Saturday, May 30, 2009

A healing garden

I wish I could share the garden I went to, with you right now. It is in full bloom and I am lucky enough to have a smorgasbord of colors, shapes, textures, and scents. I am particularly taken with the rich colorful contrast of the flowers and foliage. The bright yellows, oranges, and greens dance with the softer hues of pinks, lavenders, and blues.

The vibrancy, freshness, and joy of warm, bright colors meld with the softness and tranquility of the cooler, gentler ones. I know that I get a little excited when it comes to my garden. Of course, psychologists have known for many years that natural colors and scents can have a powerful effect on us, one that draws our interest and greatly influences our moods.

So, I guess it shouldn't be surprising, that the commercial and marketing worlds take advantage of this information. It is very common to see bright yellow and orange decors in fast-food restaurants where the goal is to keep people happy, energized, and moving quickly so that more people can be served. Spas and hospitals often utilize softer blues and magentas to help create a calm and relaxing environment, and health food restaurants and stores regularly employ the color green to remind people of the natural world and healthy growth.

We can all use the power of color in our homes and offices to create whatever sort of mood we wish. For example, dark colors can be used in combination with browns and tans to promote a masculine feel, or softer lavenders and pinks with white to create a feminine energy. Warm and bright colors can be used to energize, while cool colors create a feeling of relaxation and tranquility. For an added dramatic effect, combine contrasting dark and bright colors.

If you are not already doing so, you can easily use colors in this way to decorate or accessorize in order to create just the right mood in your home, workspace, or business. The result can be a happier home, a more serene and productive work environment, and a bustling and successful business. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

On Spending Wisely...

We've been hearing a lot about how many people are in serious debt and others struggle from month to month to pay their bills. So it might seem that the problem is purely about having a certain amount of money. However, an answer can be found in having a positive attitude towards finances and a satisfaction with what we already have.

I know that financial establishments, such as banks, savings and loans, and credit card companies are being monitored right now, and I am certainly pleased about the government's regulatory role in this critical situation. But I have to say that as consumers we have a responsibility for our own money management.

The first step is to reduce any debt. Being beholden to a lender can weigh you down with monthly payments that can drag out for years. The hard truth is that it can take a very long time to pay it off. So, it is essential to develop a plan to free yourself of such a weight.

One way to do this is to pare down the number of credit cards you maintain. If you have several cards, the main objective is to get them paid off as quickly as possible, preferably paying off the higher interest cards first. In any case, getting at least one card paid off and then closing that account will give you a satisfying feeling and encourage you to continue with your plan of getting your finances in order.

You'll also want to curb impulse spending. Before making any new purchase, give it some thought. How important is this purchase to you? Can you get it for a better price? Hopefully by thinking before you buy, you will end up buying far less, thereby saving more. Interestingly, you probably won't miss most of the items that you momentarily craved, and if you do, then you can set aside some money from every paycheck towards buying it.

Another important step is to create a budget to help you choose where your money goes and help you to keep track of your progress. Be sure to put a small amount of money aside for your enjoyment and to reward yourself for your efforts. Of course, the big reward will be when you realize how much headway you have made towards being in control of your money -- and your life.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

On having an education...

I was watching the news the other night and heard that those who graduated this year's college was the largest in history. This might come as a surprise to many, considering the current, tough economy, especially as some families have had to bring their kids home from college. However, with the recent layoffs, it seems that more people than ever are looking towards education as a chance for a fresh start in a competitive market.

Colleges and universities are seeing a surge of students returning to school from the workplace or starting college in hopes of securing better employment opportunities in the future. The fact is, that the more you know and understand about the field you want to work in the better chance you will have to be successful at what you want to do. So, even though times are tight, education is the priority for those who want to be employed in a satisfying job that will also bring them that much needed paycheck.

A good education helps turn knowledge into opportunity by building your understanding of the world around you while giving you access to new avenues in life. Education helps you to gain insight into your own life and to turn experiences into a learning opportunity. Plus it can provide you a better understanding of other cultures and civilizations. There is no doubt that a good education is a gift of knowledge that can enlarge your choices in life.

Those of us who live in developed countries may take education for granted. That's because we have easier access to it, especially higher education. In developing countries, a higher education is highly valued and sought after because it promises higher standards of living, better health care, scientific advances, useful inventions and more. In fact, the countries that are taking a stand in the global community are doing so through better education of their citizens, which usually begins with the children and then extends to higher education.

I completely believe in taking advantage of educational opportunities that come my way, be they astrological courses, interesting books and articles or even information to help me to better care for my own body and physical fitness. There is no doubt that continuing my education makes me a better-rounded person and keeps me sharp.

Whether you seek education for work purposes or just because you want to learn something new, you'll always find education to be a way to better yourself and your life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

World's Happiest Places

Where in the world do people feel most content with their lives?

According to a new report released by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based group of 30 countries with democratic governments that provides economic and social statistics and data, happiness levels are highest in northern European countries.

Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands rated at the top of the list, ranking first, second and third, respectively. Outside Europe, New Zealand and Canada landed at Nos. 8 and 6, respectively. The U.S. did not crack the top 10. Switzerland placed seventh and Belgium placed tenth.

The report looked at subjective well-being, defined as life satisfaction. Did people feel like their lives were dominated by positive experiences and feelings, or negative ones?

To answer that question, the OECD used data from a Gallup World Poll conducted in 140 countries around the world last year. The poll asked respondents whether they had experienced six different forms of positive or negative feelings within the last day.

Some sample questions: Did you enjoy something you did yesterday? Were you proud of something you did yesterday? Did you learn something yesterday? Were you treated with respect yesterday? In each country, a representative sample of no more than 1,000 people, age 15 or older, were surveyed. The poll was scored numerically on a scale of 1-100. The average score was 62.4.

Why did the northern European countries come out looking so good? Overall economic health played a powerful role, says Simon Chapple, senior economist from the Social Policy Division of the OECD, which put together the report.

While the global economic crisis has taken a toll on every nation, the countries that scored at the top still boast some of the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. Denmark, which got the highest score, is not only a wealthy country, it's also highly productive, with a 2009 GDP per capita of $68,000, according to the International Monetary Fund, The United States' GDP per capita, by contrast, is $47,335. Though the U.S. got an above-average score of 74, it did not break the top 10.

Wealth alone does not bring the greatest degree of happiness. Norway has the highest GDP per capita on the list--$98,822--yet it ranked ninth, not first. On the other hand, New Zealand's happiness level is 76.7 out of 100 on the OECD list, but its 2009 GDP per capita is just $30,556.

According to a 2005 editorial, published in the British Medical Journal and authored by Dr. Tony Delamothe, research done in Mexico, Ghana, Sweden, the U.S. and the U.K. shows that individuals typically get richer during their lifetimes, but not happier. It is family, social and community networks that bring joy to one's life, according to Delamothe.

The OECD data shows that another important factor is work-life balance. While Scandinavian countries boast a high GDP per capita, the average workweek in that part of the world is no more than 37 hours. In China, which got a low score of just 14.8, the workweek is 47 hours and the GDP per capita is just $3,600.

Low unemployment also contributes to happiness. "One thing we know for sure," says the OECD's Chapple, "not having a job makes one substantially less satisfied." Denmark's unemployment rate is just 2%, according the C.I.A.'s World Factbook. Norway's is just 2.6%. The Netherlands: just 4.5%. Many economists concur that a 4% unemployment rate reflects a stable economy. The U.S. unemployment rate is currently 9%.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Living in the moment...

Are you familiar with the expression "to live in the moment?" This is the ability to be fully present and aware of yourself and your surroundings as you live each moment. Achieving such a state requires observation, appreciation, patience, quiet, and the ability to turn off the clock and put away the calendar.

While most of us don't experience such times frequently, this is when we feel the most alive. In theory, being present involves learning how to pay attention, and the process of getting there is far easier than you might think. There are a few simple things you can do right now to help you stay in the present and pay attention to your life experience in a very positive way.

Start by setting a few quiet minutes aside each day to close your eyes and take stock of what you are feeling, no matter how good or bad those feelings may be. Don't judge your feelings, just allow yourself to become aware of the emotions behind them.

Next, send your attention outward and become aware of things around you. Notice if you feel warm or cold, what your clothing feels like against your skin, the feeling of the air moving in and out of your lungs. Let the sounds around you filter through you and notice the underlying noises that you may have been tuning out. Next, open your eyes and notice the colors and sights around you in this same subtle, attentive way.

By the time you are halfway through this little exercise, you may be surprised at how much you actually notice about your internal and external presence. If you try this, you will probably find that "paying attention" will take on a whole new meaning, and it will be a very nice one at that.

I hope that you can take some time this week to practice "living in the moment." I feel sure that it will change your experience in "now" time. Enjoy!

Friday, May 01, 2009

How do you visualize things?

I want you to take a few moments to imagine something you really want to happen and then use your imagination to follow it through in your mind's eye. What is it you are dreaming about? Who is involved? How does it play out? Now let's think about the direction your imagination took. Did you focus on the positive aspects of your dream or did you end up thinking about the things that could go wrong?

If you found that you had a constructive mental process, my hat goes off to you! On the other hand, if your imagination turned your dream into a disaster, let's think about why that happened. First off, I don't want you to be down on yourself. You might be surprised at how many of us are in the habit of imagining the worst as opposed to the best, unless our thoughts are directed differently.

It is said that energy flows where the attention goes, and this is the key to getting positive results in any situation. When you can visualize exactly what it is that you want, you fuel the energy of your creation by seeing all the wonderful aspects of it coming into reality. You can see yourself experiencing your desire in detail, imagining the events, sights, smells, and feelings around it. And, if a negative thought creeps in, you can simply erase it, replacing it with thoughts of what you want to have happen instead.

In addition to visualizing, other things can help reinforce the positive outcome you desire. For example, you could keep a daily journal and write what you desire to have happen in your life. This is a very good way to keep your focus. Another technique is to make a picture page with images of what you want, along with good things that are part of your dream. You can cut out photos from magazines or draw pictures. When your little poster is completed, put your page in a place where you will see it frequently. Just seeing these visual suggestions regularly will stimulate your imagination.

By making a point to visualize on a regular basis the positive things you want to bring your way, you will draw wonderful things into your life with surprising frequency. Not only will you experience more success in your life, but you will also feel more confident and in charge of your own destiny, and that should be your goal!
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