Simple Steps are Key

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

I wanted to write this post as a reminder to myself and hopefully as a reminder to you my dear readers as well that success, well-being, and any other goal that we may have can be achieved by taking small (and consistent) steps towards the goal.

I know many people, including myself, who feel that in order to reach a goal they need to go all in and put an incredible amount of energy into reaching their goal. For some people, it is all or nothing. In some cases this type of mindset is definitely necessary.

However, most of us humans have multi-faceted lives. Each of us has several different roles and responsibilities that we have to care for and handle. Often times, we simply cannot afford (in terms of time) to put all of our energy towards achieving our goal.

I personally think that instead of trying to find a balance most of us just give up or postpone reaching our goals. This is why I believe that rather than pushing ourselves too much and then giving up it might be better to take small and consistent steps towards reaching our goals.

Here is a very basic personal example:

As some of you may know from a previous post, I always try to go out every day for a half hour walk outside in order to move and hopefully stay healthy. However, for the past few days, due to unforeseen circumstances I have been stuck inside (I have been helping to care for an ill family member. I will hopefully address this in a future post) and I haven’t been able to go outside for my daily walks.

Recently, I was feeling very out of shape and I started feeling sorry for myself. The next day, I decided to put on the radio and power walk at home for about ten minutes. Afterwards, I felt so much better and I truly felt that I had reaped most of the benefits of my daily outdoor walks. It was then that I decided to repeat this three times a day (10 minutes each). I even added going up and down a flight of stairs to include some cardio as well.

I definitely know that this was a very simple and “no-brainer” example but sometimes we are just so stuck on doing things one way that we fail to see other similar and simple ways towards reaching a goal.

With Love,

Yasmin

My Minimalism Journey

 

Hey Everyone!

 

Hope you’re all doing well!

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I am sure many of you have heard about minimalism and know what it is. To be completely honest I have come across this term many times throughout the past few years however, it was only a few months ago when I really started researching it and afterwards I realized that minimalism can definitely help make our lives a bit better.

Two of the most famous promoters of minimalism are Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of the famous blog The Minimalists . The Minimalists describe minimalism in the following way: “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important-so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom”.

To me personally, minimalism is a way of life in which we can simplify our lives by eliminating the possessions that we no longer need and becoming a more conscious consumer by starting to really ask ourselves do we really need an item before we actually purchase it.

Minimalism may not be for everyone but I think that most people can benefit from minimalism. The reality is that minimalism is simply an idea and it is up to us to incorporate it into our lives in a way that benefits us. Basically there is no one particular type of minimalism. Based on many factors such as our age, our job, our roles within our families, etc. our type of minimalism may look very different from other minimalists.

My main motivation for embracing a minimalist lifestyle was to get rid of the junk that I no longer needed in order to have a more organized room so I can more easily find things when I need them. One fact about me is that I am absolutely horrible at finding things (especially things that I know are hidden among other stuff). Finding the things that I needed had become a source of stress and anxiety for me.

As a newly graduated college student, I had tons of papers that I no longer needed and I carefully recycled them. (As a side note: whenever you are trashing or recycling papers always make sure that you no longer need them, make sure that you don’t accidently trash important documents. Also, if the papers contain sensitive information about you its probably best if you shred these papers).

Once I had finished recycling all of the documents that I no longer needed I started going through my other possessions which for me, mainly consisted of my clothing and accessories. For me, this was definitely harder because there were some items where I couldn’t decide if I should keep them or donate them.

While following the Minimalists on various platforms I realized that for Joshua Fields Millburn, minimalism was a gradual journey and it took him several months to get rid of everything that he no longer needed.

However, Ryan Nicodemus got rid of his possessions within a few days. Nicodemus described how he actually had a packing party where he invited his friends and they helped him pack all of his possessions in boxes and for a period of time he lived mainly by only grabbing the things he needed and after a certain period of time he got rid of the things that he had packed but never used after packing them.

For me personally minimalism is a long term journey in the sense that I have gradually gotten rid of the things that I no longer need but I still have a ways to go.  One thing that has really helped me is the ninety-ninety rule. Basically if you have something and you’re not sure if you still need it or not, ask yourself if you have used it in the past ninety days or do you anticipate using it in the next ninety days. Of course, this is just a general rule that doesn’t work in every situation but it can be helpful.

Like I mentioned earlier, minimalism has made me a more conscious and aware consumer. Previously I would go to the dollar stores and purchase anything that seemed cute or seemed like it would come in handy one day. Now, I have really realized the power of creating shopping lists in which I list everything I need beforehand. If I come across something online or at the store that I want, I wait it out for a few days and if I still think that I need it then I will purchase it.

Some people may think that they can only have a set number of possessions in order to be considered a minimalist. However, this is simply not true. Minimalism is about getting rid of the excess but it is not about restricting you. Minimalism is not against material possessions it is simply about making sure that every item that you do have is of some value to you.

This post cannot do justice to this wonderful topic however, there are so many books, articles, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos etc. on minimalism. Click here, here, here, and here to learn more about minimalism.

I hope that this post has inspired you to perhaps gradually declutter your life with the goal of making your life a bit better.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

Here’s How Music can Cure You

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

When most of us think of music we think of it as a means of entertainment. However, the reality is that music can be so much more than entertaining, in fact, it can be used as a critical tool by medical professionals to help patients with a wide range of conditions.

Music therapy is basically the use of music to help patients with various physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs. Music therapy can be of benefit to people with dementia, brain injuries, respiratory problems, chronic pain and many other problems. 

Music therapy is not just given by random doctors and nurses there are professionals called music therapists who have rigorously studied this form of treatment. Music therapists work in a wide range settings including hospitals, community health centers, drug rehab centers, senior centers, nursing homes and schools. 

Here are just some of the ways that music therapy can help patients:

Regaining the Abillity to Move

Music therapy is very useful for patients who suffer from brain injuries such as car accidents, assaults, gun shot wounds, falls, stroke, lack of oxygen to the brain, etc. Often these patients are left with limited mobility. Rhythmic entertainment is used to help these patients gradually start to move again. 

Such patients are asked to listen to strong rhythmically accentuated music. Rhythmic entertainment works by locking the motor systems rhythm to an external auditory source. This works because there is actually a rich connection beteeen our auditory system and our motor system. We all have an “internal timekeeper” that helps us regulate our movements. When this “internal timekeeper” is damaged as a result of the injury the internal timing system can be retrained and the brain can gradually adjust itself and the patient can regain much of the lost ability. As an example the patient walks to the beat of the music starting off with slow tempo music and then gradually working their way up as their ability improves. 

Regaining the Abillity to Speak 

After certain types of brain injuries, some patients are no longer able to speak but music therapy can help them regain this vital ability. One prominent example of this is Gaby Giffords. As some of you may know Gaby Giffords was a member of the U.S. Congress who was tragically shot in the head in 2011. 

Due to damage to the language pathways in the left side of her brain Gaby Giffords was not able to speak after the injury. The good news for Gaby was that music, singing in particular, accesses language in a way that is different from talking.

Gaby started seeing a music therapist on a regular basis and she started being able to sing the words that she could not speak. After many regular sessions her brain started to reorganize and she gradually started to speak again!

Music therapy is a great tool for patients with damage to the left side of their brain because it helps the patient regain the abillity to speak by helping patients retrain their brain to use the right side of their brain to learn language. 

Reducing Effects of Dementia

Listening to music can help Dementia patients by bringing back memories and emotions. It can also reduce the stress of Dementia patients and it can help them more easily communicate with their healthcare staff. Listening to music can also help Dementia patients better interact with each other by discussing the memories and feelings evoked by the music.

With Dementia patients, songs from the patients young adult years (ages 18 to 25) are especially helpful because they’re most likely to evoke reactions and memories. However, unfamiliar music can also aid in relaxation and stress management.

Active participation in music can also be helpful for Dementia patients.  Studies have shown that Dementia patients who regularly sing have improved cognitive abillity and an increased life satisfaction. 

Easing Asthma Symptoms:

Active music therapy can be very helpful for children who suffer from asthma. One study compared the effects of asthmatic children singing to another group of asthmatic children who passively listened to music. The results showed that the group that sang had better breathing and overall more positive mood than the group that just passively listened to music. 

Playing a wind instrument can be especially helpful for asthma patients. Studies have shown that playing a wind instrument trains and improves the muscles involved in breathing. Playing a wind instrument can help asthma patients develop a relaxed breathing rhythm that can help them stay calm and focused during an asthma attack. Other studies have found that students who play wind instrument are more optimistic about their asthma and are less likely to have an athmaic episode. 

Helping Child Cancer Patients:

Studies show that music therapy music therapy has a positive effect on children who are hospitalized due to having cancer. Unfortunately, music therapy cannot cure cancer but it can improve the feelings of these young patients. Studies show that music therapy led students to have more positive feelings. Children who were more actively involved in music therapy (as judged by the music therapist) showed greater improvement. 

Basically music therapy can be effective in helping a young child cope with a tragic situation such as cancer. Some studies have shown that music therapy can improve the overall quality of life in these young cancer patients. 

Doctors and Music:

As a side note, in the healthcare field, patients are not the only ones who listen to music. A recent poll of 700 surgeons throughout the United States revealed that nearly 90 percent of them report that they listen to music in the operating room as it calms their nerves and helps increase the operating staffs morale. Of course, they do turn it down during the important parts of the operation.

It is amazing how much music therapy can truly help a wide range of patients without any of the negative side effects of some other treatments.

With Love,

Yasmin

Benefits of Bananas 

Hey Everyone! 

Hope you’re all well!

I love reading articles about the health benefits of different types of food and so I decided to create a post about my favorite fruit! 

I personally love bananas and I eat them on a daily basis. In fact, the other day my mom and I were grocery shopping and the store had ran out of bananas so I made her make and extra trip to another local grocery store just to buy some bananas. (Thank God the other grocery store was literally right across the street 😊) 

 Bananas are not only a delicious fruit but they are packed with a wide range of health benefits. 

Nutrients in Bananas:

The average banana is around 110 calories with 30 grams of carbohydrates, one gram of protein and fat, cholesterol, and sodium free. Bananas also include the following nutrients:

Vitamin B6

Manganese 

Vitamin C

Potassium 

Fiber

Copper 

Magnesium

Folate

Riboflavin 

Niacin

Vitamin A

Iron

Bananas and Your Heart

Bananas are definitely a heart healthy food because they contain vital nutrients such as fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and B6. Bananas also maintain heart health because they help lower the blood pressure of those who suffer from high blood pressure. 

Bananas and Healthy Children:

Bananas can reduce the chance of a child developing asthma. In fact, the results of a study conducted by the Imperial College of London showed that children who ate one banana a day had a 34 percent less chance of developing asthma. Also, research has shown that children who ate bananas (along with oranges and orange juice) had a reduced risk of developing childhood leukemia. 

Even in adults, bananas can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers thanks to its Vitamin C levels which help to reduce damage from free radicals. Also, since bananas have a high amount of fiber they can reduce ones chance of developing colorectal cancer. 

Bananas and Your Weight:

A common myth about bananas in my family was that bananas make you fat. The reality is that bananas by themselves don’t make you fat and they likely won’t make you lose weight either. However, bananas do have quite a bit of fiber and it has been shown that a diet with high fiber can aid in weight loss. 

Bananas are an excellent snack to have before, during, or after excercise. Bananas are high in glucose which means they will give you the energy you need to get through an intensive workout especially a cardio workout. Thanks to its magnesium, bananas can help prevent or relieve muscle cramps or soreness. The magnesium in bananas leads to protein synthesis which can help increase your lean muscle mass. Thanks to its potassium, bananas can help you workout longer and more easily recover from an intense workout. Additionally, bananas have a high amount of choline which is a form of Vitamin B that helps burn fat.

Bananas and Potassium:

The recommended daily intake of potassium is currently set at 4,700 milligrams. However, studies show that the majority of Americans don’t get the recommended daily amount of potassium. Bananas are definitely a good source of potassium and the average banana has around 420 milligrams of potassium. Potassium aids in our overall health by maintaining fluid levels in our body. Potassium is vital for cell health because it regulates the movement of nutrients and waste products in and out of our cells. 

Bananas and Digestion 

Bananas aid in digestion thanks to their non digestible carbohydrates which helps maintain a healthy gut. Due to its unique combination of nutrients such as fiber and a cluster of fruit molecules bananas help make you more regular and they even help those suffering from diarrhea. 

Kidney Health

Thanks to its potassium bananas are also helpful in maintaining healthy kidneys. Research has shown that people who eat bananas four to six times a week have a 50 percent reduced chance of developing kidney disease compared to those who don’t eat bananas. However, as a word of caution other research has shown that if you do have kidney disease it is best to eat bananas n moderation because too much potassium can worsen kidney disease.

Additional Benefits:

Bananas have folate which can be beneficial to those suffering from depression. Studies have shown that many people who suffer from depression have a higher risk of having folate deficiency. If your taking an antidepressant it is recommended to continue eating bananas because folate can help enhance the results of the medication. 

Bananas also have tryptophan which leads to seratonin. This means that bananas can potentially help reduce some of the stress and anxiety that you may be going through and put you in a better mood. Also, thanks to tryptophan bananas can also help you get a better night of sleep.

Easy to Find and Easy to Eat

Here in the United States bananas are among the most popular fruits even more so than apples and oranges and in my personal experience they are pretty inexpensive as well. If you’re lazy like me, the great thing about bananas is that you can easily peel them and enjoy the tasty and healthy treat. Of course, there are many different ways you can include bananas in your diet and although I always throw the peel away, while I was doing reeearch for this post, I have learned that in many cultures the banana peel is used in cooking as well. The banana peel has numerous benefits as well. Some of these benefits include using the peel for beauty purposes such as removing pimples and alleviating wrinkles. 

Bananas and Beauty:

As I mentioned the banana peel can be used for pimples. I learned this trick from a YouTube video by Huda Kattan of Huda Beauty. She explained that its best to eat the banana when it’s ripe and keep the peel overnight until it’s very dark and then cut it into smaller pieces (just to make it easier to use) and rub it on your pimples. Continue to do this for a few days until all pimples are gone or until you see improvement. Other bloggers have mentioned that rubbing the banana peel on your skin may help with wrinkles as well. Due to its high water content and Vitamin A eating bananas regularly can be beneficial to your skins overall health. Finally you can add bananas to your face mask.

Ripe vs. Unripe

The truth is that both unripe and ripe bananas have their own pros and cons.

Unripe bananas are the ones that are green. Unripe bananas have a high amount of resistant starch and they’re not that sweet so they’re better for people with Type 2 diabetes because of their low glycemic index. Unripe bananas are also better for colon health thanks to a specific probiotic bacteria that they have. Unripe bananas are better for absorbing nutrients. 

On the other hand the antioxidants of the banana increase as it ripens so unripe bananas have a lower amount of antioxidants. Also since unripe bananas have a higher resistant starch content they can cause some extra bloating and gas.

Ripe bananas are easier to digest thanks to their higher sugar content and ripe bananas have more antioxidants. Research has shown that ripe bananas can help protect you from cancer because they fight abnormal cells in your body.

 On the other hand, ripe bananas lose some of their vitamins and minerals. Also, ripe bananas do have a higher sugar content so they are not ideal for those who suffer from Type 2 Diabetes. 

Don’t Go Bananas Though

As with any other good thing, bananas should be consumed in moderation. Most experts recommend having no more than two bananas a day. This is especially true of those who are on beta blocking medications because they suffer from heart disease. Beta blockers can cause the potassium levels to rise in the blood and so this is why other foods high in potassium should be consumed in moderation

I hope you enjoyed this post hopefully it has encouraged you to reach for a banana the next time you’re hungry! 


With Love,

Yasmin 

The Power of Meaning 

Hey Everyone! 

Hope you’re all doing well!

I recently watched a very inspirational TED Talk titled: There’s is More to Life than Being Happy by Emily Esfahani Smith

Basically, the major point of her TED Talk is that those who are truly at peace with their lives are not the ones who chase after happiness rather they are the ones who find meaning in their lives.  She describes how the famous Psychologist Martin Seligman describes meaning as coming from, belonging to and serving something beyond ourselves, and from developing the best within ourselves. 

In her talk Esfahani Smith describes statistics about how, for many people in the U.S, the quality of life has improved by almost every standard, yet the suicide rate has reached an all time high. She attributes this to a lack of meaning and she also cites statistics that mention that those who do have meaning in their lives are more resilient, do better in school and in work and they even live longer. 

Esfahani Smith spent five years doing research about how we can find meaning in our lives and she came up with the following four pillars of meaning: (The following is a very brief description of the pillars)

Belonging: Being in relationships and having relationships in which you are valued intrinsically for who you are and you value others for who they are. True belonging comes from relationships that are based on love and they are based on your choice, you choose to cultivate belonging with others.

Purpose: Many people find their purpose through their work however, finding your  purpose is not exactly the same as finding a job that makes you happy. Purpose is less about what you want and more about what you give to others. The key to purpose is using your strength to help others. 

Transcendence: She describes transcendent states as being those rare moments in which we are lifted above the normal hustle and bustle of daily life. It is when our sense of self fades away and we feel connected to a higher reality.  In transcendent experiences you lose all sense of time and place and these experiences can change you to become a better person. For each person transcendence can come from a different source. Some people may experience it through their house of worship others can experience it through other means such as art, athletics, writing, etc. (To me personally transcendence sounds a lot like what psychologists refer to as flow). 

Story Telling: She describes this as the story that you tell yourself about yourself. We are authors of our own stories and we can change the way we tell them. She argues that our lives are not just a series of events but we can edit and interpret our stories even when we are constrained by the facts. The point of story telling is to help us reevaluate our lives and see ourselves and our lives from a more positive perspective. She gives the example of an injured football player who was left paralyzed as a result of his injury. In the aftermath of the injury, he described his life as being good before the injury and being pretty bad after the injury. After some time had passed he re-evaluated his story to describe his life before the injury as being a life in which he lack purpose and meaning and he was only concerned with himself. However, after the injury he has a greater appreciation for life and he has found his purpose in life which is to help others. 

This TED Talk was definitely an eye opener for me. Being a student of positive psychology I have read a lot of books and articles on the importance of attaining happiness and how we can be happier in fact I wrote a post a while ago about a book on happiness. I do still recommend that book and I will definitely continue to read positive psychology books and articles on happiness because I feel that there is a lot that we can learn and apply in our lives. Also, because positive psychology as a field is determined to study and understand happiness and wellbeing from a scientific perspective. 

However, it’s also really nice to know that there is something more long lasting that can help us deal with any stage or event in our lives. It is impossible for most of us to be happy all the time but having a sense of meaning, in my opinion, is much more powerful because it gives us something to rely on in moments of joy and sorrow. 

Click here to watch this TED Talk.
With love,

Yasmin

The Link Between Alcohol and Breast Cancer

Hey Eceryone! 

Hope you’re all doing well! 

I personally never drink any type of alcoholic beverage however, I know many people who swear of the benefits of drinking a glass of wine a day. Without a doubt, wine and especially red wine, does have a number of health benefits .

However, fairly recent research by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has found that drinking a glass of wine or beer a day (which is about 10 grams of alcohol) increases women’s risk for breast cancer. 

The report stated that drinking a glass of wine or beer a day increased the risk of breast cancer by five percent for premenopausal women and increased the risk by nine percent for postmenopausal women. It’s also important to mention that this report is referring to a small glass of wine or beer with about 10 grams of alcohol, however, most standard glasses are larger and have around 14 grams of alcohol. 

This report analyzed 119 studies on this topic that included data on 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer. 

On a more positive note, this report also found that leading an active lifestyle, by exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, can reduce the risk of breast cancer in both pre and post menopausal women. Excercise reduced the risk of breast cancer by 17 percent in premenopausal women and reduced the risk by 10 percent in post menopausal women. 

Here in the United States breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women with over 252,000 cases diagnosed this year alone. The AICR estimates that one third of all breast cancer cases in the U.S. could be prevented if women did not drink alcohol, were physically active, and maintained a healthy weight. 

As I was writing this post I received a news notification in my phone that Julia Louis Dreyfus has been diagnosed with beast cancer and she had the following to say: 

And I couldn’t agree more! 

Unfortunately, there are no fool proof ways to prevent breast cancer but it is definitely nice to learn that there are steps that we can take to reduce our chances.
With Love,

Yasmin 

Top Three Sites to Help You Find a Trustworthy Charity

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!!! 

As many of you may know these past few weeks many people have been suffering and have faced unimaginable hardship due to a number of destructive natural disasters. Just this week alone, Hurricane Maria has devasted Puerto Rico and other areas in the Caribbean and Mexico has suffered a second large Earthquake in less than a month.

During such difficult times I know that many people genuinely want to donate to help out the victims. However, many people, that I have personally come across, are hesitant to donate because they don’t know how to find out if a particular charity is truly trustworthy in the sense that they will actually donate most of the money to the cause that they’re claiming to support. 

Of course, I do believe that this is a valid concern because the overwhelming majority of us work very hard to earn our income and we want to make sure that the money that we do donate reaches its rightful recipients. 

In order to make this process a bit easier I would highly recommend using the following sites:

1. Charity Navigator 

Charity Navigator is definitely my favorite site to use to evaluate a charity. It’s super easy to use. You just type the name of the charity and click search. What I also love about Charity Navigator is that it actually gives the charity a grade. Four stars is the highest grade and it indicates a fully trustworthy charity. Aside from just giving it a star grade Charity Navigator lists and evaluates many different important components of a charity. 

2. BBB Wise Giving Alliance 

Give.org also known as BBB Wise Giving Alliance is associated with the Better Business Bureau which helps us consumers choose businesses we can trust. (As a side note if you ever want to make an online purchase from a retailer whom you don’t know much about its a great idea to check the BBB out). The BBB Wise Giving Alliance does not grade a charity but it has a set of around 20 standards that fall within the categories of: governance, measuring effectiveness, finances, and fundraising and info. It judges each charity based on these standards and let’s you know if the stand has been met or not. If the charity has not yet been evaluated by the Better BBB Wise Giving Alliance then it’s states “not yet evaluated”. 

3. Guide Star

Guide Star is the third option that I have come across. Guide Star tries to be very neutral so they don’t grade or judge a charity based on any particular standards. Basically what they do is publish the IRS Form 990. They reveal the charities spending program/mission, income, and the salaries of their top ranking employees. Guide Star has the records for around two million nonprofits that are registered with the IRS. They do have a paid option however, I don’t think that option is necessary.
I hope that you will find these tips to be helpful the next time you search for a charity.
With Love,

Yasmin