Activities to Help Your Body, Mind and Soul Recharge

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Life can be draining. Between work, family, friends, social obligations, holidays and school, it seems like there is rarely enough time in a day to just take care of you. That’s why, every once in a while, you should schedule a little time to recharge your batteries and do something that is good for your soul. Here are just a few suggestions:

Give Back

Giving back to others in the community is a great way to feel great. A good way to do that is by finding a local organization you believe in such as literacy, animal rights, food banks or support for the military. You can find these groups online through sites like VolunteerMatch.org or at your local community centers, schools and religious institutions.

For instance, if you want to support the military, you can join an organization like Operation Gratitude. This is a great group to start with because there are different levels of participation from donating money to writing letters to creating hand-made carepackages. Or, if you want to interact with the people you are helping, you could create welcome home events.

Do Something Different

Sometimes all it takes to be happy is to do something you’ve never done before. While this can be something extreme like bungee jumping or sky diving, it doesn’t have to be. Anything new can be an exciting way to keep yourself growing, learning and moving forward.

If you like adventure, but don’t want to go as far as jumping out of a plane, try a new activity such as ziplining, dirt biking or white water rafting. Not only are these activities fun but they also get your blood flowing and increase your adrenaline levels.

If you love the arts, take time to visit a museum, go to a concert or see a show. Consider driving to a different city to experience its cultural sites. For example, drive to New York City to see a Broadway play or to visit MoMA. You can even take your significant other, your children or a friend to share the experience with you.

Go Old School

In these days of emails, instant messages and texts, the art of written communication seems to be dead. But, do you remember how fun it was to receive a letter in the mail? A great way to refill your soul is to recognize and be grateful for the people in your life. Sit down and write out a letter to the people you care about most. The physical act of writing the letter can be both fun and fulfilling. If you are feeling especially artsy, try writing an old fashioned letter with a calligraphy pen. No matter what, the lucky recipient is sure to feel special and loved.

Whatever you like to do to invigorate your soul, make sure you make time to do it. The simple truth is, you can only give to others after you have given to yourself. So take the time, and do something just for you.

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The Switch to Sippy: Switching Your Toddler from Bottle to Sippy Cup

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Weaning your little one off the bottle can be a stressful task. Not only is your child used to getting their favorite drink from a bottle, they get oral stimulation from the bottle nipple as well. For little ones, this can help them calm down or even fall asleep. When you transition from bottle to sippy cup, your child will have to learn new skills to control the flow of liquid and find an alternative way to calm themselves or get the same satisfaction that comes from sucking on the bottle nipple.

If you’re having a hard time getting your little one to switch over, here are a few ways you can help make the transition easier on your little one and the entire family:

Let Them Play With the Cup:
Before you toss the bottle and convert them to the sippy cup “cold turkey,” consider letting them play with a sippy cup first. Fill the cup up with water and let them stand at the sink and try to dump the water out, squeeze the spout, and otherwise play with the cup. You may also want to let them see you or another child drinking from the cup. If they understand how it works they may be less hesitant to give it a try.

Start With Juice or Milk:
A simple way to encourage your little one to start drinking out of a sippy cup is to begin by offering it with a beverage that they love to drink. Slowly switch your little one over by allowing them to have juice or chocolate milk only if they use their sippy cup. This will limit the amount of juice they drink and give them motivation to start using their new cup.

Skip the Hard Plastic Spouts (at least at first):
To help your child transition from bottle to a sippy cup, consider purchasing a sippy with a soft plastic spout. The spout resembles the nipple of a bottle, which may be more comfortable for your child.

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Additionally, consider removing the regulator from the inside of the cup. The regulator is what controls how much liquid comes out at once. While this is great for keeping your diaper bag clean, it can be frustrating for a little one who wants to take a bigger drink.

Choose a Fun Cup:
Another way to encourage your child to ditch their bottle is to make their drinking container fun. Treating the cup special and encouraging your little one to drink from their new “big kid” cup will help give them a sense of empowerment. Consider buying a personalized sippy cup like these, which have the added benefit of getting your son or daughter acclimated to the written version of their name.

Sippy Cup Only When Out of the House:
Start leaving their bottle at home. Only allow them to have a drink when you are out on the road or at a restaurant if they use their sippy cup. Tell them that their bottle has to stay in the house and they’ll need to use a sippy cup when they aren’t home. Once they get used to this, start restricting the use of the bottle while at home, too. If your little one still uses a bottle to fall asleep, you may want to leave this transition until last.

Think Outside the Sippy:
Some kids just like straws better. Whether it’s because straws are easier for them to suck on, or because they think it’s more fun, it just works for them. Consider trying a sippy cup model that features a retractable straw instead of a regular sippy cup spout.

Another option is to let your child drink from a cup without a lid first. Try letting them drink out of your water bottle or a cup with just a little water or milk in it. Once they figure out that there is liquid in the cup, drinking with the lid on may not be such a big deal.

Make a Big Deal Out of it:
Kids love attention. They love being applauded and cheered for. They are likely to repeat the action when they think you are happy. Have you ever accidentally laughed when your little one was doing something naughty only to have them repeat the behavior immediately? It works for good behavior too! Clap, cheer and smile when he or she makes an effort to start drinking from the sippy cup and she’ll likely repeat it just to make you happy.

Helping kids transition to a new more grown-up behavior can be stressful for the whole family. Learning a few tricks can help make it easier and more fun for everyone!

Author Bio: Preston Davis is a first time dad, blogger and DIY extraordinaire. Master of the grill and all things culinary, he currently lives in Southern California with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter. Follow him on Twitter to see what he’s up to: @withPreston.

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Health Informatics

Health informatics is the hottest job now. I am blessed to be in the field and have been in the field for a decade now. Ten years ago, no one has ever heard of informatics.  Today, everyone wants to be in the field and strangers have even asked me how to break into the field of healthcare informatics.  If you are interested in healthcare informatics, this infographic from the University of Chicago is complete and thorough to help you navigate the labyrinth of healthcare information technology.

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The Hidden Face of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders have long been considered to exist solely in women and young girls. While it is true that a majority of eating disorder patients are girls, and women below age 40, men are not immune. In fact, boys and young men make up approximately 10 percent of eating disorder patients. To make matters worse, men with eating disorders often go without getting the help they need.

Barriers to Help

There are several reasons why men with eating disorders often don’t get help.

The gender issues associated with eating disorders.

Eating disorders are considered a female problem, and men who have eating disorders might feel that having the problem means they are less manly. Some may even believe that having an eating disorder somehow makes them gay, regardless of their actual sexual orientation. As a result, rather than seek help and risk judgment, they suffer in silence. Unfortunately, anxiety over gender issues can also drive men deeper into their eating disorders.

Failure to recognize the symptoms in men.

People have become much attuned to recognizing the symptoms of eating disorders in women. A woman who suddenly loses a lot of weight and becomes skeletal is automatically suspected of being an anorexic. A woman who visits the bathroom after every meal is suspect of being a bulimic. However, anorexic men often don’t develop the same skeletal appearance as women; and a male bulimic running to the bathroom after a meal might not raise any eyebrows. But there is a deeper issue as to why the symptoms go unnoticed, which goes back to gender issues.

A man radically changing his eating habits, and losing weight, is often interpreted as him going on a health kick, or doing so to meet a specific functional goal.

For example, a competitive wrestler might take extraordinary measures to cut weight in order to be more competitive. Some of these measures could involve disordered behaviors, like severe calorie restricting, binging and purging, the overuse of laxatives, and excessive exercise. These are behaviors that would be cause for alarm if exhibited by girls, but because it’s done by male athletes they go ignored, and even encouraged.

The belief may be that once wrestling season is over, he will go back to his normal behaviors, so there is no need for concern. However, some never do return to normal, and those extraordinary measures become a daily habit.

The lack of male-specific help.

Most eating disorder programs are designed for women, and often run by women. The lack of male-centered treatment programs can make men with eating disorders feel as if they don’t matter, or that they have no hope for recovery. They may also feel uncomfortable with discussing their problems with women present. The lack of representation and lack of comfort can lead to a vicious cycle of shame, anger, and worsening symptoms. Luckily, as people become more aware of men’s issues with eating disorders, we are seeing more facilities specializing in eating disorder treatment for men who want help.

How You Can Help

The first step is to learn to recognize the signs of an eating disorder. There are three major types of eating disorders, and they all have varying symptoms. It’s also possible for someone to have more than one eating disorder, which means the symptoms could overlap.

  •  Anorexia: the classic sign of anorexia is severely reduced food intake coupled with serious weight loss. Other signs and symptoms include an obsession with food, obsession with losing weight even if they already appear thin, anxiety about eating in front of others, and anxiety about weight, and extreme anxiety about eating in general.
  •  Bulimia: the classic sign of bulimia is the consumption of large quantities of food, followed shortly by purging behavior including vomiting, laxative abuse, and bursts of intense exercise. Bulimics often hide their binges, eating normally in front of others or not eating at all, then binging and purging in private. However, you might notice that they buy large quantities of food, but don’t seem to have a lot of food in the house; or that they have more takeout containers than seems normal.
  •  Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia, but without the purging. People with binge eating disorder might gain a lot of weight, and might exhibit the same behaviors as someone with bulimia.

There is also a category called Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) means that someone has disordered eating, but they don’t meet all of the specific criteria for any one disorder.

For example, someone could severely restrict during the week, but have multiple binging and purging sessions on the weekend, which means they don’t quite fit the criteria for anorexia or bulimia. A lot of men can fall into this category because the criteria for eating disorders are based on female patients.

 

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3 Hobbies Anyone Can Take Up

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The Center for American Progress declared United States citizens the most overworked people in the developed world, primarily due to hostile public policies enacted by federal and state legislators. Thus it should be no surprise that hobby participation has been on a perpetual decline.

A 2013 analysis by the Hobby Manufacturers Association (HMA) found that sales of model hobby products like trains and radio-controlled cars, fell by nine percent from 2009 to 2011. Sports and other physical activities are also being abandoned. The 2013 Participation Report by the Physical Activity Council found that 28 percent of Americans are completely inactive, meaning they do not participate in any sort of sport or physical activity.

Hobbies not only give your life balance, but relieve stress, lower blood pressure and can provide a social outlet in some situations. Most inactive people use the lack of time excuse for their monotonous existences. But there are plenty of hobbies to choose from that suit both your personality and work schedule.

Gardening

The privilege of being able to pick fresh tomatoes, onions and watermelons from your own backyard is more than enough reason to take up gardening as a hobby. But the health benefits beyond vitamins and minerals should make the decision even easier.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that performing gardening activities decreases cortisol levels in the brain. Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone. Moreover, Dr. Christopher Lowry of the University of Colorado told CNN that a bacteria found in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae also increased serotonin levels in the brains of lab mice.

Of course many people think of a garden as a backyard activity. But box gardening can even be done in a high-rise apartment complex as long as adequate sunlight shines through your windows.

Musical Instruments

Whether you sing them in the shower or just listen on your iPod, everyone has songs and music scores they cannot get enough of. Learning to replicate those sounds or even making your own original music will provide a sense of accomplishment and brain exercise that will keep your memory and cognitive functioning sharp.

Researchers at Northwestern University concluded in a study that learning to play an instrument stimulates synaptic activity in the brain, improves reading skills and language comprehension. The study also found that those with a musical background had greater neural reactions to sound stimuli than those without one. TED-Ed explains more about how playing an instrument benefits the brain.

Used guitars, wind instruments and electronic keyboards can be found for cheap at pawn shops or thrift stores. Those with the space and money can consider a piano or organ to commence their musical journeys. The best thing to do is just pick it up and start playing. Several famous musicians, including Paul McCartney, Lionel Richie and Stevie Ray Vaughn admit they cannot read sheet music.

Motorcycling

The American Motorcyclist Association has more than 215,000 members across the country who ride over 1.5 billion miles per year. Members of the organization (fee to join is $49) get free roadside assistance, discounts on motorcycle helmets and other gear and a subscription to their magazine. Now all you need is a bike and a sense of adventure.

Brand new street-legal motorcycles are surprisingly cheap. A Sym Wolf Classic 150 can be had for $3,000. The Qlink XF200 is even more affordable at $2,700. It all depends on your personal taste and budget. Most states do not require a separate motorcycle license above and beyond your driver’s license. Most simply add endorsements to your existing license that make it legal for you to ride.

A hobby is not something that you can force yourself to do. The key is to continue trying new things until you find an activity that you cannot wait to do again and again.

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Improve Your Life: Positive Advice for Coping with Negative Circumstances

Sometimes life happens in ways that we are simply not able to understand. When we experience heartbreak and pain, it can be challenging to deal with. You’re left trying to figure out why it happened to you and when the pain will stop. For some of us, going through a period of negative life occurrences can really take a toll emotionally. You become physically and mentally enslaved to the circumstances, and thus forget how to be happy and live life.

While it is natural to feel pain and even go through a period of sadness, staying there too long can really wreak havoc on your life. God never intended for you to remain in darkness and wants you to recognize and appreciate the light that is before you. Learning to think positive even in the worst case scenarios is often easier said than done, but well worth it.

Realize that Words Are Power

The first step to changing your outlook and way of thinking is to realize that your words do have power. When you speak in a pessimistic manner, essentially you feel that way. For example, if someone asks you how your day is going, stating all of the issues or annoyances that have occurred in your day only causes you to relive those emotions, thus putting you in a negative state of being. Speak in an optimistic manner instead. By simply saying that your day is looking up, going well, or doing fine can give you a better feeling and improve your train of thought.

Ditch the Negative Influences

Your way of thinking can greatly be swayed by those you surround yourself with. While you cannot run from every negative person in the world (i.e. a coworker or supervisor), you can determine how much you will interact with them. Take a look at your life and evaluate the close relationships you have. If there are friends in your circle that are often pessimistic thinkers, you may want to take a step back.

Look at the Glass as Half Full

When something goes wrong in your life, fear and lack of control are often what drives impulsive, negative thinking. It may be hard at first, but if you really dig down deep, you can look at your circumstances through a more positive light. Just lost your job? Well instead of thinking about the financial aspect of it; consider thinking about the opportunities that will become available to you. You see, every occurrence in your life has purpose. While you may not understand why something happened to you, realizing the positive side of the events can help you cope.

Find Other Outlets

As the saying goes, “An idle mind is the Devil’s playground.” Allowing yourself to wallow in negativity and sorrow is never the answer. Find things that make you happy, or at least that can take your mind off the situation at hand. Join a pottery class, dance class, or even a book club for fun. Even joining a gym could help to boost your happy chemicals and reduce stress levels.

Seek Professional Help

At the end of the day, life can get pretty grim. If you’ve tried the above mentioned advice but still find it hard to cope with life’s challenges, seeking professional help is suggested. Millions of people benefit from therapy. Utilizing online directories such as Therapy Tribe can help narrow down your search in locating the right therapist for you. Confiding in someone about your concerns can help you to get through trying times and through to brighter days.

No one ever said that life would be a piece of cake. There are certainly peaks and valleys for everyone to get through. While it is perfectly natural to feel down at times, getting back up is the only way to get passed it. Remember, “This too shall pass”. Everything will work to your benefit in the end. And when things get too complex, keep in mind that there are gifted professionals willing to help you fight the good fight.

 

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Heartbreak and Pain

A young lady was singing opera one day and her instructor watched and listened with excitement as she hit every note perfectly. Sitting next to the music instructor was the gentleman who wrote the opera and so she decided to share her enthusiasm with him. “She’s great, isn’t she?” She whispered. He replied, “She’ll be even better when someone comes along and breaks her heart.”

Pain is one of the inevitable experiences of human existence. Our pain is the most effective tool that God uses for growing us up spiritually. Let’s face it, we do not grow or mature unless we are being hurt. The deeper God hurts us, the more effectively He can use us. It seems unfair and unjust, but it is reality.

Let me give three reasons for us to rejoice when we are hurting. First, when we hurt, God is getting our attention for our own benefit. He is trying to communicate with us. Second, when we hurt, God is preparing us for a special purpose. He is getting us ready for something that will give us fulfillment, bring goodness to someone else, and bring glory to God. Third, God has a special blessing waiting for us at the end of our hurt. Remember, nothing happens to us unless God allows it with a good purpose in mind so “…count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (Jas 1:2). Think about it.

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