Thursday, February 23, 2012

Finding Happiness Every Day

Many of you may be thinking I'm about to tell you that if you think happy thoughts, ignore the bad stuff in your life and just change your perspective a little then everything will be easier. Actually, happiness is a fairly complex thing to define. There are different levels, such as the highs of joy and excitement, or even and calm contentment. And what do you think will make you happy? A promotion, or a car that works, or if you just had enough free time in the day? As most of you suspect, happiness extends beyond surface-level mindset into a way of life. We are often taught that if we work harder or get that next best thing and keep up with the Joneses, then we will be happy. However, scientists have found that happiness actually precedes success. The more happy you are, the more primed you are for achievement and overall well-being. People who are happy are healthier, experience better marriages, have longer lasting and more fulfilling friendships, are more creative and do better in their careers. Here are a few things that you can do to increase your happiness, and thus, your feelings of fulfillment, as studied by social psychologist Shawn Achor.

Meditation involves clearing your mind and focusing on your breath. Activities that involve meditation, such as yoga or martial arts, leave you feeling calm and focused throughout the day, and can even grow the part of your brain that makes you feel happy when practiced regularly. As little as 5 to 10 minutes a day is enough.

Having a goal to look forward to raises your endorphins in your body. This can be something as little as telling yourself you can take a walk in the park at the end of the day or as big as a trip to Disneyland at the end of the year.

Being altruistic has been found to be far more rewarding in the long haul than spending time and money on yourself. You can do something small, like giving a toy to the child of a family friend, or spend a couple hours a week volunteering at a local animal shelter.

Surround yourself with things that remind you of being happy. Keep a picture of your family on your desk, or drink out of the coffee cup your child made you in art class. If there's a window nearby, get a breath of fresh air and open it for a few minutes, even if it's cold outside. If you can't get outside, get a plant.

Exercise at least 3 times a week for 45 minutes or more consecutively. Exercise has been proven to be just as effective as antidepressants. You'll be more energetic, less likely to get sick, and think more clearly. People who exercise regularly have better memory retention, quicker thinking and more creative ideas at every age.

Spend your money on experiences, not on things. Taking a friend out to a movie, going to a concert or gallery opening, or even eating dinner at a great restaurant all have longer lasting satisfaction than buying yourself a new shirt or a lamp for your house.

Do something at which you excel. Everyone has a talent, whether it's drawing, beating everyone at checkers, telling a great story or even baking a great chocolate chip cookie. Doing something that exemplifies part of your character is even better. I love art, so I take time every week to watch a film or go to a gallery and discuss the strengths of the piece and how it comes together with a friend.

Try employing just one of these easy tasks a few times a week, and then add more, and you'll discover how simple finding peace and satisfaction can be. Happy Trails!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Now You'll Know: Why Does February Only Have 28 days?

     February is a month full of love, history, and even mystery for some! I remember growing up, always being confused about February only having 28 days. Teachers explained it as a mere leap year issue, and left it at that. Until today, I've never actually understood the purpose behind poor February being shorter than other months. After speaking with a friend about this topic, she encouraged me to do some research on it, and help educate the rest of the curious population! Ever been afraid to ask a "stupid" question? Well, the way I see it, the only "stupid" question, is one that is never asked! After some research, here is what I discovered! Enjoy! :) 

     The moon takes 29 1/2 days to rotate around the Earth, while the Earth takes 365 1/4 days to rotate around the sun. In the very first calendars (which were created thousands of years ago by the ancient Romans) February didn't even exist because the Romans originally based their calendars on the moon's rotation instead of the Earth's!

     The first calendar, created by Rome's founder Romulus, had ten months that added up to 304 days — which is not quite enough for a full solar rotation. Numa Pompilius, Rome's king after Romulus, tried to even out the difference by adding two new months to the calendar: January and February. Numa Pompilius's version of the calendar now had 355 days, so he created a new month called "Mercedinus" that would come after February every other year in order to keep up with the solar rotation!

      However, this was a very confusing system (I would agree, as I am already lost!)  and, in 45 BC, Rome's leader Julius Caesar got rid of Mercedinus completely.!Instead, he took those extra ten days and placed them at the end of the months they already had — some months now had 31 days, some had 30, and February, due to the loss of Mercedinus, would have 29. This system was called the "Julian calendar."

     In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII noticed that the Julian calendar didn't take into account that 1/4 of a day included in the solar rotation. So he created the concept of the leap year in order to keep the solar calendar synchronized — February would now have 28 days a year, except in years divisible by four, in which they would have 29. So that the solar rotation is still covered, including the 1/4th of a day that was left out! These changes became the "Gregorian Calendar," which is the system we use to this day!

     There you have it! We can now all continue on with our days, feeling a bit wiser than before! Stay tuned for more fun facts and green ideas! Until next time, keep it clean! :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Green Cleaning: For Hair, Face, & Body!

   When you think of green cleaning, you might not automatically think hair, face, and body. In fact, some people might find it strange that most of my bathroom items are duplicates of things I also keep in my kitchen. I, however, quite like the fact that my beauty routine is clean, wholesome, and mostly organic - and good enough to eat!
    Most common beauty products are filled with phthalates, parabens, sulfates, and other chemicals that have been linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental issues, among a long list of other dangerous degenerative diseases. Know I don't know about you, but I definitely don't want to be washing myself with a loofah full of cancer! Instead, I've devised an all natural routine that's super easy and very cheap to follow!
    The average female I'm sure spends hundreds of dollars on shampoos, deep conditioners, lotions, face wash, face cream, face brightener... the list goes on! How many things can they market for one face?! :)  In all seriousness though, there is no reason you need all those fancy creams and soaps. Look no further than your fridge (rented by Azuma perhaps?) for amazing beauty finds!
     For shampoo and conditioner I've been using the baking soda/apple cider vinegar method for about 3 months now and it works wonderfully! To "shampoo" I take a handful of baking soda (I have long hair, shorter hair can use a smaller amount) and mix it with enough water to make a paste. Lately, I've had dandruff due to the cold weather so I've been adding a few drops of tea tree oil to this mixture. Then you start at the roots and scrub with all your might! I try to massage it in for a few minutes and then gradually work my way down the hair shaft. Rinse out the baking soda and then rinse again with a few cups of apple cider vinegar diluted with filtered water. You'll want to then rinse a third time, this time making sure you get all the cider vinegar out otherwise you'll end up smelling like a salad! :)
     There are many home remedies for deep conditioners if dry hair is your dilemma. Why not mash up an avocado for a mask and let the natural oils repair your hair? (Avocado also works great if you have dry skin.) An egg, yogurt, and honey are other kitchen essentials that will help to mend your mangled mane.
     Speaking of honey, that brings me to my next topic - face wash. Did you know that honey is filled with anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties? It's those qualities that make it the perfect alternative to traditional "acne free" face washes. Trust me, it works.
     I prefer to use a raw, organic honey but any will do in a pinch. Mix about a teaspoon of honey with enough baking soda to make a thin paste, then lightly scrub your whole face. I follow up with almond oil mixed with a few drops of lavender essential oil. (You can use any essential oil that benefits you!) Since I started this routine my face has been cleaner and clearer than ever!
    Now to complete my green routine - body wash and lotion. For Christmas 2 years ago I made some homemade soap that I still continue to use for my body wash. It's made of a shea butter base, oatmeal, and peppermint essential oil. It lathers well and smells fantastic! After my shower, I substitute lotion for coconut oil. It smells great and leaves my skin the softest it's been in years!
    So there you go - cheap, easy alternatives that will leave you squeaky clean from head to toe! :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's Easy Eating Green!

It's no secret that Azuma Leasing is a green company. We have a paperless office and billing system, and by renting a washer and dryer or refrigerator that Azuma maintains you're doing your part to keep less appliances out of landfills and reduce needless waste from the manufacturing process. We all know about reducing, reusing and recycling, and other little things we can do to cut down on waste. But there are also easy big changes that you can make to help the environment.

Did you know that farmed animals cause more pollution than all the transportation on Earth combined? That's more than all the airplanes, cars, trucks, motorcycles, trains and boats that people all over the globe drive every day. The waste that's created comes from many places. To name a few, there's the amount of water use needed to tend the herds (it takes about 2,500 gallons of water to create a pound of beef, as opposed to 15 gallons for a pound of salad, 400 gallons for a pound of rice or 245 gallons for a pound of tofu). There's also the food that's grown to feed livestock (56% of crops grown in just the United States go solely to feed). Also, methane pollution, manure, and runoff from the farms that damage our water supply are also very detrimental to our environment.

That's the bad news. The good news is, you can reduce your impact on the environment by 70% (that's as much as stopping driving your car altogether!) by becoming a weekday vegetarian. That is, just cut down your consumption of meat, fish, dairy and eggs. Many of you have probably already heard of Meatless Mondays. However, you can make an even bigger impact and still enjoy your favorite foods on the weekends, but during the week partake of healthier and more environmentally friendly fare. Check out your local co-op for fresh locally farmed fruits and vegetables and experiment with new flavors. Smoothies are filling and fresh for breakfast, salads topped with beans and nuts or fruits and a creamy dressing are a great mid-day meal, and one of my favorite hearty dinners is country-style Japanese porridge. Today there are more healthy meat and dairy substitutes available than ever before in most normal grocery stores, ranging from ice cream and cookies to chicken tenders and burgers to staple foods like milk and butter. The best part is that being a vegetarian and eating healthy is more accessible than ever. Enjoy exploring the new possibilities, and Bon Appetit!