Why Sunlight is Good for You

I was out back, getting some sun, remembering a few reasons why sunlight is good for you. I decided to learn more about how it benefits us, and also how it can hurt us.

It is good to be cautious when it comes to how much sun you are exposed to. After all, too much sunlight can put you at higher risk for skin cancer and cataracts. And it can make your skin wrinkle and age way too early in life. But does being cautious mean that you should avoid the sun altogether?

No! Sunlight happens to be one of the greatest healing remedies that you can find in nature. The sun provides the energy that all living things need in order to exist on this earth. When you take it in moderation, there are lots of health benefits of sunshine.

Physical Health – If you do not get enough sunlight, your body may not make enough vitamin D. Having a vitamin D deficiency may put you at increased risk for bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Low vitamin D levels can also cause weak hearts, poor metabolism, and slow healing of bones and cuts. An average of 10 minutes of sunlight per day all year round will make sure that you reap the benefits of sunlight and make enough vitamin D. Remember that artificial light can never substitute for the real thing, and be aware that UV light does not produce vitamin D through glass.

But if you’re not careful, the sun can hurt you, too. In the summertime try to avoid being out in the direct sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. The summer sun is intense between those times. If you need to stay out longer than 10 minutes use a natural, chemical-free sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Mental Health – Feeling down? One of the major benefits of sunlight is that it will soothe your nerves and boost your mood leaving you with a renewed sense of well-being. Sunlight increases the production of endorphins and serotonin in your brain which will definitely leave you feeling much better.

Lack of sunlight can worsen feelings of depression in some people.

Dietary Health – If you eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you will be getting lots of nutrients, antioxidants, and other plant substances that will help prevent the formation of free radicals. This has a protective effect. Fresh, plant foods are very important in helping your body be able to handle exposure to sunlight. Antioxidants protect your skin from burning too quickly. They also prevent premature aging.

Diets that are high in protein, animal fats, junk foods, soft drinks, vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils, animal and vegetable shortenings, and dairy products are associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. Eating a high fat diet and spending lots of time in the sun is a bad combination. Unhealthy oils are not just in food. You can also find them in skin care products such as suntan oils and skin lotions.

The ultraviolet rays of the sun react with the fats in your body, and free radicals form. They damage your cells and can lead to cancer.

Home Health – Sunlight is an effective germ killer. You can clean and freshen up your blankets, quilts, and other items by hanging them out in the sunshine. Sunlight can also prevent the rooms in your house from becoming damp and moldy. All you have to do is expose them to fresh air and sunlight on a regular basis.

If you are worried about fading furniture and pictures, try rearranging your room so that your valuable items are out of the path of direct sunlight.

For even more benefits of sunlight check out my source: http://www.natural-health-restored.com/benefits-of-sunlight.html

Why I Love My New KitchenAid Mixer

I finally purchased a Kitchen-aid mixer. I feel like it is a must-have if you like to bake or cook. I bought it on sale at Kohl’s, but I had to choose between the classic plus and the artisan series (which was over $100 more than the classic). The artisan series came in some fun colors, while the classic only came in white. While having a bright red mixer would have been cool, I ended up choosing the white classic plus and slicer/shredder attachment together cheaper than the artisan model cost.

My mom used her mixer all the time when I was growing up. That was one thing I really missed when I moved out when I wanted to make cookies. I was spoiled. KitchenAid mixers are a great, quality product that lasts, and is super easy to clean.

One great reason to invest in a stand mixer is the numerous different attachments you can buy. Instead of having individual appliances cluttering your kitchen, have one appliance that has multiple different functions. It came with the standard mixer attachment, a wire whisk, and a dough hook. That is one thing I can’t wait to make is home made bread!

Here are some options you have with your KitchenAid:

Slicer/Shredder – I bought this one and so far I have only tried the slicer part with some veggies I had lying around. It is meant for firm vegetables like carrots or zucchini, but I thought I’d see how it did with onions and bell peppers — a little too juicy, perhaps. I can’t wait to see how it does shredding cheese.

Pasta maker – Make the pasta dough in the bowl, and use this attachment to roll out various types of pasta.

Juicer – Why buy a whole separate appliance when you can use one you already own.

Ice cream maker – All this is really is an outer jacket for your bowl, but it is all you need to turn your mixer into a homemade ice cream maker.

You can also buy larger bowls with handles, splash guards, mixer covers, a food grinder, etc. What the mixer does do is make homemade cooking a lot easier. This is important when you want to have more control over what you are eating. Yes, buying processed pasta, bread, shredded cheese, juice, and ice cream is more convenient, but every once in a while I’d like to have a fresh meal with simple ingredients. The possibilities are almost endless! Feel free to share recipes great for stand up mixers🙂

Are You Guilty of Projection? And Other Barriers to Social Perception

Who knew I would take such a liking to organizational behavior. A lot of my experiences lately are reminding me of things I learned in that class. One thing I have found myself guilty of is projection, or the false-consensus effect. This is a barrier to social perception where we assume that our own beliefs and values are commonly held and overestimate the number of people who share them.

I don’t know why, but for some reason I still feel fairly young in that I have too few stories to tell. Most of my life so far has been centered around school and some sports on the side. I am working on experiencing more and traveling. My next trip is looking like New York City!

What made me think of this in the first place was another one of my coworkers. I thought she looked about my same age, so for some reason, I was shocked when I heard she already had three kids. I have to start realizing that my peers have all gone down their own individual paths, some not even close to mine.

There is a tendency for people to assume that their own opinions, beliefs, preferences, values and habits are ‘normal’ and that others also think the same way that they do. I think I also have done this when working on group projects. Everyone has their predefined line for what is over achieving and what is slacking, and of course I think I am “normal.” I put forth just the right amount of effort. I suppose it’s just as likely for the person I perceive as an over achiever, perceives me as a slacker.

A few other barriers to social perception are:

Selective Perception the tendency to prefer information that supports our viewpoint

Stereotyping a generalization about a group of people

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies sometimes our expectations affect the way we interact with others such that we provoke the very response we expect

First Impression Error when we infer from a very brief observation of someone’s behavior that it reflects what that person is really like

Don’t Leave Before You Leave

I was really impressed with one of my coworkers last week. She knew she had to move and put in her two weeks, and worked right up until the very last day she had to leave. Even on her last day she stayed focused and got stuff done. Put in her situation, I feel like it would be hard to avoid “checking out” mentally after I knew I was leaving.

She reminded me of a great video I saw in my organizational behavior class. Sheryl Sandberg gives a wonderful talk about why we have too few women leaders. She sends three main messages:

1. Sit at the table – Data shows that women systematically underestimate their own abilities. No one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table, and no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success, or they don’t even understand their own success.

2. Make your partner a real partner – If a woman and a man work full-time and have a child, the woman does twice the amount of housework the man does, and the woman does three times the amount of childcare the man does. So she’s got three jobs or two jobs, and he’s got one. Who do you think drops out when someone needs to be home more? The causes of this are really complicated, but as a society, we put more pressure on our boys to succeed than we do on our girls. Studies show that households with equal earning and equal responsibility also have half the divorce rate.

3. Don’t leave before you leave – A woman’s busy. From the moment she starts thinking about having a child, she starts thinking about making room for that child. “How am I going to fit this into everything else I’m doing?” And literally from that moment, she doesn’t raise her hand anymore, she doesn’t look for a promotion, she doesn’t take on the new project, she doesn’t say, “Me. I want to do that.” She starts leaning back. The problem is that, let’s say she got pregnant that day, nine months of pregnancy, three months of maternity leave, six months to catch your breath — fast-forward two years! And some women start thinking about this way earlier, when they get engaged, when they get married, when they start thinking about trying to have a child, which can take a long time.

Your job better be really good to go back, because it’s hard to leave that kid at home, your job needs to be challenging. It needs to be rewarding. You need to feel like you’re making a difference. And if two years ago you didn’t take a promotion, and some guy next to you did. If three years ago you stopped looking for new opportunities, you’re going to be bored because you should have kept your foot on the gas pedal. Don’t leave before you leave. Stay in. Keep your foot on the gas pedal, until the very day you need to leave to take a break for a child, then make your decisions. Don’t make decisions too far in advance, particularly ones you’re not even conscious you’re making.

I just really love everything she says in this talk, I wish I could share the whole thing! But you can watch her whole presentation here.

Time Flies When You’re Busy!

I was so busy at work today, getting everything done with half the amount of people, the end of the day snuck up on me. When you’re attention is engaged, time really does fly. A study, lead in 2004 by Dr. Anthony Chaston, actually proved this theory.

Chaston devised a test that required subjects to find specific items in various images–a sort of “Where’s Waldo” activity. However, before the subjects started the test, they were told that once they had completed it they would be asked to estimate how much time had passed during their test.

There were seven levels of difficulty among the tests. In some cases, the items were easy to find because they were different colors from everything else, or the items were set among just one or two others. In the more difficult tests, the items were placed among many similar looking items, or they didn’t even exist in the image, at all.

“The harder and harder the search tasks were, the smaller and smaller the time estimates became,” said Chaston. “The results were super clean–we have created a new and powerful paradigm to get at the link between time and attention.”

There are two kinds of time estimations, Chaston added. There’s prospective time estimation, which means the estimator knows in advance that he or she will be asked to make an estimate after a task is completed, and then there’s retrospective, which means someone has been asked to provide a time estimate after the task has been completed.

“There’s generally a big difference between prospective and retrospective time estimations,” Chaston said. “In our society, we’re pretty good with prospective estimates. Most of us wear watches, and we’re pretty good at keeping track of the time because we have to for most of our regular, daily lives.”

For this reason, Chaston is pleased that the results of his study demonstrated such a powerful effect of attention on prospective time estimates.

“This really shows that even if you know in advance that you’re going to have to estimate the time of a task, the more attention the task requires, the faster time flies.”

I know this is old news, but I thought it was interesting enough to share today, since I came across it. Hope everyone’s week flies by!

Adapt or Die

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change” – Charles Darwin. I was watching the movie Moneyball last night, and Brad Pitt’s character stresses the need to “adapt or die.” This quote surfaces in all kinds of different contexts and can be bent in many different directions to support various arguments and points of view. In the movie, the Oakland A’s had to adapt to be able to win any games in a sport where money monopolizes all of the talent.

Just like a baseball team, a business must learn to adapt in an ever-changing world. As a personal example, my department just lost a couple of good senior employees. We will have to learn to adapt to our new situation in order to stay successful. Even without turnover, businesses still need to adapt to their environment.

The prevalence of social media in everyone’s lives is a great example of a changing business environment. With the increasing popularity of Facebook pages, blogs, and websites for businesses, companies have to keep up with the demand for valuable content online. They must adapt or die.

Like Darwin’s survival of the fittest applies to the evolution of animals, only the most fit companies survive in the ruthless business world. This is why it is so important to do market research and environmental scanning in order to stay on top of the latest trends in your industry.

Successful adapters aren’t afraid to make some mistakes to reach another level. Failure can be good, otherwise we would never learn.  These adapters are able to predict and plan for both losses and successes that come along with experimentation and a bit of risk.

File Your Taxes Efficiently with These Tips

With advances in technology, filing and paying your taxes has become really easy. I filed online using H&R Block’s free e-filing option. It was really easy and took me less than an hour, and I got way more than I was expecting!

Gather the paperwork Taxes are all about paperwork and proof. Make sure you have the forms and the documents needed to back up your filing.

  • Collect proof of income – This includes W-2 forms from your employer(s) and any 1099 forms for independent work or investment income. Be sure to dig up last year’s tax return as you may need to provide some of that information depending on how you file
  • Track down receipts – If you’re filing for certain credits or deductions, you will also need receipts to prove certain purchases or payments. These include medical expenses, home renovations and business expenses if you’re self employed.
  • Find the forms – The IRS has stopped mailing paper tax packages, but forms can be downloaded free at the IRS web site. There are also tax assistance centers across the country where taxpayers can pick up IRS forms and publications. State forms, and instructions for filling them, are found on the website for your state.

Choose the right tools The IRS has been encouraging e-filing, which can be faster and easier to verify. You just have to find the right program.

  • Check free options If your income is $58,000 or less, you may qualify to file with one of 20 tax software companies that make their products available for free here. You should also be able to file 1040EZ and simple tax returns free through websites such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block. If you make too much to qualify for the free e-file, the IRS has “free file fillable forms” which are online versions of paper forms and can be e-filed free. H&R Block has a great free expert advice and free audit support.
  • Use the web H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and TurboTax also offer paid online services for taxpayers with more complex returns. Prices range roughly from $30 to $150, depending on factors like home ownership, investment income and business ownership. You may be asked for the adjusted gross income from the previous year–a number that can be found in last year’s tax return. There is also software to help with specific calculations. For example, you can get help calculating the cost basis of old stock at NetBasis.com. SmartMoney also has tools for estimating taxes.

What NOT to do  when doing your own taxes.

  • Don’t forget to file – If you don’t owe taxes, the IRS is more lenient about you missing the April 15 deadline. But be aware you only have three years to claim a refund. On the other hand, the IRS can always come after you for taxes owed, and interest charges and penalties accrue from the due date, even if you file later.
  • Don’t miss out on eligible credits – Both the American Opportunity credit (maximum $2,500 for 2011) and the Lifetime Learning credit (maximum $2,000) help soften the cost of postsecondary education. The American Opportunity credit is available only for the first four years of college, while the Lifetime Learning credit can be used at any time and doesn’t have a degree or workload requirement.
  • Don’t file forms you can’t understand – If you aren’t sure what the requirements are for a deduction or credit or other tax form, get professional help. The IRS will flag you for an audit if something doesn’t add up, and they can look back to previous years.

Source: SmartMoney