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Filtering by Category: Daily Life

Keeping Your Mind Sharp: How to Improve Memory

Annmarie Rodriguez

By Annmarie Rodriguez |

Is it possible that our busy and technologically innovative generation is having trouble keeping track of all the moving pieces? With so much going on, is it more difficult for us to remember? Gary Small, M.D., director of the Memory & Aging Research Center at UCLA, offers an answer. "Our lives may be more frenetic, but we actually have the capacity to remember much more than we do," said Dr. Small. "We simply need to work on improving our attention." 

Staying focused and paying attention are increasingly important factors to cultivating a strong memory as we grow older. We can do this by focusing and adjusting how we listen, process, and remember information. 

Here are some tips to strengthen your memory:  

Repetition + Association 

Repetition helps you remember everything from someone's name to the details of a software program your company has recently installed. For the best retrieval and in-depth understanding, pair repetition with distinct associations. A recent study in Learning & Memory explained that plain repetition - for example, meeting someone named Dan and repeating 'Dan, Dan, Dan,' again & again - strengthens memory. However, this also makes retrieval 'less precise.' Plain repetition makes it easier for us to get confused when faced with similar choices later on. Imagine seeing him again after a week or two: was it Dan or Don? 

Association is necessary for a strong and precise memory. You can come up with clever expressions related to someone's name; for example, 'Dan the Man.' Or for more complex recollections, acronyms are helpful. Also, do not be afraid to make creative connections - things that may seem odd to others may be helpful to you.

For example, I color-code events in my planner based on my personal associations with that color. Soccer-related events are written in green because grass is green. Events I'm excited for are in light blue since it's my favorite color, and I use dark blue for work-related tasks (because I think it's a more serious color). Serious is an odd way to describe a color, but this technique helps me remember what is happening and when. 

Rest To Remember 

Sleep helps sew our memories together and solidifies long-lasting memories. Harvard Medical School conducted an experiment to study the connection between memory and sleep. They found that people who slept were able to memorize more random words from a list than those who did not have the opportunity to sleep after being shown the words.

Also, make sure to sleep a sufficient number of hours. 

For every hour we’re awake, it takes about a half hour of sleep to process that information.
— Dr. Stickgold

Dr. Robert Stickgold, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and Director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition, stated the following: "One of the big functions of sleep is to take the information that we have learned throughout the day and do [a couple of] things with it: first, [sleep] stabilizes it so we won't lose it...second, it actually takes that information and tries to integrate it with older information...it's one thing to memorize something new, it's another thing to figure out what it really means. What does this mean to me? How does this fit in with the rest of my life? We're doing that while we sleep." 

Relax + Recall 

Imagine this: You're in your office or home intently listening to someone speak. You've thought of a valuable response, but right when you open your month to speak, nothing comes out. It's not stage fright; you genuinely forget. 'What in the world was I going to say?' One of the best ways to fight the frustration of forgetting is to give yourself grace and stay calm. "Anxiety distracts us, making it even harder to remember," stated Dr. Small. 

Relax, take a deep breath, and (if needed) tell the person that you need a moment to think, or that you will get back to them later. 

Deal With Stress 

It's important to not just endure the stress you feel. We experience stress for a reason. Try not to ignore it. Stress has physiological repercussions, especially in regards to one's memory due to the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol interferes with the hippocampus, which is the area in the brain that controls our learning and memory.

When we are stressed, the cortisol levels in our hippocampus rise and obstruct our ability to remember. This inability to remember often leads to frustration and an even higher level of stress. "As you get older, chronically elevated cortisol levels are linked to memory impairment and a smaller hippocampus," explained Shireen Sindi, a researcher at McGill University in their Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery. 

Learn what causes you stress and seek healthy ways to adjust your lifestyle. 

Take a Walk

Fun fact: you can expand your hippocampus by staying active! "Fitness improvement...leads to an increase in volume of this brain region [the hippocampus]," stated Dr. Art Kramer, a Univeristy of Illinois professor of Psychology and Neuroscience. 

It does not have to be anything extensive. "Just get out and walk for an hour a few days a week," stated Dr. Kramer. 

So, Remember 

  • Repetition combined with association strengthens your memory. 
  • Sleeping helps us process information. 
  • Don't stress. Staying calm makes it easier to retrieve memories. 
  • Exercise your hippocampus! Staying active improves memory.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Ways to Make Your Clothes Last Longer

Annmarie Rodriguez

By Annmarie Rodriguez 

1. Put your jeans in the freezer.

If your jeans have an undesirable odor or you're worried about their color fading with too many washes, place them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. The cold temperature will fight off the bacteria causing the smell. Doing this allows you to wash your jeans less.  

Both you and the environment win!

According to Levi Strauss Co., "If everyone in the U.S. washed their jeans after every 10 wears instead of just two (the national average), we would save enough water to meet the annual water needs for the city of San Diego (or San Jose, or Dallas!) and enough energy to power 1.3 million households.” 

*For explicit directions on how, check out this video from Apartment Therapy.

2. Use Lemons Or Baking Soda

To get out unwanted armpit stains use lemons or baking soda. For especially tough marks, put baking soda and water on the stain, let it soak in for a few minutes and then wash.

3. Use Hairspray Or Clear Nail Polish.

Snagged your tights and worried that they'll rip? Spray hairspray or paint clear nail polish on the tears to keep them from running.

4. Shave Off The Lint & Fuzz.

Got a bunch of loose lint and fuzz on your sweater, jeans or jacket? Use a razor to shave them off and restore it back to its non-linty greatness! Then, use tape to take off any left over pieces. 

*Note: the blade on the razor will only take off the surface level fuzz. 

[Image from Cotton + Curls]

Walking Gratitude

Annmarie Rodriguez

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By Annmarie Rodriguez || Simply put, gratitude is the quality of being thankful. Though the word may evoke mixed feelings, or bad memories of being pressured by an overly optimistic relative or friend, it (in its most authentic form) has the ability to positively alter the way we think and perceive the world around us. Gratitude is not meant to mask difficult scenarios. Rather, it can provide a lens for us to view life more holisticallytaking in the good with the bad. 

I'm not always the first to admit it, but Mom may have been on to something... 

My Mom grew up in Guyana, a developing nation in South America. Throughout my childhood, she constantly reminded my brothers and I to be thankful. This included all the great food we had because "back in Guyana" (a frequently used household phrase) all they had to eat for lunch were two slices of bread and one slice of meat. Food is absolutely something worth being thankful for, but sometimes this constant reminder made cultivating an attitude of gratitude feel forced or insincere. Maturity has brought perspective and I've been able to practice gratitude in a more genuine and regular way. This behavior shift has had a positive effect on my quality of life.   

Thankfulness is linked to happiness as well as other physiological benefits. Science shows that gratitude helps people cope with stress and promotes optimism which boosts your immune system. There are many studies that verify these claims.

As noted in our previous post, ‘Setting Goals for the Life You Want,’ Darrell Jones is a great example of someone who believes deliberate living requires thoughtful and diligent action. Through this philosophy he has worked towards, developed and acquired many life-giving habits.

One of them is gratitude walks:  

“I have a gratitude practice every morning. I recount things for which I’m thankful,” stated Darrell.  He practices this on a particular street near his work. He started by forcing himself to think of what he was grateful for. It has since grown into a habit, and even further, into a joy-filled association. “Whenever I walk along this street now, I get happy and start thinking of things I’m grateful for,” explained Darrell.  

The simple act of being thankful redirects your attention away from the often too large list of things you want to do or buy. Practicing gratitude reconciles us to the truth of what is good now instead of fixating on what is, was, or might be problematic in the future. 

Gratitude walks are a great way to cultivate optimism while staying active. However, if you want to try a different gratitude practice or add on a new one...

Here are some other habits to help you foster an attitude of gratitude: 

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  • Keep a Journal. Conjuring up a list mentally or physically, on paper, of what you are grateful for can seem daunting. It's often easier to think of the big things (like promotions, getting a new car or receiving an award) as worthy of gratitude and forget the small or seemingly obvious. Making thankfulness a habit brings to light the reality of how wonderful what we do or have actually is

  • Write letters or send emails to people you are thankful for. This habit reaps benefits well worth the time and effort it takes to write and send a note.

  • Set an alarm on your phone or laptop to remind you to pause and be grateful. This habit has the ability to positively influence mood and increase productivity. 

  • Create a Gratitude Jar. Keep a jar, pad of paper, and pen nearby your desk or bed. Write down a few things you’re thankful for each day and put them in the jar. At the end of each week or month, take a few minutes to sit and read through them. Need help being accountable? Do it with a friend or loved one. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised at how much your jar overflows. 

 

Whether you try one of our suggestions or create your own way to pause and appreciate life, we hope you enjoy the bounty of what a grateful heart and a positive mind can produce.

Setting Goals for the Life You Want

Annmarie Rodriguez

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By Annmarie Rodriguez |

deliberateLIFE shares an office with two other start-up companies (Clef Inc. and ShopPad). The office is filled with bright blue walls, sit-stand desks, and hardworking people. Inspired by the work ethic and kindness of those nearby, we decided to interview Darrell Jones, Clef's Head of Business Development, about what deliberate living means to him.

Over lunch, I asked Darrell about his weekend, which quickly revealed one of the ways he is able to live so deliberately. He explained how he utilized the weekend to write out something similar to a life audit (explained below).

In order to become the type of person you want to be, Darrell believes that, “You need to have in your mind a very clear vision of who you want to be and then find role models who you can emulate along  those lines of your vision.”

Affiliating yourself with people who you admire and can learn from is encouraging – it gives you courage. Seeking out mentors, hearing their stories, and having the permission to pick their brains for how they've become who they are is a helpful way of stepping into the life you desire.  

“Often when people talk about wanting to live deliberately, they set very vague goals. They don’t have any actionable items or a process through which they can gauge their own progression,” expressed Darrell.

As discovered through a study done on the 1979 Harvard MBA program, there is a clear correlation between specific goal writing and success. The study surveyed a group of Harvard students and found that 3% specifically recorded their goals, 13% wrote down broad goals, and 84% did neither. Ten years later, they found that the 3% who wrote down their specific goals were making about 10 times as much as the other two groups.

Whether or not your goal is to earn more money, specific goal writing is helpful in keeping yourself accountable to the deliberate choices you are hoping to make.

Each morning at deliberateLIFE, we write down each task we need to accomplish and approximately how long each will take. Our founder, Fay Johnson, also has a nice framed list of her specific goals for 2015 by her desk. Each item has a box that can be checked off.

With this knowledge in mind, here’s what Darrell wrote down on a big sheet of poster paper during his weekend. It's a smaller version of a life audit: 

  • In the Middle: He wrote down who he wants to be.
  • At the Top: An overarching statement that reflects an important part of who he wants to be.
  • To the Left: 4 characteristics that he wants to embody and emulate.
  • To the Right: 3 of his most important values (his priorities).
  • At the Bottom: A call to actiona general statement of something he’d like to do on a daily basis.

Darrell said that this activity was helpful and attempts a similar process of recalibration once or twice each month.

Taking the time to articulate the type of person you want to be is empowering. It influences your daily decisions and creates coherency in your lifestyle. This intentionality can come in the form of a full-blown life audit, a similar and smaller version (as exemplified by Darrell), or by simply writing a thoughtful list of specific goals – personal or professional.

Whichever route you choose, we've found hearing stories like Darrell’s helpful in expanding our views of what deliberate living can look like. We hope it helps you too!

 

A Week of Water – My Hydration Challenge

Annmarie Rodriguez

By Annmarie Rodriguez. || We've all heard that we need to drink 7 glasses of water a day. When I started at deliberateLIFE, I decided to calculate my ideal daily water intake. Based on my calculations, my ideal daily water intake is 9.5 (based on the weather, my level of physical activity and my body weight). I am far from reaching this goal, so I decided to challenge myself for a week. They say it only takes 10 days to create a new habit, so a focused effort seemed the best way to begin shifting my behavior.

Day 1—Monday

It wasn’t too bad today. As long as I kept my Nalgene (a water bottle equivalent to 4 cups) within viewing distance, I naturally remembered to keep drinking. I got through about two Nalgene's = 8 cups. But once the bottle was out of sight, it was harder to stay on track. Based on the amount of fruit and vegetables that I ate, I think I wasn't far off for day one. Good start!

Day 2 –Tuesday

Today was a bit tougher. Amidst the hustle n’ bustle, I forgot to keep my water bottle nearby. I did remember, however, to keep pouring myself glasses of water. Pouring, not drinking.

I came back to my room at the end of the day and was surprised by the pile of cups that had formulated on my desk: 1 Nalgene, 1 mug, and 4 glasses-all of which were still pretty full. Determined to meet my ideal intake, I sat down and drank them all before bed. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so full from water. Although, I reached my water intake for the day—I do not recommend this method. I woke up several times during the night to use the restroom. Note To Self – drink your water during the day.

Day 3—Wednesday

It was hard to drink water today because I still felt full from chugging so much water from the night before. Despite feeling a little full, I still wanted to reach my daily intake. My Nalgene was nearby, but as I zoned in on work, I seldom remembered to drink water. I almost reached my daily intake, but fell a few cups short.

Day 4—Thursday                 

Today went well. I kept my water bottle on me most places I went.  I finished my first Nalgene (4 cups) by the early afternoon and finished my second before I got ready to go to bed. In addition, I made sure to eat fruits and veggies that had high concentrations of water.  Today was the best yet in terms of consistent water intake.

Day 5—Friday

The habit of hydration is slowly settling in. Though I was able to drink a sufficient amount of water today it has yet to feel like a natural part of my daily routine, but I’m enjoying the process.  It has only been 5 days and I feel a healthy difference. My lips are less dry and in general, this challenge has made me more aware of what I put in my body and the importance of intentionality. 

Throughout this week of trial and error, I have realized the importance of strategy. Whether it’s placing sticky notes in your office, setting alarms on your phone, or keeping your favorite reusable water bottle nearby--tangible reminders can help you to live a healthy and happy life. 

Day 10 Update:

This past week the new staff got (cute) glass mason jars with lids and glass straws (cuts down on exposure to plastic toxins). The rest of the team has been using these jars to keep themselves on track with their water intake, and I can see why. Having something that you don't mind having out on your desk or in your hand when you walk to a meeting, definitely helps keep water in sight. Several teammates swear by drinking out of a straw. (Our Editor, Fay, can regularly be caught at her standing desk sucking down 3 cups of water while typing away). I am getting through 6-7 cups at the office, which helps avoid the late-night chug.

My body is getting used to being hydrated and I now notice when I haven't drunk enough water. A good sign that a new habit is forming.

1 Day at a Time

Fay Johnson

As we begin another year, many of us will be setting resolutions. I believe strongly in setting goals, but in addition to the things I hope to accomplish in 2015, I also desire to live each day in a way that builds a better tomorrow for all.

If you haven't thought about what you want to do in 2015, consider filling out this simple one-page prompt from Art Bar Blog. (Free Printable).

Because the choices we make daily have a huge and lasting impact on our lives and the lives of those around us, I believe it's important to think about our daily goals as well.

I love lists and checking boxes, so I decided to create a 'daily card' that I can use as a reminder and monitor of the behaviors I hope to do on a regular basis. It serves as a reminder to be mindful about what I consume (drinking enough water, eating vegetables, limiting my meat consumption), what I choose to purchase (Fair Trade, organic, local), how I care for my well being (exercise, meditation, spiritual care, learning) and how I engage with the world around me (recycling, reading news, connecting with people).

You may have other things that are important for your daily routine – spending time with your children or partner, reading a good book, checking in with elderly loved ones, flossing, etc. Think about the type of days you want to have and you'll be off to building a great year (and good habits).

You can download my version for free here.

Happy New Year!

                Fay

My Year of Non-Compulsive Shopping

Fay Johnson

Transient

By Paula Derrow

For more than two decades, I worked at fashion magazines, smack in the middle of New York City, where buying a new shirt or a pair of cute shoes was as easy as strolling past a shop window, running in, and strutting out with yet another bag. Not that I’m swimming in designer labels, but I just didn’t give shopping much serious thought. If I wanted something, and it wasn’t too, too pricy, I bought it. In that respect, I’m quite unlike my frugal parents. I grew up not lacking for anything, but my father is a champion coupon clipper, and I’m certain my mother has never spent more than $50 for a bag or a pair of shoes.

Partly, I blamed my profession for my spending habit. I worked with all women at all those glossy magazines, women who (nicely) noticed what I was wearing, and I didn’t want to get caught wearing the same thing more than once a week (if that).

As the years passed, I found that I was buying more and more, yet, like most women, wearing the same seven or eight favorites over and over. Sometimes, I’d even discover random shirts buried deep in a drawer with the tags still on, mostly cheap things I’d picked up without thinking about it. But even a shirt that costs $10 is no bargain if it stays tucked in the drawer.

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Then, about a year-and-a-half ago, I lost my job in a company-wide layoff, and had to make some big changes in my spending, fast. I made a vow: No new clothes for a year. Or shoes. Or bags. Or jewelry. After all, I no longer had colleagues to impress. Besides, I had a closet stuffed with enough for two or three wardrobes; it was time to use what I already owned.

That’s a smart move for anyone’s budget, and as it turns out, for the environment. As Leo Rosario reported in “Fashion Forward,” in Deliberate Life’s second issue, a single textile mill in China (a country that accounts for up to 54% of the world’s clothing production), can use up to 200 tons of water for each ton of fabric it dyes, to the tune of millions of tons of fabric a year. I was definitely up for conserving water, never mind cash.

At first, it was tough. Whenever I’d pass a colorful window display, I found myself slowing down. “Ooh, love that coral bag! That sweater looks so soft!” my brain would think, and I’d lean in closer, scanning to see if there were any sales going on. Then, my super ego would kick in: “Keep going!” I’d warn myself sternly. You have plenty of bags. And sweaters.” And I’d move along, my heart beating a bit faster at a danger averted. Sure, I could go in for a browse without buying, but I told myself I wouldn’t even enter stores. Why tempt myself?

It turns out, some old habits don’t die so hard. Within a month or so, I wasn’t stopping to press my nose against store windows; I wasn’t even turning my head as I strode on by. And, to my surprise, instead of feeling deprived, I felt a tiny bit…relieved. There was no more keeping up with trends, no more wasting time deliberating over whether I could afford something.

Then came a major challenge: a long-planned trip to Rome that I’d been promising my 13-year-old nephew for years, in honor of his bar mitzvah. Despite my resolve, I wasn’t sure that I could resist the sumptuous leather bags, the Italian cashmere, the soft leather boots….

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I’d like to say that I kept my vow on that ten-day trip. But the truth is, I broke down and bought a few things. A bag. One sweater. I felt guilty—but not tremendously so. Because even though I was buying, I was doing it in moderation, thoughtfully. I passed up many sweaters before I finally plucked up one that I adored. And when I returned home, I paid off my VISA bill and resumed my un-buying spree. It was nice to have a few new things in my closet, and I wore them with pleasure; there was no way I was going to forget I owned these pieces.

As for the rest of my year-without-buying, it went off without a hitch. I actually learned to enjoy putting old pieces together in new ways (it’s amazing how a cool scarf can make an outfit look fresh again). I was free, for the moment, from the shopping bug, the urge to acquire, speeding past store windows on the way to more important things.

And when it was over, I didn’t rush out on a buying binge. Instead, when I do take out my credit card, I make sure it’s for something I need, something I’ll love, something I’ll wear like crazy. I can feel good about that kind of buying, even on a budget.

Images by Michelle Park