to educate borrowers about Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PLSF) for federal loans and notify them about the PSLF limited waiver available through October 31, 2022. 

If you work in qualified public service (a 501c3 or a government job), you might benefit from the waiver, whether your loans are held by Navient or another servicer. PSLF still requires that you be working for a qualifying public service employer, but it has eased other requirements. 

You might qualify for forgiveness if you have any of the following: 

  • Direct Loans not in repayment through a qualifying income-driven repayment plan 
  • FFEL, Perkins, or other federal student loans not consolidated into a Direct Loan
  • Payments that were disqualified because they were late or partial payments

Make sure to apply before October 31, 2022.

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW ABOUT STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS

The Department of Education offers several federal forgiveness programs besides PSLF. There’s also the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, or you might be eligible for forgiveness in your state if you work in a particular profession. It’s worth researching. 

Forgiveness is also offered through Income-Driven Repayment Plans. In one of these plans, you make qualifying income-based payments for 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan, after which the balance is forgiven. Private student loans aren’t typically eligible for forgiveness. Keep an eye on studentaid.gov for updates on student loan forgiveness, who qualifies, and where to learn more. 

IF YOU WON’T BENEFIT FROM THE NAVIENT SETTLEMENT, WHAT CAN YOU DO? 

Even if you aren’t included in the Navient settlement, your federal student loans may qualify for discharge if you believe you were defrauded or deliberately misled by false promises or misrepresented information. The primary reasons someone might qualify for discharge: 

  • False certification. Discharge for false certification applies to borrowers who think their school falsely certified their eligibility to receive loans. For example, if the institution falsely certified your ability to benefit from the program, falsely certified your eligibility for the program, or signed your name to the application or promissory note without your authorization. 
  • Unpaid refund discharge. If you withdrew from the school, and it didn’t properly refund the loan when you withdrew, you could be eligible for the portion of the loan not refunded to be discharged. 
  • Borrower defense against repayment discharge. Finally, if you believe the school misled you, engaged in misconduct, or violated state law, you may be eligible for discharge. Examples include misrepresenting graduates’ job placement rates, employment prospects, accreditation status of programs, ability to transfer credits, and program completion claims.

Start by submitting your complaint through the Federal Student Aid Feedback Center or by calling 877-557-2575 for the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group. The ombudsman group can help you understand your rights, assist in identifying and evaluating your options for resolving specific concerns, and refer you to the appropriate resources.

The discharge application forms can be found on the StudentAid.gov website. Review the information before applying: unpaid refund discharge, false certification discharge, or borrower defense discharge. 

Awake at 3 AM and Ruminating on the Day’s Mistakes

Next month, I’ll be 64 years old and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

What am I doing wrong?

Short answer: Nothing. 

Long answer: Everything. And also nothing.

I’m not really doing anything wrong. I pack my days with obligations that include work, taking care of my multi-generational family, taking care of myself, and every now and then I dabble in the thing that I feel impassioned about, inspiring others to engage in their art.

Through it all, I remain positive.

How I can turn the lens of self-help on My-self. One way to achieve this goal is through disassociation. Basically, it’s the golden rule in reverse. Do to yourself what you would do unto others. Or more simply, treat yourself with the same love and care that you would a good friend, colleague, family member, or anyone other than yourself.

It’s not easy though. Especially when you wake at 3 AM and begin to run down the laundry list of shortcomings from the day.

“You didn’t finish writing that chapter. You still haven’t called about that appointment. You forgot that credit card bill. Again.”

The more that you think of what you didn’t do, the more disappointed you are in yourself. And that disappointment opens the floodgate for more berating.

Believe me. I’ve wasted many pre-dawn hours admonishing myself not only for the shortcomings of that day, but also for the past week, month, years, and more.

All the while, I tell myself, “You can’t change the past.” Even though I really wish that I could. (Don’t you sometimes?)

But then, another doom dart stabs me in the heart. I recoil. I tense. I am filled with remorse.

Dissociation gives you permission to step out of yourself and see yourself as others see you.

“Via an active process of valuation, self-reflection, and self-dialogue, and by creatively embodying and empowering the other, the self promotes innovative versions of itself to overcome distorted self-narratives” (Barani, 2019, p. 391).

I began to see myself through a kinder gentler lens.

  • When coaching a client, would I ever admonish them for their mistakes of the past?
  • Would I pick at that wound?
  • Would I bring up those shortcomings over and over again?

The answer is simple. No. I would never do that. What good would it do?

Focusing on the errors of the past, no matter how recent or not, does no good except to keep the errant trespasser suffering from their own transgressions. The downward spiral of this self-degradation keeps that person pushed down, continuing to feel bad.

The only time that we can take any action is now. We cannot change that past. The time machine exists only in science fiction.

We can plan for the future. And we can dream of what could be, but without taking action, there is no action, no forward movement.

Avoid the mentality of one strike and you’re out

  • Zero tolerance never allows for growth. It is unforgiving and stagnant.
  • Rehabilitation can work, even for the most horrific of criminals.
  • Forgive yourself of your past. You know better today than you did yesterday.

Scramble your memories

  • Replay that recording over and over and over until the memory becomes warped and even comical.
  • Memories are faulty. They tend to fixate on the negative.
  • Use today’s brushes to paint over the most embarrassing scenes with a vibrant, rosy tone.

See yourself and others as caricatures

  • What positive features can be exaggerated?
  • What negative aspects can be obscured?
  • Make the portrait so comically ridiculous that you cannot help but smile at the artifice of the scene.

Take a baby step forward toward your new, kinder future.

Again, what would you tell your client? Make a small plan. What’s one thing that you can do right now to progress toward that future goal that you envision?

Here’s my pledge: The next time that I wake in the idle of the night and start to list out my shortcomings, I will forgive my mistakes, I will not replay the tape but scramble the video until it breaks. I will see the cartoon of myself and smile. 

Sixty-four is going to be amazing!

How Teams Are Retaining Employees Right Now

Why are so many people quitting their jobs? According to a recent McKinsey report, employers believe that it is a problem with compensation or work-life balance. But the employees who are quitting tell a different story. Their main reasons for quitting are 1) not feeling valued and 2) not feeling a sense of belonging. And yet during the pandemic, the most productive companies actually broke this trend and improved employee job satisfaction by 48%. What do these successful organizations have in common? They practice five principles that help their teams connect and thrive.

To illustrate these principles, we’ll use the example of Michelle Taite, a CMO who was appointed to help accelerate the integration of two companies after an acquisition. As we reimagine work in the post-pandemic era, consider how these principles can help you create a sense of belonging on your team and show team members that they are indeed valued.

Put People First

When the conditions are right, people can accomplish more together than anyone could alone. In an ideal world, the more people give, the more they get. A win for one is a win for all. Achievement is a positive sum game. In this state, people feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Enjoyment heightens and productivity is elevated in turn. When a team does not achieve this, they enter a zero sum game, a state where everyone is motivated by their own self-interests, and the team as a whole suffers. Insight Center Collection Reimagining WorkBeyond a return to “normal.” 

Foster a positive sum game by creating an environment where team members join together, rather than protecting themselves from the zero sum game. This happens when team members relax into a trusting relationship that they feel is not just transactional but based in genuine care. When that relationship is achieved, team members trust each other to have their backs and respect each other as individuals with needs, aspirations, and joys. Referred to as shared empathy, this state is a leading indicator of effective teams. Leaders and teams cultivate shared empathy when they learn and care about each other’s deeper experience and take interest in each other’s lives — celebrating birthdays and inquiring about people’s children, spouses, and hobbies.

When Michelle stepped into her new role, she introduced herself to her team first and foremost as a person. She shared pictures of her family, her interests, and her heritage. Michelle’s team created a Slack channel devoted to fun and people, letting their personalities shine. She posted snippets from her own life, like a weekend family photo or her child’s meltdown with the caption “sometimes mornings are interesting here.” Make time for humor and create room for personal connection. Open meetings with ice breakers like, “What made you laugh this weekend?”, “What’s your favorite candy?”, or “What was a highlight and lowlight of your week?”

Rally Around Shared Goals

Anyone who has ever been a part of a sports team knows that achieving together can be a bonding experience. Tapping into the desire for greatness, team members strive together and challenge each other to bring their best. The joy of learning and ultimately winning is magnified tenfold when shared with others. Challenges bond teams — but only if they share a belief that striving to win unites them.

Michelle and her team use the hashtag #BeatOurBest to galvanize themselves around bold goals as they strive to build on their greatest achievements. When defining their marketing goals, the team framed the conversation around two questions: “What must we do to truly serve the needs of our customers and fuel growth?” and “How might we #BeatOurBest?” The how encouraged teammates to learn, experiment, and push the boundaries in service of the greater goal. And they specifically use the hashtag to unify. Michelle signs off in her weekly email with “Let’s #BeatOurBest together.” The hashtag helps orient them to the shared experience of reaching into the unknown and discovering just how big their wins can be.

Model Humility and Curiosity

People bond when they share a set of values that make them feel like there is something special about their group. Humility and curiosity are two values that can supercharge bonding. Humility is the recognition of our limits. When a leader models humility, it opens up space for others to contribute. The leader is recognizing gaps that others can fill and also creating an environment where it is psychologically safe to give bold ideas and risk being wrong. Curiosity is the recognition that there is always more to learn. This fuels the excitement of experimentation and growth.

Recognize opportunities to show humility by responding to feedback with openness and curiosity instead of defensiveness. Lead with inquiry and be clear that your proposals are a starting point. This encourages divergent opinions and creativity. Michelle demonstrated humility and curiosity when she told her team, “I am going to ask a lot of questions. They might be stupid, but that’s okay. I’d really love to learn.” To encourage curiosity, show delight in moments of discovery directly and indirectly related to the work. In her weekly newsletter, Michelle shares insights and inspiration she gathers from her own reading, podcasts, and TED videos. These serve as thought starters for the team.

3 Reasons You Should Argue With Your Partner

A new study by Hinnekens et al (2022) looked at couples’ ability to mindread each other during conflict. They found that partners are only moderately successful at mindreading.

Another study by Simpson et al. (2021) showed that highly avoidant individuals were less empathically accurate with their partners. Clearly, mindreading and avoidance are not effective tools to deal with marital issues and problems.

When it comes to mind reading and conflict avoidance, nobody does it better than people who were raised in emotionally neglectful families. Having missed the opportunity to observe emotionally healthy arguing between their parents or to participate in resolving family issues in a direct and emotionally aware way, these individuals typically rely on the primary skill available to them: avoid conflict altogether.

Avoidance may seem fairly effective for a while. That is, until the suppressed feelings of frustration, annoyance, anger, or hurt build up enough to cause a major eruption or lie under the surface for decades, driving a couple farther and farther apart.

As a couples therapist who specializes in childhood emotional neglect, I often observe the great lengths that couples will go to avoid fighting. But the truth is, just like lightning crystallizes the electric charge and clears it from the air during a storm, fights can calm relationships by crystallizing and clearing the negative emotion between the partners.

There is a three-part cycle that characterizes all healthy, lasting relationships: Harmony/Rupture/Repair. It’s a common pattern that is both the way healthy couples naturally function and part of what enriches and sustains a relationship.

Harmony

Harmony is the phase most relationships experience episodically when there is no particular conflict dividing them. When you are in harmony, you go about your daily life acting and feeling like a team. You can do your own thing all day and look forward to seeing each other at night. There might be some times of irritation or mild friction, but overall, you feel generally good together.

But this phase cannot last forever. Something almost always gets in the way. Life throws a wrench into the works. It may be an issue about parenting, finances, sex, or anything large or small, but something intervenes to throw off the harmony. Someone is hurt, angry, or upset. This starts phase two.

Rupture

The rupture is the difficult and challenging part. It’s the phase that many couples, especially the ones who experienced childhood emotional neglect, try their best to avoid. But it’s a requirement for having a happy marriage. You absolutely must be able to allow yourselves to rupture. Then, you begin the repair process, which is the path that gets you back to harmony.

Repair

During the repair process, no matter how strong your feelings or how painful the interaction, you must both be committed to sticking together through it, as long as there is no abuse or harmful behavior going on.

During a rupture, if it’s a large one, you may feel extreme anger, even rage. You may feel hurt, judged, hopeless, helpless, or even hateful. All of these feelings are okay, have value, and matter. And what you do with your feelings before and during rupture matters very, very much.

The Goal of Repair: A Meeting of the Minds

If you can use and express your feelings in a healthy way and talk through a problem, you do not need to come to a clear answer or solution in order to come out the other side intact and in harmony. You only need to get the problem clarified and your feelings aired. This is the “meeting of the minds.”

The meeting of the minds happens when you understand your partner’s feelings and why they have them. You don’t have to agree that they’re right; you only need to see your partner’s perspective and also let your partner know that you see. You also need to receive the same understanding in return.

Sometimes it takes many ruptures, over time, to resolve a problem. In the meantime, a meeting of the minds allows you to remain a team and continue to grow and evolve together.

Knowing Your “Why” Will Get You Through Just About Any “How”

What are you living for? Why do you invest your time, talent, and treasure in the things you invest them in? Are you working just to earn a paycheck, or does your work mean something more to you? Do you volunteer somewhere? Why there?

I am not asking these questions to be nosey or make idle chit-chat, but to make you think about your life and how you choose to spend your time. Not to seem grandiose, but your responses go straight to the heart of what it means to be human. They also reveal how you manage to carry on in spite of the setbacks and suffering life doles out to you—as it does to each of us in the wavering balance of joy and sorrow on which our lives pivot.

How you answer my questions reveals whether or not you have a sense of purpose and the vital role that purpose plays in giving life a sense of meaning and helping to make and keep you resilient.

Having a “why” is the key to powerful resilience.

In his profound book about how he survived the horrors of four different Nazi concentration camps, including the notorious Auschwitz, the late German psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “He who has a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.’”

Frankl described how the people in the camp who fared best, who managed to hold onto their sense of personal dignity and humanity amidst the most degrading circumstances imaginable, were those who had rich interior lives. Even during the back-breaking toil and deprivation that they were subjected to, they were able to focus their minds on happy memories of wonderful meals and concerts and loved ones who represented life’s blessings. The memory of those blessings was their “why,” the vision that kept them from surrendering to despair.

Our purpose, or vision, is what helps keep us going even after being knocked down by one of the punches that are as much a part of existence as the sweet moments that will become memories we savor for the rest of our lives.

Having a purpose is how we find meaning. It involves having a goal or ideal, something bigger than ourselves toward which we aim and aspire. It’s what we consider important enough to devote our energy and time to, the ultimate prize for running the race, the thing that keeps us going even if the race is not finished within our lifetime.

Discovering my own purpose

In the Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam,” each of us is called to practice actions that contribute toward repairing and healing the world, restoring it to the harmonious state for which it was created. Tikkun Olam is frequently related to social justice and environmental awareness, though even ordinary acts of kindness and everyday relationships offer opportunities to manifest it.

Although I am not Jewish, discovering the concept of Tikkun Olam helped me understand the purpose I first sensed for myself as a young journalist reporting on the HIV-AIDS epidemic beginning in the mid-1980s. Chronicling and publishing stories of the extraordinary acts of heroism and love I witnessed in LGBTQ communities around the United States gave me a sense of contributing my time and talent to something bigger than myself.

When I found my “why,” I had a brand-new master’s degree in journalism. I was full of the youthful energy that let me bang out feature-length articles in record time. I was heartbroken at the suffering I witnessed and experienced from my own losses. And, maybe most importantly, I choose to live out my sense of “gay pride” by writing stories about the lives of LGBTQ people as being equally important, instructive, and valuable as anyone else’s—the reason I write mostly for “mainstream” publications and take particular pride that recorded interviews and notes from my HIV-AIDS reporting have been collected by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., where they not only document some of LGBTQ history but comprise part of the nation’s own history.

Over the years I reported on HIV-AIDS and worked on-staff for national and global organizations addressing the challenges of the pandemic, we spoke of the “AIDS movement” to describe the massive effort to move society toward a compassionate, generous, and just response to the deadly plague that was killing our friends, coworkers, neighbors, and children. The movement offered a vision of a better world where all were equal and equally deserving of loving-kindness and respect. I was—and still am—deeply gratefulto contribute to and be a part of it. It has given me a deep sense of purpose and, in some of my own dark and painful times, helped to keep me going.

Nutrition and Sleep: The Best and Worst Foods for Quality Rest

t’s common knowledge that eating a balanced diet is key to living a healthy lifestyle. It reduces the risk of diseases such as stroke, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, helps you maintain a more positive mood and promotes more energy. Among other things, good nutrition essentially helps us look and feel like our best selves. Funny enough, a full night’s sleep also offers a lot of the same benefits. 

Good sleep and conscious eating go hand in hand, and each has the ability the other. Eating the wrong foods at the wrong time can be harmful to your sleep quality, which plays an important role in maintaining your physical and mental health. Below, learn how you can tweak your eating habits to get higher-quality rest, including the best foods for sleep and the foods you want to avoid.

How poor sleep affects your health

The recommended amount of sleep for adults is seven to nine hours each night. During that time, your brain cycles through the four stages of sleep: three stages of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and one stage of REM (rapid eye movement). 

  • NREM sleep: The quiet sleep stages where your brain is working to retain memories and knowledge, in addition to repair, refresh, and restore your body. 
  • REM sleep: The active sleep stage where your body is working to repair cells and muscle tissue, promote bone and muscle growth and helps strengthen the immune system. 

If you’re waking up often in the middle of the night or have trouble getting a full night’s sleep, you prevent your body from running through its necessary processes that keep you healthy and productive. Continuous poor sleep puts you at risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Bad memory
  • Weakened immune system

Unbalanced nutrition tends to be a common culprit for poor sleep, especially if you’re eating certain foods too close to bedtime. 

Nutrition for quality sleep

There seems to be a clear link between nutrition and your quality of sleep. To find out more, I spoke to Stephanie Nelson, a registered dietitian who works as a nutrition expert at the tracking app MyFitnessPal. Nelson explained, “The relationship between sleep and nutrition is very complex and we don’t know everything about all the associations between sleep and food. However, a good general summary is that any biological process, including sleep, is influenced by getting the right amount of nutrients. “

“For example, having high blood sugar impacts your energy in the moment, which can prevent you from sleep,” Nelson continued. “Other nutrients impact neurotransmitters that make it easier to relax and turn your brain off for sleep.” 

While food affects sleep, the amount of quality sleep you get can also impact your eating habits. Nelson said, “Interestingly, the relationship goes both ways. There’s research showing that poor sleep can negatively impact hormone balances that affect your hunger, and people who sleep less tend to eat more overall.”

Making more conscious choices about food and when you’re eating it can make a big difference in your sleep quality.

The do’s and don’ts on eating for better sleep

Here are Nelson’s tips on how to eat for better sleep. 

Do’s

1. Eat a balanced dinner 

“The building blocks of a balanced dinner are a protein source, high-fiber carbohydrate source, and a vegetable. This might look like a grilled marinated chicken breast, some quinoa, and roasted veggies,” said Nelson. “You could also get more creative with it, like a coconut curry made with tofu and sauteed veggies, served over brown rice, or tacos made with the protein of your choice, some beans, and cabbage and onions (and all your other favorite toppings).” 

Eat foods that promote serotonin production

Serotonin is required for your body to make melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. But Nelson also warns that too much serotonin is associated with poor sleep. 

“In order for your body to produce the right amount of serotonin, you need to consume tryptophan, an amino acid you can find in most animal-based foods, oats, nuts, and seeds,” Nelson explained. “You also need to have a carbohydrate source, which allows for tryptophan to be used for serotonin rather than other processes. Other nutrients like vitamin B6, present in sweet potatoes among other foods, are also needed for the right amount of serotonin production.”

3. Eat around three hours before bedtime

You might have heard that you shouldn’t eat right before bedtime if you want a good night’s rest. But how soon, exactly, should you stop eating? “It’s different for everyone,” said Nelson. “Most experts recommend to eat three hours before bedtime for best sleep results, so start there, but definitely play with it. Some people can eat closer to bedtime and still have a good night’s sleep,” she said.

Don’ts

1. Avoid caffeine, sugary drinks and alcohol before bed

You probably know that caffeine isn’t the best nighttime beverage, but what about alcohol or juices? Nelson says you should try to avoid those in the hours right before bed too.

“Being hydrated is key to a good night’s sleep,” she said. “Alcohol dehydrates you, so for the first step, reduce alcohol consumption near bedtime. High sugar drinks also can interfere with sleep, and anything with caffeine.” 

“If you’re having trouble sleeping, definitely check when your most recent caffeinated beverages are consumed before bed,” she noted.

2. Don’t eat dessert close to bedtime

For individuals with a sweet tooth, don’t eat foods like ice cream, cookies or chocolate before bedtime. Nelson explains that “low-fiber, high-sugar snacks before bed can cause a spike and then a drop in blood sugar.” These irregular blood sugar levels can disrupt your sleep in multiple ways, making it hard for you get deep rest.

Improve Your Well-Being With A Gratitude Journal

According to researchers, there is a solid link between practicing gratitude and your social, emotional, and physical wellbeing. As we age, it’s more critical than ever to adopt routines that improve our health, and starting a gratitude journal is one of the more straightforward steps to take. Here’s everything you need to know about gratitude journaling.

What Is a Gratitude Journal?

Gratitude is the practice of recalling and expressing your appreciation for the good things in your life. Thus, a gratitude journal is a continuous document where you write and store these observations day after day. Having a daily record of what you appreciate in your life is a wonderful way to purposefully focus on the positives in a world where it’s easy to get bogged down in the negatives. Many people who keep a gratitude journal like to incorporate the writing into a daily meditation or relaxation routine, while others prefer to take a mid-day gratitude break to refocus for the afternoon ahead.

Mental Health Benefits

The practice of noting and acknowledging what we’re grateful for each day can quickly transform our mental health. Shifting your focus away from negative emotions, like envy or fear, to focus on gratitude means you’re spending less time ruminating over ideas that could generate toxic energy. Researchers at Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine noted that (based on brain scans of various groups in a gratitude-related study) “simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain.” The more you actively process gratitude, the more your brain includes that emotion in its decision-making processes. Gratitude begets gratitude!

Overall Wellness Improvements

Gratitude isn’t only about mental health. The link between gratitude and physical health is becoming more apparent with research from experts like Glenn Fox at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. His years of work have led to the finding that “benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure, and a host of other things we associate with better health.” Psychology Today reported on a 2012 study that found that “grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people.” Other studies have found that writing in a gratitude journal can fortify resilience in overcoming trauma and stress.

Journaling for a Sharper Brain

Beyond general wellness improvements associated with practicing gratitude, the act of journaling itself has many mental benefits. The process of recalling and writing specific events can improve memory and focus. In addition, the routine of daily journaling helps many seniors stick to other essential practices (like sleep, meals, and exercise). Trying new activities, including journaling, can also bolster mental fitness as it activates pathways in the brain that aren’t used for ingrained habits or old skills.

Where to Start

It’s never too late to start incorporating a daily gratitude journal into your routine, and beginning the process is easy!

Start with a goal to write three things you’re grateful for each day. It’s important to choose a physical journal that is aesthetically pleasing as well as accessible. If you have fine motor or vision challenges, select something with wide lines (or no lines at all!) that can open and lie flat to minimize your physical discomfort while writing.

Make sure that you have plenty of light in your journaling space, too. If physically writing isn’t an option for you, don’t shy away from technology! You can type in a special document on your computer or even dictate to your phone.

The best time to write your notes of gratitude for many is in the evening before bed. Focusing on the positives in your life will help calm your mind and body as you ease into sleep. If you find that you don’t have anything to write on a given day, flip back through your journal and re-read past entries for inspiration. Revisiting a past moment of gratitude isn’t cheating! In fact, the repetition will only strengthen that memory and feeling.

Start your gratitude practice today to start reaping the benefits. “Finding a new wellness practice” can even be one of your three items on day one!

A financial shock could wreck retirees’ or pre-retirees’ finances

According to a recent Society of Actuaries survey, about half of the pre-retirees report experiencing some type of unexpected financial shock, as well as more than 4 in 10 retirees. And, 1 in 5 pre-retirees report that these shocks have reduced their assets by 25% or more and reduced their spending by 10% or more.

The good news is that far fewer retirees report these reductions, according to the 2021 Retirement Risk Survey Report of Findings. For example, just 1 in 10 retirees (11%) report that shocks reduced their assets by more than 25%.

Pre-retirees least prepared for a crisis

Other key findings: When asked what they could afford to spend out of pocket on an emergency without jeopardizing their retirement security, half of pre-retirees report that they could only afford to spend $10,000 or less and more than half of retirees could afford no more than $25,000. Black/African American pre-retirees (61%) are more likely than pre-retirees in general (40%) to be impacted by an unexpected expense of up to $10,000.

Among retirees, Black/African American respondents (58%) and Hispanic/Latino (52%) said they are not able to spend $10,000 without it affecting their retirement security. This was much greater than the general retiree response (32%), according to the Society of Actuaries survey.

So, what to make of all this? How might you, be you a pre-retiree or retiree, better prepare for unexpected financial shocks?

Build an emergency fund

Most financial planners recommend that you have at least three to six months of living expenses set aside for, well, emergencies or financial shocks, such as a new roof or dental work.

“Early in my career, I had a 90-plus-year-old client say to me regarding financial assets, ‘You never know what it will take to get you out of this world,’” said Bill Harris, a certified financial planner with WH Cornerstone Investments. “Her life wisdom was spot on. I use that quote to tell pre-retirees with ‘constrained’ or under-funded retirement assets that life has its unexpected turns. We also tell pre-retirees, ‘You can never ever save enough for retirement. An emergency fund is always needed.’”

Build a reserve fund too

Unexpected spending shocks are a reality at any age, said Roger Whitney, host of the “Retirement Answer Man” podcast. “When they happen in retirement – after income from work ends – they aren’t as easily absorbed or worked through,” he said. “To be better prepared, create options for your future self to deal with a shock. Building cash reserves above a normal emergency fund, eliminating debt to lower fixed monthly payments, or working part time can help create financial slack to help you be agile as your retirement life unfolds.”

5 Ways Managers Sabotage the Hiring Process

When building a team at a startup earlier in my career, our investors, advisors, and I crafted what looked like a bullet-proof recruiting strategy. Our advisory group collectively had more than 100 years of experience operating companies. But despite the wealth of expertise behind our hiring process, I learned an important lesson the hard way: Even the most rigorous recruiting strategy is only as strong as the decision-maker’s biggest blind spot.

“Elliot,” a media professional I interviewed, was articulate, energetic, and showed a natural affinity for our product. His credentials were solid, and — crucially — he was willing to take an equity position in lieu of a large salary. For a startup, this was a big factor. We hired him.*

But in recommending this decision, I overlooked a few red flags. Notably, Elliot admitted to leaving a trail of burned bridges with former employers and was convinced he’d been repeatedly victimized by unappreciative bosses and bad environments. He didn’t make a good impression on our lead investor, and his own references spoke about him in neutral tones. But he had what I thought counted: passion and potential. I believed I could fix the rest.

Elliot ultimately stirred up numerous problems for the company. We believe that he stole information, lied, and destroyed intellectual property. While we couldn’t have foreseen the extent of this behavior, we dismissedwarning signs right from the start. Our problem wasn’t a lack of knowledge about hiring best practices — it was my own blind spot. I downplayed the risk, thinking we could rehabilitate this troubled candidate and bring out his potential. So, despite the warning signs and a major investor’s concerns, I made the recommendation to bring him on board.

Having now worked with and mentored dozens of leaders and founders, I know I’m not alone. Nearly every hiring manager has a blind spot that, if left unidentified, can lead to devastating consequences even within well-planned systems. Over time, I’ve identified five of the most common blind spots that compromise recruitment outcomes.

Fixing and rescuing

This was my blind spot with Elliot, and one that is common among founders and other entrepreneurial leaders. Entrepreneurs are by nature more likely than average to believe they can affect massive change. This can extend to an overconfidence in their ability to “develop” employees, even in light of evidence that a person is lacking the requisite character traits for growth, like accountability and openness to feedback. A superstar sports coach rehabilitating a talented but self-destructive athlete makes for good television, but the reality is that most hiring managers don’t have the resources, skills, or time to reform troubled hires.

Beyond overconfidence in their problem-solving skills, entrepreneurs are also vulnerable to this pattern because of their tight budgets. They’re often looking for a deal, and a candidate willing to take a sizeable portion of their salary in equity represents just that. Leaders with pride in their organization will assume that the individual’s motivation is their passion for the business. They’ll overlook the possibility that other reasons may drive someone to take a step down financially — including a lack of options.

If you recognize this blind spot in yourself, one of the best ways to mitigate the danger is obvious but underused: Don’t make hiring decisions alone. Seek out a second opinion. If you already have a second opinion, don’t make my mistake — listen to it.

Validation seeking

“Emily,” a tech startup CEO, found her business in jeopardy when her product experienced a massive feature failure in beta testing. No one on her team had voiced any criticisms pre-launch. She didn’t understand how this was possible. But Emily admitted that she only hired people who showed unbounded enthusiasm in interviews. She deemed candidates who under-praised the product “not passionate enough.”

As a result, she overlooked contrarian candidates, the exact people who call out problems even when doing so is unpopular. A study out of Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management warns that leaders who develop “heightened overconfidence from high levels of such ingratiatory behavior” will be less likely to “initiate needed strategic change.” Emily, who conflated validation with passion, was a case in point.

If you have a validation-seeking blind spot, also known as “affect-based” decision making, realize that pointing out flaws does take passion. It requires attention, analysis, and the courage to speak up. Praise is easy. Don’t overlook the candidates who offer thought-provoking criticism of your business, even if your knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss them.

Boundary breaching

“Anna,” a marketing executive, believed a selling point for job candidates was that her team was “like a family” — at least until a colleague confessed that the team resented how much time Anna spent helping “Jill,” one of her direct reports, navigate her divorce. With Jill, something was always wrong — with her partner, her parents, her social life, her car — and Anna felt it was her duty to indulge these “emergencies,” often at the expense of the rest of the team, who picked up the slack.

Anna remembered how drawn Jill was to the idea of a tight-knit team during the interview process. What Anna didn’t understand is that there is a time and place for empathy. Empathy can turn a good leader into a great leader, but it can also be misapplied.

In describing her team as a family, Anna thought she was signaling an empathetic culture to job candidates. But language like “we’re a family” or “we’re always there for each other no matter what,” actually signals a lack of professional boundaries.

If you find yourself attracting high-drama candidates who monopolize everyone’s time, make a note of any overly personalized language you might be using. Also be wary of oversharing by candidates, particularly when they present personal stories as mitigating factors for recurring problems at work.

Micromanaging

Most people accept, at least in theory, that micromanagement is an undesirable practice rooted in self-doubt and uncertainty. Nevertheless, many leaders still signal a micromanaged culture to candidates while recruiting them. Self-determination, autonomy, and a strong internal locus of control inspire the creative impulse. Enterprising people require the freedom to take risks, make mistakes, and challenge engrained suppositions.

Thus, a hiring manager who hints at heavy oversight during recruitment will likely attract candidates who tolerate inflexible environments well — individuals who lack passion, are not highly engaged, prefer linear work, and are not highly driven.

If you find yourself struggling to attract and hire self-managing, creative people, it’s worth considering the signals you’re sending. Think about whether you may be placing too much emphasis on rules and procedures, glamorizing the hierarchy or org chart, or suggesting that all conflict (some of which can be productive) is unwelcome.

Study finds fitness may reduce dementia risk by 33%

Leveraging the vast breadth of people receiving care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), first author Dr. Edward Zamrini and his colleagues studied 649,605 military veterans ages 30–95 years. 

These individuals had not received a diagnosis with ADRD and had performed an Exercise Treadmill Test (ETT) as part of their routine care. 

The scientists analyzed these individuals’ charts for the diagnosis of ADRD over an average of 8.8 years.

Dr. Zamrini, principal author Prof. Qing Zeng-Teitler, and their colleagues compared ETT results and the incidence at which ADRD developed in these individuals. 

Metabolic equivalence

Exercise tolerance tests help quantify fitness levels using a standard of measure called METs, or metabolic equivalence of task. 

In this study, the authors divided participants into five groups based on the METs they could achieve from lowest to highest fitness: on average, about 3.8 to 11.7 METs. 

For comparison, 1 MET is equivalent to sitting quietly, yoga requires 3.2 METs, and backpacking at 3.63 miles per hour would demand 11.6 METs.

The scientists found that less fit individuals were at the highest risk of experiencing ADRD. Conversely, highly fit people were the least likely to develop ADRD.

Dr. Zamrini, director of neurology at Irvine Clinical Research, adjunct professor of clinical research and leadership at George Washington University, and adjunct professor of neurology at the University of Utah, explained to Medical News Today:

“Our study found a strong, graded inverse association between cardiorespiratory fitness and reduction of risk of [Alzheimer’s Disease]. This means that the more fit a person is, the more likely that if they were to develop AD, they would develop it later.”

Specifically, the researchers found that, compared with the least fit participants, the fittest were 33% less likely to develop ADRD. Similarly, the second most fit group was 26% less likely to develop ADRD, the third most fit group was 20% less likely, and the fourth most fit was 13% less likely.

“There are two main factors that influence cardiorespiratory fitness: genetics and exercise. We cannot change our genetics,” he continued, “but we can improve our cardiorespiratory fitness through a sensible exercise program. Our study also demonstrates that we don’t have to become marathon runners to reduce our risk. Even small increases in cardiorespiratory fitness can help!”

Dr. Scott Kaiser, MD, a board certified geriatrician and Director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, elaborated for MNT:

“You cannot prove that it was the low fitness that caused dementia. But, that said, the association was so clear, not just in the strength of the association but in the nature of the association. The way it so neatly correlated with rising fitness levels lowering dementia risk. It’s a very convincing association.”

“There are many other studies that have looked prospectively to affirm this link between physical fitness and risk of dementia and confirm that regular and recommended exercise can reduce [a person’s] risk of developing dementia,” continued Dr. Kaiser.

“So, studies like the [worldwide] FINGER study, out of Finland, where they are actually looking prospectively at populations over time — there is just mounting evidence […] that if you want to reduce your risk of dementia and maintain a healthy brain, you should exercise regularly and pursue other activities to improve your cardiorespiratory fitness.”

American Parents Are Ridiculously Stressed Out, Survey Shows

The organization’s annual “Stress in America” poll, released Thursday, found that the pandemic and record-high inflation already stressed Americans, and when the Ukraine invasion began, our collective stress levels spiked. The original survey of 3,012 adult Americans was conducted in February and found that 87% of respondents were troubled by the continually rising costs of necessities like food and gas, the highest “proportion of adults seen across all stressors asked about in the history of the Stress in America™ survey.” A similarly high percentage said they felt their mental health was negatively impacted by a “constant stream of crises without a break over the last two years.”

While it seems all Americans are heavily stressed, parents are having a hell of a hard time. Over 70% of parents said they feared the pandemic had negatively affected their children’s social development, academic development, and emotional health or development. Sixty-eight percent said they were concerned about their children’s cognitive and physical development after two years of Covid protocols. Parents, compared to non-parents, were more likely to name money (80% vs. 58%), the economy (77% vs. 59%), and housing costs (72% vs. 39%) as “significant sources of stress.”

Researchers were shocked to find so many Americans stressed over the same things. “We don’t usually see 80 percent of people telling us that a particular stressor is stressful for that many individuals,” clinical psychologist Lynn Bufka, the APA’s associate chief for practice transformation, told CBS News.’

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, researchers completed a second poll with questions related to Russia and Ukraine. Eighty percent of the over 2,000 respondents said they were concerned that Russia would retaliate with nuclear threats or cyber-attacks and that the invasion has been “terrifying to watch.” Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said they felt the invasion could mark the start of World War III and lead to nuclear war.

“The number of people who say they’re significantly stressed about these most recent events is stunning relative to what we’ve seen since we began the survey in 2007,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., APA’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”

8 Effective Strategies to Calm Your Nervous System

It may seem counterintuitive and even impossible to remain calm amidst chaos and uncertainty. Exposure to news media is disturbing, and it would be reasonable to feel anxious, worried, helpless, and hopeless. Thoughts of fear can activate the threat and danger response in the brain. The amygdala, located in the middle brain, sends out signals to the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal systems, mobilizing oneself for protection. This is commonly called the fight-or-flight response. But without actively engaging in a fight or fleeing from a situation, the response is experienced as anxiety. Anxiety includes rapid heart rate, excessive nervous energy, tension in the body, and impaired mental functioning. It can also lead to disrupted sleep, and panic attacks. If one has a history of trauma, anxiety about current issues can trigger old traumas in the form of flashbacks and nightmares, intensifying the experience of anxiety and lack of safety.

If exposure to the news media is causing you increased anxiety and agitation, consider a reduction of media or even planned media fasts. Maybe limit your exposure to 30 minutes a day, or to once every other day, or even consider a fast of several days in a row? A reduced diet of news media may help you reset and calm your mind.

Nonetheless, we have to continue to live our daily lives and continue to be productive. Being anxious does not help. Anxiety interferes with problem-solving, concentration, and focus. Anxiety does not help the world, and it does not help you either. Call upon your inner strength and resources, focus on a productive goal, and free your mind so you can be proactive. Avoid substances that will intensify a negative mood or disrupt your sleep. It is very natural to reach for food or drink when you are anxious. Most commonly this includes having a drink of alcohol, eating crunchy salty foods, or eating sugary treats, chocolate, or ice cream. Caffeinated soda, coffee, and marijuana are particularly linked to increased irritability, agitation, and anxiety. Do you have a favorite stress food or drink? These may be momentarily satisfying and can temporarily mask uneasy feelings, but in the long run, may work against your stated goal to reduce anxiety. Can you find a satisfying substitute?

Consider these eight strategies to stay grounded and calm the nervous system.

1. Shift your diet. Choose whole (not processed) foods, sufficient protein, and a balance of nutritious fruits and vegetables. Some vitamins can help restore balance in times of stress, such as B vitamins, Omega’s, Ashwagandha, potassium, and magnesium, and/or a good multivitamin may help.

2. Drink water. Dehydration disrupts sleep, can cause headaches, and overall poor mental and physical functioning. Drinking water helps flush the system of toxins, restores Ph balance, helps with cognitive functioning, the digestive and elimination systems, temperature, sleep, and can reduce pain.

3. Engage your senses. When anxious, it helps to get grounded by engaging your senses. For smell: aromatherapy helps improve mood as the olfactory nerve is located in the limbic system, which is the control center for the emotional part of the brain. Touch: hold a smooth rock, soft blanket, or press your feet into the ground. Attention to the feet is a natural anxiolytic and a way to feel grounded. Sight: slowly look around from left to right, scanning your environment. Sound: Listen, what do you hear? Birds, or other sounds? Taste: let an ice chip melt in your mouth or savor a single bite of food. These strategies will help you feel more present in your body.

A Brain Changer: How Stress Shapes Cognition and Memory

Some of us have visceral responses to stress—we struggle to focus; our recall is… not great; we feel disorganised, overwhelmed, and exhausted; we can’t sleep; our head hurts, our neck aches; we’re tearful; and we may even feel like we’re on the brink of a meltdown. What does this stress do to the brain, or beneath the skin? Here, we explore the neural mechanisms that underlie how stress and strain shape the brain and its impact on our memory.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Stress triggers an evolutionary-based, psychobiological response to the precarious environment we find ourselves in on a day-to-day basis. But that is not to say that we cannot experience eustress (more commonly known as “good stress”).

Good stress can elicit excitement—it can be motivating, even performance-enhancing. It can propel us to greater heights during exams, interviews, and speeches. Our pulse hastens, our heart races, our hormones surge—in other words, we feel alive.

Alas, eustress tends to be short-lived. Without it, we can feel listless, rudderless, or just plain unhappy. Good stress is, thus, key to vitality.

But bad stress often creeps up on you like a stranger in the night. It can be chronic in nature or acute and intense. While the healthy brain processes good stress adaptively, bad stress can lead to maladaptive processing with lasting effects on brain structure, function, and plasticity, with changes seen also to neuron shape, connectivity, and cell count. Together, these changes impede cognitive processing (Bremner, 1999).

More Than a Side Effect

Whether on a social or occupational basis, stress can overwhelm cognitive load and evoke aversive neural reactions that disrupt our physiological equilibrium—with knock-on effects seen to our mental well-being and overall health. Stress increases our vulnerability to a range of well-known (and more obscure) physical and mental health conditions—including systemic lupus erythematosus (Morand, 2018), Cushing’s disease (Orsini et al., 2021), cardiovascular disease (Kivimäki & Steptoe, 2018), depression (Hamilton et al., 2021), and psychosis (Dykxhoorn et al., 2020), to name a few.

But what of memory? Deficits in declarative and non-declarative memory (i.e., recall of events and facts vs. conditioning and skill learning), in addition to cognitive difficulty and issues with overall executive function (e.g., flexible thinking and self-control) often coincide with conditions such as these. While they are typically passed off as inconvenient side-effects, there is much more to it than that.

Where Memories Are Made

The hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex are crucial components of brain circuitry involved in learning and memory. The hippocampus, however, is the anatomic basis for memory, responsible for memory encoding, consolidation, and retrieval (Lindau et al., 2016).

Although it does not operate in isolation, the hippocampus is the temporal lobe brain structure most sensitive to stress (Calcia et al., 2016). Hippocampal vulnerability stems from the incitement of glucocorticoids and neurotransmitters that are elevated in the stress response (McEwen, 2007). Even in fit and healthy people, stress can elevate glucocorticoids. Soldiers tested at wartime, for example, had excessive levels of urinary cortisol, but notable reductions in cortisol were detected when they were no longer in immediate threat (Howard et al., 1955).

Stress Shrinks the Brain

Stress-induced hippocampal atrophy (aka shrinkage) has been associated with spatial and working memory deficits in both humans and animals (Conrad, 2008). This type of shrinkage occurs through inhibitory effects of prolonged stress exposure on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which causes glucocorticoid hypersecretion and the modulation of excitatory neurotransmitters (McEwenn, 2007).

Chronically elevated glucocorticoids and excitatory amino acid neurotransmitters can permanently alter brain architecture. This level of exposure can cause a number of neuronal changes, from reduced dendritic branching, synaptic terminal structural alterations, neuron death, and neuronal regeneration inhibition in the hippocampus (Bremner, 1999).

DEI Leadership Lessons from Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court Nomination

And while many leaders are unapologetic about having no intention to drive even a modicum of meaningful change, there are countless others who truly support DEI in their heads and hearts but are sheepishly paralyzed in practice—leaders who deeply struggle with making the transition from well-intentioned believer to high-impact builder.

For such leaders—and for all of us—President Biden’s historic nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court is particularly instructive. If confirmed, Jackson would be only the eighth person to sit on the Supreme Court bench who was not a white man since the Court’s establishment in 1789. Biden, who has consistently signaled his commitment to use his presidential power to advance DEI, promised to nominate a Black woman to the Court in the event of a vacancy—and, to his credit, he followed through. Biden’s handling of Jackson’s groundbreaking nomination offers three practical lessons that can help leaders to get unstuck and, ultimately, better connect their creeds and their deeds. 

Be precise with what “diversity” means in your context 

One aspect of Biden’s approach to this Supreme Court nomination process that was as courageous as it was controversial is the precision with which he declared what “diversity” would look like in this case – namely, that he intended to diversify the Court by adding a Black woman. Without any context, the word “diversity” simply refers to our human differences, whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, ideology, age/generation, or other factors; it does not expressly refer to particular types of people or assume a particular status hierarchy of haves and have-nots. But in the context of corporate DEI, “diversity” is most often used as an imprecise, catch-all category referring to all of the have-nots who are most often underrepresented in the executive ranks – individuals from a wide array of stigmatized, marginalized, and historically disadvantaged groups. Though politically correct, this imprecision often forestalls meaningful action because progress requires strategic acuity and tactical specificity. If Black and Hispanic women, for example, are not represented in senior management, leaders should say as much in addition to espousing a general commitment to “diversity.” 

When committing to increase “diversity,” there can be wisdom in explicitly naming what “diversity” means in a particular context because it can force a sober analysis of which groups have been underrepresented, why, and what can be done to solve for the exclusion. After all, you cannot fix what you are unwilling to face. Ambiguous executive commitments to “diversity” may make for great soundbites, but alone, they rarely fuel measurable progress. To be sure, adopting a generic pro-diversity stance may be easier for leaders than articulating a specific vision of what diversifying their organizations will look like in clear, observable terms. And yet, summoning the clarity and courage to speak with precision can be key in helping leaders gain the traction to accelerate their DEI impact. The road to lasting change begins with a willingness to commit to a vivid picture of the organization’s current state and precisely what “diversity” progress will look like in practice. 

Be Prepared to Combat the “Diversity Equals Deficiency” Myth

Upon the announcement of Justice Breyer’s retirement, President Biden promised to nominate a Black woman with “extraordinary qualifications, character, experience, and integrity” to the High Court. While these qualifiers should have been able to go unspoken, people of color, women, and others from historically underrepresented groups are chronically assumed to be incompetent until proven otherwise. Consequently, efforts to diversify organizations are routinely beset by a single question: whether the organization should hire the “best” available candidate or the “diverse” candidate. This cringeworthy “question” subtly suggests that underrepresented candidates will be inherently deficient because diversity and excellence are somehow opposites. Anyone who’s ever advanced underrepresented talent knows that the presumption of incompetence for “diverse candidates”—not to mention double-minorities like Jackson (who is both Black and a woman)—will be the proverbial elephant in the boardroom. Such thinking is nothing more than a paper-thin façade for a polished prejudice that believes that obstructing DEI progress is in the best interest of ensuring strong organizational performance.

Inaction is a decisive vote cast in favor of preserving the very status quo that DEI efforts are designed to transform.

— Nicholas Pearce

Do I Need to Pay Taxes on Unemployment?

That’s a big change from last year when you filed your 2021 tax return on 2020 income. For 2020 federal tax returns, the American Rescue Plan of 2021 allowed an exclusion of up to $10,200 per individual, but that tax break wasn’t extended for 2021. 

As the April 15 income tax filing deadline approaches, you need to be prepared to pay federal taxes on unemployment compensation you collected in 2021. You could be hit with some sticker shock. Here’s what to know. 

WHY UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS ARE TAXABLE

Unemployment benefits are treated like regular income. Your benefits get reported to the IRS and are subject to federal income tax. The amount you received during the year gets added to your overall taxable income. Although the benefits aren’t specifically taxed (nothing is withheld unless you opt in), it’s that total amount of income that shapes your tax bill. 

Most states with a state income tax also collect taxes on unemployment benefits, but some do not. Check the table at the end of this article to see if your state taxes unemployment benefits and what the rate is. You can find more details about each state’s approach in this guide.

The main difference between unemployment and regular wage income is that you don’t pay Social Security or Medicare taxes on unemployment benefits (listed as FICA taxes). Also, the percentage you pay on your benefits is determined by your income bracket. For example, if you’re a single filer and you earned between $9,951 and $40,525, you fall in the 12% federal tax bracket for 2021-2022. 

HOW TO HANDLE A TAX BILL IF YOU’RE STILL UNEMPLOYED 

You may be feeling the financial pinch if you’re still unemployed. If you can’t afford to pay your tax bill, the IRS offers a few options. 

First, contact the IRS right away to explain your situation and find out if you’re eligible for an alternative payment plan. They can discuss your options with you and set you up on a repayment plan, such as a short-term repayment plan within 180 days or a long-term installment plan over 72 months. It’s peak tax season right now, so it may not be easy to get through right away. Try to be patient. 

If you’re not able to pay anything at all, the IRS may decide your account is “currently not collectible.” That designation temporarily delays their collection process. 

Keep in mind, your tax debt doesn’t go away. Penalties and interest may accrue on the unpaid amount during this “not collectible” period. You’ll also be expected to pay fees and interest on any installment plan as well. Going forward, if you can afford to pay a little bit toward next year’s tax bill, that’s advisable to avoid a lump sum in April. 

HOW TO AVOID A HEFTY TAX BILL ON UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

To avoid being socked with a large bill come tax time, you can voluntarily choose to withhold a portion from your unemployment benefits so you don’t get stuck with a tax bill or lose out on a refund you were expecting. 

Unless you absolutely can’t manage to pay throughout the year, it’s highly recommended you opt in to withholding a certain amount. The agency that pays your unemployment benefits will withhold a flat 10% to cover all or a portion of your tax bill. 

Once you’ve returned to work, it’s worth making sure you have the correct amount withheld to avoid a surprise bill. Use the IRS tax withholding calculator to see how much you should withhold. 

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT TAX WITHHOLDING 

Even though the IRS recommends you withhold a certain amount from your unemployment benefits to cover taxes, your wellbeing comes first. Of course, avoiding a big tax bill is preferable, but if money is extra tight, it’s more important to pay your utility bills and keep food in your pantry. You can always work out a way to repay your bill with the IRS later. Better that than letting your fridge go unstocked. 

Are you still unemployed? Take a look at our unemployment resource. We are here to help. If you’re back to work but dealing with a hefty tax debt because of your time away from work, talk to an MMI credit counselor. We may be able to help you address your other debts and bring some balance to your budget.

Chart: States that tax your unemployment benefits

StateTaxes unemployment benefits?If so, how much?
AlabamaNo 
AlaskaNo 
ArizonaYes  Same guidelines as federal
ArkansasYesAK has made an exemption for 2020 and 2021 tax years; income tax range is 2% to 5.5% depending on income
CaliforniaNo 
ColoradoYesFlat income tax rate of 4.5% for 2021, 4.55% in 2022
ConnecticutYesSame guidelines as federal
DelawareYesDE has made an exemption for 2020 and 2021 tax years; income tax range is 2.2% to 6.6% depending on income
DCNo 
FloridaNo 
GeorgiaYesSame guidelines as federal
HawaiiYesIncome tax range is 1.4% to 11%
IdahoYesSame guidelines as federal
IllinoisYesFlat income tax rate of 4.95%
IndianaYesFlat income tax rate of 3.23%; some unemployment benefits may also be tax deductible
IowaYesIncome tax range is 0.33% to 8.53% depending on income
KansasYesSame guidelines as federal
KentuckyYesFlat income tax rate of 5%
LouisianaYesSame guidelines as federal
MaineYesIncome tax range is 5.8% to 7.15%
MarylandYesSame guidelines as federal; 2020 and 2021 tax year exemptions for those with gross adjusted income at or below $75,000 (single) or $100,000 (married filing jointly)
MassachusettsYesFlat income tax rate of 5%; 2020 and 2021 exemptions for up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits if household income is below 200% of federal poverty level
MichiganYesFlat state income tax is 4.25%
MinnesotaYesIncome tax range 5.35% to 9.85%
MississippiYesIncome tax range is 3% to 5%
MissouriYesSame guidelines as federal
MontanaNoUnemployment benefits will be taxed beginning in 2024
NebraskaYesSame guidelines as federal
NevadaNo 
New HampshireNo 
New JerseyNo 
New MexicoYesSame guidelines as federal
New YorkYesSame guidelines as federal
North CarolinaYesFlat state income tax rate of 5.25%; drops to 4.99% in 2022 and continues to drop each year until it reaches 3.99% in 2027
North DakotaYesSame guidelines as federal
OhioYesSame guidelines as federal
OklahomaYesSame guidelines as federal
OregonYesIncome tax range is 4.75% to 9.9%
PennsylvaniaNo 
Rhode IslandYesIncome tax range is 3.75% to 5.99%
South CarolinaYesSame guidelines as federal
South DakotaNo 
TennesseeNo 
TexasNo 
UtahYesSame guidelines as federal
VermontYesIncome tax range is 3.35% to 8.75%
VirginiaNo 
WashingtonNo 
West VirginiaYesSame guidelines as federal
WisconsinYesIncome tax range is 3.54% to 7.65%; a portion of unemployment benefits may be exempt
WyomingNo 

Six Key Benefits of Good Credit

But if you’re new to credit you may not be entirely sure what the fuss is all about. Why exactly do you need good credit? Here are the biggest reasons why you should care about your credit score, and why building good credit is worth the effort.

GOOD CREDIT SAVES YOU MONEY

If you ever plan to buy a house, own a car, and use a credit card to buy anything, you’re going to want to want a high credit score. 

Simply put, your credit score goes a long way toward determining what kind of interest rate you’re going to get from lenders. The higher your credit score, the more faith lenders will have in your ability to pay them back. When lenders feel confident in your ability to pay them back, they’re more willing to offer low interest rates. And the lower the interest rate, the less that loan or line of credit is going to cost you.

Fool.com has a nice breakdown on how your credit score can change your interest rates and what those changes mean in terms of monthly payment and total interest paid over the life of the debt. Someone with excellent credit can expect to pay hundreds less per month and tens of thousands less in total for a mortgage as compared to someone with average or below average credit. If you carry any amount of credit card debt, a high interest rate can be extremely costly. 

GOOD CREDIT CAN HELP YOU LAND A JOB

A recent nationwide survey of hiring professionals found that 25% used credit checks as part of the hiring process. Why? It’s not that they’re looking for your credit score (they aren’t able to see that). Instead, they’re looking for potential red flags.

While you may not think your credit history says much about your ability to do a particular job, if your credit report shows signs of an inability to successfully manage your finances that might be disqualifying for some positions. Ultimately, it may just be another data point to consider when weighing your application against other, similarly qualified applicants.

GOOD CREDIT CAN REDUCE YOUR CAR INSURANCE BILL

Over 90% of car insurance companies review your credit when determining what insurance premiums to charge. Insurance companies, like employers, aren’t interested in your score, but they are interested in the positive behaviors that make up your score. A spotless payment history, for example, makes you seem more likely to pay your auto insurance bill on time every month.

Basically, if you do a good job managing your credit and debt obligations then insurance companies will assume that you’ll also manage your insurance obligations just as well. 

GOOD CREDIT MAKES IT EASIER TO OPEN UTILITY ACCOUNTS

When it come time to open an account for a utility service, your credit report is crucial. You may not think of electricity as a form of lending, but functionally it’s not much different from a credit card: you spend as little or as much electricity as you like each month and at the end of the cycle you get a bill for what you’ve spent.

Utility companies prefer seeing that you’re someone who pays their other bills on time and doesn’t become overextended. The kind of good behavior that raises your credit score also makes you more trustworthy in the eyes of the gas company.

Poor credit doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be denied service, but it will be harder, and you may have to pay a deposit before you can establish an account.

GOOD CREDIT MAKES FINANCIAL RECOVERY EASIER

Whether you’re unemployed for a lengthy period of time or simply coming up short for the month, good credit makes it easier to stay afloat and manage your recovery once things are back to normal. Most importantly, having good credit makes it easier to borrow money at an affordable rate, which makes any debt you accumulate during a setback that much easier to repay when your income has returned.

GOOD CREDIT GIVES YOU PEACE OF MIND

Having good credit doesn’t shield you from every possible problem, but it does take a little bit of that burden away. Which is important, because over half of all Americans report feeling anxious about their finances, with the majority citing debt as their biggest reason for feeling anxious.

So, while good credit isn’t everything, it is a big part of your overall financial health. Good credit can help turn around a difficult situation and make a good situation even better.

How Creating a Sense of Purpose Can Impact Your Mental Health

What is your purpose or your meaning in life?

A sense of purpose is generally thought of as the most important thing for an individual to guide their behaviors, make decisions and attain their goals. For some, it is raising a family, commitment to their community, their passions, and for others, it may be their careers. Purpose can be as simple as bringing happiness to someone you love or taking care of your child. A fundamental misconception about purpose is that purpose is not fixed. It is not uncommon for individuals to change their sense of purpose, especially after a significant life event such as a death in the family, grown children leaving home, retirement, or entering or leaving a meaningful relationship. Regardless of what brings you meaning and purpose, it is essential to have a sense of purpose. 

The positive mental health benefits of purpose

Research shows that individuals who have a strong sense of purpose and meaning in life tend to have better mental health, overall well-being, and cognitive functioning compared to those who lack a sense of purpose. Individuals with a sense of life purpose are less likely to have heart attacks, strokes, and dementia. Several studies also show that individuals with a strong sense of purpose tend to engage in healthier behaviors and lifestyle choices such as practicing regular physical exercise and participating in preventative health services. A study in 2013 found that individuals with a strong sense of purpose in life were better at stress management and had better sleep than individuals without a strong sense of purpose. 

Having a positive and meaningful aspect in life may improve brain function, including overall cognition and memory. Additionally, individuals with purpose tend to have lower instances of depression. However, just because it is healthy to have a sense of purpose or meaning does not mean that a sense of purpose is easy to find.

Purpose anxiety

Purpose anxiety is a relatively new term that relates to the anxiety and negative feelings such as stress, worry, and frustration that arise when seeking a sense of life fulfillment. This type of anxiety often occurs during times of significant transitions, when people start to look for their purpose in life or find a new purpose to correlate with a new chapter in their life, or times when people are actively trying to fulfill their sense of purpose.

Signs of purpose anxiety include the following:

  • Constantly switching jobs hoping that one will be more fulfilling than the next.
  • Constantly comparing yourself to others. 
  • Recognizing your failures instead of your accomplishments
  • Jumping from one relationship to another, hoping you find “the one.”

How to create a sense of purpose

Creating a sense of purpose means that you seek meaning greater than yourself. Approximately 25% of American adults say they have a clear sense of purpose about what makes their lives meaningful, while 40% either claim neutrality on the subject or say they don’t have a sense of purpose.

Purpose comes from a sense of self-knowledge and must be created, not found, meaning that you may need to put in some work to create your purpose. Creating your sense of purpose may take time and require a lot of tough questions and deep conversations. You may even consider talking to a life coach or therapist. Below are a few key points when searching for your sense of purpose:

  • Donate your time, money, or talent 
  • Explore different interests to find out what you love to do
  • Reflect on what type of injustices bother you the most
  • Meet new people
  • Ask for feedback from others 
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Ask yourself the “why’s”: “why do you live where you live”?, “why do you do what you do”?, “why are you happy in certain moments”?, “Why are you bothered by certain things”? “why do you buy the things you buy”?

Green Mediterranean diet could be a ‘win-win’ for health and the planet

Climate scientists believe that one of the most impactful things that people can do for the environment is to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products. 

Research notes that global production of animal-based foods — including livestock feed — accounts for 57% of total greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, whereas production of plant-based foods accounts for only 29%.

Another study estimates that if everyone became vegan, this would reduce the amount of land worldwide that farmers need to grow food by 3.1 billion hectares or 76%.

In addition to cutting emissions from food production, say the authors, rewilding the freed-up land would remove around 8.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year for the next 100 years. 

Of course, the idea that billions of people worldwide would voluntarily give up their steaks, sausages, and cheeseburgers simply to curb climate change may seem far-fetched. 

But perhaps they would think twice if they knew how much it would benefit their own health.

Recent research suggests that people who eat little or no meat tend to have a lower risk of cancer, in particular colorectal cancer and prostate cancer in men. 

Diets that combine a reduction in meat and dairy consumption with increased intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, bring further health benefits.

People who eat a typical Mediterranean diet, for example, have a lower overall mortality rate and a lower risk not only of cancer but also cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

A series of clinical trials now suggests that eating a “green” Mediterranean diet, or green Med diet, may provide additional benefits on top of those provided by the regular Mediterranean diet. 

The diet, which adds extra plant foods rich in polyphenols and aims to avoid meat completely, is also better for the planet.

“[E]liminating meat intake — beef, pork, lamb — is by far the most important single way to reduce the carbon footprint from diet,” said Dr. Meir Stampfer, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and one of the authors of the green Med studies. 

“The contribution of meat to greenhouse gas emissions is enormous compared with other foods,” he told Medical News Today.

Biodiversity and human health

Dr. Stampfer pointed out that the total area needed for meat production includes a lot of land for growing crops to feed livestock. 

So by reducing the amount of land around the world that is devoted to producing meat, the green Med diet could play a major role in the preservation of biodiversity.

In its 2020 report “Biodiversity for Nutrition and Health”, the World Health Organization (WHO) describes a virtuous circle that links varied, plant-based diets, human health, biodiversity, and sustainability. 

“The significance of pressures generated by human activity on both climate change and biodiversity loss, and their impacts on nutrition and health outcomes, cannot be overstated,” the authors conclude.

What is the classic Mediterranean diet?

A traditional Mediterranean diet contains the following elements:

  • vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • sources of healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, and olive oil
  • moderate amounts of dairy and fish
  • less red meat than a traditional western diet
  • fewer eggs
  • red wine in moderation

The diet provides an abundance of polyphenols, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and plant fiber.

Importantly, the classic Med diet also avoids refined grains, highly processed foods, and products with added sugars.

Scientists believe that, in combination, these features help lower levels of bad cholesterol, reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity.

Green Mediterranean or ‘green Med’ diet

Scientists in Israel, Germany, and the United States reasoned that replacing all the remaining meat in the diet with plant-based proteins could supercharge these health effects.

Over the past few years, they have conducted three clinical trials of their green Med diet on a cohort of 294 people with abdominal obesity. Participants’ average age at the start of the trials was 51 years. 

Over the course of their studies, they were all given free gym membership and advice about physical activity. 

The researchers randomly assigned them to three diets: 

  • Healthy dietary guidance — basic advice on how to achieve a healthy diet.
  • A calorie-restricted traditional Med diet, with advice to reduce red meat consumption, plus 28 grams (g) of walnuts each day.
  • A calorie-restricted green Med diet, which incorporated 28 g of walnuts per day, plus 3–4 cups of green tea, and 100 g of Mankai duckweed in a shake. They were asked to avoid red and processed meats completely and discouraged from consuming poultry. 

People in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries eat Mankai as a “vegetable meatball.” Previous research by the same scientists showed that Mankai provides all the essential amino acids plus vitamin B12, making it an ideal meat substitute. 

Cardiovascular benefits

In the first study, the researchers examined possible extra heart health benefits of eating a green Med diet.

They report that after 6 months, both Med diets led to greater weight loss and metabolic benefits than standard dietary advice.

However, the green Med diet led to a greater reduction in waist circumference and several other measures of cardiovascular risk. 

For example, participants who ate this diet had improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, lower levels of bad cholesterol, and less inflammation compared with those on a standard Med diet.

Fat storage in the liver

For their next study, the researchers compared the amount of fat in the liver of subjects after 18 months on the three different diets.

They discovered that people who ate the green Med diet lost more fat in their liver than those on the regular med diet.

This may reduce their risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which affects around 25% of people worldwide and can lead to potentially fatal cirrhosis and liver failure.

How to Calculate Debt to Income Ratio and Why it’s Important to Know

It’s useful for you to know your DTI, too, because it can help you identify whether you need to make changes to your budgeting and spending. The higher your DTI is, the less money you have for other household expenses outside of debt. It’s also a sign that you might have trouble with an unexpected expense and could fall behind on your debt obligations. 

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR DEBT-TO-INCOME RATIO

Calculating your DTI isn’t hard. It just involves a bit of math and a debt-ratio formula. You can use our Debt-to-Income Ratio Calculator to find yours. 

First, add up your monthly debt payments, such as a mortgage, car loan, student loans, and credit cards. These are formal debt agreements that are different from variable expenses like, say, childcare, groceries, or utility bills. While your mortgage is a debt, rent is not and shouldn’t be included in your DTI ratio.

Divide your total debt figure by your gross monthly income to get the ratio (percentage) of debt to income. To find your gross monthly income, divide your gross annual salary by 12. 

Here’s how the math works for someone with monthly payments for a car loan, student loan, and credit cards, with an annual gross income of $45,000: 

Monthly debts:

  • Car: $250/month
  • Student loan: $500/month
  • Credit cards: $450/month.
    • Total: $1,200/month

Annual gross income: $45,000 ÷ 12 = $3,750 gross monthly income

Monthly debt payment ($1,200) ÷ gross monthly income ($3,750) = 32% DTI 

Keep in mind, lenders calculate your DTI using your minimum monthly credit card payment, not the total you owe on the card

THE IDEAL DEBT-TO-INCOME RATIO 

As a rule, the lower your DTI, the better for you. However, there is no set ideal ratio because if you own a home — a significant debt — your DTI is going to be much higher than if you rent.

However, if you don’t own a home, and you’d like to qualify for a mortgage, it’s a good idea to get your DTI under 40% because anything above 40% could disqualify you from certain mortgage programs (more in a minute). 

HOW YOUR DEBIT-TO-INCOME RATIO AFFECTS YOUR CREDIT SCORE

In short, your DTI doesn’t impact your credit score. Your credit utilization ratio might seem related to your DTI, but it’s a different animal. Credit utilization measures how much of your credit limit you’re using. For example, if you spend $6,000 of your $12,000 card limit, you’re using 50% of your credit (the optimum percentage is 30% or less). That’s credit utilization. It’s a factor in your credit score, but it doesn’t affect your DTI, and the two aren’t directly related. 

The main reason a high DTI matters is that it indicates you could struggle to meet your debt payments consistently. If you start missing payments, then your credit score will almost certainly take a hit. 

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR DEBT-TO-INCOME RATIO IF IT’S HIGH

Really, there are only two ways to reduce your debt-to-income ratio: increase your income or reduce your debt. 

If your day job makes for a full schedule, it might be tricky to increase your income, but people do pick up side hustles for additional income.

Reducing debt might be a better option for bringing down your DTI, particularly if you carry a lot of credit card debt. That means reviewing your spending and cutting back where you can. 

A third option is to downsize — either your house or your car — to a less expensive choice. Moving house isn’t easy, but it might be worth exploring. 

Consolidating your unsecured debts (such as credit cards) can be a way to reduce your monthly payments without having to qualify for a loan. Following a debt management plan, such as MMI’s option, is one way to bring down your monthly payment. 

WHAT TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT DEBT-TO-INCOME RATIO FOR SEEKING A MORTGAGE 

Lenders know, from historical trends, that borrowers with a high DTI tend to struggle to make their payments and are more likely to default on their loans. That’s why lenders often won’t agree to lend to someone with a high DTI — the borrower is too risky to the lender. 

If you’re planning on buying a home, assess whether you’d qualify for a mortgage. These loan programs, for example, require specific limits (2022):

  • FHA loans allow a maximum DTI of 43%
  • USDA loans allow up to 41%
  • Conventional loans allow a maximum of 45% but can be as high as 50% under certain circumstances

It’s important to understand the DTI calculation includes the new mortgage payment. For example, to qualify for an FHA loan, your existing debt and your new mortgage payment must not exceed 43% of your gross monthly income. 

FHA has another ratio, which is called mortgage payment expense to effective income. It’s a simple calculation: new housing payment (principal, interest, taxes, insurance, mortgage insurance, etc.) divided by gross monthly income. This number cannot exceed 31% to qualify for an FHA loan. 

If your DTI is higher than or close to these ratios, you’ll need to make some changes before you can qualify for a mortgage. Reduce your debt, increase your income, or buy a lower-cost house. 

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW

Your DTI is most important when you’re trying to qualify for a loan. It’s not something people necessarily track regularly like their credit score. But it’s still a good idea to periodically review your DTI’s general direction. If it’s increasing over time, that might be a sign that you’re spending more than your income can accommodate, which can quickly become a major problem if unaddressed. 

If your DTI is too high to qualify for a loan or has been steadily growing over time, your best bet is reducing your debt ASAP. A debt management plan is one way, but nonprofit experts can help you review all your options. Begin your free analysis online and receive personalized recommendations today.

What I Wish I Knew About Friendships When I Was Younger, According to 12 Men

You call each other’s bullshit. Often, friendships are taken for granted. They’re easy to make when we’re younger. Then, as we age and are yoked with the responsibilities of work and family, friendships fade away and new ones become difficult to find and even more difficult to maintain. Friendships can be complicated. Some end because they need to. Others because life got in the way. Even so, the relationships are a crucial part of life. 

Men in particular have a hard time with friendships. It’s common for men to lose contact with once-cherished friends and to not seek out new ones as they grow older. But it’s also common to learn from their mistakes. To that end, we spoke to a dozen men who all reminisced about their experiences with friends. They did so in search of lessons they wished they’d learned sooner, so that maintaining, valuing, and even sometimes ending their friendships would make a little more sense. From the silly to the sincere, here’s what they had to say regarding what they wish they knew about friendships. 

1. They Should Feel like a Team Sport

When my friends are successful and accomplish something really incredible, I feel like I’ve accomplished something great too. A victory for one is a victory for all. Great teams don’t try to outdo each other in competition. Instead, they compliment each other while encouraging each other to be great at the same time. For the good of the team. Showing up to celebrate those wins and encouraging your friends is a way to strengthen and maintain those friendships. Friends like that consistently show up and contribute to your growth as an individual, which makes them ideal teammates. Over time the players may change, but the sentiment should still remain the same.” – Cedric, 40, Philadelphia

2. Friendships Come and Go, And That’s Okay

“Your friends also update and change based on the season you’re in. Friendships are formative in our younger years, especially from high school to college. However, as we step on to adulthood and focus on our own lives and careers, most friendships take a back seat. Many would feel sad about it and find that they are no longer close to the friends they used to be close to. However, the reality is that your friends also change depending on where you are in your life. Once you become a dad, you will have a greater affinity with those who are in the same season as you. Nothing is wrong with that.” – Ian, 38, California 

3. It’s Okay to Be Vulnerable

“I come from a generation of men whose closest approximation to friendship was whoever you didn’t mind sitting in silence next to in a bar every week. It’s something that I’ve noticed has changed dramatically in recent times. My son was talking about the kinds of things that he and his friends talk about and how they support each other, and I actually got a little jealous when I realized that I don’t even think I’ve had a conversation with my best friend in years that wasn’t about sports or our wives. 

I wish that I knew it was allowed and acceptable to actually share your feelings with your friends and seek support from them. That your friends shouldn’t just be people you can tolerate, but people that you genuinely enjoy spending time with. In the weeks following that conversation with my son, I have made much more of an effort to meet my best friend in situations that aren’t centered around drinking. It still feels strange to discuss things openly and honestly but I’m very much looking forward to this next form of communication, and I only wish that my eyes had been opened to it earlier.” – Jonathan, 52, Georgia

4. Sometimes, They Have to End

“I had a friend who cheated on his wife. The keyword there is ‘had’. He brought it up as if he was bragging about it, and it just felt wrong and icky. It was like he was still in college, talking about all the girls he hooked up with that weekend. As he was telling me, I realized that I was disgusted and disappointed in someone who I had considered a close friend. That broke my heart. I didn’t say anything but have gradually cut off contact with him to the point that we haven’t spoken in a few years. That moment was definitely a ‘nexus event’ for me. I realized my priorities were that of a husband, father, and good person. I’m not a frat guy anymore, and I don’t want to be around anyone who still thinks they are.” – Ted, 43, Iowa 

5. You Can Pick Things Up Again With Close Friends

“You won’t always be able to spend as much time with your friends as you might want to, because life throws more and more curveballs as you get older. Especially when you least expect it. But with some friends, it won’t matter. However much time passes without you being able to hang out doesn’t affect true friendships. As soon as you do get the chance to get together, you’ll pick up almost exactly where you left off and it’ll be like no time has passed at all. Not all of your friends will end up becoming your best friends, and some of them will disappear without a reason and you’ll never see them again. But the good ones will be there time and time again, despite all of the things that are out of your control.” – Jimmy, 37, UK

6. It’s Difficult to Make New Ones as an Adult

“As an adult, I’ve made exactly one ‘new’ friend in the past five or six years. I’m talking about an actual confidant who I’ve grown to genuinely love. It made me realize that making friends in my youth was so easy, probably because my standards for friendship were different. Adult friendships are likely between co-workers, or people we simply run into on a regular basis at the gym, or out to eat, or whatever. And those people are great. But, they leave. I’ve had work ‘friends’ get new jobs and I never heard from them again. In adulthood, it’s so difficult to maintain a lasting friendship that’s actually based on being friends, rather than convenience. But I guess that makes the one true friend I’ve made most recently pretty special.” – Aaron, 42, Indiana