World Smile Day

October 7, 2016 is World Smile Day (WSD), a day to honor Harvey Ball mission. As the creator of the iconic yellow smiley face, Harvey’s happy yellow smiling face’s intent was to spread good will and cheer. Around the world, WSD Ambassadors will live by the mantra - “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.” With this initiative in mind, there are many people who need reminders of the good in their life and you could be the one to make them smile.

Here are a few ways to spread smiles to friends, family, and even, strangers:

World Smile Day

You’ve Got Mail — Send a letter, card or postcard through the mail. Not email, the actual postal service! Nowadays people aren’t used to checking the mailbox for more than sales papers, junk mail and bills. Show someone you care with a handwritten note.

Pay It Forward — On your morning coffee run, pay for the car behind you. We often hear about this small act, but its potential impact is huge. You never know what kind of morning that person in line behind you is having and your generosity could change the tone for their entire day.

Give Your Time — Whether it’s volunteering at a local school or food pantry, watching a friends’ new baby or sitting with an elderly relative, give someone the gift of time.

There is always a way to make someone smile. Make it your mission on October 7th to help someone find theirs!

Breast Cancer
Let's Create Awareness This October

Breast cancer touches the lives of millions of people across the nation. This October, do something to recognize the disease that impacts so many.

Breast Cancer
Fundraise or donate
Raise awareness by hosting an event or launching a fundraising website. Or, make a personal donation in honor/memory of a loved one.

Get involved
There are numerous national, regional and local cancer awareness organizations. Become involved and help spread the message of hope. Sit on committees to plan events or help with educational programs.

Serve the community
Reach out to a local hospital and find ways you can support breast cancer patients as they go through treatment. Perhaps you could collect books and magazines for them to read during chemo or sew quilts to keep them warm.

Support a friend or family member
If you know someone battling breast cancer, be there to support them and their family. Create a meal train to set up meals during treatment weeks. Offer to gather the mail, clean their home or run errands to show support.

There are so many ways to support the fight against breast cancer and they don't take a lot of time or resources away from daily life. Be an example and help the fight to end breast cancer!

Childhood Obesity
Working To Minimize Obesity

Childhood obesity has been an epidemic in the U.S. for many years and the month of September is used to educate and generate awareness. Working as partners with parents, educators and kids, National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is creating a plethora of resources and information.

Childhood Obesity

Here are some helpful tips to keep kids active and healthy!

Work as a team
As a family unit, make changes together and hold each other accountable. Changes don’t have to be big, simply set small goals and work toward them together. Maybe you need to eat more veggies. Place a chart in the kitchen and keep track of who is eating the most broccoli and carrot snacks! Perhaps water is what you are lacking, designate a specific water bottle for each family member and see who can finish first.

Get moving
Kids love to move. Help them by enrolling in a dance class or sport. On nights without practice, take a family walk through the neighborhood after dinner. Keep track of steps and make it a competition!

Stock the fridge
Make sure there are plenty of healthy options in your refrigerator and pantry. If you keep junk in your home, kids will eat it (and adults, too!) Buy individual packs of apples and veggies for easy access. Steer clear from soda and juices and keep water bottles readily available for a quick drink.

Limit screen time
Oh, technology can be a parent’s best friend when you just need 15 minutes to decompress from your day or get dinner going. Don’t get carried away with television or tablet time. Set limits for your children or make them earn the privilege of screen time (within reason, of course.) Turn the TV off and crank up the tunes for an impromptu dance party.

Prepare and cook meals together
There is a lot of science & math in cooking, so pull up a stool and let the littles help with meal time. Let them measure out the ingredients, pour items into the bowl and see how fast they can stir it up. Making meal prep fun and engaging is a great way for the kiddos to understand how important eating well is for their bodies. Talk about healthy choices as you cook and let them taste test their own creations.
Football Season

September is the start of one of the best seasons of the year – FOOTBALL SEASON! Whether you cheer for the SEC, ACC or NFL, tailgating is an absolute must this time of year.

Football Season

Are you a tailgating pro? If not, here are some simple tips for tailgating success:

Prep work makes perfect
Plan what you are serving ahead of time, gather all groceries and make sure everything is packed in airtight individual containers. Wash and slice your veggies and place in one container. Wrap your meats in plastic wrap and place in a separate container. Use utility totes or reusable grocery bags to pack up any unopened condiments, serving dishes, paper products and utensils. Have everything in one spot for easy loading the day of the big game.

Use multiple coolers
Use one cooler for meats, cheeses and other perishable items. Pack a separate cooler for drinks. Make sure your coolers are packed with plenty of ice and/or frozen water bottles and keep the lids closed to prevent exposure to higher temperatures. Use well-insulated coolers and ice or ice packs to keep food at 40°F.

Avoid cross contamination
It’s easy to get excited about cooking outdoors, but don’t forget that you are dealing with raw meat and other perishable foods. Use clean serving platters and utensils. An easy tip is to use a specific color plate and tongs for handling raw meat and another color for serving cooked foods. This will help keep things organized and safe in the heat of the cooking moment.

Serve food safely
Food should not be left out for more than two hours. For cold items, bring shallow bowls or dishes to fill with ice and place your food on top to keep it chilled. If you have access to electricity or a generator, bring along a few crockpots to keep items warm.

Tailgating is an experience, so be sure to purchase paper products with your team colors, spruce up tables with colorful cloths and bring along balloons and novelties to add to your display. Don’t forget the football and cornhole boards to pass the time before kickoff!

Treating injuries with the RICE method


Youth Sports Injuries

Sprains, strains, pulled muscles and casts! School is back in session and youth athletes are back on the field with long practices and games under Friday night lights. Help them stay in the game this season with minimal injuries.

Youth Sports Injuries
Find a league that fits your child’s goals
In our highly competitive society, parents often rush their player into aggressive sports leagues that they may or may not be ready for. Whatever sport your child plays, make sure the team/organization they play for fits into the overall goal of living an active lifestyle, as well as any long-term goals your player has, whether that be for pure enjoyment or working toward a future college scholarship.

Always use proper protective gear
Batting helmets and chest protectors were invented to keep players safe. Ask your child’s coach about suggested, as well as required, protective gear you should invest in. Once your child has the appropriate gear, make sure they use it properly – even for practices!

Warm-ups and Cool-downs are necessary
Most coaches will institute a routine of warm-up exercises and cool-down stretches for their players. These tasks are very important for getting muscles ready to work and ready to rest. If your child is late to practice or a game, make sure they go off to the side to stretch or throw to get those muscles ready for action.

Keeping hydrated
Make sure your player has a water cooler and/or access to water throughout practices and games. Most teams keep sports drinks available for players, as well.

Treating injuries with the RICE method
If your player does experience a minor sprain or strain, practice the RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. If the injury persists, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician.

We cannot protect our children from all injuries, but giving them the opportunity to play in safe environments by learning proper sport technique is a great way to start. As parents, the best thing to do is cheer your loudest and encourage your player! Go, Team!


Mental Health Awareness
What can you do to help a friend or loved one who might be suffering with mental illness?
Mental Health Awareness
Identify the Early Signs*:

Does your friend or loved one have any of the following mental health problem warning signs?

Mental Health Awareness
  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of kids or getting to work or school
Mental Health Awareness
Show Support**:
  • Be there to talk through the issues
  • Find out if they are getting the medical help they need
  • Ask questions and be responsive
  • Offer to help with everyday tasks
  • Include them in activities, but don’t push too hard
  • Educate others so they can be sensitive to your loved ones needs

If you find your loved one is in need of evaluation and help, MYidealDOCTOR offers on-demand access to behavioral health providers for counseling sessions via video. The service provides members with scheduled access to behavioral health providers for conditions such as anxiety, depression, stress, grief/loss and much more.

**Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health

Back to School Health
Kids are heading back to the classroom, which means coughs, runny noses and tummy bugs. Be prepared and proactive this school year with these simple prevention tips:
Back to School Health

Maintain a healthy diet, daily activity and get plenty of rest: Children thrive on consistency with schedules. Encouraging a daily routine with nutritious meals, physical activity and bed time rituals will keep their bodies healthy to fight off the bad germs they are exposed to on a daily basis.

Get a check-up: Make sure your child is up-to-date on well visits with his/her pediatrician, as well as keeping up with their immunizations. Well visits help to track your child's growth, development and identify any potential conditions. Children should have an annual well visit, even if there are no obvious medical issues.

Learn to be a handwashing expert: Adults and children should always wash their hands after bathroom visits, petting animals and before preparing food, among other tasks. Use the warmest water temperature you can stand and scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds. Encourage consistent hand washing rituals at home to develop good habits while away, specifically at school.

Arm them with sanitizer: Most teachers and schools require parents to send in a donation of hand sanitizer, but why rely on that alone? Attach a travel size sanitizer to your child's book bag for quick germ protection. Remind the kids that "a dab will do ya," and use it as a back-up if a sink and soap are not readily available.

Sanitize when belongings come home: Kids take tons of items to school - back packs, notebooks, pencil boxes and lunch totes. When these items arrive back home at the end of the day or school week, take time to clean them. Lunch boxes and reusable containers should be cleaned daily to prevent bacteria growth. Book bags, pencil boxes, calculators and hard bound notebooks can be wiped down with antibacterial wipes. This extra step helps to keep germs out of your home.

Back to School!
It's the time of year most parents dread - back to school. The hustle and bustle of packing lunches, making breakfast and shuttling kids from school to activities can be daunting. Don't let the new school year break you down! Teach your family to thrive during this busy time of year.

Back To School - Routine

Set a schedule of tasks and stick to it. Children thrive on knowing what is next, so develop routines in the morning and evening to teach good habits and prevent arguments.
  • Place an alarm clock in your child's bedroom and give them the opportunity to get themselves up in the mornings.
  • Make a list of expected tasks - get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth - and place in a visible location in the home.
  • Put homework first in the evenings to knock it out ahead of activities and dinner.
  • Set a bedtime ritual - bath, teeth brushing, reading and lights out - all at the same time each night.

Back To School - Calendars

Use calendars to stay on track. Paper calendars work for some people and Goggle calendars work for others. Pick the right one for you to keep the family schedule straight.
  • If you have multiple children, assign each a color and write their activities and appointments in that color ink.
  • Use stickers for important appointments and sports schedules.
  • Designate days and/or evenings with no activities as family time.
  • Make your calendar accessible for all of your family members - post it in the kitchen or office area where everyone can see it.

Back To School - Meals

Probably one of the biggest challenges for parents is coordinating healthy meals for the kids, especially during the busy school year.
  • Plan your menus and make a grocery list.
  • Shop for groceries during non-peak hours (Friday evenings after 7 p.m. or Saturday morning before 8 a.m.)
  • Plan for grab-n-go meals for busy practice/meeting nights.
  • Stock up on healthy options and avoid high sugar, high fat snacks.
  • Prep foods on the weekends and use your crockpot for quick meals during the week.

Fourth of July
Independence Day Fireworks and Fun

Red, white and blue – Independence Day is a time to reflect on this wonderful country and the many freedoms we have. Americans celebrate in many different ways for July 4th – cookouts, picnics at the lake, pool or beach, and always enjoying traditional homemade foods and fireworks.

Fourth of July

Fireworks are a key component to a fantastic Fourth, but always put safety first. Here are some tips*:
  • Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
  • Know your fireworks - read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  • A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  • Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area - away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Always have a bucket of water and charged water hose nearby.
  • Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials

Also remember, not everyone enjoys a fireworks show. Keep in mind that some of our United States Veterans suffer from post –traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the multicolor pyrotechnics and unexpected blasts can trigger memories of combat and induce panic attacks. Be aware of your neighbors – if you see a sign that reads “Combat Veteran Lives Here, Please Be Courteous,” find another location to enjoy your fireworks show.

*Source: National Council on Fireworks Safety

Safe Travel Tips
Safe Travel Tips

It’s time for open roads, tropical beaches and sights to be seen – summer travel season is upon us! While vacation means relaxation and down time, planning and traveling to your destination might cause stress. Worry no more – there are travel tips and tricks to ease your anxiety!

Safe Travel Tips

Make a packing list your priority

Writing things down helps trigger our brains to remember. By writing down the things you need to take along on a trip, you are able to make sure your necessities are in tow. Pack the list in your suitcase and use it to re-pack at the end of your journey.

Gear up

If you are traveling with small children or babies, make sure you plan for all the gear you will need. Ask your hotel or lodging accommodation contact if cribs are available. Look for local rentals for strollers and other items to help lighten your load.

Keep the kids occupied

If you have a long car ride or flight ahead of you, make sure you pack activities for the kids to pass the time. Limit screen time as much as possible and play games like “I Spy” or “Restaurant Race.” Surprise treats are always a nice distraction for little ones.

Remember the journey

Trips are meant to be memorable, so take the time to savor every minute. Take lots of photos and journal special family moments. Purchase a picture frame from your trip and print out your favorite family photo to remember the trip all year long.

Nursing Assistants Week
Nursing Assistants Week – Specializing in the Art of Caring

Nursing Assistants (NAs) have a direct impact on patient care. They touch the lives of so many, including family and friends of elderly, frail and chronically challenged patients, by providing a warm connection in extremely difficult situations. The week of June 15-22, 2017 is designated as “Nursing Assistants Week: Specialists in the Art of Caring,” so celebrate these compassionate individuals in your community!

Here are a few ideas to celebrate the Nursing Assistants in your life:

Nursing Assistants Week

  • Create a poster consisting of “thank you” notes from family members and staff. Include pictures of your nurse assistants. When complete, enlarge and post it in a prominent place.
  • Conduct a special project during the week. Give your NAs the responsibility, authority and guidelines for planning.
  • Display photos of your NAs with notes about favorite foods, hobbies or families.
  • Plan an awards ceremony and invite your local dignitaries.

School Is Out!

It’s the time of year the kids love most – school’s out for summer! Who doesn’t love stretching bed times and falling off a rigid schedule for a couple of months? But long summer days can turn into boredom quickly. Keep the kids entertained this summer without breaking the bank!

School Is Out!

  • Camps & Clinics – Look for affordable camps in your local area. Many recreation associations, YMCAs, colleges and even some high schools, offer camps for a variety of activities and athletics.
  • Explore Your Town – Become a tourist in your own hometown. Explore historic sites and landmarks, visit a local museum or simply wander down roads you’ve never ventured.
  • Get Outside – Find ways to be out enjoying the sunshine. Go to the pool, visit a local park for a hike or go geocaching – there are tons of activities to choose from.
  • Volunteer – There is always a need to lend a helping hand. Pack summer lunches for underprivileges children. Deliver cooling fans to elderly. Assist with a beautification project in your community.

Long days in the summer sun are probably on the agenda, right? Make sure you take care of your skin to prevent future damage.

  • Know which SPF is right for your skin – There are many sunscreen lotions and sprays on the market with varying levels of SPF, so do your research on which product works best for your skin type.
  • Apply and Re-Apply – Applying sunscreen once is not going to keep your skin safe on a sunny day. Re-apply every two hours to maximize your skin protection.
  • Keep covered – Use clothing and hats to cover exposed skin when exposed to the sun for long durations. Find a shade tree or use a pop-up tent to reduce sun exposure.
  • Drink plenty of water – Drinking water is imperative for good overall body health and that includes your skin. Keeping your skin cells filled with moisture helps it to be more resilient.
  • Soothe overexposed skin – Should you find yourself with a sunburn, use soothing creams and gels to calm the skin. Research other homeopathic remedies like essential oils as an alternative, too.

Summer is right around the corner and it’s almost time for lazy days around the pool. Are you and your kiddos ready? Is everyone properly educated on swim safety? Get ready to splish splash with these helpful tips:

• Always have an adult supervising your young swimmers. If at a public pool, make sure Life Guards are on duty. If at a private pool, make sure an adult it always on guard while the kids are in the water.
• Invest in swim lessons for your little ones. Many communities offer lessons through recreation and parks departments or Homeowner’s Associations.
• Teach kids to only swim with adults and as they become older and stronger swimmers, encourage them to always swim with a partner.
• Learn CPR. Knowing how to save a life with CPR is worth the time it takes to become certified.
• Teach kids to never swim or play around pool drains. Unsecure drains have the potential risk for entrapment.
• If you have a backyard pool, install a door alarm, a window alarm or both to alert you if a child wanders into the pool area unsupervised.

Unsung Heroes - International Nurses Day – May 12

International Nurses Day is a day celebrated each year around the world on May 12 - the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth – to recognize the contributions nurses make to society. The impact on quality healthcare these professionals make is tremendous!

Nurses are a sort of unsung hero. They go into the medical profession with the intentions of taking care of people, and often times, exceed that goal by going above and beyond the call of duty. Being a great nurse is much more than knowing how to care for patients clinically. Being a great nurse is about caring for the patient as a human being in need.

How can you celebrate the nurse in your life?

– Nurses are on their feet for their entire shift. Why not help relieve the tension in their toes with a relaxing pedicure?

- Nurses do a lot of heavy lifting. Surprise them with a gift card for a massage.

– Sometimes those long shifts don’t leave enough time to for a delicious meal. Drop in with a sandwich tray or salad feast for your favorite nursing team.

There are so many ways to honor the nurse in your life. Make sure to celebrate them on May 12th!

Are you aware of the impacts Risky Business has on your mental health? This May, Mental Health America is honoring Mental Health Month by spotlighting habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses. Risky Business includes risky sexual activity, prescription drug misuse, internet addiction, excessive spending, marijuana use and troublesome exercise patterns. It is important to understand early symptoms of mental illness and know when certain behaviors are potential signs of something more.

When we engage in prevention and early identification, we can help reduce the burden of mental illness by identifying warning signs early and providing effective treatment. Here are some facts on risky behaviors:

Learn more about the warning signs and symptoms of Risky Business at

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013.
SAMHSA. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2014 and 2015.
Black D.W. (2007). “A review of compulsive buying disorder”. World Psychiatry. 6(1): 14-18.
Kuss DJ, Griffiths MD, Karila L and Billieux J. (2014). Internet Addiction: A Systematic Review of Epidemiological Research for the Last Decade. Current Pharmaceutical Design. 20.

Spring is here, which means planting season is upon us. To celebrate this beautiful time of year and encourage people to get planting, April is designated National Gardening Month. Gardening can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby to take on – so why not get out and play in the dirt.

Here are some simple tips to get your garden growing:

Learn to Manage Your Stress - April is Stress Awareness Month

Stress, for most people, is dealt with daily. Whether it’s work or personal stress, there are ways to reduce your stress levels and live a more fulfilling life.

• Meditate – learn to take a few minutes to clear your mind and ease anxiety
• Breathe – focus on deep breathing exercises
• Slow Down – stop rushing every task and be in the moment
• Reach Out – call a friend or grab a coffee with a coworker to reconnect
• Move It – exercise is a great tension reliever
• Journal – keep a gratitude journal to write down all the good things in your life

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and this year’s focus is on preventing teen alcohol abuse, a growing problem in the United States. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), reducing underage drinking is critical to securing a healthy future for America’s youth. Their strategy is to educate parents, teachers and the community on ways to identify and reduce abuse.

• Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.
• Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of violent crime, to be involved in alcohol-related traffic crashes and to have serious school-related problems.

For more information or available resources, visit

There is nothing more refreshing and re-energizing then breaking your day up with a brisk walk in the park. National Take a Walk in the Park Day is March 30, so get out and enjoy your local community park.

• Find a Park - Search the web to find local and national parks around your community.
• Grab a Friend – Call that buddy you’ve been wanting to catch up with and ask them to meet you for a walk.
• Pack a lunch/snack – Change the scenery and unwind and refuel under a tree during your walk.
• Take the kiddos – Use your walk as a learning experience by taking the kids along for a nature walk or scavenger hunt.
• Headed to work? - Pack your tennis shoes and find a park around your workplace to clear your head and ease brain fatigue.

What could be one of the cutest, cuddliest celebration days all year – Puppy Day on March 23!

Puppies, and of course, all dogs, are known to have positive effects on your mental well-being and stress. How can your pooch boost your mood?

• Dogs offer companionship.
• Dogs give owners motivation to be physically active since they must go outside for ‘restroom breaks’ and walks.
• Dogs offer unconditional love to their owners. Having a wagging tail greet you each-and-every day without question is a wonderful feeling.
• Petting a dog has a calming effect on human beings.
• Playing fetch or throwing the ball for your dog takes a person’s mind off stressful thoughts and relaxes them.
• Dogs give owners a sense of purpose and caring. A dog needs to be taken care of and human beings are naturally designed to care for other living things.

Celebrate your furry comrade today with some extra love and a yummy treat!

Many adults and some young children struggle with sleep. Tossing and turning, not being able to shut your brain off, is often the most common sleep issue. How can you remedy the restlessness and get a full night’s rest?

Healthy sleep habits are unfortunately not instinctual. It’s possible that you will have to condition yourself to fall into good habits. Here are some ways to reach that goal:

If you are still struggling after trying to change your sleep habits, enroll in a sleep study in your area. Most local health systems offer these services and could provide an underlying cause to your sleepless nights.

March is Save Your Vision Month and this year’s focus is promoting awareness around digital eyestrain. In 2016, the average American spent seven hours per day on a digital device. The impact this has on your vision is alarming and can cause vision damage and sleep issues.

How can you save your vision? Here are some tips from the American Optometric Association (AOA):

Power down before you turn in: Turn your digital devices off at least one hour before bed.

Unplug with the AOA 20-20-20 rule: When you are using any device or computer, make a conscious effort every day to take a 20-second break and look away from the screen, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.

Step back: Maintain a comfortable working distance from your digital device by using the zoom feature to see small print and details, rather than bringing the device closer to your eyes.

Adjust your device to fit your needs: The AOA recommends reducing the glare by adjusting device settings or using a glare filter to decrease the amount of blue light reflected from the screen.

Schedule an appointment: Visit a doctor of optometry by visiting to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam to detect and address vision problems.

Who knew that there was such a day as Old Stuff Day? What does the day celebrate? Why is it even recognized? It’s quite simple – it’s a day to honor old stuff!

Old Stuff Day is celebrated on March 2 each year as a time to reminisce, declutter and learn. So, how could a day like this be impactful on your life? Here are some ideas:

Reminiscing – Looking through old photographs, notes, cards and yearbooks takes a person back to specific times in their life that could have been happy or sad. Sometimes individuals need to remember those times to move on or accept what once was. Being able to look back at the past can be a motivator to move on in life, so take the time to look through those old boxes, bags and albums.

Declutter – Living in a material world can often cause “noise” in our day-to-day life. Decluttering is a way to purge things out of your space – both physically and mentally. Sort through your “stuff” and offer it to others who could use it, or simply put it at the curb for the next garbage collection. The extra space in your storage closet can be empowering!

Learn – Take advantage of learning your history. Go to a local museum, visit an antique market or learn more about your heritage. A new way to learn more about your ancestors is to participate in a DNA study or online lineage tracking website. You could learn something about yourself by participating in research on your family history.

Whether it’s cleaning the old stuff out or celebrating the memories, making sure your “stuff” isn’t the underlying issue of stress or depression is a step in the right direction. Old stuff can be therapeutic in many ways!

Today more than ever before, the more you can get done in a day the better, right? There are some personality types who thrive on time management and marking through those “to-do’s” each day. But are their accomplished tasks in quantity and not quality? Perhaps.

February 22nd is designated as “Single Tasking Day” and is an opportunity to re-learn the importance of focus. As a society, we are so distracted by all the noise – email notifications, social media check-ins and impromptu meetings, it’s difficult to find time to re-engage the mind and produce quality work.

Here are some ways to focus on one thing at a time:

• Lists – Make a list of what you want to accomplish each day or week. Prioritize so your top items are completed first.
• Schedule – Schedule time on your calendar to focus on priority tasks. This helps to make you accountable for your time and gives you a reminder to focus.
• Distractions – Limit distractions by putting your cell phone on silent, closing your office door and putting your head into the business at hand.
• Respond – Set time each day to respond to unanswered voicemails and emails. Unless the message is pressing, there is no need to stress over immediate responses.
• Breaks – Allow yourself to step away for a few minutes. Take a short walk, have a healthy snack and get back to work with fresh perspective.

Celebrate being able to complete one task well, instead of stressing over trying to get 15 things done at the same time!

A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

Random Acts of Kindness Week is February 12-18 for 2017 and people around the world are finding ways to share the kindness revolution as individuals, students, teachers and business owners. Find a way to celebrate a little kindness this week and always:

• Pay it forward – pay for the next person’s coffee/meal
• Be sweet – bring treats to share with your class or work friends
• Post it – Place a note in an unsuspecting place with words of encouragement & affirmation
• Watch the kiddos – Offer to babysit your neighbor or friend’s children so the parents can enjoy a much needed date
• Go to the jar – In your office, place a jar of positive thoughts and quotes for the team members to pull from when they are having a tough day
• Take care of your elders – Do something for the senior citizens in your life – take them meal, pull the trash can in/out for collection or just make time to sit and talk
• Compliment a stranger – Tell a complete stranger how great they look or that you love their dress

According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, kindness is both teachable and contagious, so be sure to spread some kindness today! For more ideas, visit

A Healthy Valentine is a Happy Valentine

Aw, the day made for love…and chocolates – Valentine’s Day on February 14th. Why not celebrate your love in a different way this year? A healthier way, perhaps.

Skip the boxes of sugar filled delights, roses that will die in a few days and stuffed teddy bear (what adult really needs a stuffed animal anyway??), and opt for a unique experience for you and your special someone. Here are some fun and romantic ideas:

• Participate in a couple’s cooking class
• Make a reservation at a new, local organic restaurant
• Get physical and try a new activity or fitness class together
• Make a donation in honor of your sweetie to their favorite organization
• Plant a new seed – garden together to get ready for spring

These are just a few ideas to switch things up this Valentine’s Day! Think outside the chocolate box and

February is Heart Month and it’s a great reminder that we should all take better care of ourselves – starting with our heart. There are so many factors that play into heart health, so take a proactive approach to help prevent future health issues.

Make sure you schedule an annual check-up. This is an opportunity to discuss issues with your physician and make plans for continued wellness.

Invest in a step tracking device (Fitbit, Garmin, etc.) and get real on how many steps you take in a day. The number can be eye opening and can be a natural motivator to get off the sofa!

Take a look at what you are putting into your body and make healthy changes along the way. Add a piece of fruit or a vegetable each day. Look at lean meat options as opposed to the heavier, fat-filled burger you’re craving.

Stop smoking. It’s simple to say, but addiction is a huge obstacle to overcome. Look for resources for smoking cessation programs in your workplace and/or community. There are ways to stop and it’s so important for your health.

Drink water to keep hydrated and healthy.

Commit to one healthy lifestyle change and stick to it. Everyone falls of course, so stay positive if you slip up. Changes can be made every day.

Across countries, languages and classes, laughter is a common denominator everyone understands. In honor of Global Belly Laugh Day, we are looking at the benefits of laughter. Does a good belly laugh really improve your health? Laughing does have a direct effect on our health. Not only does a good laugh release endorphins, it also decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells – improving disease resistance. How can you increase the amount of “ha ha’s” in your life? Here are a few ideas:

In a world full of negativity there is still so much to laugh at. Be sure to make time to smile more and encourage others to giggle along with you!

It’s the beginning of a new year and we all have goals and resolutions on our mind. Exercise more. Eat less. Spend more time with family. Budget better. These are all typical examples of the goals many of us establish at the onset of a fresh, new year. But what about our professional goals? Wouldn’t the start of a new business year be a great place to press the ‘reset’ button and make some changes in your career? We put together some ways to help you become more creative, productive and effective in your work life by utilizing resources and balancing work/life:

1. Align your professional goals with your company outlook. Take the time to understand the company goals for the year and draft your work plan to coincide. This way of thinking ensures everyone is working from the same page and helps accomplish tasks efficiently.

2. Use a pen and paper at some point every day. With the age of technology encroaching on every aspect of our lives, sometimes bringing things back to basics is a great way to refocus. Some studies show that writing by hand can calm your brain. Write out your to-do list each morning or take written notes during a meeting and see what a difference it can make.

3. Ask for help. There is nothing wrong with asking for a helping hand, especially in times where you might feel overwhelmed or under resourced. Great companies hire great people, ones who are always willing to help a team member out.

4. Take breaks. Physically get up and move around when you feel your brain is slipping or you are frustrated. Small intermissions throughout your day can help you refocus on the task at hand and clear your mind, perhaps even trigger a brilliant idea!

5. Listen to one podcast per week. Find podcasts on topics that interest you or new concepts you want to try. Podcasts are a growing resource of information and can be valuable if you are researching an idea or process.

6. Have an electronics free zone in your home. As a society, we are overly connected – social media, email and text - so it’s important to disconnect for a brief period each day. Find a space, typically the bedroom, to be electronics free and use that time to not only recharge your phone battery, but your internal battery as well!

7. Use vacation time. So many professionals feel they cannot take vacation time because their work might falter or something might not get done in their absence. Taking a few days off will not affect the overall success of a company, so take your awarded time. It’s important to refocus and spend time with family and friends.

With football bowl and championship games to start the new year, plus trying to stick to those healthy resolutions, finding a tailgate snack that is nutritious can be a challenge. One people pleasing snack with a plethora of vitamins and minerals – guacamole. The primary ingredient in guac – the avocado – has 20 different vitamins and minerals including Vitamin K, Folate, Potassium and Vitamin C. Mix in tomato, garlic and cilantro for added fiber and antioxidants, and you’ve got a snack jam packed with nutritional value.

Here is a quick, healthy recipe:

December 29th is designated as “Tick Tock Day,” for those procrastinators trying to achieve all they set out for in the New Year. Have you fulfilled your goals for the year? Are you thinking ahead to next year with hopes of better planning?

Achieving goals is tough, so be thoughtful in your approach:

• Set realistic and attainable goals. If your goal is to lose weight, start with a healthy target of 1-2 pounds per week. With proper diet and a moderate exercise plan, this goal is achievable.

• Meet with your partner. When setting financial or household project goals, schedule a meeting with your spouse to discuss your plans. Come to the table with ideas and work together to compromise on items you can easily accomplish in the new year.

• Post your goal list. Displaying your list in a location you see on a regular basis will help keep you accountable and on track.

• Check-in on a regular basis. Whether it’s a personal goal or one for your family, set regular check-in times to discuss how the plan is going or re-energize. Weekly, monthly, quarterly – however regular you need it to be, take the necessary time to stay on track.

Make this next year the year of achievement and don’t wait until you hear the clock’s “tick tock”!

‘Tis the season for over shopping, over eating and over scheduling! With so many commitments this time of year, how is it possible to actually enjoy this festive time with friends and family? There are ways to navigate the calendar and celebrate the season.

Utilize a family calendar of events – either hard copy or electronic – and put every party, performance, work event, practice, family gathering, etc., for every member of your family on it. This will give you an overview of everything that is to come and an idea of what can be eliminated from your schedule. It will also help parents learn to divide and conquer if kids have overlapping events.

If you’re planning to buy gifts for lots of family and friends, make a list. Brainstorm gift ideas for each individual ahead of time and consider online shopping to reduce those many trips to the crowded shopping mall.

It’s hard to say “no” during the holidays, but learning to do so, politely, can reduce the level of stress your experience. Most people understand how overextended individuals can become during this time of year, so remember, you can’t do it all (and no one should expect you too!)

Cookie baking, party hostess-ing and turkey basting all come with the holiday territory. Let your local grocer or favorite bakery help with some of the work. Buy those frosted sweet treats instead of slaving in the kitchen for hours. Visit your local butcher for help with the main course. These simple tactics save your most valuable resource – time.

Keep in mind what this time of year is all about – counting blessings with family and friends. Take time to make memories of fun-filled caroling and games, instead of chaos and stress. Happy Holidays!

You probably do not realize how many surfaces you touch in a day – door handles, tables, remote controls, steering wheels, pens and the list goes on. Germs are everywhere and that is why it is so important to develop healthy hand washing habits to combat illness, especially during cold and flu season.

wet your hands with warm, running water.

use a good amount of soap and rub your hands together, scrubbing the top, in-between fingers and under nails.

scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, enough time to hum the Happy Birthday song.

always rinse your hands with clean, running water and use a clean, dry towel to wipe away moisture.

Help your family develop good hand washing technique, especially when preparing food, cleaning up after pets, using the restroom, being in public places and taking out the garbage. If a sink is not readily available, keep hand sanitizer in your purse or vehicle to help eliminate exposure to those nasty germs.

Grandmothers have told their grandchildren for years, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but how true is this old saying? Although there is no successful study that proves an apple a day keeps a person from a doctor’s visit, it is a highly nutritional food and one you should definitely keep in your diet. How can you celebrate National Eat a Red Apple Day on December 1st? Here are some fun ways to enjoy these shiny skinned, delicious fruits:

There are thousands of different types of apples. Take a tour at your local fruit stand or grocer and pick some you have never tried before.

Try dipping your sliced apples in homemade caramel sauce or peanut butter. A great afternoon snack packed with vitamins and flavor.

Try incorporating apples into your recipes. Not only are they great in baked desserts, they are quite tasty in salads and pork dishes.

Gather all the different varieties of red apples that you can find, along with your kiddos, and have a taste test. Cut the apples in bite size pieces and let them pick their favorite.

Eating a balanced breakfast is a healthy habit that helps your metabolism kick in. If you know you are going to have a day filled with food temptations, plan for a well-balanced breakfast to help fill you up.

Many Thanksgiving get-togethers include cheese trays, dips and other appetizing goodies. Stay on course by limiting your intake of these items, so you can enjoy your turkey dinner.

If you enjoy a glass of wine with your holiday meals, try to limit drinking your calories. Pace yourself by having a small glass while the food is cooking and be sure to drink plenty of water.

Make sure half, or more, of your plate is covered in vegetables. Try to avoid vegetables cooked in casseroles, or limit your portion. Select carrots, green beans or leafy greens instead.

Turkey is the centerpiece to any Thanksgiving table. Skip the skin and eat the lean white meat portions to save approximately 45 calories per serving.

Admit it, you wait all year for that piece of pumpkin or pecan pie. Don’t deprive yourself, simply save a little room to enjoy that tasty treat.

Instead of just watching football on TV, get out in the yard and play a game with the family. Not into contact sports? Take a walk around the neighborhood to work off those extra calories.

and it’s the perfect time of year to lace up those hiking boots and set out for a family adventure. Hiking is not only an opportunity for physical fitness, it’s also a great learning and exploration activity for children and adults.

• Research local trails to find the one that works best for you.
• Will you camp overnight? Or is it going to be a day-trip?
• Who all will be going along with you?
• What supplies do you need to stock up on?

• Invest in a quality back pack and learn to pack it properly. A good resource for packing:
• Make sure you purchase good footwear. Research top brands and take a trip to your local retailer to try on multiple types to ensure the right fit for you.
• Check the weather and dress appropriately.
• If camping, make sure tents and supplies are in working order.

• Pack a first aid kit for those unexpected injuries on the trail.
• Stay hydrated by packing plenty of bottled water.
• Sunscreen and bug spray are essential. Don’t forget to put these items in your backpack.
• Pay attention to the trail and your surroundings. Look for any slippery spots or potential hazards that could cause injury.

• Download nature walk printables for the kids. Keep them occupied and help them learn about plants and critters along the way.
• While on your hike, be sure to properly dispose of any trash you produce. Help keep trails clean.
• Share your adventure on social media by tagging @AmericanHiking.