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Have Too Many Bad Habits? Here Are 6 Ways To Create Good Ones

PASADENA JOURNAL — It’s said that we become our habits. In some cases that is not a good thing; bad habits prevail among many Americans. One report found that over 70 percent of US adults have at least one unhealthy behavior associated with chronic health problems. Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, but sometimes the best answer is replacing them with empowering new habits that bring positive changes to one’s daily life.

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By Journal Staff

It’s said that we become our habits. In some cases that is not a good thing; bad habits prevail among many Americans. One report found that over 70 percent of US adults have at least one unhealthy behavior associated with chronic health problems.

Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, but sometimes the best answer is replacing them with empowering new habits that bring positive changes to one’s daily life.

“We often have habits that hold us back, like smoking or eating food lacking in nutrition,” says Dr. Rob Carter III, co-author with his wife, Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter, of The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life (www.themorningmind.com).

“A great way to start every day is with a series of empowering habits. Morning, in fact, according to some researchers is the best time to start making these kinds of changes in your life.”

Carter has six ways you can create new, empowering habits and make them stick:

  • Prioritize habits. “For each area in which you want to grow,” Carter says, “take some time to think about what kind of empowering habits you’d like to establish around that topic.”
    Areas to consider are health, wealth, social, relationships, job, hobbies, self-esteem, interpersonal skills, positive thinking, time management, and life purpose.
  • Focus on one at a time. “Because we have a limited amount of willpower in the morning, it’s very important how we use that energy,” Carter says. “By focusing on just one habit you would like to change – for example, eating a healthy breakfast – you can concentrate that willpower on the task at hand until it becomes a habit.”
  • Be reasonable with yourself. The time it will take to establish the new habit depends upon how much resistance a person has. And sometimes developing a new habit represents a long leap from where one currently stands. “That’s too daunting,” Carter says, “so break it down into more achievable steps. Incremental improvements add up to a big transformation and are often more powerful and sustainable.”
  • Commit specific time toward the goal. Carter suggests nailing down a detailed timeline and committing a full effort toward formation of the new habit within that time span. “Write down what you hope to achieve, how many times a week you will practice the new habit, and when and where you’ll do it,” Carter says. “Having a specific goal helps keep you accountable to yourself.
  • Reward success. Have a reward in place to celebrate performing your new habit. “It has to be something that will motivate you to complete your habit,” Carter says.
  • Stack habits. “The neural pathways of your pre-existing habits are well-travelled routes in your brain,” Carter says. “You can take advantage of this by building a new habit and associating it with an old one that is well-established. This is a quicker way to create new habits than if you were to start from scratch. For example, if you want to create a new habit of exercising in the morning, and you have a habit of reading the newspaper every morning, tie these activities together by exercising immediately before you read the paper. Reading the paper becomes your reward.”

“When you learn for yourself how simple it is to change habits,” Carter says, “you’ll want to make adjustments to all areas of your life.”

[Dr. Rob Carter III and Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter are co-authors of The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life (www.themorningmind.com).]

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New Parents and a Newborn with Sickle Cell Disease: What Now?

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In this article, I’d like to introduce you to TaLana Hughes, a mother of three who is also the executive director of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois (SCDAI). TaLana has one child with Sickle Cell Disease and two children with the sickle cell trait.

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It’s important to know that in recent years we’ve seen advances in understanding and scientific breakthroughs that are potentially paving the way for better care of people with SCD. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Ask Dr. Kevin

By Dr. Kevin Williams , Chief Medical Officer for Rare Disease at Pfizer

The “Ask Dr. Kevin” series is brought to you by Pfizer Rare Disease in collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) to increase understanding of sickle cell disease.

Dr. Kevin Williams is the Chief Medical Officer for Rare Disease at Pfizer where he leads a Medical Affairs organization of approximately 150 medical colleagues around the globe. He pursued medicine after being inspired by his father’s work as a general practitioner in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dr. Kevin is passionate about raising awareness and increasing understanding of rare diseases, such as sickle cell disease, in the African American community.

For the last two years, I’ve been honored to talk with you about sickle cell disease (SCD) through this column, sharing important information and my perspectives as a medical professional. Now, as the “Ask Dr. Kevin” series enters its third year, I wanted to change things a bit by letting you also hear directly from those who matter most—people living with SCD and their caregivers.

In this article, I’d like to introduce you to TaLana Hughes, a mother of three who is also the executive director of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois (SCDAI). TaLana has one child with SCD and two children with the sickle cell trait.

As TaLana knows from both personal experience and through her work with SCDAI, learning that your child has SCD can feel overwhelming and scary. While family and friends can be an important source of support, they may not always know the best way to help—and parents may find it hard to explain what they need.

In order to help people better understand what it’s like to be a parent of a newborn with SCD, and how family and friends can be most helpful, TaLana and I share our thoughts below on some of the most common questions we’ve been asked about the topic.

What are the biggest fears and challenges parents face upon learning their child has SCD?

TaLana: Immediately after my child received the diagnosis, my husband and I experienced an initial wave of shock and fear. It became suddenly apparent that both of us have the sickle cell trait which we passed down to our child. After the initial shock wore off, a million questions started to run through our minds, and we wondered what this would ultimately mean for our daughter.

Dr. Kevin: I know that for many parents, an SCD diagnosis can certainly be overwhelming, and I see how parents may fear the worst. However, it’s important to know that in recent years we’ve seen advances in understanding and scientific breakthroughs that are potentially paving the way for better care of people with SCD.

I also can’t stress enough to new parents the importance of setting up a healthcare team for their child as soon as possible. Receiving care early and often can help reduce the impacts and complications of the disease. SCD takes a toll on all systems of the body, so having a team made up of a pediatric hematologist, primary care doctor, and other specialists, such as an eye doctor, pulmonologist, cardiologist, and dentist, is key to the health of the child.

What are some tips for helping parents cope with the news?

TaLana: I know that I needed time to digest the news to really understand how the diagnosis would impact our child and family. Once I had a stronger understanding of the disease and how it would manifest over time as my child grew, I started to have a better idea of the support needed from my family and our local community.

Dr. Kevin: I’ve seen incredible connections and support systems form when parents of a child with SCD talk with other parents going through the same thing. There’s a certain comfort that comes from talking to those who have “been there, done that.” Parents can meet other families through local community groups, online platforms like oneSCDvoice*, which includes curated content and a wealth of information for those in the SCD community, and the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), which publishes a calendar of local SCD events around the country.

How can family and friends offer support?

TaLana: I tell parents of children with SCD to educate their loved ones about the disease and to communicate how it affects your child. Teaching others about the condition gives me the opportunity to explain what kind of specific support I need. It also allows my family and friends to figure out how to best provide support—whether it be a ride to an appointment, a change of clothes for an overnight stay in the hospital, or help with small chores at home.

Dr. Kevin: I also encourage family members and friends to learn as much as they can on their own, because there are still a number of misperceptions about the disease. For example, the belief that a baby born with SCD will die before reaching adulthood. As I mentioned in a previous article, this is a myth! The majority of children with SCD live to adulthood, thanks to advances in SCD care. However, the life expectancy of someone with SCD in the US is only between 40 and 60 years, compared to average US life expectancy of 78.8 years. By understanding the truths about SCD, family and friends are in a better position to provide meaningful support and be allies.

What tools are most helpful for new parents caring for their child with SCD?

TaLana: I always carry a notebook with me so I can take notes and keep track of my child’s “baseline” and SCD history to see how the disease manifests over time. I have an overnight bag in my trunk that includes a change of clothes and snacks. I carry a thermometer in my purse to take my child’s temperature and an incentive spirometer to help facilitate stronger breathing. I’ve also joined a group chat with other parents who have children with SCD, and this has been one of my most important tools for connecting with and learning from other parents who share this experience.

Dr. Kevin: These are great suggestions. I would also encourage parents to connect with their local SCD organization, like an SCDAA local chapter. With a disease like SCD, which is rare in the US and often misunderstood, connecting with others who have similar experiences and challenges is so important for building your support system.

Do infants experience pain crises? What are the warning signs? What is your best advice for new parents when it comes to handling a newborn having a crisis?

TaLana: Yes, infants can have pain crises. However, because they can’t communicate with words and explain any pain they are experiencing, recognizing pain crises can be difficult. In my own experience, the first warning signs are usually dactylitis, where the hands and feet begin to swell, and a fever. However, because new parents usually pay attention to anything out of the ordinary seen in their newborn, they often are able to notice how their own child displays warning signs.

When it comes to noticing something out of the ordinary in my child, I always play it safe. I also find it really beneficial to speak with other parents with children who have SCD and to learn about what they see in their own children and discuss how they’ve handled episodes of pain.

Dr. Kevin: It’s also important for parents to understand that pain crises are unfortunately a universal experience for people with SCD. Crises typically manifest in infants aged six months and older, and they are often unpredictable and can occur up to several times a year. So, to TaLana’s point, learning to recognize what a pain crisis looks like in their child will help parents know when to seek help.

What do babysitters or other caregivers need to know?

TaLana: I make sure other caregivers and babysitters know about my child’s personal regimens and what to do in case of an emergency. I share important pointers, like to make sure my child is hydrated and never around smoke, which can increase the risk of Acute Chest Syndrome (ACS), a bout of pneumonia or a serious lung condition due to the sickling of red blood cells, in people with SCD.

Lastly, I make sure they know how special my child is and all the wonderful qualities she has. I tell them her likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests, and what makes her laugh. Having SCD may be a normal part of my child’s life, but I make sure she is not defined by her condition.

Dr. Kevin: I agree wholeheartedly. Children with SCD are children first and foremost. While the disease affects them, it certainly does not define them—nor should SCD or any disease define the person who has it.

For more information about parenting a child with SCD, check out “A Parents Handbook for Sickle Cell Disease” and the CDC’s “5 Facts You Should Know about SCD.”

Keep up to date on Pfizer’s SCD efforts by visiting our page here. You can also follow Pfizer on Facebook and Twitter.

*Supported by Pfizer

About Dr. Kevin Williams

Dr. Kevin Williams is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Pfizer Rare Disease. In this role, he leads a Medical Affairs organization of approximately 150 medical colleagues around the globe supporting Pfizer’s efforts and portfolio in Rare Disease. Dr. Kevin joined Pfizer in January 2004 as a Director of Regional Medical & Research Specialist working in the HIV disease area. After moving into a Team Leader position in July 2005, he served in various leadership roles during his career at Pfizer. Dr. Kevin moved into his current Rare Disease CMO position in May 2016.

Dr. Kevin received his medical degree from the UCLA School of Medicine and is board certified in Internal Medicine. Following a 2-year fellowship in Health Services Research at UCLA and a brief academic career as an Instructor of Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine, he spent     8 years in private practice caring for HIV-positive patients while maintaining an academic appointment at the UCLA School of Medicine as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine. In addition to his medical degree, Dr. Kevin has a Master’s in Public Health from the UCLA School of Public Health and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.

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Don’t Chase Last Year’s Mutual Fund Category Winners

PASADENA JOURNAL — The world of mutual funds can be confusing. With more than 9,000 funds on the market, how can you choose the ones that are right for you? One way to start is by considering the various categories of mutual funds – and there are quite a few of them: Small Cap Growth, Large Cap Growth, Large Cap Value, Diversified Emerging Markets, Foreign Large Cap Blend and more – the list is extensive, and for many people, confusing.

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The world of mutual funds can be confusing. With more than 9,000 funds on the market, how can you choose the ones that are right for you?

Arnetta Tolley

Arnetta Tolley

One way to start is by considering the various categories of mutual funds – and there are quite a few of them: Small Cap Growth, Large Cap Growth, Large Cap Value, Diversified Emerging Markets, Foreign Large Cap Blend and more – the list is extensive, and for many people, confusing.

However, with a little study, you can understand why these funds have their names – for example, a Small Cap Growth fund will contain stocks of smaller companies thought to offer growth potential. Once you know the goals of different categories of mutual funds, you can determine which ones fit into your overall investment strategy.

This is important, because you want to ensure your portfolio is appropriately diversified. For example, if you find that almost all of your mutual funds come from the above-mentioned Small Cap Growth category, you may be taking on more investment risk than you’d like, because funds that offer the greatest growth possibilities also usually carry the highest degree of market volatility. Typically, you may be better off owning an array of mutual funds drawn from several different categories, with the percentage each category occupies in your portfolio based on your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. (Keep in mind, though, that while diversification can help reduce the effects of volatility, it doesn’t guarantee a profit or protect against losses in a declining market.)

You might be tempted to choose categories by looking at which most recently outperformed the others, and just stick with those groups. But is this a good idea?
It probably isn’t – and the main reason you shouldn’t chase performance this way is things change very quickly in the mutual funds arena. It’s quite possible – and has happened many times – that the top category last year can fall into one of the worst-performing ones this year, and vice versa. Consequently, your efforts to capture a winning trend may be futile.

Of course, within the context of investing in various mutual fund categories, you still need to choose individual funds. And, as is the case with categories, you might be tempted to give considerable weight to a fund’s track record. But, similar to the situation with fund categories, “chasing performance” is typically not a good strategy – after all, last year’s “hot” fund may have cooled off considerably this year. Nonetheless, reviewing a fund’s longer-term track record can help you understand how it might perform through the ups and downs of the financial markets. Always keep in mind, though, that past performance can’t guarantee how the fund will perform in the future.

Mutual funds are popular investments – and for good reason. Since each fund generally contains dozens of securities, you get a degree of diversification you can’t achieve from owning individual stocks or bonds. And, as discussed above, you can diversify further by owning funds from several categories. Just remember, though, that as you build your mutual fund portfolio, don’t get caught up in last year’s results – because old news just may not be that relevant today.

Mutual fund investing involves risk. Your principal and investment return in a mutual fund will fluctuate in value. Your investment, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than the original cost.

[Arnetta Tolley, Edward Jones Financial Advisor, 626-744-2740 or arnetta.tolley@edwardjones.com]

This article originally appeared in the Pasadena Journal

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14 Foods You Absolutely Need in Your Kitchen

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Shopping on a budget can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to be healthy. Plant-based diets can be especially costly, attributing to the large population of underserved communities that face food insecurity and poor nutrition. A plant-based diet consists mostly of foods derived from plants with few or no animal products and is proven to reduce the risk of chronic health issues and improve quality of life. While the options may seem overwhelming and your budget may not appear to accommodate this lifestyle, the Bridge guarantees that grocery shopping* for a week can be as low as $20.

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By Saskia Kercy

Plant-based Milk Alternatives : Non-dairy alternatives like soy, nuts, seeds, oats, or rice are healthier, cruelty-free and low-cost, especially if homemade.

Eggs : With 6 grams of protein per serving, eggs are a great source of protein in your diet and can be eaten in a variety of ways.

Onions : Onions can serve as the foundation for all foods, adding both taste and texture to any meal.

Peanut Butter : A tasty treat packed with 8 grams of protein, peanut butter can be paired with fruit, crackers or bread for the perfect midday snack.

Frozen Fruit : For quick smoothies or fun additions to meals, buy fresh fruit and cut into smaller pieces to preserve in the freezer.

Tomato Paste : A tasty multipurpose base, tomato paste is high in antioxidants that promote skin health and fight against many chronic diseases.

Quinoa : Quinoa is a high-fiber, high-protein superfood that can serve as an alternative to rice.

Beans : High protein, low calorie and low saturated fats levels are three of the many reasons to incorporate beans into your diet.

Oatmeal : Oats are one of the healthiest grains, with vitamin and mineral levels that keep you fuller longer.

Lentils : A personal favorite, these high protein, high fiber legumes can be eaten as a soup, chili, side, dip, stew, or bean alternative.

Raw Honey : This natural sweetener can add a little smile to your tea, coffee, pancakes, waffles, yogurt and cereal.

Mushrooms : Mushrooms boost immune system health, prevent disease and can be paired with virtually any meal for an added nutritional kick.

Nuts : Whether it’s almond, cashew, peanut, walnut, or anything in between, nuts are jam-packed with healthy fats and proteins that keep you strong and alert.

Leafy Greens : Leafy greens like kale, collard, spinach and cabbage are essential to a balanced diet. In addition to their superfood powers, they are the perfect combo to meals, snacks and even smoothies.

$20 Dollar Holla

Shopping on a budget can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to be healthy. Plant-based diets can be especially costly, attributing to the large population of underserved communities that face food insecurity and poor nutrition. A plant-based diet consists mostly of foods derived from plants with few or no animal products and is proven to reduce the risk of chronic health issues and improve quality of life. While the options may seem overwhelming and your budget may not appear to accommodate this lifestyle, the Bridge guarantees that grocery shopping* for a week can be as low as $20.

Breakfast
$2.00 : Bananas
$3.00 : Instant Oatmeal
$2.00 : Large Eggs

Lunch
$2.00 : Broccoli Crowns
$3.00 | Quinoa
$1.00 | Red Kidney Beans

Dinner
$2.00 | Extra Firm Tofu
$2.00 | Green Cabbage
$3.00 | Potatoes

*prices based on Giant Food and rounded to the nearest dollar

This post originally appeared in the Washington Informer.

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Attorney Eboni K. Williams wants you to treat yourself as a business

ROLLINGOUT — Eboni K. Williams is a national TV host, attorney, and author who wants you to “treat yourself like a business, regardless of your employment status.” Williams says “…even if you’re working full-time for a company, everyone should think of their employer as a client, and not necessarily their only client.”

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Eboni K. Williams (Photo provided)

By Porsha Monique

Eboni K. Williams is a national TV host, attorney, and author who wants you to “treat yourself like a business, regardless of your employment status.” Williams says “…even if you’re working full-time for a company, everyone should think of their employer as a client, and not necessarily their only client.”

We talked more with Williams about how people should function as their own business. Some of the advice she shared included establishing a personal brand independent of your employer, negotiating terms more aggressively, setting up an LLC for project work, and more. Check out the article below to read further on what she had to share.

Why is it important for people to treat themselves like a business?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I take a position that we’re all entrepreneurs. I don’t believe that any one of us can afford to be job candidates in this work environment in 2019. I encourage everyone, even if you have a day job, to really see yourself and assert yourself as a business owner. I think it’s critically important.

What does treating yourself like a business mean to you?

I think it’s self-explanatory. You have to see yourself as a decision maker, as the CEO of whatever it is you’re doing. I don’t care if it’s cleaning toilets. But that company should be a client of yours. So, [that means] not being beholden to any one job, and seeing yourself as always having a skillset.

It also means always approaching every single business interaction from the skill/value correlation space; whether it’s working for your day job, side gig, side hustle, or if you’re in a freelance basis, or some combination of them all. [You should position] yourself as the chief executive of the decisions that are in your best interest.

Your book Pretty Powerful came out in 2017. What does the title suggest?

The book is a love letter to women, and I’m unapologetic about that. Pretty is a word that has been very manipulated in terms of the way we define it and understand it. I think it’s been perverted even. When I say pretty, I mean pretty. I mean something that all the ways that as people and as women particularly, we can construe pretty in our faith, in our confidence, in our comfortability as we show up in the world. That is what I mean by pretty. And that should look a million different ways.

When I say pretty powerful, I mean that. I mean the extraction of a literal power dynamic that comes from your assertion of your comfortability in the way you show up in the world. So, it is not a pun, or a play on words. It is a very literal interpretation by me: “Pretty Powerful.”

Is another book on the horizon?

Absolutely. [It’s] in the works. We’re a little ways away from it, but I will tell you it will be deeply personal and it’s going to be a different kind of personal love letter to people.

What other advice would you give, especially for women?

The more general you are, the more generic you are, and therefore the more difficult you make it to command specificity when it comes to, not just your pay, but your overall value. I have an Instagram post that was very well received, where I [posted] the hashtag #ValuableAF. It was my New Year’s post. I had come back from a trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe and really stepped into wholly valuing myself because of the way I felt valued in those spaces, in ways I did not necessarily feel valued here in the states, in my personal and business relationships and even within my own family structure.

So, just making sure as women in particular, they hold out on their value proposition and assert it, and perfect it. But at the same time, make sure they know what they’re clear about what their value is. Meaning, a lot of the times, some of these women’s empowerment mantras are about lady boss, I’m bossed up, I’m slaying, but what’s the underlying message? People have to do the work. You’re not valuable because you walk around with a vagina. You’re valuable because you’re offering something that is uniquely important and consequential to your community, to your family and to your society.

This article originally appeared in Rollingout.com
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Work Toward Your Own Financial Independence Day

PASADENA JOURNAL — For starters, you’ll want to determine what financial independence means to you. Is it the liberty to meet all your cash fl ow needs? The freedom to retire comfortably, at the age you choose? The ability to set up the kind of legacy you’d like to leave? If any or all of these things are important to you, consider the following suggestions:

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By Arnetta Tolley, Edward Jones Financial Advisor

Once again, it’s time for fireworks, picnics and parades as the nation celebrates Independence Day. Collectively, we enjoy many liberties, but some freedoms can be elusive – and financial freedom is one of them. What actions can you take to help yourself eventually declare your own financial independence?

Arnetta Tolley

Arnetta Tolley

For starters, you’ll want to determine what financial independence means to you. Is it the liberty to meet all your cash fl ow needs? The freedom to retire comfortably, at the age you choose? The ability to set up the kind of legacy you’d like to leave? If any or all of these things are important to you, consider the following suggestions:

  • Liberate yourself from oppressive debts. The cost of living is certainly not cheap, so it’s hardly surprising that so many people incur significant debt. Yet, the higher your debt load, the less you’ll have available to invest for the future. Debt might be one of the biggest barriers you face on the road to your financial independence. To avoid piling on too much debt, live within your means. Take steps such as saving for a vacation, rather than putting it all on your credit card, and getting just one more year out of that old car. Look for bargains everywhere – and find out what you can live without. And if you have sizable debts, see if you can consolidate them and lower your interest payments.
  • Free yourself from chaotic investing. The financial markets can be unpredictable – but that doesn’t mean your investment moves have to be chaotic. So, for example, instead of responding to a sudden plunge in stock prices by selling stocks that still may be fundamentally sound with strong growth potential, you might be much better off by holding your ground. And you’ll be in a better position to do nothing during periods of market volatility when you’ve already done something – namely, built an investment portfolio that reflects your goals, time horizon and risk tolerance. With this type of portfolio in place, you’ll be in a good position to overlook the day-to-day fluctuations in the market and keep your focus on your long-term goals.
  • Unleash the potential in your retirement plan. Your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan is a great way to save for retirement. You can contribute pre-tax dollars, so the more you put in, the lower your taxable income, and your earnings can grow tax deferred. (With a Roth 401(k), you put in after-tax dollars, but your withdrawals are tax-free, provided you meet certain conditions.)
    But despite these tax advantages, your 401(k)’s full potential won’t be realized unless you fund it adequately. Try to contribute as much as you can afford each year and increase your contributions as your salary goes up. Another way to uncap your 401(k)’s potential is by choosing appropriate investments. Your 401(k) likely contains a dozen or more investment options, so you’ll want a mix that offers the greatest possibilities for growth within the context of your personal risk tolerance.

Gaining your financial independence requires time and commitment. But once you’ve achieved this freedom, you’ll know it was worth the effort. And who knows? You might even want to wave a sparkler or two to celebrate.

[Arnetta Tolley, Financial Advisor, Edward Jones, 626-744-2740 or arnetta.tolley@edwardjones.com]

This article originally appeared in the Pasadena Journal

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Living Our ‘Best Lives’. Or Are We?

THE FLORIDA STAR — With drastic advances in technology and the overuse, and oftentimes misuse, of social media research indicates that heavy social media use may also lead to fewer meaningful in-person (or real) human interactions. Without meaningful social interactions, it is virtually impossible for friends, family and loved ones to detect that there may be any issues or mental health concerns. Let’s face it, we post our best pictures on social media, snap shots of our favorite meals from those 5 star restaurants, fast and expensive cars, lavish vacations riding horses on the beaches of Aruba, jet-skiing on South Beach in Miami, the best and biggest houses, the nicest cars, clothes and jewelry and the list goes on. These images on social media often depict the persona of a life that is unbothered, free from stress, what can appear to be ‘perfect’.

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Dr. Sheila D. Williams (Photo by: thefloridastar.com)

By Dr. Sheila D. Williams

With drastic advances in technology and the overuse, and oftentimes misuse, of social media research indicates that heavy social media use may also lead to fewer meaningful in-person (or real) human interactions. Without meaningful social interactions, it is virtually impossible for friends, family and loved ones to detect that there may be any issues or mental health concerns. Let’s face it, we post our best pictures on social media, snap shots of our favorite meals from those 5 star restaurants, fast and expensive cars, lavish vacations riding horses on the beaches of Aruba, jet-skiing on South Beach in Miami, the best and biggest houses, the nicest cars, clothes and jewelry and the list goes on. These images on social media often depict the persona of a life that is unbothered, free from stress, what can appear to be ‘perfect’.

This ‘perfect’ persona that many portray of themselves and the lives they live, is unrealistic and promotes a false image that many children and young adults feel immense pressure to live up to. By constantly being bombarded by the need to ‘fit in’ and overwhelming feelings of not measuring up, the unhealthy comparison to those on social media who have ‘perfect lives’ has led to increased rates of depression, thoughts, attempts and completion of suicide. Sure many of us can discern between what we see on social media and what is truly ‘reality’, but for children and those already suffering from low self-esteem, or emotional and/or psychological disorders, the constant images of others living their ‘Best Lives’, can lead to increased levels of stress and depression for those that are observing.

While income inequality and the percent of uninsured adults in the US has drastically increased, so has the rates of suicide. Did you know that suicide occurs in the US approximately once every 12 minutes and that suicide now claims two-and-a-half times as many lives in the U.S. than homicides? So why is it that we are not focusing more attention on this epidemic? Why are we not addressing this issue and the factors that lead up to suicidal ideations and attempts? Why are we not addressing the need for mental health services for children in schools, prisons or even hospitals?

I propose we take a minute to regain focus. Let’s be real with ourselves, FIRST. We have to get back to the basics of understanding that we are all a work in progress. None of us are perfect. In fact, to even think that we have perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect relationships, perfect finances, perfect careers/jobs, and relationships is unrealistic and a set-up for disastrous thinking. Let’s get back to having ‘human interaction’. Let’s talk to one another (face to face) and develop real and meaningful relationships. You know, like we used to do. Let’s turn off and unplug from social media sometimes and simply enjoy one another and this thing called ‘life’. Let’s learn to enjoy the moment, be present in the moment. In fact, rather than quickly pulling out our smartphones to take pictures of those 5 star meals, let’s thank God for allowing us to be able to afford the meal, the health to enjoy the meal and even the company (if you have company) that is dining with you. As a person who loves to post and share on social media myself, I’m learning that everything doesn’t require a post and it’s okay to unplug and that, in my opinion, is how we Live Our Best Lives!

www.DrSheilaDWilliams.com

If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.

Dr. Sheila D. Williams, Ph.D.
Mental Health Advocate
Best-Selling Author of
‘My Mother’s Keeper’
Internationally Certified Speaker,
Trainer and Coach
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This article originally appeared in The Florida Star

The Florida-Georgia Star

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