Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tip #35: Remember that YOU MATTER

Angela Maiers, an educator, consultant and author of the book The Passion Driven Classroom, has written what she calls "The YOU MATTER Manifesto." Please, read it because it's excellent. In it, she lists eight things we should all remember about ourselves, to convince us that we are more important than we think, that we all matter. And she also mentions that because we all need to hear these two words often, we should be telling people who matter in our lives why is that so. So here is my attempt at telling all of you, my dear readers, that I truly know that you are all essential in my life. Here are her points and my comments in parenthesis. Please, believe every word, because it is true:
  1. You are enough (to make this world better, to make my life better. I do love you the way you are.)
  2. You have influence (Much more than you think. You influence me to be a better person every day.)
  3. You are a genius (You, somehow, always manage to contribute to my well being.)
  4. You have a contribution to make (in the lives of your kids, your friends, your co-workers, me.)
  5. You have a gift that others need (In you, I have found comfort, love, knowledge.)
  6. You are the change (It is really up to us. Nobody else will do it for us. But, like she says, a simple smile can already start something.)
  7. Your actions define your impact (You have helped me with your companionship, your lessons, your food, your kindness, your gifts, all of which you have given me in great amounts and always with open arms.)
  8. You matter
She also has a TED Talk which I recommend, particularly if you're an educator, and in her introduction she mentions this: 
This is not an ego thing. This is a DNA thing. We were created for significance and one of the most dangerous things that can happen to us as individuals, as organizations, as a community is the feeling that we don't matter.
That's why I wanted to write this post. To tell you very loud: YOU MATTER. You have made an enourmous difference in my life (and in the lives of many others). I'm lucky to have each and everyone near my heart.

And I also say to myself, I MATTER, because I now know, more than ever, that all those points apply to me as well: I am enough. I have influence. I am a genius (not sure how yet, but I'm sure I'll find something), I have a contribution to make, I have a gift (which I think is my smile), I am the change (by smiling, I share happiness instantly), my actions define my impact. I try to walk the talk. I try to give away because I know it comes back multiplied.

And let me share here a shorter, but very uplifting, version of her talk. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tip #34: Get a little "nutty"

What is delicious, inexpensive, convenient, varied and, as it turns out, really good for you? Well, that would be nuts, any kind.If you like them, and eat them regularly, you are in luck, according to the latest research I have been able to find.

Nuts seem particularly helpful to prevent heart disease. As seen in this article, they can lower your LDL cholesterol, can also reduce the risk of developing blood clots, and also improve the health of the lining of the arteries

And here, we read that even "by themselves, nuts seem to produce modest declines in cholesterol, but when they are combined with other healthful foods, the results can be spectacular," including helping with irregular heart rhythms and improving blood vessel function. They have also been found helpful in relation to metabolic syndrome as we see in this article.

I found particularly interesting this article that talks about the risk factors for mortality in more than 50,000 participants from the famous Harvard Nurses Health Study. Among the few factors that helped lower the incidence of mortality was the consumption of at least two servings of nuts a week (a serving = one ounce). I found strange that eating fruits and vegetables actually did not even make it to the list, in this case. Dr. Greger has a great video about the article: "What women should eat to live longer." And here's one more article that touches on the same idea of nut consumption to increase longevity.

Although nuts are very high in fat content, they don't seem to make you gain weight, but actually can do the opposite (frequent nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain). I still think it is best to not eat them in excess, mostly because of their high content of Omega 6 fatty acids (with the exception of walnuts) which can cause inflammation. I do eat them quite frequently as a snack or, mostly, as part of my homemade salad dressings or desserts, but not in huge quantities (except when I make a nut based cake to celebrate something).

My beloved Dr. Greger has a great series about them here, if you are interested.

Do you eat nuts regularly? Let me know!

photo credit: s58y via photo pin cc

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tip #33: Create experiences

Walk in the wild
Sometimes we think that getting more and more things we'll make us happier. Well, as you already know, maybe that can work at times. But I'm sure most of you would agree that getting stuff tends to result not in happiness but in clutter, even burden. There may also be other reasons why just buying things does not satisfy us. It turns out that this has also been studied. In a paper called "The Relative Relativity of Material and Experiential Purchases“ the researchers discovered that people enjoy buying experiences (like a vacation or a massage) much more than buying physical items because with the latter we tend to compare those items to other ones (I just bought a TV but the neighbor has a better one, or a new model came out, etc.) while it is more difficult to compare experiences (my massage was better than yours?). In addition, our memory tends to grow fonder with time in the case of experiences (we had such a great vacation in 1992), while with most purchased items, our expectations tend to diminish as time goes by.

But I also think that we can even bypass the idea of "buying" experiences and, instead, try to "create" experiences in any situation we may be. Of course, vacations are ideal for this. If you go to Hawaii for the first time, you will be creating an experience with everything you do. But you do not need to buy anything when you go for a hike, for example, and you have just "created" a wonderful experience (hopefully) that you can cherish forever, if you enjoy it in a special way, maybe because of nature itself, maybe because of the company, the weather, etc.

I'm still enjoying my time in Spain, away from my daily routine, so "creating" experiences seems very easy at the moment, but I'm hoping this is an idea that can be put into practice when I get back.

What do you think? Any suggestions? They are always welcomed!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tip #32: Appreciate your family

My parents
My parents circa 1958
I am spending two weeks in Spain, visiting my family, and I was able to sneak in this picture of my parents, Obdulio and Enriqueta. Just looking at it, makes me happy. And I should, because I owe them much more than bringing me to this world. According to a study from 1997 called the Harvard Mastery of Stress, a big percentage of my well being and health (yes, strangely enough I do consider myself very healthy) may be because of them. In that study, a group of Harvard students in 1950 (a little before that picture was taken) were asked about their feelings for their parents using some of these words: Just, Fair, Loving, Strong, Clever, and Hardworking (positive) and Severe, Stingy, Brutal, Mean, Punished, and Nervous (negative). They followed up with those students 35 years later. The results were very interesting: Only 25% of subjects with high positive perceptions of both mothers and fathers were sick in midlife, whereas 87% of subjects with low positive perceptions of both mothers and fathers were sick in midlife. The authors also tell us:

The approximately 60% difference in sickness rates observed between subjects who rated their mothers and fathers both high in caring vs. subjects who rated their mothers and fathers both low in caring was replicated when the data were analyzed separately in anger in/out subjects (13% vs. 75%) and severe anxiety subjects (40% vs. 100%).
And if you had lousy parents, don't fret. Blame them for your current ills, but also know that present ties are also crucial. I also read recently about another study which shows that family relationships bring greater happiness than income. Money is important, but after you have reached a certain income, it is the quality of family relationship that matter. And I think, from my experience living abroad, that "family" can also be a broad term. I have many friends in the US that, although not technically my family, I would consider them as such. They definitely have my back.

And, lastly, in the book The Blue Zones, Lessons From Living Longer From The People Who've Lived The Longest, one of the common traits in these groups of people is that family is put ahead of other concerns. The author, Dan Buettner, also has a ver informative TED talk, How to live to be 100+, about this and other factors that contribute to longevity and well being.

What do you think? Lots of love from sunny (and very hot) Spain.