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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.

Legislators Ask New Jersey Visitors To Hold Off On Marijuana Consumption

Many new laws and referendums passed on Election Day were overlooked. Perhaps foremost among them were the four states that voted to legalize recreational marijuana — New Jersey included. Related internet searches have already skyrocketed in the past few weeks, especially in neighboring states like New York and Pennsylvania. But New Jersey legislators have warned travelers not to venture into the state expecting easy access to recreational weed just yet.

Obviously, marijuana helps many people relax. Others use it to relieve pain for medical purposes. No matter what a person uses it for, though, the drug is still controversial — even when it has already been legalized. The New Jersey referendum will amend the state constitution to make the drug legal, but won’t take full effect until January 1 — and even then, state residents wonder whether or not legislators will take action to regulate the drug before that date approaches.

That means recreational marijuana is still illegal under state law — for the time being, at least. 

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal explained, “It is important that residents accurately understand the current situation, so they do not inadvertently engage in criminal conduct relating to marijuana — conduct that may be legal in the future once the Legislature acts, but is not presently legal based on [Tuesday’s] vote.”

The attorney general’s office in New Jersey will exercise its right to catch, charge, and prosecute those caught with non-medical marijuana, whether in regards to state residents or visitors jumping the gun on consuming the drug.

A statement released by the office after the amendment was passed said, “Law enforcement officers and prosecutors are reminded of their broad discretion when handling low-level marijuana offenses and are encouraged to exercise it consistent with existing guidance from this office. Under that guidance, law enforcement officers and prosecutors should exercise discretion, but cannot adopt blanket policies that de facto decriminalize marijuana, because doing so would not only impermissibly assume a role that belongs to the Legislature, but would also undermine the framework for legalized cannabis that the electorate approved.”

Keep in mind, not all states seek the public’s opinion on new legislation by voting at the state level. For example, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania recognizes the possible benefits to his communities by legalizing the drug for recreational use, but has asked the legislature to research these potential boons before they take action. 

Spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger said on Wolf’s behalf: “ [He] has called on the Legislature multiple times to take up legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis, something the vast majority of Pennsylvanians want, but there has been no action to date. The governor has asked the Legislature to focus on two particular benefits of legalization — potential economic growth and much-needed restorative justice.”

That means that the drug might not only be legalized, but also those who have been incarcerated for use or sale of the drug might soon be released or, at the very least, have their cases expunged from record — which will help many people find new jobs.

How To Relax This Election Day

We’re not going to mince words: this election season has been more chaotic than any in living memory. You have people on one side who are crying foul because of alleged mail-in voter fraud and people on the other side aggravated because of voter suppression. You have a president who was allowed the opportunity to appoint three Supreme Court justices, who has refused to concede defeat repeatedly if he loses the election, and stokes all our fears and prejudices. It’s stressful. Here’s how to relax!

One of the most important things you can do is restrict social media on a daily basis. Facebook and Twitter are filled with politically volatile memes, jokes, and misinformation — so stay away from them. Read a book, watch your favorite TV series or movie, or go out for a walk. But don’t look at the phone or watch the news. On that note, you might avoid any election day news! Go on an overnight camping trip if work allows. Do something fun! 

The most difficult part about such a contentious election is knowing how to pick your battles. The best option is this: don’t engage. Your crazy uncle is shouting his head off at the dinner table? Focus on your peas and tune him out. Say nothing, because you know you won’t change his mind anyway.

If you’re not the type of person who can stand back and do nothing, then go ahead and get out there. Your energy might be better used on the frontlines — and in fact, standing back might be making you crazier. Support the election process by volunteering. Be sure to vote. And after this election is over, consider paying more attention to local politics. Meet the people who make things happen. If you like politics, then maybe you’d let off more steam slinging mud with the rest of them!

What To Do If You Were Laid Off During Coronavirus

Were you laid off by your employer during coronavirus? Failing to procure employment — or losing employment and, through it, health insurance — is one of the greatest stresses that United States citizens say they might have. That’s alongside near-poverty, which affects even upper middle class Americans, most of whom can’t even afford a single $400 unexpected expense. Coronavirus provided most of us with exactly that kind of liability, so what can we do?

First of all, don’t lose hope. Giving up simply makes it easier to wallow in despair, which only gets worse and worse.

You need to decide whether or not the circumstances of your termination made sense from a legal standpoint. Small and large businesses alike were already provided with a great deal of financial help during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, which means that laying off employees without cause isn’t necessarily an action with legal merit. Not sure whether or not your employer acted within the confines of the law? Find an employment attorney who can provide more information for your individual circumstances.

There’s the possibility that Congress will provide additional funding for struggling businesses and individuals in the coming months, but no one is holding their breath. For now, check with your local unemployment office for temporary relief while you search for a new job.

Already looking for a new job? Work takes up a lot of our time. For some of us, it provides much-needed exercise while we’re out of the house. When we don’t have a job, we need to take steps to get that exercise ourselves, which can be even more difficult because of coronavirus restrictions in crowded neighborhoods. Wear a mask whenever you leave home. But try to make use of your free time to find natural areas to explore near you. Wooded areas in particular release “happy” hormones into your body, helping to relieve stress.

Even when you don’t have a job, it’s important to create a routine and stick with it. That means going to bed and waking up at similar times each day. It means taking a shower and putting on a new set of clothes — not pajamas — in the morning. You can perform these simple actions to inject a little normalcy into an unhappy situation, making it easier for you to stay content. 

Make sure your kids or spouse are provided with the same structure. Don’t let anyone else take away from what you need to do for you!

Aside from outdoor exercise, we recommend listening to upbeat music several times a day. We recommend doing the dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher, because manual labor can be cathartic. We recommend also putting away the “screens” an hour or two before bed. That means no TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone. Instead, pick up a book! Reading can help wire the brain to shut down when it’s ready. 

How To Stay In Control During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Depression is a powerful experience. Most people who have it will never forget that experience. Coronavirus is leading millions of people down that dangerous road to depression — and even those who haven’t felt it still feel like they might be losing control over their own lives. That’s what happens when one loses one’s job and is forced to stay home for a long period of time.

The good news is this: as businesses continue to reopen, there will be more opportunities to find a new job or get outside.

The bad news is this: you’re the one who needs to decide if getting outside to find a new job is worth the risk to yourself and your loved ones. It would be wonderful if our government only operated to protect its people, but that appears not to be the case. And so the decision comes down to you.

We recommend staying indoors when possible.

Staying indoors, however, means you need to find new ways of remaining in control of your own life. Get outside for exercise whenever possible: it will leave you with happy hormones that make it easier to obtain that feeling of control. Keep in mind that you might want a face mask when you do leave home. Scientists have discovered that runners and bikers can leave droplets in the air farther than six feet behind them. Be wary of who you follow!

When indoors, try to get up and move around at least once an hour. If you’re a homeowner, try working outside in the garden (this is the perfect time to grow your own food!) or play with the kids or your pets.

Part of being in control means taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself in your own home. Are you sure you’re doing all the right things to avoid contact with those who might be infected with coronavirus?

Check with the CDC for best practices:

What You Can Do During Self-Isolation To Stay Content

The novel coronavirus responsible for causing the disease COVID-19 has already forced millions of Americans out of work. The number of unemployment benefit requests has already skyrocketed over the last week, and things will only get worse. People who are unaccustomed to being alone inside their homes for weeks on end are experiencing a new level of stir-craziness. Introverts unite! This is what we know best. Let us help everyone else.

How can you stay happy, healthy, and sane during self-isolation?

First things first: STAY in isolation. Although not everyone is taking the dangerous viral outbreak seriously, you should. This disease is far deadlier than the seasonal flu, and the underlying virus is far more infectious. It’s likely even more contagious than the Spanish flu, which was the deadliest pandemic of the modern age. Don’t go out unnecessarily. Don’t visit with friends or family. You can spread the virus even while asymptomatic.

When we say don’t go out unnecessarily, it’s important you understand the meaning behind those words. To put them into perspective, you should still go outside whenever possible! Mental health is extremely important and can affect physical wellbeing too. You’re allowed to go outside for a walk or to enjoy the sunlight, which can provide a valuable dose of Vitamin D. Don’t congregate with others. If anyone else crosses your path, stay at least six feet away and avoid coughing if sick.

Dietary needs are important as well. Everyone obsesses over Vitamin C, but more than 100% of your daily value is wasted. Don’t down glass after glass of orange juice. All you’ll do is increase the amount of sugar in your diet with no real added benefit. 

That said, you should continue to eat plenty of fruits and veggies daily. Avoid foods with added sugars or high fructose corn syrup. Stock up on dry goods like beans, rice, oats, and fiber-rich cereals. These will last the longest in storage. Frozen fruits and veggies store well and retain nutrients — so don’t feel the need to buy fresh produce more often. You don’t need it. Tortillas, tofu, yogurt, and kefir are all foods that keep for weeks without spoiling. Cheese and eggs are good options too.

Try to avoid too much screen time. Two or three hours of TV, video games, or phone use is plenty per 24-hour period. More will strain your eyes, decrease your energy, increase depression, and make it more difficult for you to sleep. 

Make a routine and stick to it. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Eat three square meals. Cook at least once a day. Exercise at a set time or when you’re feeling stir-crazy. Try to find time for something educational. Read. Listen to music. There are plenty of activities everyone loves! Find as many as you can, and stagger them throughout your schedule. You can do this!

Which Pets Make Us Happiest: Dogs or Cats?

Perhaps you’ve heard that old talking point about pet owners living longer than those silly non-pet owners. Okay, so it’s not just a talking point. The science adds up. Health benefits include lower stress, reduced chance of depression, a lower risk of heart disease, and even those that can’t be quantified, such as providing people with a shared sense of community or comfort. Sure, a lot of that is because we tend to get more exercise when we have pets — especially dog owners.

That might be why dog owners seem to be happier than cat owners.

A General Social Survey found that nearly 60 percent of American households owned a pet in 2018. No surprise there. But what you might find surprising is that 36 percent of respondents who owned a dog declared themselves “very happy.” As opposed to 32 percent of respondents that define themselves as very happy — with no pets at all.

Turns out that while having a dog might make you feel happier, it doesn’t appear to make that much of a difference. That’s surprise number one. But the bigger surprise is that people were actually less happy with a dog and cat combo — 28 percent — or only a cat; 18 percent. Owning a cat is worse than having no pets at all! And owning both a cat and dog could also make you noticeably less happy than those who don’t have a pet!

Admittedly, more research needs to be done before a solid foundation of fact can exist. That’s just the way science works. Hypothesis doesn’t become fact until the results have been replicated with different experimenters. But still, there’s reason to consider opting for only a dog over a cat and dog or just a cat.

But there are probably other reasons that provide a direct link, rather than just what kind of pet you might own. For example, the same survey discovered a link to being married and owning a dog — i.e. you’re way more likely to own a mutt once you’ve tied the knot and had a couple of kids. Cat owners, on the other hand, are more likely to be single and live alone (probably not what cat owners wanted to hear, but it’s the truth).

What does this say about pets and overall happiness?

First, social relationships remain important — they’re the foundation of living long, healthy lives. Once you’ve found the right man or woman for you, then it could be beneficial to hunker down, have kids, or adopt a dog. On top of that, start getting outside for more exercise! All of these are the keys to staying happy and healthy.

What To Do When You’re Having Trouble Maintaining Quality Rest

Sleep is important. Scientists recommend the average adult maintain at least seven to eight hours of quality rest every night. Contrary to popular belief, one does not “catch up on” those missed hours. That means even one night of bad sleep can have long-lasting effects. For those insomniacs in the audience, one bad night can lead to two, three, four, or dozens. How do we help ourselves fall asleep more easily?

Download an app for that. There are plenty of ways to measure the sleep we get. Did you know that several apps or wearable devices can help you figure out when you’re in REM sleep and how much you’re getting? They can even help lift us out of light sleep close to wake up time so we feel less groggy throughout the day.

Exercise in the morning. Getting outdoors right away can accomplish a number of things. Not only will exercise fill your brain with those feel-good chemicals, but it’s keep you healthier for longer, give you a boost of energy throughout the day, and help you fall asleep when it’s actually time to fall asleep.

Eat right. Nutrition is a big part of whether or not we’ll sleep okay that night. Avoid too much sugar or caffeine in the latter half of the day. While alcohol might make you feel like it’s easier to go to fall asleep, it’s an illusion. You’ll have even more trouble falling asleep the next day, plus alcohol-induced sleep won’t give you proper rest. You might be unconscious, but your body isn’t regenerating itself the right way.

Avoid blue light. This is hardest for people. We’re more likely to get home from work, eat dinner, and then sit in front of the TV for the rest of the night. And that’s in between staring at our phones. But the blue light from these devices can activate our brains and make it harder to wind down at the end of a long day. Even turning all the lights on in the house can hinder our chances of a good night’s sleep. It’s best to dim those lights and turn the computers and TVs off a couple hours before bed.

Read. This is a great way to shut your brain down. It doesn’t even have to be a boring book! Reading can be soothing and relaxing and is best done an hour or so before bed.

Listen to white noise. While you’re reading, try asking Alexa to turn on soothing white noise like ocean waves, wind, or rain. These outdoors sounds will help your brain tune out other nuisance sounds. The calmer you are, the easier a time you’ll have getting to bed.

Could Conversations With Your Pet Increase Happiness?

Empirical scientific data on pet-human conversations is certainly lacking. This is somewhat of a surprise considering how many of us speak not just to our pets but as our pets. Most of us are brilliant enough to do this when people aren’t watching, but some of us can’t help ourselves — we have to be eccentric for our friends and family. It turns out that conversations with (or as) our pets happen for a reason — and that reason could increase your overall health.

People tend to have these conversations to provide pets with personality. Nevin-Giannini, for example, is a 31-year-old vocational trainer whose best friend is Maverick, his faithful dog. Maverick, he says, is extremely critical of he and his girlfriend. 

He said, “I find that my dog’s personality, or the voice I give my dog, is somewhat sarcastic or critical, particularly of me or my girlfriend. His most common phrase is ‘You son of a bitch.’”

Georgetown University linguist Deborah Tannen became interested in this phenomenon back in 2004 when she decided to conduct a study to help explain why exactly someone might speak to or as a pet. 

What did the study conclude?

Tannen said that the small study — conducted using family members and their pets as subjects — showed a variety of ways that people interact with pets. They do this for reasons including “effecting a frame shift to a humorous key, buffering criticism, delivering praise, teaching values, resolving conflict, and creating a family identity that includes the dogs as family members.”

“People make use of whatever’s in the environment to communicate with each other,” she said. “The fascinating thing to me is how people find it easier to say things to each other if they don’t say it directly, but they say it in the voice of the dog. It introduces humor, and it becomes indirect. The dog’s criticizing you—not me.

There you have it: If you’re having trouble finding a way to communicate with a family member or friend, then all you have to do is simulate the voice of your pet! People also give voices to their infant children and stuffed animals, to similar effect. 

Tannen said, “The kinds of motives and feelings you might impose on the baby would be closer to what the baby might have, because it’s a person.”

But the point is that people can sometimes communicate more effectively when they can pretend that their feelings belong to someone else. And doesn’t that mean that talking to our pets can make us happier, healthier people? Especially when they give us an opportunity to criticize our loved ones!

Not Worried About Gaining Weight? The Best Chocolate Desserts To Engorge Yourself On!

Obviously certain foods should be consumed in moderation. Chocolate most definitely falls in that category. But let’s face it: chocolate does a lot of good for our brains. We need it. Bad. And the darker the better. It has nutrients and antioxidants that are usually ignored because of the sweet food’s unfortunately long list of equally persuasive cons. Chocolate can also lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent sun-related damage to the skin, improve memory, and even boost mood. In moderation. Stupid moderation.

But we’re going to assume you just need a short-term comfort food or a badass dessert for your pumpkin pie hating family members during the annual Thanksgiving gathering. Here are a few of our highest recommended chocolate desserts!

Make a Google search for Hot Fudge Slow Cooker Brownies your first stop. There are about a million of these recipes available online. They’re all amazing. Basically, you’ll dump a box of brownie mix into the crockpot (after stirring in eggs, oil, and water), and then top it off with hot fudge. Alternatively, there are chocolate cake or pudding concoctions as well. Take our word for it, though: the vanilla ice cream that goes on top of this heated up dessert is 100 percent mandatory. The final product is unworthy without it.

Everyone loves fudge. But peanut butter lovers will especially appreciate the kind that combines both worlds into one. Sometimes called “Buckeye Fudge,” it’s better than just chocolate. Pretend it’s a family recipe you came up with yourself, because they will definitely ask for it. Then make them pay for what you found on the internet. Taking advantage of family members is important on Thanksgiving. Okay, okay — we jest. Don’t do that.

Have you ever made your own Chocolate Mousse? If you haven’t had to leave it in the freezer, then you’ve only been treated to a fake. If you have extra time, build this Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cake. Bury it in the freezer to hide from the hubby and kids, and then nibble at your leisure when you have a minute or two for yourself.

We also recommend Red Wine Chocolate Cake. Primarily because if there’s anything we like more than chocolate, it’s wine. Any kind of wine. Red wine, white wine, cheap wine, classy wine, boxed wine, whatever. It’s all just juice as far as we’re concerned. This particular style of cake is extremely rich. You won’t need very much to fill up on, which is great — because everyone will want some to take home.