Developing a Personal Growth Plan to Fast Track Your Goals

Personal growth can mean different things to different people but no matter what it means to you, there’s a lot of benefit to developing your own personal growth plan to help you stay on track and achieve your goals. A plan will spell out your goals, how you want to achieve them, and any skills or habits you’d like to improve on. Actively tracking your personal growth can allow you to have more of a sense of control over your life and decisions, as well as provide encouragement on days where you may be feeling lost. Writing down your plan can also provide you with more structured thinking about what you want, where you’re heading, and how to get there.

Figure Out What You Want and Why

The first step is to identify what your overall goals are: what is it that you ultimately want to achieve? Are you interested in climbing the ranks at work or developing stronger relationships with the people around you? Once you’ve identified your goal, think about the motivation behind it. How do these things you want help you on a larger scale than just feeling better in the meantime? Identifying the reasons behind what you want can offer greater encouragement and motivation to keep working on what you want to achieve.

Discover a Mentor

Finding a mentor who provides inspiration, words of wisdom, and generally motivates you is incredibly useful to grant you support during your personal growth journey. They can be a person who is actually in your life or they can be a stranger, such as a motivational speaker that you truly admire. Look inward while searching for a mentor; find a mentor who aligns with your core values and has achieved some of what you’re also interested in achieving. Books, blogs, and TedTalks can be a great way to find people who encourage you.

Determine How You’ll Work to Achieve Your Goals

Once you’ve determined the what, why, and who, it’s time to figure out the “how.” How do you intend to achieve your goals? This is the part where it gets a little tricky because the answer to “how” isn’t necessarily clear-cut, or there may be several paths you can take to get there. In an ideal situation, you’re best off finding an activity that you can turn into a daily habit that you make sure to do every single day. For example, if you’re interested in losing weight, start by tracking your calories or making sure you’re getting 20 minutes of exercise on a daily basis. Make sure you stay accountable for this one activity — track it in a journal if needed. To avoid overwhelming yourself, choose one activity to focus on daily from each of the personal growth categories (intellectual, social, professional, and physical) until the activity becomes habitual and effortless.

Devote Time to Self-Reflection

Spend time daily and weekly reflecting on the work you’ve done to achieve your goals; reflect without judgment. Where have you been successful? Where can you improve? Avoid any negative self-talk. Some days and weeks will bring higher accomplishment than others, and that’s OK! What matters is that you continue to work on your personal growth goals from a place of positivity. Give yourself credit for everything you have accomplished.

Personal growth is a never-ending journey; there’s always another day, another goal to achieve. Keep in mind the words of Gail Sheehy: “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”

What’s With Cleansing Oil?

You may have noticed in the last couple months a surge in using oil within your daily beauty routine. This may sound strange, but cleansing oil isn’t anything new. Korean beauty has been using cleansing oil and, before that, ancient Romans would use oil as a method for cleaning the skin. The purpose of the oil is similar to a traditional cleanser: to remove makeup, debris, and excess oil from the skin. Often people will use both a cleansing oil and traditional foam cleanser to create the perfect facial cleanse.

Extra Oil? Yes Please!

So, putting more oil onto your face is actually a good thing? According to some cosmetic dermatologists, no matter the skin type, cleansing oil can mix with the preexisting oils that are already on your face, and when you rinse it all off, the cleansing oil is able to take the dirt and oils that are on your skin with it. The oils in the cleanser bind to the debris that can accumulate on one’s face and allows for it all to be comfortably rinsed away. They also say that oil cleansers are able to keep the skin’s natural pH balance and can prevent the skin from having a production overload. Oils are also naturally antibacterial!

Apply, Apply, Apply!

Cleansing oil can be used by virtually anyone with any skin type. You apply it basically the same way you’d apply a gel or foam cleanser. Apply a small amount to damp skin, gently massage, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry! You may find that some cleansing oils work best when applied directly to dry skin, and not with damp skin. Make sure to reference any directions beforehand, but know that this method is the perfect addition to your beauty routine.

Practicing Mindfulness During Your Exercise Routine Grants Greater Rewards

Exercise often feels like less of a chore when you’re watching tv or listening to music; distractions can make the time go by faster and more enjoyable. When we’re not focused on what our bodies are doing, we’re more detached from the physical work — but is that necessarily a good thing? Mounting evidence suggests that adding in some periods of mindful exercise can benefit the body and mind, while also increasing motivation. Mindfulness is a meditative mindset which involves being keenly aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at the moment without judgment.

How Can Mindfulness Help?

In some ways, zoning out in some fashion during your workout can be meditative and allows you to keep doing a simple activity (like running on a treadmill) for longer than if you had nothing to distract you. Being too distracted can also cause you to lose connection to what is actually happening as you exercise — the feel of your muscles working, your heart rate, your breathing. Being present and aware can help you achieve a flow you wouldn’t have if you were distracting yourself. Being mindful can allow you to have a stronger connection to your body and increase the amount of satisfaction you get from workouts. Focusing on your movements and your form will allow you to maximize the quality and benefits of your exercise.

How Can You be More Mindful During Exercise?

Practicing being completely aware and in the moment will help you be better attuned to the work your body is doing. Having a purpose for each workout can provide structure and give you a goal to focus on. It can be to strengthen a certain muscle group, to work out for a certain period of time, or to challenge yourself in some way. Keep in mind why you’re exercising and why it’s important to you. Slow down; take your time with each activity instead of trying to power through it, especially on strength training. Think about your posture, your core, and the muscles you’re targeting. Exercise is stressful on the body, so be sure to breathe! Breathing steadily and purposefully helps you release stress while providing a rhythm that can anchor you to being present in the moment. Make sure you end your workout on a good note — cool down, stretch, and reflect on the work you’ve accomplished!

How Do You Art: The Benefits of Art and What It Can Do for You

Some people believe that art can only be made by those who are considered gifted and talented. In more recent years people have begun breaking from this stereotype and expressing themselves creatively even if they have not previously considered themselves creative. Art, no matter who is doing it, can be beneficial to your mind, body, and spirit.

Stress Relief

Art has been found to be very beneficial for stress relief, memory, and even self esteem. Not only in creating art, but also in viewing art. According to a study conducted by the University of Westminster, participants who visited an art gallery on their lunch break reported feeling less stressed afterwards. They had lower concentrations of cortisol, the stress hormone, from just 35 minutes spent roaming the gallery. When it comes to creating art, people can view this creation process in a way similar to relaxing and meditating. For example creating art can allow you to concentrate on details and pay more attention to your environment. In this way, it acts like a meditation experience. Adult coloring books have become a popular trend in the last couple years, leading it to become a common practice for people transitioning into art therapy.

Creative Thinking and Memory

If you follow certain doctors and medical professionals you may have heard of the term neurobics. This term is used to describe brain exercises that use your senses in new and different ways, which is exactly what creating art can do for you. In fact, a study showed that dementia patients saw a huge improvement in their memory from creating art. The benefits for memory goes even beyond dementia patients. Participating in the neurobic activities creates new and improved connections between brain cells, which helps with overall brain function.

Self Esteem

Want to feel more accomplished? Want to feel better about yourself and others? When viewing or creating art, dopamine levels can increase. Dopamine helps boost drive, focus, concentration, and can help to promote happiness. According to Psychology Today, dopamine is the reward molecule that is responsible for reward-driven behaviour and pleasure seeking. So, if you want to get that rush, set a goal and achieve it. These higher levels of dopamine when it comes to art make you feel happier and make you feel like you have achieved something.

The sheer amount of benefits that art has for the brain and body is miraculous. The brain responds so well to art that it starts to grow better connections within itself, leading to heightened intelligence down the line. Art is not just for those who are stereotypically creative, and science has shown that anybody can benefit from what art has to offer. So, next time you are thinking about skipping that art exhibit or don’t feel like signing up for that art class, remember how much you could benefit from it all, inside and out.

Sleep to Avoid the Anxiety Cycle (and Other Ails)

Sleep is at the foundation of our mental and physical health, yet many of us don’t get enough of it. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately one out of three Americans don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, a problem so widespread that they’ve named it a public health epidemic. As more research is conducted on sleep and its effects on the body and mind, it becomes increasingly apparent that sleep is far more important than we give it credit for. One recent discovery found that sleep allows the brain to remove toxins from neural tissue, something researchers believe could offer answers regarding the link between lack of sleep and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together.” — Thomas Dekker

Sleep deprivation is assumed by many as being unable to sleep for days on end, but it’s actually gradually losing sleep over time. Most of sleep deprivation is rapid eye movement (REM) deprivation; REM is a part of the sleep cycle where the body becomes more relaxed and the brain becomes more active. Normally people spend about 20 percent of their sleep cycle in REM, but disrupted sleep can interrupt the cycle, causing issues with memory, the nervous and immune systems, as well as a loss of balance, reflexes, and appetite.

“It is in your best interest to avoid sleep debt, otherwise be prepared to pay both the DEBT and the INTEREST!” — Stan Jacobs

Recent research has revealed the importance of sleep in mood regulation, specifically the link between sleep and anxiety. When someone doesn’t get enough sleep, the amygdala, a structure in the brain linked to emotion, becomes increasingly aroused. There’s also increased activity in other emotion-generating regions of the brain as well as reduced activity in the emotion-regulating regions. Poor sleep can also trigger spikes in cortisol (a stress hormone) early in the morning. Researchers say this may explain why people with anxiety often wake with a burst of anxious feelings.

“I’ve got a bad case of the 3:00 am guilts — you know, when you lie in bed awake and replay all those things you didn’t do right?” — D.D. Barant

The unfortunate news is that the sleep-anxiety link appears to be a vicious cycle. People with anxiety issues often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and lack of sleep contributes to further anxiety. The good news is the negative effects of sleep loss and deprivation appear to be reversible — by only one night of restful sleep. This “recovery sleep” appears to bring not only anxiety levels back to normal but also other affected body systems. So, even if you struggle to sleep well, making a point to get at least one or two recovery nights in a week can significantly help with the negative mood effects and physical symptoms caused by sleep deprivation.

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” — Irish Proverb  

If you suffer from anxiety, this may be easier said than done. Before taking sleep medications which may leave you feeling groggy in the morning, try a few holistic ways to help reduce anxiety and help you catch those elusive Z’s:

Looking for more ideas? Check out this list of helpful sleep aid tips!

Study Links Social Media Use as a Cause of Depression

Social media is a curious thing. On the one hand, it allows us to connect with people that we would never have crossed paths with in real life. We can build an online tribe of family, friends, acquaintances and have an easy way to contact them whenever needed. On the other hand, as connected as we may have become, social media has also been blamed for making individuals feel less connected, less secure, and generally less satisfied with their lives. The idea that social media use can contribute to negative feelings isn’t a new concept; psychologists have been studying its negative effects on people for the past decade. In the past, they’ve found many correlations between social media and depression but were never able to definitively say the two had a causal relationship. A new study, set to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, claims to be the first of its kind to actually link social media as a cause of depression and loneliness.

“It was striking,” says Melissa Hunt, lead researcher and psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “What we found over the course of three weeks was that rates of depression and loneliness went down significantly for people who limited their (social media) use.”

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, followed 143 undergraduates (many of whom had moderate depression) at the University over the course of a few weeks. The students’ moods and sense of well-being were tracked daily using several different scales; half of the participants used social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat) as normal, while the other half only used the sites for 10 minutes a day. The result? Those who reduced their social media use had “clinically significant” reductions in feelings of depression and loneliness over the course of the study. Those in the control group who continued their normal level of social media use saw no improvement in their moods.

“It’s possible — even likely — that lonely and depressed people use sites like Facebook more because they are seeking social connections.” — Melissa Hunt 

Do depressed and isolated people spend more time on social media, looking for opportunities to connect? Or do people feel depressed after they go on social media? The study couldn’t offer definitive answers to that, but Hunt had two explanations for why social media can make others feel dissatisfied with their lives; the first is “downward social comparison.” People on social media tend to show the highlights of their life — perfectly curated moments — designed to tell a narrative. Viewing this consistently may make some feel like their lives are far less interesting or fulfilling in comparison. The second reason is FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. FOMO is a form of social anxiety where people have an intense desire to stay connected to what others are doing, sometimes experiencing anxiety about why their lives don’t match those in their social circles.

While the sample size was small and limited to undergraduates, the implications are certainly in line with previous studies on the effects of social media. Wondering if your social media use is making you feel depressed or isolated? Why not try your own replication of the study? Reduce your social media usage to 10 minutes a day and keep a daily mood journal for three weeks. You may find after the three week period that your well-being is greatly increased and you don’t even miss your old social media habits!

Odd Beauty Trend or Cultural Normality? Depends On Who Is Asking

Beauty trends come and go. All around the world there are different standards of beauty. Focus is placed on different aspects, that to one country may make no sense, but it can bring about a new understanding of a culture to see what they think of as important.

 

When looking back, it’s easier to dismiss a trend as not having been that big of a deal or write it off because it has since been deemed unhealthy, but it can shock people how long certain trends lasted. Some people have heard of the trend of Chinese foot binding, where feet of girls were bound so tightly in wrapping that bones broke. Toes would fold under the foot, leaving the girls unable to walk, but the feet would remain desirably tiny. It was considered a status symbol to have cloud feet. In Japan, teeth blackening was the trend, using iron filings mixed with vinegar and then vegetable tannins, to dye the teeth black. This trend has fallen out of favor in Japan, but in some places in China and the South Pacific it is still practiced, usually by those of an older generation.

 

An outsider looking inward might think these trends are bizarre, but to the people of those cultures, they’re just how things are. Americans have their own trends that seem strange, but on average are accepted, even if there are health risks. Tanning is one of the top trends that came with health risks, but people went after it anyway, and still do today but with a bit more health awareness. Sun tanning without sunblock or spending hours in a tanning booth to achieve that golden glow was the way to go for years. But people have become more conscious of the health risks that come with that sort of habit.

 

Some trends come and go sooner than others, but to each culture, they’re a driving force for what people will often aim to look like and what others will find desirable. Some will aim to fit in, others will aim to deliberately avoid looking like the “ideal”. Nowadays, a trend cropping up is self-love for what someone looks like. Sometimes that means wearing makeup or specific haircuts for personal enjoyment, other times it will mean enjoying the face and body that someone came with. As long as the desire to follow a trend comes from a healthy mental place, modifying how someone looks can be a great way to express individualism and creativity and make someone that much more comfortable in their own body.

The Power of Kindness: Create a Better World and a Happier You

One of the most understated wellness and wellbeing tools is something that resides within you, right now; it doesn’t cost any money and it’s usually fairly effortless. Wondering what it might be? Kindness: the altruistic act of being thoughtful and considerate to others. While true kind acts don’t come with expectations of reciprocation, you actually do get something back — from yourself. Research has shown that acts of kindness can actually benefit our mental and physical wellbeing; beyond that, acts of kindness make other people feel good, reduce tension, and increase interpersonal connection. It’s always a win-win.

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” — Albert Schweitzer

Kindness is often undervalued in our competitive society. Research has suggested that we are wired for kindness as infants, but we tend to shift from altruism to selfishness around five years old. One study discovered that children instinctively act to help others as young as 14 months old. Some schools have developed social-emotional learning programs and have found that they’ve not only increased empathy in elementary school students but also boosted prosocial acts (like helping others) and attitudes toward school while reducing fights and bullying. Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from compassion training; research has also shown that it can be increased in adults and that the more it’s practiced, the greater the physiological benefits.

“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” — Barbara De Angelis

Regularly engaging in acts of kindness has been shown to actually create more neural pathways within our brains which enhance feelings of well-being and increase the flow of endorphins and mood-boosting, feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and oxytocin. One study by the University of Pennsylvania found that people who wrote a thank you letter to someone who had shown them an act of kindness — and personally delivered it — immediately felt a massive increase in their happiness level. Amazingly, participants of the study reported in some cases that their happiness level stayed elevated for up to a month afterward. Beyond an immediate mood boost, other benefits of kindness include stress reduction, immunity boosts, social anxiety relief, and increases in energy levels and confidence. Kindness may even increase longevity, according to one study conducted by the University of Michigan.

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” — Scott Adams

Numerous studies have suggested that kindness is contagious and that it can spread even if you don’t experience the act of kindness firsthand. One such study had participants watch three different video clips: an uplifting video from the Oprah Winfrey Show, a nature video, and a humorous video. The people were then asked to voluntarily help others with a task. Unsurprisingly, the people who watch the uplifting clip were more likely to help. One amazing example of the kindness ripple effect occurred in 2009; an anonymous person donated their kidney to a clinic, which spurred what the New England Journal of Medicine called a “domino effect” of “pay it forward behavior.” Other people came forward to donate a kidney to a stranger in need. Across the United States, 10 people were able to receive a new kidney based on the random act of kindness from the first anonymous individual.

When being kind to others, don’t forget to also be kind and compassionate to yourself!

Share your acts of kindness with us on social media! #FEBCKindnessChallenge

Ethical Fall Fashion Trends We Can Get on Board With

Every season comes with new colors and trends to embrace, and this fall season is no different. While being able to hop on trends with ease usually means shopping at large department stores and taking part in fast fashion, there are ways around that while staying stylish! Participating in trends doesn’t have to hurt the environment or take a chunk out of your wallet.

Fall Florals at Symbology

Symbology is a Fair Trade clothing line that showcases unique dresses and kimonos. Their mission is to make fair trade sexy. In order to do that they merge artisanal fabric techniques with fashion forward designs that give their customers a one-of-a-kind item that connects the wearer to a global community.

The Classic Cashmere at Naadam

It wouldn’t be fall fashion without a wool or cashmere sweater to wrap yourself up in! At Naadam they work with herders and clean energy practices to get the highest quality cashmere possible. Soft cashmere is a great way to top a classic fall look.

Printed Trousers at People Tree

In the fall and winter it can be easy to fall into the routine of grabbing anything black from your closet. Yes black is super slimming and easy to match with almost anything, but it can get a little boring. Spice up your outfit with a printed trouser for fall. People Tree works with only organic and fairtrade cotton and is Global Organic (GOTS) certified. They work to make you look good and feel good knowing your unique garment was made with respect for people and the planet!

A Good Fur at Whimsy + Row

Last but not least, you can’t go anywhere this fall without seeing some amazing fur coats. Not all fur coats look or feel the same, but they are all a fall staple! The bigger the coat, the better, right? Grab a teddy coat style from Whimsy and Row, who are dedicated to consciously reducing their eco footprint. By taking leftover deadstock fabric they are able to get creative and make something new, with less!

No matter what time of year it is, ethical and sustainable fashion is always in style. Being aware of your eco footprint is super important, even when it comes to clothing choices. This season, do what you can to stay stylish and sustainable!

Best Snacks for Staying Full and Healthy

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the right foods that will keep you healthy but also make you feel full. This predicament can easily be overcome by a full meal, but sometimes you only have time to grab something quick. Snacks that are high in protein and fiber tend to keep you full for longer, and some of them have other great benefits. If you ever wondered, like I do, what great snacks to pick up in order to stay full and healthy, here are just a few.

Hummus

Made predominantly from chickpeas and olive oil, hummus is a great source of protein and fiber. The dip is also high in iron (which helps maintain your muscles and boost your immune system) and B Vitamins (for brain development).

Broccoli

This green machine is considered an awesome superfood because of all the vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants it is packed with. Since it is high in fiber it helps keep you full, while its abundance of vitamins like K and C help keep you healthy.

Lentils

Minerals, fiber, vitamins, and so much more make lentils an important aspect of anyone’s diet. This legume is protein and fiber rich to keep you full, is low in calories, and helps lower cholesterol. One hundred grams of lentils contains over half your daily value of Vitamin B6 (for brain development), Thiamin (essential for your metabolism), and Manganese (bone development and antioxidant).    

Avocado

In some circles the avocado is considered a superfood because of its healthy fat and high vitamin properties. This stone fruit contains 20 different vitamins and minerals that set it above most other fatty foods. Avocados contain more potassium than bananas, they are loaded with fiber, and they contain antioxidants that support eye health.  

Almonds

These awesome snacks can do so much with so little. They can improve your gut bacteria, lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, and reduce your appetite. Almonds are high in healthy fats, fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. So much is packed into an almond, it would be mad not to use them as a way to stay full and healthy.

Pears

A sweet low calorie treat? Sounds perfect to me! According to Healthy Eating SF, pears have digestive, nutritional, and great overall health benefits. One pear contains at least 6 grams of fiber, which helps you feel full for longer. Pears are also packed with potassium for muscle health, vitamin C for your immune system, and vitamin K for your blood.

Carrots

The last on our list of simple snacks is Carrots. This snack contains a bunch of vitamins, minerals, and fiber too. They are especially helpful in reducing your risk of cancer because of the carotene properties. Need more Vitamin A and B? Then definitely get your hands on this awesome snack.

Of course it is still very important to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Staying full is only half the battle — the other half is making sure you are doing the best you can for your body. By taking advantage of all that these seven snacks have to offer, you may be able to stay happy, healthy, and full!