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Birds Can Make You As Happy As Money — No, Really.

Science is always trying to unlock the next big key to happiness. We all know that poverty can hurt your overall level of happiness, even though material wealth won’t buy happiness either. Life is about balance — and knowing exactly what you like wherever you are in life. For some people, the answer is birds. And it’s all according to science. One recent study published in Science Daily sheds some light on this strange phenomenon.

Lead author Joel Methorst said, “Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings host a high species diversity. According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.”

Here we have common misconception — i.e. that some people just hate the outdoors — against the reality of scientific studies and surveys. The Science Daily publication wasn’t the first to determine that more species equates to more happiness. A 2012 European Quality of Life Survey found that people were generally ten percent happier when living in environments with ten percent more birds. How about that?

Director of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre Katrin Bohning-Gaese said, “We also examined the socio-economic data of the people that were surveyed, and, much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for their life satisfaction as is their income.”

What’s the rub, though? Many bird habitats are disappearing — and the birds with them. Climate change won’t just have a noticeable impact on economic prosperity, sea levels, weather patterns, and temperature — it will also affect our overall happiness. As biodiversity continues to decline, so will our mental health.

Methorst added, “This poses the risk that human well-being will also suffer from an impoverished nature. Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the well-being of us all.”

The relevant studies discovered that the happiness increase that occurs when another 14 bird species live in the same habitat as you is the same as the one that occurs when you earn another $190 a month (guess we were lying when we said money couldn’t buy happiness — but hey, you know the deal: use it on travel and not material wealth, or it’s wasted). The studies based this finding on people with a static monthly income of $1,837 before the extra money was provided.

Interestingly, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in people spending far more time outdoors — especially those who have been laid off or fired from their jobs. It will be interesting to see how the overall mental health of our population has endured over the past twelve months. We’ll probably have to wait a bit longer for that study.

What Does Science Say About The American Work Week?

A Cambridge University study analyzed the employment patterns of 5,000 people over 12 months, and suffice it to say the results were…interesting. Politicians have long been dogged by the question “Is the American work week too long?” According to this new study, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Americans typically work more than 40 hours per week, while many Europeans work an average of 35. 

Lead researcher Brendan Burchell said, “We had assumed that the maximum levels of wellbeing would be among those working three or four days a week.”

What did the team find? The happiest study participants worked only one day per week.

Other research had suggested that failing to work one full day a week had a detrimental effect on overall mental health. This current study suggests that one day is all that is required, and certainly enough to reap “the benefits of employment in terms of mental wellbeing and happiness.”

Perhaps the future is looking bright. Many futurists have been pushing for a universal basic income (UBI) to offset the coming job displacements that will be spurred by artificial intelligence. Maybe there will be more positions but for fewer jobs — and we won’t need to work more than a day. Just kidding, that’s liberal socialist utopian poppycock talk…Or is it?

Another study surveyed nearly 20,000 new mothers and pregnant women to find that nearly three-quarters of them “were forced to work fewer hours because of childcare issues.”

The original study is the reason that Chancellor Rishi Sunak revised the country’s furlough policy to provide government funding even for those who were only working part-time. By the way, the “one day a week” finding showed that even part-time workers and furloughed workers are happiest working that little. Needless to say, science is about a body of research studies and not just one. Peer review is important, so we’ll be waiting to see what other scientists have to say.

How To Remain In Control During A Bankruptcy

To say this has been a stressful year is a massive understatement. We can’t emphasize enough the severity of the consequences that have arisen because of the coronavirus pandemic — and keep in mind, we might not know the full extent of those consequences for years and years. Many people have lost their jobs. With this in mind, attorneys around the world expected an influx of new cases both because their offices were clothes and also due to the fact that people are angry and afraid for their financial security. The future might seem grim.

But bankruptcy shouldn’t be considered the end of the world. First and foremost, everyone started someplace. You might be headed backwards financially — and you might even lose assets along the way — but you’re also gaining an opportunity for perspective that few people are given.

What do we mean by that? Well, “job entrapment” is real. When you feel financially safe and secure in a position, you’re statistically less likely to search for a new job or a better job or whatever else it is you might want. In other words, you stop dreaming — and you start settling down to a life that lacks any kind of invigorating change.

Bankruptcy means you probably lost your job and the majority of your livelihood. But you have the chance to significantly change your life. Have you ever experienced a major obstacle you never thought you’d pass…only to arrive better off on the other side? Not everyone has one of those stories, but it’s a real thing that happens to real people every day. And it becomes more possible the more you look for it. When you go through a bankruptcy, try to find the opportunities — and take advantage of them.

An anonymous bankruptcy attorney at Toronjo & Prosser Law (https://www.t-plaw.com/) told us that bankruptcy isn’t necessarily the only answer to financial problems, either: “A lot of people come into our offices already dead set on declaring bankruptcy. They think we’re there just to tell them how and to file all the necessary paperwork. But we’re more like the financial consultants and life coaches you wish you had before ever learning the word ‘bankruptcy.’ Sometimes you just need some lifestyle changes to come out okay. There are plenty of other debt relief options.”

We were also informed that bankruptcy can be a very bad idea if someone doesn’t expect their financial situation to change for the better anytime soon — because there’s a “cooling off” period after bankruptcy. You can’t just file over and over and think life is all good. That means you really need to be at the lowest point of your financial troubles before you even consider bankruptcy.

Many people who file for bankruptcy will believe they’ve made a mistake, while many others will know it was the best decision they’ve ever made. Your own personal circumstances matter most — so be sure to look for financial help before you make that decision.

Should We Even Strive To Live Life Happily?

To say the United States is obsessed with happiness is a wildly overstated fact of life. But in other countries — say, France — happiness isn’t the goal. That might sound crazy. In France, though, the people are better known for their rather drab demeanor. They have that reputation because they strive to live life in contentedness rather than joy. They understand that striving for something wholly unattainable can be draining. And happiness, whether we like it or not, is improbable for many people. 

Suffice it to say, living life to the fullest often hurts a ton.

A recent Washington Post article asked similar questions about the struggle to be happy, but framed it with an outright statement: “Our obsession with happiness is making our kids miserable.”

Where did that conclusion come from? A variety of psychologists, it turns out. You see, we’re told from a young age to “be happy.” We’ve been told innumerable times that how we feel each day is a “choice.” But that’s nonsense. How we feel is determined by a complex combination of factors including environment and biology. Chemicals in the brain have more to do with feelings than anyone’s choice. 

The Post’s author, Dr. Andrea Bonior, writes: “Teach your kids that their thoughts don’t define them….Encourage your children to observe their thoughts with curiosity rather than fear, in a nonjudgmental way rather than with shame. Establish that not only is a thought not automatically true, but it’s not automatically ‘you.’ Encourage labeling distressing thoughts like ‘I’m having the thought no one likes me’ rather than ‘No one likes me,’ which helps your child separate from them.”

And isn’t that the trick? We’re often taught that our thoughts and feelings show us who we are — and when others have shown outward disapproval of people who turn similar thoughts into everyday actions, we feel different or as if we would be unwanted if we turned them into actions too. Ask anyone in the LGBTQ communit if that’s true, for example!

Does Owning A Vehicle Make You Happier?

You’ve probably heard the taglines before: Men in more expensive cars look healthier and more attractive. Having a nice car will help you “get laid.” Nice car stereotypes are a dime a dozen, but are they true? Will you really be happier driving around a mercedes instead of a toyota? Well, there’s not exactly much science on the subject one way or the other. But there’s psychology that we can deep dive into…so let’s do that!

Not everything we want will make us happy. Science definitely does tell us that. You might want a new video game or a few beers after work one day, but the payoffs for those kinds of purchases are temporary. They wear off. Money that goes toward life experiences is more likely to make us happy. That’s a fact.

So when questioning whether or not that new car will make you happy, you have to first ask yourself: Do I need this? Do I want this? …And why?

Purpose matters when making a decision like this. You might be making the right decision if you have an insane passion for cars. But if you’re just worried about the way you look or thinking about the potential benefits of the purchase, you’re probably making a bad decision. Especially when that decision costs you more money than you need to spend.

It is, however, worth noting that personal expression can result in personal satisfaction — and owning a vehicle can be a powerful way to express yourself. No one expects a thrillseeker to own a nissan. No one expects a red-blooded southerner to buy a vehicle made in Japan. And they shouldn’t. It isn’t about the personal beliefs behind the choice — it’s about the personality behind the choice. Who are you? And what do you want your car to say about your when other people see it?

But owning a nice car can also lead to accidents. There’s a reason insurance rates are higher for faster, flashier cars. Not sure what kind of car you want to buy for yourself? Getting a more affordable vehicle with greater mileage per gallon and enhanced safety options might be worth a second thought — especially if it helps you avoid a serious car accident. More info here.

We want you to enjoy a vehicle, and have the time to enjoy the vehicle, but safety is the priority. You won’t be happy if a joyride leads to heartache. 

So what are the best reasons to own a vehicle? You probably already know our answer: travel and scenery. Those wheels will get you to where you want to go, so why not start with a road trip to the places nearby you’ve never seen before? We’re thinking about state parks, monuments, museums, etc. These are the decisions that will matter most — where you go in life and how you choose to get there. Don’t make bad ones!

Does Marijuana Actually Make You Happier — Or Is It Just An Illusion?

The legality of marijuana is a hot topic lately, in part because our new president hasn’t made his intentions on its categorization by the federal government clear. Will he reschedule the relatively safe drug? Or will it remain a controlled substance just like heroin or cocaine? We’ll have to wait to find out the answer, but for now we can explore the reasons why someone might — or might not — want to try the drug for the first time.

Many people who consume marijuana in some form will experience a boost in happiness. It has the reputation for making people giggly. But the same can be said of alcohol, and we know that alcohol has a depressing effect up to two weeks later. Is marijuana’s effect a similar illusion?

We’re always telling you to get outside for a walk or run. Believe it or not, consuming marijuana can provide that same feeling because of a chemical called anandamide, which was first discovered by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in 1964. Anandamide is already present in our brains, and it’s one of the chemicals associated with the processing of emotion, glee in particular.

Dr. Gary Wenk wrote: “Cannabinoid neurons…influence the function of our cortex and various limbic (emotion-controlling) regions; when we stimulate these receptors, we impair higher cognitive functions as we experience euphoria, and when they are blocked, we feel depression.”

Don’t celebrate too much yet, though. It’s far too early to know for sure if marijuana has a long-lasting effect on overall happiness, or if it just helps in short bursts. It’s also worth mentioning that everyone experiences the effects of THC differently, and not everyone experiences the giddy, euphoric sensation for which marijuana is known. 

Science does seem to show that marijuana can impact growing brains in a negative way, meaning you should still keep it away from your children — along with the alcohol.

How To Cope With Serious Injury Or Personal Loss

It’s possible anyone reading this blog is more likely to suffer a serious injury than your average Joe — because after all, you’re more likely to be active through walking, running, or swimming than those who don’t really care about personal fitness or fulfillment. And we all suffer immense personal loss sooner or later. How we deal with these stressful predicaments can show us the type of person we are. Channeled correctly, these traumas can be transformed into personal growth. Our goal is to help you achieve that growth.

We’re not going to tell you how to cope with the physical side of the pain. You already know how to do that. Put some ice on it, take some anti-inflammatories, see a doctor, or grit your teeth. It’s the mental side of pain or loss that can be the most taxing, so we’ll start there.

Los Angeles sports and performance psychologist Sari Fine Shepphird said that pain can cause “questions about identity, to fears about performance never returning to pre-injury levels, to worries about disappointing and therefore potentially losing sponsors.”

You need to trust what your doctors tell you as quickly as your brain will allow, and then build reasonable expectations from there. Denying that reality is real won’t make it any less real. Do your best to breathe, accept your situation, and move onto the next step of the process.

One key method to cope with pain is to approach the recovery process as if it were nothing more than a more targeted training regimen — because in a way it is. You’ve heard that old saying: “Mind over matter.” And that’s the truth. Train yourself to relax, especially in the evenings before bed. The calmer you are before bed, the better rested you’ll feel in the morning.

Financial stress can hit harder than other types of stress — say, the physical ones. That’s why every once in a while you might find yourself in a situation that calls for a lawsuit. If that’s the case, it shouldn’t be about holding a grudge. It should only be about making yourself financially whole again so you can take care of the people you love. If someone took advantage of you or caused personal injury, then call on a DC personal injury attorney to help make things right.

Don’t hide things from your doctor or physical therapist. They’re only there to help you. If you hide the pain you feel, they can’t do their jobs. Speaking of therapy, we recommend you give it a try regardless of your personal circumstances. A therapist is someone to whom you can converse openly and about anything. They can provide you with different types of relaxation techniques to try or help you answer questions about your thoughts or feelings. Everyone feels different — and like no one understands — but the truth is most of us have already gone through it in one way or another.

How To Stay Happy By Staying Organized

Many people sink into depression because they feel as if they have lost control over the things in life — and that’s one of the key reasons that the 12-step program that some groups use to rehabilitate their members all have the motto to control the things you can change and accept whatever you can’t change. It doesn’t matter if you have any of dozens of compulsion-related diseases. Learning about control and acceptance will lead you to a more organized, structured life, and that will keep you sane.

Even something as simple as cleaning up your email box can help you feel more in control. Whenever you receive a new email in the social or commercial tabs, consider whether or not you might change the settings to never see it again. Unsubscribe to anything you’ll never use. Keep a lookout for any subscription services you don’t use (Netflix, Hulu, etc) and cancel them.

Done? Great. Now do the same thing to your closet, shoe rack, and home office. Haven’t worn or used something in the last two years? Then you obviously don’t need it (unless we’re talking an armani suit — don’t get rid of that). 

We’re American and we love materialistic things. Books, DVDs, video games, stamps, even coins. You name it, we collect it. But you don’t need all that stuff, and if you’re feeling particularly depressed, the extra garbage you have isn’t helping. What’s more, a lot of those things are available for free. There’s no need to clutter your home with books and DVDs when you can visit the library for free. 

Once you’ve gathered everything you don’t need, it’s time to have a garage sale!

Many people will benefit from a printed daily checklist of things they want or need to do. Wash the dishes, wipe the counters, clean the oven the first Monday of every month, etc. Physically crossing an item off the list when you complete it will feel a lot better than deleting the item from an electronic list.

The Number One Key To Happiness: Stay Out Of Debt

We all know that money isn’t the key to happiness — even if it can contribute to travel and other life-changing experiences that help enrich our lives (which we recommend you partake in as often as possible). But the lack of money can certainly lead to soul-crushing depression. Knowing that your bank accounts are constantly in the red because you can’t afford to use cash to pay for things like groceries and school supplies? That can be even worse.

When taking out a loan, first make sure that repayment is something you can actually handle. Not only do you need a paying job, but the job security needs to be solid unless you can easily find another decent paying position. 

Another thing to consider when taking out a loan is who’s offering it to you. Not every creditor was created equal — and anyone who has juggled Bank of America debt unsuccessfully will probably have a horror story about how the creditors kept them on the hook. Bank of America creditors are different because they don’t sell off the debt to third-parties in order to clear the books. They come after you themselves. And guess what? They can pay for some pretty hefty attorney’s fees.

If you don’t think you can pay for a loan (for a car or home or other big-ticket item), then think smaller. Do you really need a big piece of property? Maybe a smaller one will do. Maybe you don’t need a sports car. Maybe the off-grid tiny homesteading life is for you. Debt isn’t cool — but chickens are. 

All joking aside, there are a number of ways to curb costs. The first is to actually go see a financial consultant. Your bank will almost certainly have one (because they want you to be able to pay your debts, especially when they made the loans). You’ll already have heard that you should find that one luxury item and get rid of it. Starbucks every morning? No. Make your coffee at home. The money adds up.

Here are a few more ways:

Make a shopping list after cutting coupons. And if the grocery store has an app for deeper discounts, download it. Use the coupons for new meal ideas instead of buying expensive ingredients you don’t need.

Know what your significant other is spending money on if you have a joint account. Not sure? Ask. No one can manage a joint account with only one party invested in saving money.

Keep in mind that the more credit you accrue, the worse your credit will become. It’s crucial to plan ahead to keep your bank account healthy, because worse credit means worse interest rates — and that means you pay even more and stay in debt even longer.

Download an app for budgeting. Most of these will provide you with a pie graph to display where you spend all your money — i.e. rent, fast food, groceries, online, etc. This can really help put into perspective what’s important and where you should be trying to spend less.

How To Retain Energy And Concentration In Winter

Season depression is real and affects millions of Americans each year. To say the least: this year it’s compounded by the very real consequences of coronavirus-related isolation, lost jobs, and decreased financial security. And that says nothing about all those who have lost their lives or watched loved ones lose their lives due to a callous indifference displayed by much of society toward what some see as little more than a “hoax.” 

Because of these issues facing society, it’s more difficult than ever to maintain a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction during the daily grind. Trying to retain energy and maintain concentration during the winter months is difficult, but far from impossible. Here are some easy tips to follow.

  1. Drink tea. Coffee drinkers will tell you that they can’t get started without a cup of java at the beginning of their day, but tea drinkers know the truth. Chemical compounds in green tea can help improve your memory, while those found in black tea can boost concentration and keep you alert throughout the day. Also, did you know you can reuse a tea bag? Some people even think tea tastes better the second time you steep a bag.
  2. Exercise. This is the most obvious item on the list, but it can be difficult when motivation is already sapped by the season. But then again, “exercise” really just means “staying active.” Each time you go to take a seat, ask yourself whether you can stay standing instead. Activity means your brain will continue to stay healthy, whereas a sedentary lifestyle will kill the neural connections you need to avoid dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Not in the mood to go outside for a walk in the foot-deep snow? Try walking up and down the stairs, or boot up a game like “Beat Saber.”
  3. Listen to music. Music can relax your mind and make it easier to complete work when the need arises. But not just any music. Classical music (operas, for example) have a magical way of keeping your brain working like other music cannot.