In a world that is so concerned with health and wellness, we often overlook the easy healthy behaviors that can have a major impact on our lives. Smiling has amazing health benefits, such as reducing stress and hormones, raising endorphins, and lowering blood pressure.
Not only is smiling healthy, but it is pleasurable. A British study was conducted by Hewlett Packard that used an electromagnetic brain-scan machine and a heart-rate monitor to measure the value of various stimuli on raising mood. Seeing a child smile can create pleasure that is equal to 2,000 candy bars or $25,000 in cash. Seeing a loved one smile was worth 600 chocolate treats or $13,000 in cash.
With all the benefits that smiling offers, how often are we doing it? According to Ron Gutman, author of Smile:The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act, children smile on average 400 times a day. While boys and girls smile equally, women smile more often than men do. Overall, more than 30% of adults smile more than 20 times a day and less than 14% of us smile less than five times a day.
Smiling is so valuable, not only for our health but our happiness also, so why not smile more and enjoy the day!
The true spirit of the holidays has become apparent in the last few weeks as the Secret Santa movement has gained steam. The Secret Santa movement involves people visiting national retailers and paying off the balances of strangers’ layaway accounts for items such as toys and clothes.
It seems to have started a few weeks ago in Michigan, when an anonymous donor showed up at a Kmart in Grand Rapids and spent $500 to pay off three accounts. After media coverage of that donation, a man showed up the next day to pay $2,000. The story soon went viral, spreading through Twitter, YouTube, blogs and local media coverage. From there it has spread across the nation…
So-called Secret Santas have shown up mostly at Kmarts in Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Colorado. Some have done their good deeds at Walmart, including one man who paid $8,880 to assure 23 families in Avon, Ohio could get their gifts. Another Secret Santa was a woman from Indianapolis in her mid-40’s who paid the layaway orders for as many as 50 people. Before she left the store she handed out $50 bills and paid for two carts full of toys for a woman in line at the cash register. Not all acts have been so large, but people have been paying what they can towards others’ layaway accounts in an effort to make a difference.
To some $40 may not seem like a lot, but to others it can be the difference in making the holidays bright! It is these acts that bring a sense of community in the world.
Here’s a video to show how the the trend of giving is taking off…
With the holidays here, we begin our traditions. And why not help those traditions have a smaller impact on our world? Here are a few tips for keeping your holidays green:
Why not use decorations from last year and years before? It may not be trendy to reuse decorations, but it can create fond family memories. I remember using the same ornaments year after year as a child, and my family uses many of them still. The decorations then become more meaningful and allow us to feel nostalgic during the holidays.
If you find some of your decorations are no longer to your taste, be sure to donate them so that they can provide holiday cheer for other households.
Use edible objects for holiday centerpieces, such as apples or holiday candies in a bowl or glass canister.
Baked goods like decorated cookies on platters make fun displays with color!
Making your own decorations is always a greener option than buying new ones. If you do decide to make your own, use raw materials that are less harmful to the environment. Things that make beautiful decorations are grass, twigs, dried flowers, and even scratch paper… the possibilities are endless.
Email fun family photos for Christmas cards…it saves on paper! But if sending a card in the mail is what you desire, have kids make them by drawing colorful and fun pictures. Hand-deliver cards when possible for a personal touch!
On December 2, Teens Turning Green hosted the very first Green University for 12 high school and college students who participated in this year’s Project Green Challenge.
Held in the Bay Area, the students were flown in from around the country to take part in a two-day eco-summit at which they presented their final presentations for PGC, in which a winner was chosen by an esteemed panel of judges.
Project Green Challenge is a 30-day eco lifestyle challenge in which students from around the country were presented with a challenge each day in order to educate and inspire them to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle. Thousands of students participated, representing over 500 campuses. Only 12 finalists were selected to attend Green University, however. Learn about all 12 finalists HERE.
“What my peers accomplished in 24-hour blocks was extraordinary!” said 20-year-old campaign co-Founder and TTG spokesperson Erin Schrode. “As young people, we are driven by passion and an understanding of our individual and collective impact. With resources at our fingertips, we can amplify messages at unimaginable speeds and scales. Empowered and educated, we have incredible power to affect change – and have begun to act, beginning with PGC!” Schrode – along with her mother, TTG Founder and Executive Director Judi Shils, 15 interns, and a highly dedicated PGC team – crafted this project from scratch over the past eight months. “It was a dream that we brought to life with some of the most extraordinary young leaders we have ever worked with. The journey is just beginning – the goal: a sustainable and just world at the hands of these brilliant young activists.”
The finalists were joined by eco experts such as Lt. Governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom; Susan Black of EO Products; Caitlin Bristol of eBay Green; Allison Cook of Story of Stuff Productions; Melissa DeSota of Steelcase Inc.; Maria Emmer-Aanes of Nature’s Path Organic Foods; Susie Hewson of Natracare; Zem Joaquin of ecofabulous; Rachna Kejriwal of Kejriwal Paper USA; Ashley Koff, R.D. of Ashley Koff Approved; David Lannon of Whole Foods Market; Domenica Peterson of Global Action Through Fashion; Debbie Raphael of the CA Department of Toxic Substance Control; Beth Rattner of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute; Maya Spaull of Fair Trade USA; and graduate students from Stanford Business School and the Presidio University Green MBA Program to name a few.
Raychel Santo, a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, was named the winner of Project Green Challenge. She received a number of amazing prizes, including a $5,000 education scholarship from sponsor Natracare, as well as a twin-size OMI mattress and an organic sheet set from OMI’s sister company, Lifekind. View the entire list of prizes HERE.
More about PCG Winner Raychel Santo:
Raychel is a sophomore double-major in Public Health Studies and Global Environmental Change & Sustainability at Johns Hopkins University. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, her passion for everything “green” began with her discovery of the sustainable food movement in her last few years of high school. As she voraciously read and watched every food and nutrition-related piece she could get her hands on, she stumbled into a passion that would fill her hunger for knowledge, justice, and a purpose in life. Upon arriving to college as a freshman, she co-founded a student group called Real Food Hopkins, a chapter of the national Real Food Challenge “committed to bringing local, sustainable, humane, and fair food to the Johns Hopkins campus and the surrounding Baltimore area.” Raychel is also a member of the JHU Students for Environmental Action club, the undergraduate representative on the JHU Office of Sustainability’s Student Advisory Committee, a Grassroots Leader for the national Real Food Challenge team, and a research assistant at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, where she works for the Meatless Monday campaign and other Healthy Monday campaigns.
To learn more about Project Green Challenge and Teens Turning Green, visit the website HERE. Find them on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated about future events, as well as next year’s Project Green Challenge.
How much sleep do we need to get every night? The answer to that question used to be universal: eight hours. Now there is a new study that may forever change that…
According to a CTV News Report, German scientists known as chronobiologists from the Ludwig Maximillians University in Munich found a gene variant called ABCC9 that affects the length of time we need to sleep nightly.
The study, which was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found that a very small percentage of the population requires less sleep a night – between four to five hours – and are thought to be short or light sleepers. These people wake up and feel refreshed without needing naps or caffeine throughout the day. The study included over 4,000 people, all of European ancestry, in a seven-genome-wide association study. They found that people with two or more copies of one common variant of ABCC9 slept for significantly shorter periods than people with two copies of another version.
But does this answer how much sleep we need to be healthy, how much we allow ourselves, or how much our bodies are predetermined to need?
According to the 2011 Sleep in America Poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 43% of people in the U.S. ages 13 to 64 reported they rarely or never can get a good night’s sleep Monday through Friday. And 60% of those surveyed said they had a sleep problem every night or almost every night, which could include snoring, waking up during the night or having a lack of energy when they get up. For full poll results, visit the National Sleep Foundation’s website at HERE.
To find out if you are getting enough sleep, take this quiz created by the University of Utah Health Care Sleep Wake Center titled “How sleepy are you?” HERE.