Month: June 2012

Some Health Tips we may be ignoring

We may have read a lot of web posts about health. We may have devoured several magazine tips on proper health and fitness. We may have asked for nutritional and fitness advice from a doctor or a health practitioner. We may have done 100 push ups in 2 minutes, ran 2.4 kilometers in 10 minutes and did   10 pullups in 2 minutes, or may have ran a half-marathon. On the nutrition side, we may have the perfect diet, and removed soda drinks from our habits :).  So we think we know what we need to do already? Probably. But are we practicing what we learned? Vast amount of knowledge is useless unless being used to make our lives and other people’s lives better.

Without so much ado, here’s some good health practices that we may be ignoring:

Sleep – if you search the web (because not to many goes to the library anymore but instead use google and wikipedia), you find that in the U.S., a lot of people now are getting much less sleep than 30 years ago.  In developing countries, some workers wake up very early to avoid traffic and go home late due to traffic. That results in less sleep.

Rest – some of us feel guilty when we sit idle and not doing anything. We shouldn’t because that’s the time when the brain tries to refresh itself free from the constant bombardment of information or analysis. It is actually during time of rest and sleep that the brain regenerates the cells to be stronger and ready for the next day’s onslaught of stress.

Fat – fat is used in cell to insulate some body parts and also as energy reserves. It is also used for proper hormones processing and as actual source of energy. Monounsaturated fats (source: olive oil, walnuts, etc.) are actually good for the body. Benefits include less arthritic pain in the joints (I actually experienced this), weight loss, lower cholesterol levels and lower risk for heart disease and stroke.

Light exercise – my personal favorite is walking. This doesn’t require any equipment or a pool or a court. Any exercise is good. You may be using a stretch band or kettlebells or even a broomstick and that’s OK. As long as you are doing something to bring your heart rate up a little bit and you are breathing a little harder. This improves your circulation, makes your metabolic processes more efficient, and gives you a sense of exhilaration.

I’m sure we’re all aware of most of the above items. I won’t mention benefits of eating more fruits (tomatoes, cucumbers and squashes are fruits, by the way) and vegetables, because I am sure this is a very common knowledge already. Or eating much less pork and beef, but rather chicken and fish for the same reason.

I mentioned the above to make us all aware again of the benefits of some of the things that we may be ignoring. It would be helpful to us if we are aware of what we may be taking for granted.

Here’s to your health!

 

 

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What are you thinking… about?

If someone asks you, “What are you thinking about?”

If you are an introvert like me, your first response might be: “that’s none of your business!” if I ask you the question above. If you are an extrovert, your initial response would be to tell me your thoughts in no less than two hours.

I read somewhere a quote that goes something like this: “thinking is hard work, that’s why few people engage in it”.  Today, with so many distractions like sports, media, Hollywood, social media and TV, our time for thinking has been severely restricted. I won’t mention the fact that our workloads have increased significantly and work-hours have increased compared to only 30 years ago.

Thoughts can make our lives miserable or it can make our lives joyful.  Our actions comes from our thinking. We think, we process the thoughts – sometimes in milliseconds, then act. Our thoughts is the source of why and how we do things. It is also the reason why we feel lonely or happy.

Thinking positive about things brings out positive results. Think of beautiful things – flower fields, water falls, green meadows, sandy white beaches. Doesn’t it bring serenity and happiness? Now think about muddy trails, gravelly roads, dusty terrains, uphill narrow tracks – yes, I am describing a mountain bike trail. I didn’t want to give you horrible thoughts so I figured an off road bicycle trail won’t give you bad thoughts, unless you’re a roadie.

A psychologist in one of a counseling/therapy firm mentioned that most people can avoid getting depressed by one simple act:  choosing carefully what they think about. Some people get so engrossed about an event or a person that it keeps percolating in their mind. They think about it over and over for days, months, sometimes even years. Some couples even have counseling because they couldn’t stand the fact that their honeymoon wasn’t perfect five years ago. Isn’t that sad?  We have to guard what we think.

On a more positive note, people who believe they can do things actually do it, regardless of obstacles. I’m sure you’ve heard of an olympic athlete or a homeless person that went though adversity after adversity. In the end, they emerged triumphant. Believing you can accomplish something is already half of what’s needed to accomplish the goal.

What should we do with this new found knowledge?

First, be aware of what you are thinking. If negative thoughts come to mind, ignore it or think of something positive out of it. For example, today is Monday, and we all hate Mondays. But then, think that we could catch up on our work and before you know it, it is the weekend again.

Second, practice thinking about good things only. Try to be alone sometimes and think about good things: your accomplishments, your happy vacations, the funniest jokes you heard, the best restaurants you ate in, the best beaches you swam in, your future goals, upcoming happy events, the best times of your life. You will feel refreshed and more positive after. Do it in a scenic area and you’ll even feel much better.

Third, repeat the first two steps every day!

Happy thoughts!

 

 

 

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The Line in the Sand

Sandy was very confused. She couldn’t understand why her mom wouldn’t allow her to go beyond her curfew of 11pm. She would like to spend that time with her boyfriend who her mom hates. There’s nothing bad about Tony, maybe he gets drunk too often but he is soooo cute. What’s wrong with her mother?

I am so glad that the above situation is nothing but my weak attempt in writing fiction.  You should be glad that I write blogs, not fiction

Boundaries are necessary in our lives and in our interaction with people, not just our children. It is better to set boundaries and to let people know about it. This creates less stress for everyone if everyone is aware of each other’s boundaries. Sometimes we think that other people knows about the boundaries we set, but they don’t.

To really love our young children, boundaries are essential.  In the eyes of our young children, they couldn’t understand why they have so many rules, guidelines, restrictions, curfews and constant nagging about why this is right and this is wrong. Because they are young and immature, they think that it’s just because the parents are abusing their authority without regards to the children’s feelings.

Children (or other loved ones) think that the boundaries set are unnecessary.

It is a must that we explain to them that rules are necessary to protect them from harm and from making bad decisions.  We have to explain that without the rules there would be no freedom. The rules are the pillars that prevents a society into turning into a chaotic society. A famous person said “with liberty comes great responsibility”.  So if people want freedom, they have to be responsible citizens first.

For the young at heart: Obey your parents, your elders, your mentors.

For the parents: Love your children. I mean really love your children by drawing that line in the sand. They will emerge as persons ready to take on life.

 

 

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Ridiculous ways to save money!

In a previous post, i mentioned major ways to save money. In this post, I would like to discuss small ways to save money. I titled it “ridiculous” because it may seem ludicrous to some of you.

Sometimes my posts may be too opinionated, but I had to write it that way, otherwise it loses its character. The main goal is to present tested ideas and experiences to benefit my grandson and some of you.  Al (a reader) informed me that after reading one of my posts, he decided against buying another expensive pair of cycling shoes. Although he can afford to buy one of them every month, I think he got the point about the post.

The introduction is getting too long, so we’ll dive directly to the ridiculous ways to save money:

-Do not use coupons if you don’t need to buy the item in the coupon. Wow, is that a revelation or what?

-Buy in bulk from Bulk Stores (Costco, Smart & Final, etc.) only the items that will be used for sure. Toilet paper for example. Isn’t that brilliant?

-Always buy a smaller car, limiting yourself to reliable brands. That saves money on gasoline, maintenance, insurance and time. A genius idea!

-Use the envelope system (we used it 25 years ago) for your budget. Put the monthly budget in cash in each envelope labeled Groceries, Fuel, Clothes, Allowance, Miscellaneous, etc. When the envelopes run out of money, you can no longer spend. That will prevent credit card debt!  Amazing!

-Limit yourself to minimal wardrobe. After all, you use only your favorite clothes 80% of the time. Buy only clothes that will be a daily favorite! I am on a roll here!

-Ride a bicycle to work at least once a week. Move to a residence much closer to your job so you can walk to work.  Que barbaridad!

-Do not overspend on your children & grandchildren. They need to learn frugality early in life and dumping tons of material things on them may be counterproductive. I will be hated on this one!

-Try not turning on the heater or air conditioning when the weather is between 65 to 75 degrees. People lived without air conditioning for thousands of years, by the way. We just got so spoiled. Hmmmmm.

-Try one week of not spending more than $50 or $100 on anything. Expand that to several weeks. Or do it every fourth week or so. Put the savings into an “emergency fund”.   What a great idea!

What I did here is present ideas to start the gears of your brain churn out ideas in saving money as it applies to your lifestyle. Make a list of ways of saving money and apply it. If you continue doing it, you get more in control of your finances.

But you ask, Why don’t I make more money instead? Because it is much easier to save money that you already have than try to earn more. Trying to earn more will generally take up a lot of your time, effort and maybe your health,  and up to 50% will go to taxes anyway, if you are employed.  Also, a person that earns $20,000 a year and spends $10,000 a year is more financially savvy than a person who earns $100,000 a year and spends $120,000. You think $10,000 expenses in a year is ridiculously low? There are tens of thousands of people doing that voluntarily and about 4 billion people involuntarily. Get rid of the excuses and “reasons” for not saving. Join the voluntary frugality movement.

Have fun in your road to financial independence!

 

 

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Choices and Priorities

In this world, we are often faced with dilemmas, puzzles and overwhelming information from all sides. How do we deal with it?

I’ve read somewhere a long time ago, someone said “if you don’t organize your life, someone will organize it for you”. Very true!

One of the saltiest Navy Warrant officers I met muttered something like “If you don’t have a solution, you’re part of the problem”, which irritated me since it wasn’t even my problem. But I never forgot what he said. And now I get to irritate you with it

For starters, we go back to fundamentals. The major choices comes first. Then the little ones will start to look like… they’re just little ones.

FIRST PRIORITY. The most significant choice/priority in this life is our relationship with God.  People will say “but I don’t believe in God” – which is like saying  “I didn’t study gravity in high school so it does not affect me”. But to avoid turning you off with a topic I am not qualified to discuss, may I offer the following website.  Visit at your convenience. With an open mind.  Willing to learn. Best investment in time you’ll ever have.

SECOND. The most important decision/choice/priority in our life is: Marrying the right person.  Marriage is an institution designed for us to be happy. The wrong spouse will make the rest of your life miserable, sometimes even years after the separation. So how do you pick your spouse? First, you make a list of what kind of a person that you want to be a partner with – based on the good values such as:

Loving, Patient, Honest, Understanding,  Emphatic, Good hygiene,  Persevering, Respectful, Kind (add your own and modify as needed) and absolutely no addictions whatsoever.

Notice I didn’t mention anything about being rich, good looking, slick, athletic, fashionable. Those are superficial features that can drastically or slowly change over the years.

Search intensively for that ideal spouse. You will find Mr. or Ms. Ideal if you spend a lot of time looking. Do not accept compromises. For example, “Even though he is alcoholic, he is kind of nice” will guarantee you a miserable life. You should know exactly what you want and not stop until you find it.

Next:  Promise yourself that once you find that partner, you will commit yourself to that person and not let another person or thing get in the way between the two of you. Then make good on that promise by making sure that you remember it regularly.

A marriage should be based on “What can I help you with?” instead of “What have you done for me lately?” If you and your partner can crack that code, you got it made.

PRIORITY THREE.  Work or have an enterprise by which you can get money to buy your needs. Don’t wait for the perfect job to come because there isn’t any. Don’t dilly dally on your decision on what you want to do in your life because time flies. It helps if you start young thinking about what vocation, profession or work you want to be an expert in.  if you’re not too young anymore, start from today, do something, be good at it, and then things will start falling into place. People are English Majors and work in accounting, or lawyers become Pastors. Your education is just that: training for a productive life. You can be happy anywhere you work, all you have to is make the choice to be happy. Why do you have to work? Because you have to eat, clothe  yourself and have shelter.  Also, to be a productive member of society being able to help other people. Be a producer, not  a consumer, or worse – a freeloader (for lack of a more politically correct term).

After these, the rest of the choices and priorities become less significant.  When faced with these “smaller” choices, you have to spend time analyzing all aspects of the decision.  Write it down, make some Pros and Cons. Sleep on it. Then work on it again. Ask for sage advice. Go to the library. Surf the web for answers. Then think hard. You will not get 100% of all the information you need, but you will have a better decision when you have significant information.

After some time, the saying “So many choices, so little time” will not apply to your life. You, my friend, has turned the tide against life.

 

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Yes, you can!

The Power of Positive Thinking was a very popular book written by Norman Vincent Peale back in 1951. Thinking positive has been and is still being preached all over the world, that there are even religions based heavily on thinking positive. Is it worth all the hoopla? Is it really as good as advertised?

Yes!

Paul (who wrote a lot of books in the New Testament) wrote about positive thinking 2,000 years ago. It’s nothing new. And it is effective.

In accounting or in data entry, there is a saying “garbage in, garbage out”, which means the reports you receive is only as good as the data being put in. You put in bad data, you receive bad reports.

It’s good to think about good things – lovely things – -honest things – pure things. Things worthy of praise. When we fill our minds with positive things such as stated above, we improve our mental health. We become relaxed. We increase productivity.

How do we improve our quality of life? We pick the people we hang out with. Slowly but steadily, we become the “average person” of the group that we always surround ourselves with. If we want to learn a lot, we hang out or converse with smart people. We want to be good in business, we hang out with people that are business owners. We want to be the best in bicycle racing, we join a cycling club.

How do we become the best at what we do? We study. We do our homework. We do our due diligence. We spend hundreds of hours thinking. We practice and we practice correctly.  Lebron James didn’t become a great basketball player by watching sports on TV.  Jacob of earlyretirementextreme.com stated that to be competent at something, a person should spend at least 3,000 hours on it, and 10,000 hours to be an expert. Things are most complicated and intimidating just before we start doing it. Once we get started, obstacles along the way slow us down. Keeping at it makes it easier over the process.

So when there is a new task or a new goal or a novel idea which seems hard, or impossible to achieve, don’t just give up and say “it is too hard” or “It is impossible”. Give it a try. Work on it. Think about it. Think about it some more. Ask people for assistance. But don’t give up. You think you can do it?

YES, YOU CAN!!!!

 

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Our steps to a minimalist lifestyle

When i first arrived in the Naval Training Center in San Diego for my first duty assignment, I was the ultimate minimalist: all clothes contained in one seabag, no car, no furnitures, appliances, stereo, tv, and a very low income :). My biggest investment after that was a bicycle and a Sony Walkman (the iPhone of the early 80s). My first car six months later was a Toyota Corona bought for $300 and paid in installments over six paydays.

Then life happened. Through the years, I got married, we borrowed our way to several cars, upgrading to better houses, and tens of thousands in debt. At the peak, we had 4 cars (two were paid off) for 3 household members, a 3,400 square foot house, a tv in each room; all the trappings of the “american dream” with its mandatory indebtedness and excessive consumption.

However, my wife got sick one time and wasn’t able to work for weeks. We quickly realized we had to take control of our finances to avoid getting in a bad situation (bad debt can get you in trouble in the military). Using a big bonus (my wife’s employer got bought by another company) and zero percent credit card offers, we chipped away at debt. It took several years but every time we pay off a credit card, it feels like a big load of bricks were taken off our backs.

After living overseas (to recover from surgery) for almost a year (in a 500 square foot condo) we knew that life is better if things are kept to a minimum. We came back to CONUS, and rented a 1,600 square townhome with my daughter, but it still seemed big for us.  When my daughter moved out, we moved to a 980 square foot condo, and felt happier than in the bigger home.

Along the way, we sold, gave away, consigned and donated tons (literally tons because some of the furnitures were really heavy) of furnitures, TV, tools, equipments, appliances, cars, etc. It felt good to get rid of clutter. The icing on the cake was when we got cash for it and also knew that someone benefited from our excessive spending.

Living in smaller quarters forces us to continue to get rid of clutter. I believe that 70% of things we store for “possible future use” never get used anyway. We still continue to try to live with less by limiting things to the bare minimum we can tolerate (for now). For example, I limit my casual shoes to two and they serve triple duty as gym shoes, walking shoes and bike riding shoes.

The journey to being a minimalist is life enhancing. I highly recommend it to everyone. My suggestion is to do it slowly, not drastically.  Before you know it, you will feel your life is less burdened by clutter.

Final Tip: Use a scanner and scan everything to your computer (with a back up) and get rid of boxes of old documents and files.

Have a lightened and unencumbered life!

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