Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

How to Eat Well and Improve Your Mood

April 14th 2012

I’m happy to introduce another guest author, Andrew, today on a new subject here on LearnThis.ca, eating well and foods that affect your mood.  I personally eat a good balanced diet and drink massive amounts of water, but many of these I’ve not researched or read directly.  I hope you learn some new ways to impact your mood and improve your diet from the article.  Please add your experienced and comments below!

You’ve heard it before: you are what you eat. Pop culture spends a lot of time talking about the “science” of mood and food. Some of it’s legit, and some of it’s bogus. So, can you use food to regulate your mood?  The answer is a bit more nuanced than you might hope. Of course, food cannot necessarily make us happy if we are going through a rough time in our lives, but alongside with exercise, talking to your loved ones about your problems, a wise choice of food can be a powerful ally.

Popular Claims about Food and Mood

Omega 3 Fatty Acids Can Lift Your Mood

According to the book, The Omega-3 Connection with dental plans, by Andrew L. Stoll – it is sometimes true.  It really depends whether or not you’re dealing with depression. The evidence that these foods can help people who suffer from a mood disorder is quite strong. In fact, various studies have shown that it is just as effective as prescription medications in lifting the mood of depressed patients. The evidence is so compelling that the American Psychiatry Association and ultrasound tech online recommends people who suffer from depression should take a supplement.  If it works that well for depressed patients, imagine how happy a normal person will be! Well…not quite. There’s no compelling evidence that omega 3 fatty acids are helpful for people that are just going through a rough patch or that “normal people” are just looking for a way to boost their mood.  That said, omega 3 fatty acids are good for your health in other ways, and there’s certainly no harm in consuming them. Even if you aren’t currently depressed, they could ward off the risks of depression occurring at some point in the future.  Omega 3 fatty acids are found in salmon, herring, sardines, and tuna. Six ounces a week of fish is the recommended dose, or you can use a supplement with DHA and EPA.

Avoid foods that contain omega 6 fatty acids, which can actually make you feel worse because they block the omega 3s. These include any of the hydrogenated fats found in processed food, as well as most vegetable oils except for olive oil. Saturated fats, like butter, don’t seem to affect mood, although too much isn’t great for your health. Alcohol can also block omega 3s.

Sugar Will Make Your Kids Bounce off the Walls: False

Believe it or not, this one’s just not true. Children do get hyper on their birthdays and Halloween parties, but various studies have shown that this doesn’t have anything to do with the sugar that they’re consuming. In controlled experiments, where one group received artificial sweeteners and the others real sugar, children behaved the same.  According to the reputable websites WebMD.com and the US National Library of Medicine, the sugar – hyperactivity relation is just correlation, with another substance often found in children’s food – artificial coloring – being responsible for ADHD and other hyperactivity problems.

Grumpy? Drink More Water: True

When you become dehydrated, this leads to fatigue. Fatigue, in turn, has all kinds of affects on your body and mind. Irritability is one of the strongest signs of fatigue.  It turns out that you don’t have to be dying of thirst for this to be true. Even moderate levels of dehydration can make you grumpy. It certainly doesn’t help that it can rob you of your energy and give you a headache.  Most people should drink at least two liters of water a day in order to avoid these problems. People who live somewhere hot or who exercise regularly should drink quite a bit more than that even.  Despite what some people say, however, it doesn’t much matter whether or not what you’re drinking is actually water. Almost any liquid will do the trick. Surprisingly, this even includes caffeinated beverages. On the other hand, alcohol doesn’t count, and it can actually dehydrate you.

Losing Focus and Energy? Have a Cup of Coffee: True

A quick search for coffee on Google Scholar shows a large number of studies about the effects of coffee. Most of them demonstrate that coffee (or better to say caffeine) really does give you energy and help you stay focused. It has been shown to elevate your attention level as well as your overall mood.  While there is some truth to the idea that coffee can become a dependence, the only threat it poses is to your wallet. People stop drinking coffee when they start feeling jittery, so they don’t consume the high levels necessary to harm your health.  One potential health threat is if caffeine starts becoming a replacement for a good night’s sleep.

Carbohydrates Will Boost Your Mood: That depends

Carbohydrates will boost your mood, but generally only if you aren’t eating right already.  It is true that carbohydrates cause a boost in serotonin, and serotonin is a chemical that helps you regulate your mood. It’s not illogical to think that this would mean carbs could boost your mood, but it’s wrong, despite the fact that this claim is still wildly popular.  The problem is that if you consume any protein at all, the effects of the carbohydrates will be neutralized. In other words, if you go an entire day without consuming any protein, you might be able to get a short-term mood boost. Unfortunately, this is a terrible way to eat and the long term impacts on your health, and yes, your mood, will be bad news.   In a stroke of irony, according to the June issue of “Health” from 2011, new evidence is starting to suggest that protein actually has a more powerful impact on your mood than carbohydrates, although these studies are still in their beginning stages.

Takeaways for Eating Well to Improve Your Mood?

A healthy diet can do a lot for your mood, and these are examples of certain foods that can have a direct impact on the way you feel, but there is no single magical food that can make you feel happy. Focus on getting enough protein and omega 3s in your diet, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Andrej is a stay-at-home man who takes care of the family’s eating habits – making sure breakfast is never skipped! Working as a content manager for a Long Island elevator company. You can contact him via Twitter or LinkedIn .

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 16 Comments »

Resources: February 2012

March 3rd 2012

Book Review: Dollars & Uncommon Sense

February 21st 2012

Basic Training For Your Money

Review Review Review Review boo-stars-fadepng.png

Author: Steve Repak, CFP

Steve Repak authors this easy to read financial guide from the perspective that most people really are stuck in a spending mode with a mindless system getting them into credit card dept, living from month to month and wondering how anyone ever really saves any money.  This was very hard to not be turned off by since I don’t struggle with those things and so you may feel the same reading this if you already know how to safely manage your money.  If you struggle with those things however, then Repak does a great job at empathizing with you, giving good tips for methods to break from your patterns and helps you get a plan in place to overcome that dept you may have, and spending more than you make tenancy.

This is the first financial book I’ve reviewed here and while it may be the first in hand book I’ve read on the subject, I am certainly no stranger to learning about managing money and knowing how to save. I learned this at a very young age thanks to my parents and have been careful with my money my whole life in order to have security, safety and plans for early retirement (which I can confirm are all very doable despite any skepticism). Anyway, I was offered a review copy of this book by the Cadence Group and was happy to enter the genre here since I felt I could read through it easily and understand it, since I have already developed such a foundation of knowledge around money, saving and investments.

Repak covers the foundations of wealth and refers to what he calls the six key traits to building wealth:

  1. Spend less money than is made
  2. Debt relief program
  3. Give and Save first
  4. Have long term plans for money
  5. Do not let emotions cloud  judgment
  6. Start saving early in life
The book is a guide with practical tips to help you change your habits, change your priorities and start thinking about and planning how you manage your money.  It will help you reduce and eliminate your credit card dept and it will help teach some discipline to build some savings.  Repak also covers basic investments towards the end of the book and it will give those new to the subject a base understanding but he covers a fair bit, very quickly so if this is new to you, you may not find it explained well enough.  Also, there was one area that Repak makes some surprising suggestions in how to payoff your credit cards, balancing the payments and ignoring the highest interest cards since he feels the discipline to keep paying them ALL down is more important than eliminating the highest cost ones first, which he feels is important for the discipline of paying them down.  I have to disagree with this since any short term payoffs are financially better and will help a person see savings earlier on, which I believe will be far more motivating than gaining some discipline.  Learning the discipline has to last a lot longer than getting credit cards paid off as well, otherwise a person will find themselves right back into dept a few months later.  So, I do believe its better to see some short term gains and get motivated and trained by seeing that!  However, I’ve never had personal experience with credit card dept and the author has, so this is only from my own saving experiences.
Since I already have a strong knowledge and experience in investment and wisely managing money, I can’t say that I learned anything directly in this book.  However, I can certainly agree that the keys to wealth are accurate, Repak’s advise is sound and his plan looks like one that should be simple for anyone with dept problems and new to saving money can follow and learn from.  He keeps things simple and puts very practical steps in place to help you change your habits, which is crucial for saving money and getting out of dept.  So, if you need some help paying off credit cards and find yourself struggling to ever save any money on the month by month paycheck, then this book will certainly help you and I definitely recommend it.  Commit to his guidance and I’ve confident it will get you moving quickly to accumulating money, instead of overspending it.

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 3 Comments »

Resources Jan 2011

January 8th 2012

It’s been a few months since I’ve shared another resource list so I’ve got a great round up for you, which hopefully you haven’t seen many of these.  

Articles

  • I have my share of 100 lists and this is another great one: 100 Ways for Your Family to Make a Difference
  • I wonderful response and article based on Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness.  This one is called Futile Pursuit
  • Here is an article sent to me about inspiring elderly learners, who believe learning is worthwhile, no matter what their age.
  • 50 Ways to Show Gratitude for the People in Your Life, gratitude is often overlooked, and these tips will help keep it active
  • 14 Links to Make You A More Intelligent Person – Some great websites and online learning tools, many that I frequent are in this list and I’ve certainly found a few new ones, which I’m sure you will like as well!
  • 30 Days of for 30 days of Growth – A worthy list of ways to grow in life
  • How to be Yourself – some excellent tips at discovering yourself and being more authentic (a VERY important trait to great relationships)

 Videos

From the Archives here at LearnThis.ca

Posted by Mike King under Learning | Comments Off on Resources Jan 2011

How to Be More Present

December 18th 2011

During a book study recently, I had a question or comment from my pastor that really struck a nerve and it left me thinking about it for a while.  It was along the lines of “How do you learn to be more present in everyday life?”  It was a question that I certainly have never really spent much time thinking about it.  I have some of my habits and behaviors that help me stay as present as I do and some of those may be obvious and some not.  I also likely have a number of things that have developed out of those habits that I may not have ever really thought about before.  And of course, there is then the enormous amount of distractions and things that prevent me from being present and only some of those things I purposefully control.

So, I thought I would start on this new topic for me by putting down some of the things that I’ve learned just from recent thinking about the subject regarding being present and some of the advantages of it.

Commit and set a Goal

Being more present or being more anything really in life starts by requiring some new commitment or choice that you want to behave a certain way.  I think this is especially true about being present, since the rest of the world will so easily consume you and keep you from that, it has to be a conscious choice to really let it happen.  Here are just a few ways you might make a choice to act on this.

  • Put attention to small things around you
  • Make unconscious actions something you notice.  Breathing, heart rate, feelings in your toes, the top of your head, your tongue
  • Imaging observing yourself from other people’s point of view, especially strangers or people who don’t know you that well
  • Observe simple actions in others (how they hold their hands, open and closed body position, facial expressions, their breathing rate compared to yours)
  • Match the communication style or behavior style of others (obviously without playing copycat though, you don’t want them to notice and be annoyed)
Picking some of these and deciding what you can do regularly will then give you something to focus on and work towards.  Hopefully every time the situation comes up, you can remember your goal and practice it, which leads to the next element…

Practice by Planning Activities

Plan some regular activity to be a trigger point to become more present.  You can train yourself to use these daily triggers as a reminder for jumping back to the present moment.  For example, every time you get a drink, say hello to someone, stop at a red light, etc.  Other activities that you can plan to practice in is a particular time of day.  For some, this works best by setting aside 10 minutes in the morning or after supper in the evening or some time when you can take a few minutes and simply practice being present in your environment at that time. This combined with the triggers you have for the goals above will really help you find time to repeat and practice being present.

Eliminate Distractions

This seems to be the most difficult part of being present in today’s modern society.  Everything around us is designed to distract us and bombard us with a bit more information.  Whether it is our own mobile devices, our past times like television or the continual advertising we face, everything is hoping to catch just a moment of our time.  These distractions individually are quite small but add them all together and you end up in a day to day cycle of jumping from every little thing immediately to the next, multitasking with ten things on the go at once and endlessly having things to check, read and respond to.  All of these things keep you from being present and can easily be reduced with some dedicated choices and follow through.  That follow through is eliminating some distractions.  I recommend that you really look for some things you can completely get rid of, not just reduce or minimize, but completely eliminate.  Personally, I choose a long time ago not to watch TV, ever.  The commercials and distractions during any show are enough to drive me crazy and can really no longer stand any advertising.  Instead of watching TV, I get some TV series that I like either on Netflix or on DVD, without the commercials.  The shows end up being MUCH more enjoyable as I can watch them whenever I want and without the horrid commercials.  I watch movies as well and don’t miss for a second any wasted time watching TV.  That leaves me a lot more time to focus on other things, think about being present in other activities and it helps to train my mind to find other distractions I can eliminate.

One other distraction I’ve eliminated is answer a phone when I’m in a conversation with someone already.  I want to always focus on the conversation and person at hand and don’t like distractions.  To me, its simply good phone etiquette to put it on silent at all times and never interrupt someone to check or answer your phone.  At work, as an engineering manager, I have a lot of people I am in meetings with each week, my directs, my project teams and the executive team; it makes no difference to me who, I never stop or interrupt a conversation to be distracted by a phone.  Do the same with your friends and family, and the phone can be an easy distraction to eliminate.  Voice mail is there for a reason, use.

Forgot the Past

Next is then knowing to forget the past.  Often, what keeps us from being present in the now, is things we are thinking about that already happened, especially with other people.  You might be wondering about a person’s reaction to something that happened previously, like a comment made, or saying no to that last invite.  If you dwell on those past things you will only make yourself more distant from being present now and so you must let it go and think about the now and what is, at the present.

This occurs a lot because of things that hurt or broke a relationship and it prevents the present from ever becoming dominant, which is what you need for any good relationship to thrive.  Let go of past issues, concerns and worries and think about what you want the now to be like, what could make the present the best and start working toward that.

Ignore the Future

On the flip side of the past, often the future is what blocks us from being present and it surfacing because of thinking about what might happen, or what a person may think if you do or say a certain thing.  The social ties we have often block being present because we know someone else might say something or hear something about what we are doing now.  Being present helps leave those concerns out of mind and let the moments and the people immediately around you be your focal point.  Enjoy what is right there in front of you and let the future be an unknown, something to experience when it gets here and don’t concern yourself so much with unlikely consequences.  You obviously can’t always be in the moment and thinking in the present or your future could slip past without ever having plans or hopes fulfilled, but ignoring the future when you want to enjoy the present is one of the best things you can do.

I hope this article left you thinking as well about how to be more present and living in the moment and its likely an article I should right more on.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on the topic!

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 14 Comments »

17 Ways to Be More Realistic

November 13th 2011

One of the traits I referred to and read about recently in “The Good Among the Great” was to be more realistic.  Being realistic however, is not always that easy.  There are many things that get in the way of being realistic and hopefully these can help you avoid them and to be more realistic.  Be no means are any of these intended to cause complacency or to stop dreaming, they are more a matter of being realistic to help enable more things in life and easier connections and relationships.  I have always been one to encourage everyone to step out on the skinny branches of life to be adventurous,to have fun and to push the limits of what others like to think possible.  Doing those things while being realistic is certainly possible and here are some ways I think you can do to learn this!be more realistic

Imagination That is Never Acted On

The imagination is a wonderful thing and can let a person dream, create a hope or idea that is otherwise impossible.  It lets you be creative and it lets you explore life in your mind before you suffer any consequences.  However, using your imagination too often and coming across as a dreamer, you can create a reputation of someone who is too “out there” or dreamy without a down to earth approach.  If you act on your imagination and put some of the dreams you share into reality by doing them and living them, you can not only enjoy the things you imagine but others will believe what you imagine is inf act possible.  So, act on your dreams and make your imagination something you and others will see as reality!

Recognize Needs over Wants

The materialistic disposable world constantly sends us a message of how we are inadequate and need to have so much more.  Seeing past this to separate the things you actually need in life from all the distractions and status objects will help you to be a lot more realistic with your lifestyle.  Change your perspective to the money you need to earn from the amount you want to earn and suddenly everything becomes a lot easier.  You do make enough, you do have enough and no, you don’t need to have that upgrade, the latest device, that new sports car or that 12 room house for you and your spouse.  If you put attention to your needs and needs of others, suddenly there is an immediate realism where the extras do not get in the way to complicate things.

Control Your Extreme Opinions and Thinking

I know from my work that I am regularly faced with evaluating and judging solutions for a problem with software engineering problems.  For me, it is easy to be skeptical of systems and people and I used to express these opinions far too quickly.  Combining that with any amount of exaggeration and you have an extreme opinion that doesn’t typically sit well with others and they think you are being extreme, not realistic.  Its quite easy for other people to be the complete opposite where they are so optimistic that they fail to see some of the obvious risks, again being far from realistic.  It helps to control these extreme opinions and thoughts to present each side when appropriate but not to bombard people with one side of that scale.

Share Your Action Plan

Sometimes a goal may seem unrealistic to others and an easy way to change this is to show them an action plan that gives some evidence that the plan is not only well thought out, but realistic considering some work and effort has gone into putting it into action.

Give Things Time

Most people want to rush everything, have everything right now and to be successful immediately in everything they do.  Perhaps its fortunate, although most don’t see it this way, that things do in fact take time to happen or to learn.  The journey of life teaches us that nearly everything takes time, yet people are more and more demanding and unreasonable when it comes to waiting or developing something over time.  Whether this is a kid asking for some new toy, a new graduate or worker expecting the CEO title to come simply by asking, or salary and jobs to come simply be a desire for them.  The fortunate part I mentioned is that those who realize things take time, they can have the patience and dedication required to get those things others simply demand.

Make Fair Judgments and Considerations

Decisions we make and the how we express our thoughts of others quickly affects what others think of us.  Especially when it comes to being realistic and reasonable.  If we are careful and fair in the judgments we have and mindful in what we consider, we will be considered a lot more realistic than if we make quick or rash decisions without any deliberate consideration.

Pause and Think Before Reactingbe more realistic

Not only the way we think and make decisions affect how realistic but we, but even more so, how we react to situations.  Being realistic requires not blowing up in anger, reacting childish when things don’t go your way or reacting emotionally that would be considered over reacting.  If we can stop and think about our reactions before expressing them, we can eliminate a lot of dangerous things that might otherwise be said or done.  This will result in giving some time to think about a response being having it, which will then be much more realistic than a reaction not yet thought about.

Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes

You have heard this saying a thousand times and it couldn’t be more true when it comes to being realistic when dealing with other people.  Whether its a close relationship, on the job or a political decision, often putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is enough to get you thinking about more than one perspective, and it helps you be realistic.

Be Humble in Your Approach

Humility comes after many other good traits and being humble in your own behaviors helps to ensure you do not put your own perspectives and worth above that of others.  It is to ensure you see yourself and others equally and this can make many situations and decisions much more reasonable.  Knowing you are enough as you are, and that others are equally important can help you consider everyone in discussions, in decisions and in life.  Being humble is a great way to be more realistic as well.

Use Active Listening

Similar to many other items in this list, short sighted views are often what lead us away from realism and towards fantasy.  If you are willing to listen to others, and really stop to actively listen, there are always things to learn from others to help us be more realistic.  Whether it is a best friend sharing a concern about an idea, or a family member pointing out some way they were hurt by you, if you stop to listen, you can get off your own path and put others first.  Even a fantastic idea that you might have will have a number of things to consider once you actively listen to others upon sharing the idea, and it can shed some new light or risks on the plan that you could easily of overlooked yourself.  These additional perspectives are especially useful in work decisions and listening to others and getting some collaboration to help can make you be more realistic.

Ask More Questions

Assumptions are what lead us all to jump in early, take on more than we can chew, think ourselves to be more capable than we are and generally get us into trouble for unseen risks.  All this can be avoided by asking more questions.  Whether this is for a project in your work, a home renovation, a new relationship or commitment in one, or simply an everyday decision, asking more questions before jumping in can help avoid all these pains and to discover something that would otherwise surprise us.

Dream, But Dream With Intention

Similar to the imagination above, dreams let us hope for something greater or something we desire.  Dreams are great but they are not enough if there is no intention of fulfilling them so you must put some intention into that which you dream about in order to make those dreams more realistic.  If you are moving towards a dream, it gets more and more realistic, so be intentional with what you dream about!

Do What You Say You Will Do

People who are realistic are often considered very trustworthy. One way to be very trustworthy is to consistently stick to your promises and do what you say you will do.  From returning phone calls when you say you will, to being on time when you make a commitment, to holding true to a life long spousal promise, doing what you say you will do can be almost at any size, but will built trust and leave people knowing that you are realistic with what you tell them, since you can be trusted.

Ask For Help

Most people like to think they can accomplish everything on their own and that they don’t need help and yet they often can see when someone else is struggling and not asking for help?  Its strange that we let this ego block us from simply stopping and asking for help.  When you do though, especially when everyone can see it already, you admit the need and asking for help makes you seem believable and realistic to see that yourself.  When you put on a facade that you can do it all yourself, you destroy that perception others have and your own truth of being able to handle it on your own.  Usually this leaves some casualties or negative consequences you never intended.

Be Authentic

One of my favorite subjects is authenticity.  It applies here in being realistic because others can easily detect a change in behavior or personality, even when we can’t see it ourselves.  Sometimes we act differently in each circle of our life and that gets exposed by people who cross those circles.  That can destroy our authenticity and we cannot be believed as a realistic person if we are not consistent.  Being real requires that we are consistent all the time and so being authentic about ourselves and our true selves, if crucial to be more realistic in life.

Expose Some Emotion

Everyone has their slip ups, bad days, loss of control and the odd ‘Monday’ that gets the best of them.  Its OK to let out some emotion from time to time and show that we are excited, hurt, upset, joyful, anxious or nervous about something.  These expressions show variety and the ups and downs of life.  If we are always controlled, balanced, non-reactive and seemingly ‘stone faced’ to events around us, its hard to understand that this kind of person is even aware of everything going on.  Some reaction is often better than no reaction at least in extreme circumstances and without it, we can seem distant or disconnected from reality.  Its OK to be expressive at times and just let out some emotion.

Admit Your Mistakes or Failures

And finally, one final way to be more realistic is to not protect your blunders, your mistake and failures.  If you only ever expose your best side and hide the messy journey it took to get their, people can have a very hard time relating to your story and in some cases, your success.  Be quick to admit your mistakes, sharing how they happened and how you learned from them.  Don’t be afraid of failures, just use them to your benefit and to benefit others by avoiding the same.  All your accomplishments and your character will be much more realistic when you are willing to admit your mistakes.

 

Posted by Mike King under Learning | 6 Comments »

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