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

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 

Recent Tragedies and How You Can Help

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

These past few days and weeks we have witnessed a number of tragic natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Hurricanr Irma in the United States. Mexico has witnessed two tragic natural disasters, an 8.2 Earthquake and Hurricane Katia. On top of this there is the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, which is the largest humanitarian crisis since WWII. 

Then there is also the genoicide of the Rohingya. This is also an ongoing problem that has escalated recently and I feel that it has not gotten enough media coverage. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority living in the Buddhist nation of Myanmar also known as Burma in Southeast Asia. Click here for a brief description of  the crisis and here for a bit more detailed and thorough explanation. 

All of these innocent people that are affected by these tragic natural disasters and man-made crisis are in desperate need of humanitarian aid and support. Here are some reliable and trustworthy charities that you can support so that they can help those that are in need. This is not a full list of all charities it is just some of the ones that I researched and found to be the most trustworthy: 

Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria: 

Hurricane Harvey: 

All Hands

Global Giving

Samaritan’s Purse
Salvation Army
Team Rubicon

Greater Houston Community Fund

Americares

SBP

Airbnb

Hurricane Irma:

 Airbnb

Americares

American University in Antigua

Caribbean Eagles

Global Giving

Salvation Army

Save the Children

Samaritan’s Purse
Unicef USA

Mercy Corps

Catholic Relief Services

Oxfam

Convoy of Hope
Hurricane Maria:

GoFundMe
Fundly
Dominica Hurricane Relief Fund
UNICEF
ConPRmetidos
Global Giving
Save the Children
Unidos Por Puerto Rico
Team Rubicon
Catholic Charities USA
All Hands
Syrian Refugees and Myanmar/Burma Refugees:

Syrian Refugees:

American Refugee Committee
CARE
Catholic Relief Services
Global Help Network International
Global Giving
Helping Hand for Relief and Development
International Rescue Committee
Islamic Relief USA
Mercy-USA for Aid and Development
Unicef USA

Myanmar/Burma Refugees:

Partners Relief and Development

Save the Children Federation
Islamic Relief USA
USA for UNHCR
Mexico Earthquakes and Hurricane Katia Aid:

Operation Blessing
Save the Children
Unicef USA

Mexican Red Cross
Direct Relief
Fondo Unido Mexico
Donating money is vital to making sure that those in need receive proper and prompt aid. Please consider donating any amount, even if it seems small or trivial. Always remember that a bunch of small donations can lead to something great!
However, donating money is certainly not the only way you can help! There are many volunteering opportunities! 

Hurricane Harvey:

Team Rubicon USA
Adventures
Samaritan’s Purse
NVOAD

Hurricane Irma:

Volunteer Florida
NVOAD

Syrian Refugees:

Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
UNHCR

Mexico: I couldn’t find any specific volunteer opportunities for the recent earthquake but here is a general way to volunteer in Mexico

International Volunteer HQ

Myanmar/Burma:

DARE

I know that volunteering is not for everyone but with the exception of Mexico and Myanmar many of the opportunities listed above are volunteer opportunities that can be done if you are in the local area or some, especially those for Syria, can be done in your own local community because they involve things like fundraising and advocacy. 

You can also help by signing your name on a petition:

Hurricane Harvey:

Change.org

Hurricane Irma:

Change.org

Support for Refugees:

UNHCR

Syrian Refugees:

MoveOn.org

Myanmar/Burma Refugees:

Change.org

Mexico Earthquake:

Care 2 Petitions

All of these victims come from different backgrounds and walks of life. However, they are all human beings who have become victims of difficult situations and I truly believe that it is our moral responsibility to help them in any way that we can.


With Love,

Yasmin
This post has been updated to include links to charities that help the victims of Hurricane Maria and the second major Earthquake to hit Mexico.