SLIDER

WHAT TO LET GO BEFORE THE NEW YEAR (2019)

12.25.2018

One of the most cathartic practices when starting a new year is purging everything that is no longer serving you. As with every cycle, there needs to be a sloughing off of old outdated elements. Are you hanging on to a coat that you haven't worn in a year? Still hung up on a past relationship that did you more harm than good? The last week of 2018 is the perfect time to contemplate which things you want to keep and which ones you are better off living without.


DIGITAL DETOX

In this age of tech-dependency, it doesn't hurt to cut back on online addictions. Think of all the time you could have spent on more productive endeavors if you cut back on mindless gaming apps. These diversions may seem harmless at first, but overtime, they impede you from living your life. Gaming can be a very addicting and isolating activity. Those consumed by it become less productive and connected with the world outside the console. Despite seeming like a dire situation, small changes can remedy such conditions.

One way to counteract digital fixation is by unfollowing accounts and people that don't add anything to your quality of life. Ex-boyfriends/girlfriends should be unfollowed immediately. Make sure that the people left on your feed add something positive to your life. Do they provide encouragement and levity when you need them the most? Do these figures inspire you to to be a better version of yourself by motivating you into action? One example is an account that posts healthy recipes. This resource saves you time, keeps you away from overpriced greasy takeout and helps you maintain a nutritious diet. If you're a designer, following artists enriches the quality of your work. Each time you consider clicking that "follow" button, take a moment to evaluate whether this account can directly improve your life.

It's time to sort through the address book in your smartphone. Delete contacts that involve toxic or superficial connections. Purging ex-partners saves you from embarrassing drunk calls or text messages. It's difficult to cut ties abruptly, but removing them from your contact list is a very powerful first step. You might also have doctors or accountants that you no longer work with. Take all these extras out. A majority of the names on your list should be people who you are in constant contact with. If you stumble upon friends that you haven't been in touch with for a while but genuinely want to keep, don't erase them just yet. Now might be a great time to give them a call and see how they are doing. This also gives you the opportunity to check whether the contact information you have is up-to-date.

The next step involves deleting apps that no longer fit into your lifestyle. Apps that lie dormant on your device screen should be removed to make room for ones that you actually use and need. Think about how you would like the upcoming year to be. Do you aspire to make more money next year? Find apps that help you achieve this goal. Perhaps, keeping Uber is a good idea if you intend on making some cash shuttling people around. If you are looking to improve your diet and consumption, swapping a restaurant app for a calorie tracking one might be a good idea. The key is to continuously curate apps that benefit you on a daily basis.

Replace games that turn you into a mindless zombie with a reading app like Overdrive. This allows you to access audio and ebooks from all public libraries. All you need is a library card to log in. It's a great way to continuously improve brain function while still entertaining yourself. People who choose books over social media gain a wider vocabulary and are able to maintain mental focus and clarity. Choosing apps with substance is like consuming foods with high nutritive value.

Recycle old gadgets for store credit or cash. Collect every single tech item that you no longer use. Stores like Best Buy and Apple give store credit for old devices that are still working. If the item is completely dead, I recommend having them properly dispose of it. If you have friends or relatives that need a phone or tablet, ask them if they would like to adopt one of your fully functional ones. If you are hanging on to these old contraptions because of precious data, move everything over to your current phone or computer. Heaps of junk take up space that should be reserved for things and tools that serve a purpose.


STREAMLINE YOUR WARDROBE

Christmas break is the best time to open up your closet and fish out those well-loved items that fit. Once these gems have been identified, then you can decide on how you want to purge the rest of the clothes. This is the time to be brutal. If it doesn't cater to your current size and shape, consider donating it to charity. If you don't remember buying it and have no intention of wearing it, it needs to be passed on to someone who will love it more than you do. Trendy items that may look out of place during the upcoming spring season should be purged as well. Barely used trendy clothes can be resold at a Buffalo Exchange. Poshmark is a popular mediator when it comes to reselling luxury brands. The strategy is to hone in on a specific target market which will likely pay you the highest price. Once you are finished removing the articles that you no longer need, you can now reorganize your closet. Make sure all clothes are as visible as possible. This prevents repeated accumulation of unused clothes. The KonMari method can help with that. Having a closet filled with thoughtfully chosen clothes significantly shortens the time it takes for you to get ready in the morning. It also cuts back on the daily stresses of rushing to work.

MAKING ROOM FOR SELF CARE

Take a good look at everything you use on your face, body and hair. Are you using expired toothpaste? Is your mascara getting crusty. Be sure to check all topical treatments in case they may have gone bad. Now is the time to fine tune and evaluate your self-care products. Is the moisturizer you're using breaking you out? Need a better shampoo to combat dryness? Everything in your collection has to benefit you in some way. If it's doing more harm than good, then it needs to be left behind along with 2018. If you have recent purchases that might work better for someone else, set those aside to give away. Once you've cleared your drawers of all the toiletries and beauty products that don't work for you, then you can determine what you might need to buy. If you desperately need a mascara replacement, choose wisely. The goal is to have a minimal yet effective regimen up and running this coming new year. The focus should always be on caring for you in the most efficient way possible.

REGIFTING OPPORTUNITIES

If you find yourself surrounded by Christmas presents that don't necessarily tickle your fancy, consider keeping them for regifting next year. Write the name of the giver on a post-it note to avoid regifting it back to them or their family. Gift cards don't expire in California so hang on to those precious store credits. If they become partially used before next Christmas, you can always pay for a refill at the retailer that sells them.

TRANSITION INTO SOMETHING YOU ASPIRE

This transitional period is absolutely crucial in setting the tone for the upcoming new year. Let go of everything that's holding you back to make room for new and wonderful opportunities this coming 2019. Every moment is a chance for a fresh start, but Christmas break is the optimal time to do a revamping.

Photo by: Thought Catalog & Alexandru Acea

HOW TO MAKEOVER YOUR GENES

12.18.2018


Everyone attributes most traits and behaviors to their genetic makeup. Many feel hopelessly trapped in the body they inhabit, yearning to look better, feel stronger and be smarter. Based on what we were taught and what we experience, to a large extent, we are limited by our human anatomy. These limitations in turn, impede our aspirations and create a border fence, that hinders us from expanding the vast fields of our unbridled potential.

What if you could defy your genes by altering your looks, your physical build and your intelligence? What if you could eradicate everything that's been holding you back from your ambitious endeavors and impossible dreams? I see you scratching your chin. Suddenly, this blog sounds like it's turning into a fantasy novel. I'm not promising a full-on instantaneous metamorphosis like what those shapeshifters from the Marvel Universe are able to do. I'm alluding to something less blatant yet quite detectable on a molecular level.

Research done on Epigenetics is slowly changing minds with regards to the malleability of the human genome. This field of study focuses on the mechanisms built into our DNA that determine gene expression. Recent studies indicate that diet, lifestyle and upbringing can affect whether certain traits are switched on via the epigenome (Learn Genetics video). Another fascinating discovery is that these alterations may be passed on to future generations (What is Epigenetics article). Arbitrary gene morphing may be beyond our reach right now, but it sounds like we have the ability to choose which trait carried by those genes can actually take effect. This can render undesirable traits dormant while the coveted ones can freely manifest themselves.


Could the epigenome be the key to the fountain of youth? Companies like EpigenCare are now offering a DNA testing service that provides you with a guide on how to care for your body and skin to get the best physical outcome. You get a list of topical recommendations as well as foods that can help repress unwanted traits like wrinkles. If you're looking to curb the aging process on your own, here are a few small changes can make a world of difference. Lower your carb intake. Sugars are especially harmful in shortening telomeres which are the end caps of DNA. Telomeres shorten over time which causes aging. Sugar accelerates this process. Sodas and sweets might make you feel like a kid, but they have the opposite effect on your body. Switching from butter to olive oil is another nifty anti-aging trick. The phenol compounds in this precious substance represses the expression of genes tied to chronic inflammation. This condition causes us to age by altering the body's composition, slowing down metabolism and weakening immunity. The easiest way to thwart "inflammanging" is by consuming some good old fashioned EVOO. Brightly colored red, orange and green produce are another great addition to your diet. These flavonoid-rich foods contain phytochemicals that fight the oxidation process and also reduce inflammation. They take down cell-damaging free-radicals and mask inflammation causing genes (Oxford Academic articleEpigenetics.com article). The mythical fountain of your isn't a sparkly golden spring in a hidden cave. If you shop wisely, your fridge could work just as well as this fictional concept. Who knew a little bit of grocery shopping could do your body so much good?


As society turns to holistic and natural methods of nourishment and self care, the practice of meditation has gained immense popularity among a multitude of socioeconomic groups. Everyone from your hipster neighbor, to comedian Jerry Seinfeld are joining the meditation movement. Research indicates that zen-loving individuals who regularly practice meditation are able to gradually increase their brain size. The areas with considerable brain tissue growth are those expected to thin out with age, indicating a possible age-reversal in their thinking cap. Scientists at MIT state that the tissue thickening occurs in the areas involved in attention and sensory input. This implies a significant improvement in brain function. Those interviewed in the study, notice an improvement in attention, mental clarity, stress management and memory. These are all qualities associated with youthfulness which means that one is able to sustain the same youthful characteristics even at an older age. The thickness in tissue growth is proportional to the amount of time the person has been taking part in the meditative ritual, proving that these participants are actually changing the physical structure of their brain with continuous practice. Because this study is still young, more data is needed to grasp the full spectrum of benefits that meditation can bring (Harvard Gazette).

We may be born a certain way, but science is discovering that not everything is carved in stone. Each of us is a living breathing complex organism. These studies reinforce the unlikely reality that we have the capability to invoke molecular changes in our bodies. We each have the ability to modify our physical shortcomings and pass on only the traits that we want our children to inherit. The hidden mechanism tucked away in our double helix is almost like a gift that we were meant to one day discover to unlock our true potential.


Photos by Matthew SchwartzRod Long & Joshua Earle

EXTREME FRUGALITY TIPS THAT CAN DOUBLE YOUR SAVINGS

12.11.2018

Serious about saving? Whether you're desperately needing to pay off interest-incurring loans or planning a summer trip, the tactics listed here are guaranteed to get you closer to your financial goals. Over time, these seemingly insignificant changes have a huge impact on your ability to put aside enough money.

SALES

The first rule in extreme frugality is to buy only when there's a sale. It takes more effort to schedule your shopping trips during sales events, but it will save you the most money. Sprouts Market holds cyclical promotions for different product categories. Every four months, their vitamin section offers a generous 25% off. All year round, grocery stores cut prices on select items to quickly sell off perishables before they expire. Nordstrom is known for their half-yearly sale, held every July. Department stores need to constantly make room for the upcoming season's collections. Even the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, admits to taking advantage of huge discounts at the popular luxury chain (Business Insider video). With continued diligence, your shopping habits will seamlessly adhere to this principle. Saving then becomes second nature.


Online clothing merchants hold spontaneous short-term flash sales. Keeping webpages bookmarked helps keep tabs on limited-time offers. Be sure to check your favorite online shops on other occasions besides Cyber Monday or Black Friday. Beauty stores might do a Mother's Day special. Gyms usually do a summer promotion to capitalize on swimsuit season. Some sites like Vitacost.com offer long-term bargain prices. I recommend this seller for greener product options. The initial effort that you put in, will eventually pay you back in compounded extra savings.

USAGE

Use a reasonable amount of product. Commercials show kids topping their toothbrush bristles with a generous heap of toothpaste. This is just for looks. In reality, you only need a dime-sized amount of toothpaste. Using a durable toothbrush with a large head reduces the need for more toothpaste and rigorous brushing. The Radius Scuba brush lasts for up to a year and cleans more efficiently than an electric toothbrush.


Gauge how much you really need by starting small. This applies to everything from lotion to pasta. A nifty trick when using a serum or moisturizer is to apply it on a damp face. This allows the product to spread out evenly and absorb more deeply into the skin. You'll waste less, while still getting the full effect. Determining how much you really need extends the life of a purchase, preventing you from spending too soon after the last shopping trip.

STORAGE & CARE

Store items properly. Choosing the right container prevents wastefulness. Check all  pepper shakers and ketchup dispensers. Do they release the right amount? If they don't, consider switching them out. Edibles expire more quickly if they are not properly preserved. Produce must be kept in waterless containers to prevent molds. Make sure all "best before" dates are visible. These labels remind you to finish them before they go bad. Don't buy more than what you can consume. Resist purchasing the larger bundle to avoid wasting excess perishables.


It's also important to store clothes and other items, like electronics, properly. Folding instead of hanging clothes saves space and prevents them from stretching out. I recommend looking up the Konmari method for additional organization tips. Electronics should be used and kept in the coldest areas in the home. Heat causes tech gadgets and equipment to deteriorate faster.

The same is true for beauty products. Keeping serums and moisturizers in the refrigerator extends their usability. Make sure all bottles and containers are closed properly after every use. Cleaning beauty tools regularly prevents them from wearing out and rusting. Maintenance and care improves longevity and effectiveness. The longer they last, the longer you are able to put off spending for another refill or backup.

Most of these habits may seem like tedious work, but the benefits they reap in the long run has an immense ability to compound. Every penny saved really does add up over time. A consistent savings of 25% on necessities generates a rate of wealth accumulation greater than the stock market's 7% average yearly return.

PLACES TO SHOP


B & H Photo
This online retailer is a haven for techies. On top of discounts, items are sold tax-free if you don't live in New York, and ships free. They sell a broad variety of products. The website is among the few that still sell older software versions with perpetual licensing, which means it doesn't require a subscription. B & H offers everything from computer adapters to extremely high-end DSLR cameras.

Sprouts
The rapidly growing farmers market offers an abundance of affordable organic food. Its vitamin and beauty sections offer a vast array of certified organic and all-natural alternatives. They also sell freshly-made baked pastries, as well as made-to-order artisanal sandwiches. The grains and legumes section has a wide selection to choose from.

Target
For fresh meats and berries, discerning grocery shoppers prefer this outlet. Target tends to draw a large volume of buyers, so their edible items get sold and replaced quickly. The produce you're picking up is likely a new batch. Dry goods is sometimes a mixed bag. Some medicines are cheaper at Target while Walmart offers cheaper toiletries.

Target is also a great source for rare fashion finds. The brand will occasionally collaborate with well-known designers in creating exclusive yet affordable clothing lines. Many vouch for the durability and quality of their wearable merchandise.

Walmart
The behemoth retail chain is great for basic necessities. This warehouse offers the best pricing for generic items like cleaning supplies and toiletries. Most people aren't too fussy about these disposable goods.

RESEARCH RESOURCES


The Wirecutter
Run by the New York Times, this informative resource ranks the best and most affordable in every imaginable tech category. It also covers services like phone plans. They test thousands of options offered by an extensive range of brands. Top-rated products are listed based on consumer preference. Whether performance or cost is your priority, this site hones in on the cheapest and rarest finds.

Google Shopping Tab
When looking for a specific product on google, type out the name on Google's search window. After the search results are done loading, click on the shopping tab on the menu bar. You'll see a list of online sellers, as well as brick-and-mortar ones nearby. Prices are conveniently displayed side by side for comparison. This allows for a more efficient and expansive search.


Photos by Jakub Kapisnakrawpixel, Tookapic & Christin Hume

THE LONGEST TREASURE HUNT IN HISTORY IS NOW AVAILABLE TO BINGE WATCH

12.04.2018


Looking for a series with substance to watch this holiday break? A treasure hunt lasting two hundred and twenty years is now on television, inviting viewers to witness groundbreaking discoveries that might just rewrite history. Two brothers from Michigan embark on an elusive quest to solve the mystery behind The Curse of Oak Island. Legend states that seven must die before the island reveals a great treasure.


This is unlike any broadcast you've seen before. The hunt spans across continents and generations. Members of the team travel long distances in pursuit of solving the island's perplexing revelations. The show features well-renowned scholars who vividly illustrate a progression of events that lead back to the shores of the mysterious North American island. Cue animated graphics that plot out a timeline, highlighting pivotal points in the past. Then, it cuts to a reenactment depicting a Spanish galleon caught in a swirling fury of an angry sea. Just like that, it pulls you in.

The History channel program clearly doesn't fit the superficial reality show stereotype, this one portrays genuine connections. Rick and Marty Lagina are authentic, smart and relatable. Viewers see them connect with the team, their nephews, as well as treasure hunters who came before them. There is a moving scene between a teary-eyed Rick and Leelamb Restall, who lost family members to this ruthless quest. She passes on her brother's journal to aid them on their journey. Behind the long-drawn pursuit are real people revealing a small slice of their life to audiences.

The centuries-long expedition demands a considerable amount of investment. Rick's passion for finding answers has led to many scholarly connections that continues to help direct the team's pursuits. Marty's engineering and business background helps support the more technical side of this endeavor. Rick is the passionate beating heart of the group while Marty serves as the analytical thinker. With their combined knowledge and resources, the team is able to efficiently implement historical know-how and sophisticated equipment to unravel the island's secrets. They've made earth-shattering discoveries as faraway as France. They continue to utilize large-scale machinery to remove obstructions that hinder them from getting to the truth. It all started out as a childhood dream of finding out what happened on those murky shores. Years of relentless dedication and hard work has led them to this pivotal point in the quest to solving the mystery.

The Curse of Oak Island is propelled to success by the incredible artifacts that continue to be unearthed, as well as their compelling ties to history. It is astounding to witness the show grapple with evidence that allude to a myriad of possibilities assumed to be mere myth. Everything from the original manuscripts of Sir Francis Bacon, to gold hidden by pirates and Spanish naval ships, are said to be hidden beneath the soil. Even the jewels of Marie Antoinette are believed to be buried there. Structures housing part of the treasure are thought to be built by French and Portuguese Templar Knights. All of these historical figures play a part in enriching the tale that make this island legendary.

The family friendly show takes us on a journey through history. Treasures, pirates and secret societies come to life. Except this time, documented history corroborates with tall tales that turn out to be truer previously thought.

Sources:

Curse of Oak Island Website

Photos by Ylanite KoppensAndreea Swank


HOLIDAY GIFT ALTERNATIVES THAT REQUIRE LESS MONEY & STRESS

11.27.2018

During the holiday season, many are compelled to participate in a cycle of relentless mall-hopping and late night online-scrolling. Those tasks put a severe strain on both health and finances. Before you pull your hair out, trying not to suffocate amidst a sea of shoppers, take a look at these alternatives to traditional Christmas presents.

FOOD

Don't think of food as a table filled with platters holding a variety of sweet and savory options. Think small. Is there a particular dish that means a lot to someone in your life? Food is impactful and cost-efficient. Baking your partner's favorite dessert from scratch is more meaningful and well thought out than a pricy golf set. Perhaps, having a cook-off with neighbors might spark some joy in a dreary household. Holding an impromptu friendmas gathering before everyone flies off to see family is a genuine way to show generosity, rather than painfully striving to out-gift each other.

Edibles nourish our bodies and lift our spirits in so many ways. Food is built into societal norms as a reason for gathering, as well as an expression of recognition, affection and unity. Moms heal and comfort their sick children with chicken noodle soup. Co-workers toast champagne in recognition of someone's recent promotion. Sharing a decadent chocolate soufflé on a first date is enough to ignite a romantic spark.

From childhood, our senses are conditioned to associate elaborately garnished pastries served during gatherings with a cause for celebration. Evidence shows that mankind has gathered in groups to partake in communal meals for 500,000 years (NatGeo article). Food plays a big part as an incentive to form communities but it also enhances relationships among members of a particular pack.

Eating is a multi-sensory experience. Precious memories echo clearly in our thoughts as if they just happened yesterday because of the tastes, smells, sights and sounds. Eye-catching intricate cake piping, the sweet aftertaste of hot chocolate still tickling your tastebuds, each play are part in enriching a memory, as well as  in strengthening human bonds (Huffington Post article).


EXPERIENCE

Do you know a Potterhead who deserves a ride on the Hogwarts Express? You might enjoy it as much as they will. Experiences last longer in our memories. Things break, wear out, go out of style and eventually stop working. Collecting stuff or adding to other people's pile merely contributes to the stresses of everyday life. You'll be surprised at how much fun you can have getting in a snowball fight with friends or taking someone special to a fireworks show. Experiences have an immeasurable long-term effect on us. We forget that the holidays is all about procuring life's joyful moments.

Shared experiences are powerful binding forces that sprout out life-long connections and strengthen existing ones. This is best illustrated by studies done on soldiers deployed for battle (ZME Science article). Nearly half of those surveyed (45%) claim to feel closer to their military brothers than their biological families. This illustrates how going through an uncommon journey with someone establishes enduring ties and reinforces human connections.

Orchestrating an event or activity with someone is a lot of fun and doesn't have to be tedious or pricy. Coordinating a Harry Potter movie marathon doesn't cost much but it generates a whole lot of enjoyment. Find out whose live-streaming subscription has the films. Bring a few bags of microwave popcorn. Just like that, you're ready to relive the magic.

If you were to rummage through your closet of holiday memories, the ones that stand out involve events and activities rather than material acquisitions. Most people will remember a multitude of embarrassing moments from a road trip embarked on decades ago. Few will recall the color of the dress they got for Christmas last year. As we all age, intangibles grow in value while physical gifts tend to wane in importance.


TIME

This is possibly the most overlooked and undervalued commodity of all. Author Joshua Fields Millburn, shares his biggest regret in his documentary, The Minimalists. He spent his early adult life climbing the corporate ladder while neglecting loved ones along the way. A single voicemail from his mom changed it all. She was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and had a short time left to live. Millburn became a minimalist upon realizing that time should be spent with people and not on amassing wealth and accolades. Do you have a relative or friend that you haven't spoken to this busy Christmas season? Give them a call and ask how they are doing.


Don't waste the holidays in malls or parking lots. Spend time with the people you care about. It doesn't have to be extravagant or expensive. Snuggling in bed or having a chat by the fireplace costs nothing but the memories they create are priceless.

Photos by Henry Be, Dmitry Sovyak and Simon Matzinger

USING COLOR TO CHANGE PERCEPTION

11.20.2018


Try staring at a red screen for as long as you can without blinking. Now, quickly switch to a white screen. Do you see a flash of blue?

Staring at a red screen causes the photoreceptor cells that perceive the color red to become overworked and weak. Once you switch to a white screen, you are left seeing its complement (blue) because the cells that detect red are still recovering. This is called cone fatigue.

There's a lot more to color than what meets the eye, as illustrated by this activity. The ability to see various shades of light has influenced the way we live in so many ways. Throughout the centuries, color has shaped cultural norms, societal structure and even served as emblems for ideological movements.

Color is more than a can of paint or a tiny pixel on a laptop screen. Choosing the right hue can liven the ambiance of a dinner party or convince someone to hire you. These easy to follow guidelines can help paint a vivid picture of what you want your life to be.
Wearing multiple shades of the same color creates an elegant and understated look. A monochromatic color scheme is very fitting in a work or business setting. This color harmony minimizes distractions and lets your personality and eloquence shine through. The popular technique garners compliments by simulating an aura of professionalism. It makes any outfit or decor look like it's been put together by a stylist or designer. In reality, anyone can do it. Just pick one color, then build the look by adding different shades and textures with the same undertone. This works with makeup, interior design and fashion.  

Incorporating small amounts of a color creates an area of focus to direct the eye to. Adding a vibrant accent chair can make a living room look striking. Picking up a neutral-colored purse can add a touch of sophistication to an outfit. This strategic use of color is very effective in highlighting a particular feature. The crimson red chair placed in a pre-dominantly beige room shown above, behaves much like a red lip does on face sporting an all-natural makeup look. It draws you in, like an arrow pointing towards a specific location. Whether you want your lips or your lounge chair to be the star of the show, color can easily make it happen.


Choose colors based on their psychological effects. Blues are very calming, especially for young boys. Food companies use shades of yellow and red to rev up consumers' appetite. Purple and gray are the colors of nobility and sophistication. They add opulence to a color combination. Amber evokes nostalgia while green is deemed the most intuitive color. In multiple cultures, red is strongly associated with love and passion. Red roses sell like pancakes on Valentine's Day because they are an expression of love. Color is the nonverbal language that instantaneously eases our anxieties, tugs at our heartstrings and influences our actions. It some instances, color speaks more eloquently and loudly than words. 

Numerous books explore color theory in further detail. Color specialist Leatrice Eiseman writes a plethora of books on color. She discusses techniques on how to communicate with color and their effect on audiences. Her books are a great resource for designers and novices alike. Eiseman previously ran a company called Pantone, that publishes a yearly color forecast. It cites prevalent colors in the upcoming season as influenced by fashion, the economy and current events.

Seeing beyond the surface of what a color reflects back can bring awareness to its many untapped uses. Beyond the sheen and pearlescent finish is a language that man has played an integral role in defining and speaking.

THREE LIFE CHANGING BOOKS

11.13.2018


Whether you're in dire need of a complete lifestyle turnaround or simply looking to improve on a specific discipline, these three publications are sure to make an indelible impact.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
by Eckhart Tolle
1997
(psychology, spirituality, philosophy)

Written by an esteemed scholar, educated in the hallowed halls of Cambridge, this book takes on an analytical approach to psychology and spirituality. Simply put, it talks about living in the present moment. The New York Times bestseller cautions readers about mental attachments to the past and future. So eloquently written, the words redirect your thoughts and emotions to a sense of clarity that often takes decades to achieve in a therapist's office. People suffering from varying levels of emotional distress will find this book to be indispensable. Whether you choose the audio or print version, its effect is unwavering.

The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to Be Complicated
by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack
2016
(finance, investing, money)


Harold Pollack made a splash in the world of finance with his astonishingly simple approach to finance. On an index card, Pollack consolidates decades of financial knowledge that enabled him to pull his family out of desperate circumstances. Pollack succinctly enumerates nine tips. Some are familiar, like saving twenty percent of your income. Others incorporate more complex concepts, like making your advisor sign a fiduciary oath. The book delves deeper into every suggestion and the reasoning behind each. The piece is the ultimate beginner's guide to getting out of any money catastrophe.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo
2017
(minimalism, organization)


Who knew that teaching the world how to clean up their room would be such a global hit? Written by a Japanese organizing consultant, this book instigated an intercontinental decluttering phenomenon. Hundreds of youtube videos feature people from all walks of life demonstrating this decluttering system, dubbed the Konmari method. Marie Kondo believes in keeping only what sparks joy. Konmari is a structured method which involves purging, evaluating, then organizing consistently. Many claim to have improved their physical, emotional and mental well being after letting go of unnecessary things.

Simplicity is the singular thread that weaves all three books into society's collective consciousness. These widely respected authors are tapping into a unifying demand. There is a need to revert to the fundamentals. Whether you're trying to tidy up an apartment, balance a checkbook or clear your mind of irrelevant thoughts, keep these books in your back pocket. May they serve as a reminder that the simplest solutions are within your grasp.

Sources:

Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
by Eckhart Tolle

The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to Be Complicated
by Helaine Olen & Harold Pollack

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo

Photos by: Nicole Honeywill, Anna, Francis Duval

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE AN UPGRADE

11.06.2018


Fall and winter signal the release of a whole new crop of must-have tech gadgets. Product launches precipitate a sense of urgency, compelling consumers to preorder right then and there. Is it absolutely necessary to have the latest and greatest? Here are a few questions to ask before jumping in.

Do you have realistic expectations for the upgrade? A shiny new health-tracking smart watch won't make you skinny in a week. The latest tablet won't turn you into an illustrator overnight. Smart devices are exceptionally intuitive multi-taskers but at the end of the day, it's you that actually gets things done. The will and drive to succeed rests fully on your shoulders. A purchase should not be your main source of motivation to achieve a goal. These are merely tools that help along the way.


One mistake that I caution people not to make is upgrading too soon. You may end up getting something that is costly and much too similar to what you already have. Companies are refreshing their product line at a faster rate. If you find yourself drooling at a store's window display on launch day, be careful not to let emotions dictate your purchase. There should be a compelling enough reason for the switch. Does your current gadget fail you too often? Are there features and benefits unique to the newer model that can significantly improve your experience? It's all about differentiating real-life needs from unbridled wants.

Are you choosing to upgrade because of features that are unnecessary? Buying should be about fulfilling your individual needs and not about frivolously acquiring overpowered gadgets, with functions that you may never use. Take a moment to think about it. Do you really need to drive a race car to pick up some milk at the grocery store? If all you need is a device for checking email and browsing the web, there's no need to buy the juiced-up custom-configured overpriced version. People worry about getting an underpowered tool which is a rarity these days. The competitive nature of the tech industry has led to the proliferation of software and hardware that cater to professionals' needs. Almost every single flagship phone in the market is able to take professional-looking photos and videos. These mobile devices are configured with processors that rival desktop computer versions. Future-proofing is a good idea, but overspending on unnecessary features will only leave you with empty pockets. If longevity is your concern, pay attention to the brand and its reputation for quality. You can save hundreds by purchasing a device from a reputable seller that doesn't have the unnecessary bells and whistles.

Do you have a budget robust enough to pay for the acquisition and maintenance? The cost of having a brand new device can have an immediate impact on your paycheck. It can hurt you down the road as well. If you break it, how much will it be to fix? Always be mindful of how it will affect your bank account and credit. Because phone pricing has skyrocketed in recent years, a single purchase can have a dramatic effect on your budget. A single gadget can cost you eight months worth of food. This harsh reality is masked by shrewd marketing techniques. Retailers entice buyers with flashy demos and affordably priced monthly payment plans. These require a credit check that can affect your FICO score for a certain amount of time. If you are planning on taking out a house or car loan, it might affect your chances of getting approved. Don't shrug off financial responsibilities just for the sake of treating yourself. Make sure your upgrade doesn't affect your ability to pay for more urgent necessities.

These questions are meant to save you from making rash decisions that could hurt your finances. Tech companies invent contraptions that blow our minds and expand our capabilities. Our job is to sort through these freshly built machines and choose what works for our daily needs.

Photos by: Roidon Kutsaev & Ash Edmonds

SURPRISING REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY

10.30.2018


Before running to a therapist or gulping a handful of Xanax, try this. Take two deep breaths. After oxygenating your brain for a few seconds, give this article a quick glance. You might be pleasantly surprised by how simple these proposed solutions are. Whether you deal with stress sporadically or continuously, these three tips are meant to empower you to take back control.

Be more mindful of what goes into your mouth. Switch out caffeinated drinks (espresso, soda and dark teas) for chamomile tea. Caffeine invokes anxiety attacks by triggering rapid heartbeat, sweat and nausea (Webmd article). Chamomile contains a compound called epigenin which is known to combat these symptoms by inducing relaxation and sleep, while alleviating signs of depression (Detroit news article). Instead of sugary desserts (simple carbs), treat yourself to a bowl of sweet potato fries (complex carbs). Fiber-rich complex carbohydrates stabilize the mood by evening sugar levels. Stop using toothpaste with fluoride. Overtime, fluoride can cause a buildup in the pineal gland, preventing it from producing enough melatonin. This hormone regulates wakefulness, allowing for a healthier sleep cycle. One particular brand that offers a wide range of fluoride free toothpastes is Kiss My Face. Taking control of your diet  and hygiene is one way to ward off unforeseen panic episodes.

Heal yourself at an energetic level. The ancient indian healing system of ayurveda also recommends sweet potatoes as a remedy, but for a vastly different reason. Root crops ground imbalanced vata energy. This imbalance is a common cause of anxiety (Yogi Surprise article). Our bodies hold the three energies of kapha (earth), pitta (fire, water) and vata (air). Keeping these three forces in check prevents persistent panic attacks. Ayurveda employs the strategic intake of herbs like turmeric, and choosing foods based on their cooling or warming energetic properties. Plot out a regimen based on your dosha/s by checking online resources like Goop. Consulting with an ayurvedic practitioner can give you more detailed insights on your unique make up.


Implement alternative techniques like yoga and meditation to supplement your recovery. Both methods utilize the breath to heal and strengthen. Proper use of various breathing methods can maintain emotional balance and improve mental clarity. It can also release muscle tension, relax the nervous system and regulate the heart (Conscious Lifestyle Mag article). Simultaneously caring for your body, mind and spirit creates an impenetrable shield to block distress.

The key to defeating mental and emotional turmoil is treating all aspects of yourself. We need to be willing to make changes in diet, lifestyle and mindset. It takes initiative to tackle it head on and diligence to keep it from coming back.

Photos by: Radu Florin & Eneko Urunuela

EXTEND YOUR LIFE BY FLOSSING

10.23.2018


This seemingly inconsequential ritual has surprising benefits. Medical research suggests that flossing impacts life expectancy in very unexpected ways. Find out why and how.

Most people see flossing as a tedious and unnecessary chore. Time and again, dentists implore their patients to make it a habit. Those who disagree shrug it off as another pointless task, except when they're trying to impress a date. Having a piece of spinach clinging between one's pearly whites might leave an unfavorable impression on a first encounter. 

This nightly ritual is an efficient way to maintain a cleaner mouth, free from food debris and bacteria. Dental floss can reach into the nooks and crannies between molars and incisors. A toothbrush isn't designed to penetrate such tiny spaces. Mouthwash can kill bacteria by chemical means but it relies on the mouth's gentle gargling motion. That's no match for the rigorous gliding action of flossing. It easily dislodges trapped particles of food. Flossing before or after brushing, ensures that the mouth is completely free from all food residue.

Leftover food particles from chewing attracts bacteria. These organisms release enzymes which over time, can start eating into bone, rendering the teeth vulnerable to infections. Bacteria thrive on sugars which is why sweets are the prime culprits for causing cavities that bore into the affected teeth. This bacterial proliferation can spread and infect other areas of the mouth. Such disorder can result in gum sensitivity and swelling. Poorly maintained oral health eventually leads to inflammation which is deemed the root cause of most diseases.

If gums feel inflamed and sensitive, this could signify the onset of gingivitis. Because gums are filled with vessels that carry blood everywhere, bacterial proliferation can spread throughout the vascular system which includes the heart. Microbial infection in blood vessels can lead to acute inflammation. This in turn, can lead to atherosclerosis which is the hardening of arteries. If the blood vessels in the heart become affected, it could lead to heart disease or stroke (Webmd article). In the United States, one in four deaths is attributed to heart disease (CDC article). This implies that flossing can indirectly lengthen life expectancy.

Another severe form of oral infection is periodontitis. Symptoms include the formation of pockets of pus. Doctors suspect a correlation between periodontitis and diabetes. Research suggests that periodontitis may be an indicator of the initial stages of diabetes. Those suffering from severe periodontitis are three times likely to also have diabetes. This would imply a complex interconnected mechanism in which once condition exacerbates the other. Poor oral hygiene has much more far-reaching effects than previously thought (The List article, BMJ article).

Furthermore, scientists are discovering that neglecting to floss has a direct relationship with memory loss and dementia. An eighteen year study with 5,500 participants indicates that subjects who suffer from dementia symptoms also have a high proliferation of gum disease-related bacteria in their brains. Doctors believe that these may have migrated from their mouths (Reuters article). This is evidence of how deeply intertwined the various systems in our body are.

Don't underestimate the power of good hygiene. Flossing might just be the silver bullet that many overlook. This three-minute task that we so often neglect to do is the simplest way to prevent numerous life-threatening conditions.

Photo by: Lesly Juarez

FIRST STEPS TO WEALTH BUILDING

10.16.2018


Looking to tame your current overspending? Realizing the urgency to save for retirement? Here are three easy steps to grow your sparse pennies into stacks of benjamins.

Saving money starts in your head. First, identify those costly temptations. Did beauty youtubers compel you to buy a barely noticeable highlighter or a second cleanser? Don't underestimate the power of those tiny Costco finger food samples. You'll be walking out with three boxes of mini quiches. The key is to avoid these enticements. Much like going to the gym, training your brain to spend wisely will get easier over time.

Secondly, make sure your money has a comfortable place to stay. Find a bank that yields interest, a place where your money can grow. Online banks like Marcus by Goldman Sachs, American Express and Ally have the highest interest rates and the lowest fees. These online banks also offer services that help you manage your money better. Automated payments, mobile check deposit, and access to your credit score are among the many offerings that can help you save. These are much better banking options than the traditional brick and mortar institutions. Check out Nerdwallet's website for the best banks and financial products.

The third and last step is saving for your future self. Retirement is inevitable regardless of how far away it may seem right now. Start putting away money in your retirement account. These accounts keep your money invested in stocks, bonds and funds in order to make it grow large enough for the time you retire. Unlike brokerage accounts, retirement accounts won't significantly reduce your earnings through taxes and fees. Your money grows tax deferred over time.

Having an account with the word Roth means you will be taxed up front but not upon withdrawal. However if you are under 59 1/2, you will have to pay taxes on your earnings. If you see 401k in your account name, it means you have a company sponsored account. Employers can choose to add free money, matching a specific percentage of your contributions. Retirement accounts have so many benefits that people tend to overlook. Be sure to max out how much you contribute before considering alternative investments.

If you have extra money after maxing out your retirement account, think about purchasing index funds. These are a type of mutual fund that tracks a specific index. One popular index is the Standard and Poor's 500. It tracks 500 of the top companies in the United States. These index funds have low fees because they are not actively managed by people. They automatically mimic the index they track. It never hurts to put extra money to work as long as it is done wisely.


Regardless of how far along you are in your money journey, keep in mind that it takes time, patience and diligence to be financially free. It is not something that happens overnight so don't feel pressured. Like everything else, money management just needs to be done one baby step at a time.

Photos by: Steve Johnson & Sharon McCutcheon

AN ENTIRE BEAUTY REGIMEN IN A BOTTLE

10.09.2018


On the hunt for a simple ingredient to replace your bottles of chemical-laden skin care products? Tired of implementing the twelve-step, triple cleansing, double serum method, after a fifteen hour work day? Yep, you still have leftover mascara on the outside corners of your eyes. Look no further.

Rosehip oil is considered one of the most effective multi-purpose ingredients. This plant-based oil is extracted from the seeds of tiny fruits that develop inside roses. It has a unique pear-like shape, which makes it look like it has protruding hips, hence the name rosehip.


The precious amber-colored liquid is adept in killing acne-causing bacteria, thanks to its antimicrobial properties. Rosehip's phenolic compounds kill bacteria while its antioxidants, vitamin C and E, scavenge for free-radicals. This is essentially the dream team when faced with adult breakouts. One group of chemicals enables the skin to fight off unwanted acne that's been camping out on your face, while the other crew battles the free-radicals that initiate the aging process by breaking down cells. It's like having a great defense with an equally superb offense, all packed into tiny little droplets of potent plant extracts.

This workhorse also takes care of the persistent scars after the acne bacteria has left the premises. It evens out spots and dark patches with the aid of a flavonoid (plant pigment) called quercetin and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Both agents lighten the skin by inhibiting tyrosinase activity. Hydroquinone, a topical treatment prescribed by doctors, treats melasma in a similar manner. However, the more natural alternatives don't expose the user to risky side effects like hydroquinone does. These include skin irritation and severe discoloration. Using rosehip essential oil is a safer way to heal dark spots without causing any additional harm (U.S. National Library of Medicine articleInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences).

Rosehip also refines the skin's texture and heals injuries by encouraging cell turnover. It attributes these unique qualities to one ingredient, tretinoic acid. This is the active ingredient found in Retin-A. Dermatologists prescribe Retin-A for healing acne, smoothing wrinkles and healing old scars. As Retin-A's distant all-natural cousin, this liquid gold is extremely effective in delivering visible results (research article).

Unlike Retin-A, rosehip oil is extremely gentle. It doesn't cause peeling, swelling or redness. The essential oil is emollient but not comedogenic. It is especially soothing for those with sensitive skin. The lipid composition of this oil conforms to the needs of those looking to treat an imbalance in sebum production. Rosehip is abundant in linoleic acid which oily acne-prone skin is deficient in. Unlike most face oils, it is low in oleic acid which stimulates an overproduction of acne-causing sebum. Its rebalancing composition shrinks clogged pores and restores the skin back to health (Byrdie article). This dry oil absorbs more quickly because of its lipid structure and watery consistency. This soothing but effective wonder is an ideal daily moisturizer for those with temperamental skin.

My favorite brand of rosehip oil is Trilogy, which is available at Wholefoods. Different brands use different strains of this oil. They all come in different shades of yellow and with varying viscosity. Trilogy's exquisite rosehip oil comes in a deeper shade of amber with a rich woodsy crisp smell.  It is the finest quality face oil that I've tried.

Using clever marketing and advertising tactics, the beauty industry cunningly tries to convince us that we need a million concoctions, with mile long ingredient lists, in order to get a flawless complexion. We forget that mother nature makes the purest and most potent plant-derived extracts, that heal and protect us without the added harmful chemicals. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on exfoliating acids, moisturizers, and skin brightening serums, pick up a tiny bottle of rosehip oil. 

Photo by: Christin Hume & Pixabay
© THE SIMPLEST ANSWERS • Theme by Maira G.