3 Reasons to Add Meatless Mondays

Vegan Pizza

Going vegetarian or vegan can be a daunting task, but there’s no reason to jump in head first! Meatless Mondays (or Wednesdays or Saturdays) can change the world, and its great for the environment, your health, and the animals!

Environment

You might be surprised by how much water it takes for the food to get to your plate.  The food we eat makes up about 80% of America’s total water footprint. Virtual water is what makes up this water footprint.  Virtual water is the amount of water that is embedded in products needed for its production, so this includes the water used in cleaning and transporting for example.  Pound for pound, meat has a higher water footprint than vegetables, grains or beans. For instance, a single pound of beef takes, on average, 1,847 gallons of water. It adds up around the world to a range of 7-305 pounds per person per year.

Assuming everyone eats equal amounts of meat each day, adding Meatless Monday will bring that number down to 6-262 pounds per person per year (divide by 7 and then multiply by 6) and that’s a big difference!  Beyond water footprint, let’s talk about carbon footprint!  Beef produces 13 times the emissions of vegetable protein (beans, lentils, tofu, etc.)  Once again that’s a big difference!  This is very simplified and does not consider all the pollution that comes from animal agriculture!

Health

Pant-based meals, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate the most red meat daily were 30 percent more likely to die of any cause during a 10-year period than were those who ate the least amount of red meat. Other processed meats also increased the risk plenty, but the people who ate the least meat were least likely to die in the 10-year period.

Vegans and vegetarians do get enough protein no matter what the stereotypes say. Make sure you eat enough calories and you are sure to get enough protein.  If you eat the same amount of vegetables as you would meat, that’s not going to work!  Most meat-free food is less calorie dense than meat so keep that in mind.  Don’t forget variety and you shouldn’t have a problem with protein, iron, vitamins, or anything else you might be worried about!

Animals

This is the reason most people suspect when you say you’re eating less meat or going vegetarian.  After all, modern agriculture commonly keeps animals in overcrowded stalls, cages, crates, or sheds where they are often unable to turn around or take even a single step in their entire lives.  Deprived of care, exercise, sunlight, and grass, the animals suffer tremendously before even coming to the slaughterhouse.  It is important to remember that the animals are living, breathing, thinking, and feeling beings.  The meat industry kills more than 25 billion animals each year.

In modern factory farms, animals are routinely injected with hormones and stimulants to make them grow bigger and faster.  Some of these injections have been proven to cause cancer and other diseases.  Feedlots are crowded, filthy, stinking places with open sewers and choking air. The animals would not survive in the filthy and crowded conditions without the unnatural amount of antibiotics used.  At some farms, cattle are fed dead ground up cows.

What now?

Add some meatless meals to your diet! And you don’t have to do it on a Monday, but Meatless Wednesdays just doesn’t sound as good.  Do what works best for you!

Report Provides Rates of Major Depressive Episodes Among Adolescents Across the US

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A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides state-by-state results on adolescents (ages 12-17) who experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Based on combined 2013 and 2014 data, the report shows the prevalence of major depressive episodes among adolescents residing in various states – from a high of 14.6 percent (annual average) in Oregon to a low of 8.7 percent (annual average) in the District of Columbia. Differences over time are also reported.

A major depressive episode occurs when a person experiences a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and has at least some other symptoms such as problems with sleeping, eating or concentrating for a period of two or more weeks.

Nationally, 2.7 million adolescents (11 percent) experienced a major depressive episode in the past year – roughly one out of every nine adolescents.

Among the 10 states with the highest rates of adolescents experiencing a major depressive episode four were in the West (listed in order of highest prevalence – Oregon, Arizona, Utah and Washington), three were in the Northeast (Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire), two were in the Midwest (Wisconsin and Indiana) and one was in the South (Virginia).

Among the 10 states with the lowest rates, four were in South (Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and the District of Columbia), three were in the West (Alaska, New Mexico and Hawaii), two in the Midwest (North Dakota and South Dakota) and one in the Northeast (Connecticut).

The overall rate of major depressive episodes among adolescents rose from 9.9 percent in 2012-2013 to 11 percent in 2013-2014 Thirteen states experienced a statistically significant increase during this period, with the remaining 37 states and the District of Columbia experiencing no real change in the level of adolescents experiencing a past year major depressive episode.

“Adolescence is a critical time in a person’s development, and battling with depression can be devastating for teens unless they receive effective treatment,” said Paolo del Vecchio, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. “Effective treatment is available, but parents, teachers and all concerned members of the community must work to assure that adolescents in need get help.”

SAMHSA is helping states, tribes, and communities address this issue through a number of grant programs:

  • The Safe Schools/Healthy Students State Grant Program supports states and communities in their efforts to build early identification and referral systems, to improve access to care, and to implement policy and programming to help children succeed.
  • Project AWARE: Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education grant programs support widespread mental health literacy training of adults who interact with youth to help them understand the signs and symptoms of adolescents who may be experiencing a mental health problem, and how to connect them to help.
  • The Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program supports states, tribes and communities to create, expand, and sustain community-based, collaborative, individualized services for children and youth with a serious emotional disturbance that are family-driven, youth-guided, strength-based, and culturally and linguistically competent.

The report entitled, State Estimates of Major Depressive Episodes among Adolescents: 2013 and 2014, is available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2385/ShortReport-2385.html. It is based on data from SAMHSA’s 2012 to 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports.

For more information about SAMHSA and NSDUH please visit: .

For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.

10 Tips to Redefining Your Self-Care

When I talk to clients or participants at trainings I facilitate, friends and others about self-care, there is a resounding and recurring notion that implementing a self-care plan requires a lot of time and money. This isn’t a surprise to me. For years, I also carried this belief. I thought that having extra time and money were key components to maintaining a self-care practice. After all, without time how will you get to do the things you want to do, and without money, how will you finance your self-care activities?

There is also a misconception about what self-care is.  What usually comes up as a definition of self-care is spa days, time at the hair salon on regular basis, gym time and vacation. While all these activities are examples of self-care activities, the reality is that for many people these activities can be outside of their reach. Limiting our self-care definition to just a few select activities can hinder our ability to recharge ourselves.

Despite these beliefs, there is growing general agreement that self-care is essential for our overall well-being. Self-care is an effective way to manage stress and a key factor in keeping healthy physically and mentally. The definition of self-care that I have adopted is that of a practice that allows us to strengthen our bodies, minds, and souls.

The great news is that there are many ways to fulfill this endeavor. There is no one-way of doing it and there isn’t such a thing as one size fits all. Self-care can be practiced as it best fits people’s lifestyles, time and resources. And there are many free things that you can do. So let’s forget those standardized self-care checklists and create your own list based on what works for you.

To help incorporate self-care into our daily lives, I propose that rather than doing self-care as a one-time only extravaganza when we feel burned out, we sprinkle self-care throughout our day or week.

Here are a few ideas how:

Mindfulness Meditation. We can take what I call mini vacations through mindfulness meditation, a practice has been proven effective to reducing stress and preventing and managing mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. There are many types of mindfulness exercises. One such exercise is deep breathing. We can dedicate as little as 5 minutes a day to deep breathing (or as many times as you need it throughout the day). During our breathing exercises, we focus on our breath, inhaling slowly in and out through our nose.

Visualizations. With the deep breathing, we can add visualization, imagining a place that brings us tranquility and peace as we deep breath in and out or a past happy memory. We can do a variation to our breathing exercises reciting positive affirmations about ourselves or reflecting on things that are going right in our lives. But this is just one possible exercise. Mindfulness is much broader than that. As best put by mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is paying attention on purpose in a particular way to what is arising and the present moment. I encourage you to look more into mindfulness.

Time management. Self-care involves self-awareness on the tasks that you can handle and those that may be too much. Practice saying no to extra commitments when your plate is already full or asking for help. Having too demands on us can lead to stress and overwhelming feelings.

Doing things that bring you joy. Do an inventory of things you truly enjoy— starting with little things to big. What is feasible to sprinkle into your day? For some people, it may be drinking your favorite cup of tea, lighting up a candle, listening to your favorite music on the way to work or while at home, going on a bike ride, spending quality time with family and friends, watching their favorite TV show, doing your favorite hobby, etc. Whatever it may be, make it a consistent part of your practice.

Creative Release Outlets. We have seen the explosion of “adult coloring books” marketed as stress reduction tools, and there is evidence to back this up. The trick of coloring is that it is an activity that requires focusing in one task and as we color or paint, it allows us to express ourselves and set free of our worries, even if it is just for a few moments. This can be a fun activity to do alone or with kids. If coloring isn’t your thing, try journaling.  You can experience a sense of release by writing when you are feeling stressed, frustrated, tired, etc., or you may simply enjoy chronicling your positive experiences and looking back to it when you need inspiration or extra boost.

Connecting with nature and exercise. Nature has healing and self-soothing power. A walk in our local park or outside can be the break someone needs and it is not only good for overall physical health but for it improves our mental well-being.

Exercise is an important part of staying healthy both psychically and mentally. One of the things I commonly see is that we may get excited about an exercise routine but that excitement may dwindle or barriers begin to creep in. Instead of thinking of exercise as one more thing to do, think about it as something you need to do for your survival, just like you need to eat, breathe and sleep. To this, adding a self-care buddy that you can enjoy your activity with may make the journey much easier and more fulfilling. Exercise does not have to break your bank. Take to your local park and walk the recommended 30 minutes a day, either during your lunch break, before or after work or get off the metro or bus a few stops before your destination and walk the rest.

Connecting with others. Connecting with others has been found to be a key factor in maintaining our mental health. While we may interact with people throughout the day either through work, school or at home, what I am talking about is having meaningful connections and relationships of people you enjoy spending quality time with. The kind of people who bring you joy, lift you up, listen to you and support you and vice versa.

While technology and social media have great benefits, too much of it can hinder our ability to be present and it can prevent us from enjoying what’s around us. Unplugging occasionally from technology and social media is vital in our quest to taking care of our minds.

Take small breaks during the day. Beyond your lunch break, take small breaks as needed during the day. Make it an intentional practice to move around in your office, school or home. Instead of sending that email to your colleague, walk over to deliver your message in person if feasible.

Self-care buddy. This is my personal favorite: designating someone to hold you accountable on your self-care journey. At work, appoint colleagues who can remind you to have lunch and/or someone you can go on a walk with when stressed. At home, appoint loved ones who can support you in staying healthy and remind you of your commitment to yourself.

Use smartphone apps to support your practice. Some of my favorite are Calm and Bloom. Calm has different visualization images like beaches, mountains, rainforests with natural sounds that match the images. You have to try it to see the impact. You will literally be transported to those places.  Bloom is an app where you can include daily reminders including inspirational notes that you can load with images (your own pictures or from stock) and music. In this app, you can include reminders such as remembering to take a break, remembering to take a deep breath. You can schedule those messages to pop up throughout the day. It is kind of fun to get the messages when you least expect them but when you need them the most.

These are just a few ideas of endless activities you can do to keep up with your self-care. What may work for one person, may not work for another. The key to self-care is doing activities that can nourish our minds, bodies, and souls. The tools are within our reach to practice consistently, as a necessity, as a way of survival just like breathing and eating.

An Easy-to-Use Guide to Incidental Mindfulness: A Mini Rest for the Busy Brain

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Artwork created by Author Felicity Mary Cross

Do you constantly live in the future, or in the past? Are you constantly planning ahead or thinking over and over about past events?  Do you experience a million racing thoughts, like what groceries to buy, did you put the washing on, have you paid bills, when to pick up the kids and who’s going to what sports and when?

We live in an era of business. We are constantly on the move, juggling multiple jobs, roles and responsibilities. No previous generation has been as time poor, or had as many competing concerns as we have, it is a chaotic affair just to juggle work and children and life. And all those constant and intrusive thoughts make for busy heads. Being busy by definition means we have little time to counteract this with relaxation or rest, let alone any great mental health relaxation training techniques. Who has the time for meditation, not I and I bet not you!

Mindfulness is a buzz word we hear a lot these days, but the positive effects of Mindfulness training are not disputed because it works. Mindfulness is literally a practice that involves pulling our thoughts back from that chaotic level of everyday thought, and thinking purely in the moment.

Focusing on what’s being experienced right now. In Mindfulness practice, we are promoting a certain quieting of the busy mind. Unlike meditation where you are required to empty your mind of thoughts which can be quite difficult without extensive practice, mindfulness practice allows you to still let your mind work and let thoughts occur. The point is to make these thoughts moment specific and simple.

The theory is that by doing this simple exercise you can reduce stress and increase your well-being. But again who has time to follow a mindfulness regime?

The answer is all of us. We don’t have to make mindfulness a long drawn out affair; we can practice a simplified form called Incidental Mindfulness. Incidental Mindfulness is literally taking a small moment in your day to practice Mindfulness; this moment can literally be 30 seconds to a few minutes, for example:

  • When you are washing up, try to stop your busy thoughts and really focus on being in the moment, making your thoughts specific to that very moment: how does the warm water feel on your hands, how the soap feels against your skin, slippery against the dishes. Try to quiet your thoughts by just focusing on what you are feeling and being fully present and planted in that moment.
  • Or, sit wherever you happen to be and focus on your surroundings. Again try to quiet your mind and let go of the chaotic everyday thoughts and think about how your body feels sitting in the chair, be aware of your surroundings, smells, sounds, and sights, let the thoughts flow in and out of your mind i.e. I hear a bird chirping, a car driving by, my legs are relaxed or sore. Noticing immediate feelings and thoughts, being fully present in that moment and in that place.
  • When you are eating or drinking, for example having a cup of tea. Take a moment to stop and think about how the cup feels warm in your hands, how the tea tastes, the sensation of the warm tea down your throat, if you can smell your tea. Noticing all the physical sensations of drinking your tea, and how that makes you feel, again being fully present and pulling your thoughts right back to the immediate sensations and thoughts.
  • When you are in the shower focusing on washing your body, try using your non-dominate hand (if you are right handed or try using your left hand). Fully noticing your motions/actions and how that feels, if it is awkward or uncomfortable; how your skin feels and the sensation of the wash cloth on your skin, the sound of the running water. Looking intently at your hands, your legs, noticing all your limbs, how they look and how they feeling. Again fully noticing all your physical sensations, using your senses, touch, smell, sight and hearing.

As you can see anyone can practice Incidental Mindfulness, at any time, in any place! Find an activity that works for you, and one that is easy and non-disruptive to your busy life. This practice is meant to reduce stress, not add stress, so please remember the one and only rule: keep it simple. We wish you improved health and well-being through helpful, easy-to-use Incidental Mindfulness to begin de-cluttering your busy brains.

We All Win by Helping Kids Escape Poverty and the Ghetto

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A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) by three Harvard economists provides conclusive evidence that the Moving to Opportunity experiment worked. Prior research failed to document any significant economic gains for older children and adults who moved into lower poverty neighborhoods, but findings for younger children shows significant improvements. Data are now available to analyze their outcomes as adults.

Children in the program who moved before they were 13 years old (eight years old on average) were more likely to attend college, have substantially higher earnings as adults, and females were less likely to become single parents. They also wound up living in better neighborhoods and paying more taxes. These findings were consistent across race and gender.

The Moving to Opportunity experiment was conducted between 1994 and 1998 in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City with a sample of 4,604 families who were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. The experimental voucher group received a subsidized housing voucher and was required to move to a census tract with a poverty rate of less than 10 percent.

A second group received a Section 8 voucher that provided standard subsidized housing, a third group was not offered a housing voucher and remained in public housing. Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence F. Katz, the study’s authors, restricted their analysis to the 8,603 children born in or before 1991 who would be 21 years old in 2012—the latest year that they had tax.

Prior research by Jens Ludwig found little or no impact on the economic outcomes of adults in the MTO experiment although he did find improvements in mental health, physical health, and subjective well-being of adults as well as family safety. His analyses found statistically insignificant differences among older children in the experiment—those 13 to 18 years of age.

In fact, moving to a lower poverty neighborhood had a slightly negative effect on older children in the experimental group which was explained by a disruption effect on social networks and other child development. However, this latest research found younger children in the experimental cohort were expected to increase their lifetime earnings by around $302,000. Researchers did not find a “critical” age a child had to be moved from a high poverty area, but they did find that every extra year living in a low poverty area had benefits.

Their findings complement previous research by Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Greg Duncan and others that documented significant correlations between exposure to high-poverty neighborhoods and later poor outcomes. Some studies found that exposure to negative environments in the earliest years of childhood produced larger negative outcomes. These results cry out for social engineering. Unfortunately the free market will not sort this out.

While it is obvious that all poor families cannot benefit from such an experiment, perhaps there can be a lottery system that can move as many poor families as possible out of the ghetto into lower poverty neighborhoods. There are never enough vouchers to go around. Back in October 58,000 people signed up for a lottery when the City of Baltimore re-opened its waitlist after more than a decade. Less than half—25,000—would make the waitlist and just 6,000 to 9,000 of them would actually receive a Section 8 voucher. Something is very wrong with this picture.

Similar conditions will continue in many municipalities if no changes are made in the FY2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill released two weeks ago by the House Appropriations Committee which—according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition—underfunds tenant-based rental assistance by $665 million denying thousands of young children a chance to escape high-poverty environments.

Perhaps today’s Republican leaders should be reminded of the words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower who said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

How To Be A More Ethical Manager

The surly, unfriendly boss has long been a corporate stereotype and the butt of many jokes in the workplace. However in modern businesses, organisations, and charities, the manager is increasingly responsible for the wellbeing of staff which means finding modern ways to motivate.

How to Be a More Ethical Manager
How to Be a More Ethical Manager

From the CEO to the project manager, every supervisor in a charity has a role to play in motivating staff and keeping morale high. There are various skills you can develop to make yourself more effective as a manager in your charity or business, and we’ll look at a few here.

Flexibility

Managers are increasingly having to learn to be flexible. The information age has introduced a huge range of challenges for the modern boss, from the use of social media (authorised or not) to the monitoring of staff performance in the cloud. Managers need to teach and learn. Most importantly, they must accept that other team members may have more to contribute on certain topics. The ability to be part of a team, as well as its leader, will serve any manager well as they strive to be more ethical in their leadership.

Generosity

The modern manager needs to be confident in their appraisal of a situation, yet willing to bend and adapt – and willing to admit when they’re wrong. An ethical approach to leadership means letting others lead when they are in a better position to do so, then stepping up to help when others struggle. Charity employees are in an ideal position to recognise opportunities to give more of themselves and realise when energy can be conserved for other tasks.

Motivation

Modern bosses are increasingly asked to motivate staff using positive methods rather than correction. That means finding the employee’s trigger and using it to lead them towards positive change. For some employees, that might be an extra break, an early finish or a bonus. For others, simply recognising their achievements is enough.

Managers are increasingly aware that punishment breeds resentment, and in voluntary jobs or charity work, the ability to motivate is a critical skill. The very best managers and bosses inspire a willingness to learn and a desire to work hard, and are able to discover the things that make their team members ‘tick’ in order to foster a positive, productive working environment.

Keeping With the Times

According to this blog by Sue Brooks, a human resources expert, our modern, ethical bosses need “great learning capacity and the boldness to try new ideas”. Bosses also arguably need the confidence to tackle problems in the team, or the organisation, and willingness to admit to their own flaws before blaming others.

Breeding honesty, transparency and trust is a great way to ensure your team stays motivated and united in its aims: to do good work for your charity or non-profit and approach each task with a can-do attitude. Sure, it’s a matter for HR, but it’s also a matter for any business or charity that employs people and needs their commitment to the job.

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