Tips To Help You Plan A Fulfilling Cruise

Cruises are some of the most exciting vacations you can choose to enjoy. They offer unbeatable value because you do not have to think about constant transportation needs from place to place and neither do you have to pay costly airfares to your destination. The cruises give you the chance to enjoy refreshing sea air helping you relax and simply enjoy the warm ocean breezes whenever. With so many ports scattered around the world, you can place a cruise travel to visit areas that you have always wanted to visit.

If you love water and water activities, then cruises will prove to be most rewarding to you. But then to enjoy the most pleasant experience you still need to plan properly for your cruise. When everything is in order from the initial stages, then you are bound to enjoy a fulfilling vacation on a ship.

1. Know the number of people cruising with you

If it is just a few of you, then planning should be easy, but you will need a lot more planning and coordination when you plan to travel with more family members and friends. If you are bringing children along, then you need to make sure that the cruise package has plenty of activities for them too. You can plan for a private kind of cruises or you can choose to pay for cruises that accommodate lots of other people headed the same direction you are. The important thing is to choose what works for you and the people you are tagging along.

2. Choose the best cruise length

Cruise packages differ in length and the vacation time you have available should help you select the length that is most suitable. A cruise can be only a few days or you can choose one that goes for a week and more. A weekend cruise can be a great choice for those with little time to spare. With so many destinations and packages, you should be able to plan a cruise length that you can afford and enjoy to the fullest.

3. Pick the best stateroom

People have different preferences when it comes to cruises and your stateroom choices should be guided by your vacation preferences. For instance, if what you dream of is lounging in a private balcony as you enjoy the gracious tropical views, then a balcony stateroom is the ideal selection. Couples can cruise in a suite or a penthouse to get the most from the cruise vacation. If you are a little pressed on a budget, then you can always settle for an inside stateroom. Some cruise packages can offer you additions such as 24 hour butler for your luxury experience.

4. Consider onboard activities

Even when you are going on a romantic cruise vacation, you will definitely need activities to fill your time on board. Find out what activities you will find on-board and how exciting they will make your cruise. Spa services, wine tasting, bingo, culinary demonstrations, live entertainments and others are some of the most popular on most cruises.

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Brainstorming To Start A Small Business – Questions To Answer

Hello readers and potential future entrepreneurs. I understand the feeling; desire to create, operate, and succeed. Throughout my professional career, I have learned that there are numerous steps that must be taken in order to organize opening and operating a small business. I have put together a few questions which aspiring entrepreneurs should, at the very least, consider reading over. There are many questions that may arise with opening a small business, and I will address a few of those questions briefly in the following list of questions one may ask while brainstorming.

What type of business do you want to open? There are various business endeavors an entrepreneur could involve themselves in. It all comes down to what knowledge one has, or is willing to obtain. Are you a restaurateur? Repairman? Plumber? Home health / assistance? Do you have experience managing or working at such establishments? Do you need formal education from an institution? Will you work as a sole proprietor, or a partner / member? Research limited liability corporations (LLCs) in addition to sole proprietorships and partnerships. S corporations are another option, but they are for business with stockholders, and may not be right for your particular business application.

What kinds of licensing and/or permits are required? Each business will have different licensing requirements; it all comes down to what the entrepreneur ultimately chooses to do. A restaurant would need food safety licensing in addition to basic business licensing, and if alcohol is on the menu – there is another permit the entrepreneur would need to legally sell alcohol on the premises. Repair oriented businesses would need at least the business license to repair, but if they sell parts as well, they would need to have “retail” listed on their business license in addition to “repair”. Health care services require at least formal education and licensing as an LPN, RN, or one of several other health care related licenses. Be sure to check your state’s laws to ensure what is necessary to operate your type of business.

What training / education / certifications are required to legally run this business? We touched upon this in licensing / permits, however there is much more involved than the required licensing. For example, one cannot operate a vehicle collision repair business without the knowledge of performing those types of repairs. There are schools that can be attended to learn what must be learned to effectively operate nearly any kind of business. However, there are also businesses where experience is enough to operate effectively without needing any formal education (lawn care, house cleaning just to name a couple). Also, there are certifications for training in nearly, if not all, care industries.

Does this business require a storefront? Retail establishments will undoubtedly need a storefront. Bear in mind, retail business will have a much larger initial investment than a service based operation. That initial investment is inventory. Some service businesses may not need a storefront to operate, as much of the service performed could very well be on-site. If a storefront is necessary, be sure to consider delivery or on-site service if it is feasible for your operation.

How much will it cost? This number will vary wildly based on the type and size of business you are planning. For smaller businesses, this number could be as low as $200 for a license and/or permit, or as high as a million dollars or more. Obviously, inventory is very expensive, and so are specialized tools for performing extremely precise work. Calculate the expected opening and operating expenses. Determine what size storefront is needed (if applicable), and research local commercial realty properties, locations, and prices. It is absolutely cheaper to rent in the short-term, although the thought of owning property that is paid off is very tempting. Prices on most things will vary based on your location. Employees are another cost, if your business warrants employees. When employees come into the equation as opposed to sole proprietors or partnerships, one must add extra insurance for the business (unemployment insurance comes to mind). Check with your selected insurance company for which types of additional coverage are required, and if offering health insurance can be done reasonably. Those employees will also need to have taxes paid on their wages – part from the employee’s paycheck and part from the company. Another potential cost is repayment of loans, if you don’t already have the capital needed to open your business. Basic operating expenses are not to be forgotten, as heating/cooling, Internet connectivity, and utilities will be regular expenditures for any storefront. On-site service operations cost very little when compared to a physical storefront.

How can an individual pay for this? If you do not have the funds available, which is very common, applying for loans is a way to attain funding. Be sure to have a business plan with projected expenses and revenues. There are other ways to gain funds for a business. Look into grants. While they are not very common, they are a potential source for assistance nonetheless. If many people believe in your dream, one could possibly acquire donations from those individuals.

What about accounting? Bookkeeping is a necessity – research which accounting/bookkeeping software would work best for the type of business you are planning. Point-of-sale (POS) systems are needed for “ringing up” and selling inventory or goods to the customer. POS systems keep track of sales, sales taxes, employee labor dollars spent, and many other items. If you are apt at creating spreadsheets, you may be able to keep track of your own inventory depending on your particular business model.

I hope this brief listing of questions and potential answers has been of assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs. Although there are countless successful entrepreneurs who have little or no formal education in business, it is never a bad idea to research courses regarding administration and management. Be sure to take a look at the Small Business Administration’s website at http://www.SBA.gov for more helpful information.

The author, Johnathan Baker, is an educated entrepreneur, with over ten years of experience in small business administration and management. Opening any type of business is no simple task, as many things must be considered. With experience opening, operating, and managing small businesses, the author aims to help aspiring entrepreneurs in realizing their dreams. While the questions are not all inclusive, they are, at the very least, a good bit of information to consider throughout the beginning processes of opening a small business. Take the information provided and begin or continue working on your business plan on the road to entrepreneurship.

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How to Take a Vacation And Make More Money In Your MLM Business

Being able to make more money in your business when you are taking a vacation sounds amazing and it is possible. In this article, you will learn how to take a vacation and make more money in your MLM business.

There are 3 reasons that you will be able to make more money in your MLM business because of your vacation so get ready to pack your bags.

Shows the Lifestyle

The last thing people want to “sign up” for is another job but when you can show how network marketing allows you to travel and enjoy life, more people will be interested in joining your team and coming on board with your business. Show people the lifestyle by going out there and living life. Not everyone is impressed by your ability to be a shut in.

Sense of Urgency to Get Things Done

When we are getting ready for vacation we understand that we need to get things done. We often get more done in the last few days before a vacation than we have gotten done all month. This is because our brains are helping us work toward the reward instead of just trying to keep busy with mundane tasks.

Clears Your Mind

After you get back from your vacation, you are going to have a new drive and desire to get things done. You will be operating with a clear mind. It is kind of life rebooting your brain so that you can think clearly and be able to get things done in a much more efficient manner.

So, now that you know, get ready to take your vacation and reap the benefits. Grow your network marketing business and enjoy your life at the same time.

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The 12 Easiest Vegetables to Grow in Home Gardens Or Containers For First Time Gardeners

A lot of people, myself included, are growing our own vegetables to beat the credit crunch. And why not? Planting a few seeds in containers, in your backyard or in your garden will yield delicious, organic vegetables – and can save money, too! Growing organic vegetables is easier than you think. Here are the 12 vegetables you will have no problem planting, tending for and harvesting in your own garden, even if you are a first-time gardener!

#1. Radish

These are particularly easy to grow and can be intercropped with rows of lettuce to take up a minimum amount of space! Great thing about radishes is that very few pests bother them. Choose a sunny, sheltered position in soil, well fed with organic matter. Sow the seed thinly, evenly at ½ inch below the soil’s surface with one inch of space between each. Water the soil thoroughly before sowing and after the seeds emerge water them lightly every couple days. Radishes are a great source of potassium, folic acid, magnesium and calcium, and are perfect in salad dressings or as a garnish for salads. Radishes are fast growers and should be ready to pull in several weeks.

#2. Zucchini/ Squash

Zucchini and squash do well in most climates and they need very little special attention. If you plant zucchini you’ll could end up with way more than they can even eat!

Zucchini and squash are very low in calories but full of potassium, manganese and folate. Sow several zucchini seeds in a heap pile of composted soil a foot high and a couple feet wide. Space each heap pile approximately 3 feet apart, water them heavily every other day and wait for them to sprout in a couple weeks. They should be ready to harvest about a month later. For any early start sow the seeds singly about 1/2 in (1.25cm) deep, in small pots and place in a temperature of 65-70F (18-21C). After germination of seeds, grow on in a well lit spot, harden off and plant out after the last spring frost when the weather is warm.

#3. Carrots

Carrots tend to be pest free and need little attention. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, antioxidants, carotene and dietary. Dig a hole less than an inch deep and plant a couple of seeds in each, and leave several inches in between holes. Thin out in stages to 4-6in (10-15cm) apart. Keep the soil moist but remember to water the carrots less as they begin to reach maturity.

#4. Spinach

A highly nutritious and easily grown crop, high in both calcium and iron. Spinach can be eaten plain, cooked, and made into a chip dip. Turn over the soil with compost and plant seeds less than an inch deep, placing them at least 4 inches apart to give room for growth. Pick young leaves regularly. Sow the soil a couple more times in the first month and keep this area well-watered.

#5. Peas

Peas are another high-yield crop, both sweet peas and sugar peas. Other than fruit flies, these guys attract very few pests. A good source of vitamins A, B and C. Cultivate the soil just prior to sowing top dress with a balanced fertilizer. Keep in mind that your soil must drain well in order for peas for flourish. Space each seed several inches apart and sow them one inch deep. Freshly planted seeds require 1/2 inch of water every week, while more mature plants need a full inch. Any surplus peas can be frozen very successfully.

#6. Peppers

Peppers contain nutrients like thiamin and manganese. Peppers can be stuffed with meat and rice or used in salsa and pasta, and raw in salads. Till the soil with compost and Epsom salts, this will make it rich in magnesium to help the peppers develop healthily. Peppers can be produced outside in growing bags, large pots etc. Since they grow best in warm soil, sow the seeds a foot or more apart in raised beds or containers. Water them frequently, keeping the soil moist, or they may taste bitter once harvested.

#7. Lettuce/ Baby Greens

Lettuce is one of the easiest vegetables to grow; you just have to plant the seeds, water and watch how fast it grows. Lettuce is a good source of folic acid and vitamin A, used as the main ingredient mostly in salads, but also can be stuffed with various ingredients to make a lettuce wrap or top sandwiches, hamburgers and tacos. When cultivating the soil with nutrient-rich compost, break up any chunks and remove debris. Make sure that seeds are planted between 8 and 16 inches apart and water them every morning. Avoid doing so at night because this could cause disease. Loose-leaf varieties are ready to start cutting about seven weeks after sowing.

Baby greens are simply greens that are harvested while they are still young and tender. They are true instant gratification vegetables – you’ll be harvesting your first salad in under a month! Sprinkle the seeds as thinly as possible across the soil in a 2- to 3-inch wide band. Space rows of baby greens 6 to 8 inches apart. Or plant baby greens in a pot, and cut your salad fresh every night!

#8. Onion

Rich in dietary fiber, folate and vitamin C, onion need little care – just give them plenty of water. Plow the soil a foot deep and get rid of debris. The easiest way to grow onions is from sets which are small onions. Plant sets so that the tip is showing about 5in (13cm) apart in rows 12in (30cm) apart. Or, plant the seeds a couple centimeters deep and several inches apart. Weed this area frequently but gently and provide them with about an inch of water every week.

#9. Beets

Beets (beetroots) can be peeled, steamed, and then eaten warm with butter; cooked, pickled, and then eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and then eaten as a salad.. Betanin, one of the primary nutrients in this deep red or purple vegetable, can help lower blood pressure. Clean and strengthen the seeds by soaking them in water at room temperature for a day. Plow the soil and remove any stones from the top 3 feet. Plant each seed 2in (5cm) apart, thin out to 4in (10cm) apart and water them at least once every day.

#10. Broccoli

For the most part doesn’t need a lot of special care, broccoli is easily grown vegetable that gives the best return for the space it occupies and is cropped when other green vegetables are in short supply. One row of 15ft (4.5m) will accommodate six plants to give self-sufficiency for a family of four. Sow broccoli seed in spring in a seed bed ½in (1.25cm) deep and transplant when the seedlings are about 4in (10cm) tall 2ft (60cm) apart each way.

#11. Tomatoes

There are many benefits to growing tomatoes – they’re tasty, they9re good for you, and the dollar value of the yield can be very significant. Tomatoes are rich in nutrients like niacin, potassium and phosphorous, antioxidants like lycopene, anthocyanin and carotene, and vitamins A, C and E.

Sow the seed just below the surface in a tray of peat-based compost. When the seedlings have made two pairs of true leaves prick them out into 3in (7.5cm) pots and place them in a light, warm place indoors (like windowsill). After the last danger of frost has passed, pick a spot in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight and test the soil’s pH level – it needs to be between 6 and 7. (To decrease pH level add sulfur, to increase it add lime). Spread compost over this area and mix it with the soil. After hardening off, set tomato plants 2ft (60cm) apart in rows 3ft (90cm) apart, bush plants 3ft (90cm) apart. Water them a couple times per week.

Tomatoes do need a little more attention then the other vegetables on the list. However, for the little bit attention that tomatoes do need, you get an incredible reward in the large amount of fruit that they produce. To help you get started, here is a complete guide to growing tomatoes

#12. Herbs

There are many herbs including thyme, rosemary, basil, mint, sage, chives, parsley and oregano that need very little attention and can be grown successfully in containers on a patio, balcony or terrace. Purchase some of your favorite small herb plants from your local nursery and get a container that is at least 6-12 inches deep. You can plant multiple herbs in a wide or long container or use at least a 6″ pot for individual plants and you will enjoy not only their fragrance and beauty but also their culinary benefits. Water sparingly because herbs don’t like to sit in wet soil.

If you are a first time gardener, start slow with any of the vegetables I’ve mentioned. Soon, you will gain confidence and have a beautiful organic vegetable garden!

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The Importance of Automotive Filter Changes

Humans require clean, easy-to-breath air in order to live. And just like humans, vehicles also need to be able to “breathe” clean air in order to survive. While human lungs make it possible to breathe, a vehicle’s air filters do just the same. But after some time, they begin to accumulate mass amounts of dirt, debris, and other airborne particles, which eventually decreases their quality and function. For this reason, it is critical to have your vehicle’s engine and cabin air filters inspected and changed on a routine basis to promote safe and efficient driving. Continue reading to learn more about the importance of routine automotive filter changes.

Air Filters

Keep in mind that your car’s air filters are your first line of defense against irritating and obstructive airborne contaminants. Dirt, dust, pollen, mold spores, exhaust gases, bacteria, and more are examples of airborne contaminants that have the ability to negatively affect the quality and performance of your engine and vehicle as a whole. And according to Community Car Care, there is a 1 in 5 chance that YOUR car needs an air filter change right now! Many drivers are guilty of overlooking this small but highly-necessary scheduled maintenance.

Engine Damage

The long list of airborne contaminants can have a powerful impact on your vehicle’s engine, and in a very negative way. Everything from pistons, cylinders, and cylinder walls, to piston rings and bearings, are just a few areas of a car engine that can begin to lose performance value from clogged or dirty air filters. Over time, neglecting to change them can lead to serious engine malfunctions and breakdowns, which means frustrating, costly repairs.

Cabin Filters

If you like to have clean, breathable interior air that smells good, you need to change your air filters on a routine basis. Once they start to become clogged, they begin to slowly lose their ability to do their job. So once they are entirely clogged, you can suffer some mild but irritating consequences, such as musty smells, sore throat, coughing, itchy eyes, tightening of the chest, and more. Changing them regularly keeps the interior environment of your car fresh and easy to breath.

Schedule

Refer to your vehicle’s owners’ manual for the manufacturer recommendations on factory scheduled maintenance. The general rule of thumb is to have your air filters inspected and changed every time you take your car in for an oil change. In fact, it is often a part of oil change packages. This should be every 3,000 miles or so. Talk to your mechanic for professional advice.

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Are Travel Agents Old School?

It appears you can’t stare at the TV for 60 minutes without seeing a notice with William Shatner discussing Travelocity or that senseless dwarf discussing Orbitz. These travel sites have been extremely effective at encouraging voyagers to book their own particular carrier and lodging reservations on the web. So with this colossal push from the web to assume control over the travel business, one needs to ask, “Are travel agents old school?”

In the event that you have searched for some of these travel web sites, you have watched that they are stunning in the assorted qualities of travel choices that they make accessible. As a business traveler, be that as it may, your requirements are fairly unique in relation to the run of the mill aircraft traveler.

There are some certain administrations and genuine help that a living and breathing travel agent can give that basically can’t be duplicated by a computerized site like Travelocity or Orbitz. Some of those administrations that a prepared business traveler would be unable to live without having…

A Travel Agent will give you…

- Focus. You as a business traveler are not orchestrating this excursion for excitement. You have particular business goals as a main priority. So on the off chance that you should remove time from planning for your business assignment to stress over travel agendas, lodging and rental auto reservations and so forth, that is time that you are not being beneficial for your business.

When you get the chance that you can call a skilled travel agent who knows your travel profile well and delegate those courses of action to that agent, they carry out their occupation in finding only the right facilities for you and you are liberated to do what you excel at, spotlight on your business and the up and coming business trip.

- Economy. It is hard to find that harmony between finding the housing that fit the requesting timetable of a businessman out and about and is conscious of the organizations travel spending plan too.

On the off chance that you utilize a computerized online travel administration, you may need to relinquish accommodation, timetable or area for economy.

A decent travel agent will endeavor to get you the right schedule while getting as close the corporate travel cost confinements as would be prudent. Furthermore, they will do it without taking up a considerable measure of your time.

- Back up. You needn’t bother with help if your excursion goes totally as arranged. Be that as it may, in the event that you experience issues out and about, you can wind up in need or rescheduling flights and finding new lodging to work around scratched off flights, climate issues or other surprising intrusions to your arrangements.

These travel debacles are not aware of your tight due dates to meet your business objectives. In any case, you have a travel agent who is committed to giving you administration, he or she can locate those option courses and assets to do whatever they can to get you to your destination so you can direct your business on time.

- That individual touch. You may have travel inclinations that you need to accomplish with every outing you take. A travel agent has your profile and your travel history so they can do what they can to suit your inclinations.

Yet, in addition, when you have particular unique needs, for example, an eating regimen constraint or a requirement for convenience because of an inability, it will be a travel agent that sees to it that your needs are accommodated and you are well dealt with out and about.

- No Complications. In the event that your travel agenda includes making associations with different business accomplices who are going from various workplaces, complex travel calendars and schedule challenges that just can’t be depicted to the nonexclusive screens of an online travel administration, you can disclose these inconveniences to your travel agent and they can work with other travel agents attempting to arrange the meeting and see to it that your agenda meets your prerequisites.

While the online travel administrations do give a profitable and moderate other option to the general voyaging open, it is anything but difficult to see their confinements on the off chance that you are attempting to book a trek that is dubious or in the event that you have particular needs that the screens don’t suspect.

That is the reason working with a human travel agent ensures that this travel proficient person will devote themselves to the assignment of ensuring your excursion attempts to your details and that you get to your destination prepared to lead in business and be fruitful in your accomplishing your objectives.

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The Benefits of Network Marketing – 3 Top Reasons Why Network Marketing Rocks

Let’s face it, there are a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to network marketing. Some people love it and some people hate it but in this article, we are going to talk about the 3 top reasons network marketing rocks.

Time Freedom

When you are a MLM professional, you are able to set your own hours. You can work when you want to work and shut your cell phone off whenever you choose not to work. You can spend time working on the beach or in any part of the world that you want since you have the ability to travel and still have your business.

Residual Income

Residual income is work you do something for once and then you just keep getting paid over and over again. Whenever you get team members and customers that are buying and selling products every single month, you have residual income and that is very powerful.

Leverage

Being able to build a team in network marketing enables you to build leverage. When one of your team members is working and you aren’t there, that is leverage. Being able to have something done when you are not there is what the goal is so the more leaders you help develop, the better.

As you can tell, network marketing has many great benefits and there are more that could be listed but these are the top three that always get me excited. Building a network marketing business to the top may not be easy but the rewards are plentiful. It is possible for anyone to be able to achieve their dreams with this amazing profession.

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7 Tips to Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

Windshield Wipers and Fluid – Fog, snow and rain will cut down your visibility in winter, causing you to use your wiper blades and washer fluid much more than normal. An antifreeze solution along with winter wiper blades will help to fight ice build-up. Keeping extra windshield washer solvent on hand is helpful too!

Battery – A thorough inspection of your battery, cables, terminals and fluid will help to make sure your car is ready for winter. The cold weather puts more stress on your battery. Many automotive parts stores will test your battery capacity free of charge.

Inspect Your Tires – If you’re not mounting winter tires on your vehicle, be sure to examine your current tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing and cupping as well as checking the sidewalls for cuts and nicks to help you to know if your tires are ready for the harsh weather. The colder weather will also reduce the pressure within your tires, causing them to perform poorly in the snow. You should frequently check your tire pressures.

Coolant – Along with regulating the engine temperature, a vehicle’s coolant system is responsible for protecting your engine against corrosion. For the winter season you will want to make sure that you are using the right ratio of coolant to water in your system as well as using the right type of coolant for your car. If you are unsure, you can check the effectiveness of your coolant with a simple and inexpensive test found at any car parts store.

Ice scraper – Keep your ice scraper in your vehicle and always clean off your car completely, not just a little peephole in the windshield. You must be able to see all your surroundings, your side mirrors and through your back window. Snow on top of your car could slide down and cover your windshield while you are slowing down or fly off onto someone else’s vehicle while you are driving. In some states it is the law that your vehicle is clear of snow and ice.

Survival Kit – Especially during times of slick road conditions and below freezing temperatures, you will want to keep a survival kit in the car at all times in case of emergency. Some items to consider include extra gloves, boots and blankets, flares, tire chains, a flashlight and extra batteries, car charger or portable cellphone charger, and a whistle. Also check your spare tire and make sure that your car jack is in good, working condition.

Keep Your Gas Tank Above Half – If you get stuck or stranded, the car’s engine will be your only source of heat and you will want to be sure you have enough fuel to keep you warm. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove snow from behind the tailpipe and keep it unobstructed to prevent lethal gas from accumulating in the vehicle.

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Boosting Your Brain Power

The old theory that DNA could not be changed and that you would be stuck with what you were born with has now been disproved. Researchers found that your DNA actually changes continuously based on your experiences, emotions, and environment.

Our views of the brain have also altered in a similar way as our views of DNA. Science has now provided more and more evidence that your brain is malleable and adapts continuously in response to your lifestyle, physiology, and environment. This concept is called neuroplasticity or brain plasticity, meaning you are literally reforming your brain with each passing day. Your brain possesses the remarkable ability to reorganize pathways, create new connections, as well as neurons (nerve cells) throughout your entire lifetime.

For example, your brain has the ability to move functions from a damaged area to undamaged areas. It also has the ability to change its physical structure as a result of learning. When you acquire a new skill, the more you focus and practice it, the better you become. This is the result of new neural pathways that form in response to your learning efforts.

In the meantime, your brain also undergoes “synaptic pruning”, the elimination of pathways that you no longer use. This phenomenon even applies to emotional states. For instance, if you have a history of anxiety, your neural pathways will become wired for anxiety. However, if you develop tools to feel calm, relaxed, and peaceful, those anxiety pathways will be pruned away from lack of activity.

Consequently, you can see that your brain’s plasticity is highly affected by your way of life. The foods you eat, how much physical activity you have, your emotional states, and sleep patterns all have an influence over how your brain functions. Therefore, there is much that you can do to preserve or even boost your brain power. The following are key factors that will greatly affect your brain’s performance:

1. Link Between Gut Inflammation And Brain Inflammation

The fundamental mechanism that underlies chronic diseases, including the ones related to the brain like autism, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s, is the process of inflammation. Current science is strongly supporting that this process of inflammation actually begins in the gastrointestinal tract, which subsequently spreads to affect the brain.

What are the instigators behind gut inflammation? To the surprise of many, it is predominantly dietary -

The mistake of eating too many carbs resulting in chronic high blood sugar levels. Blood sugar elevation raises the binding of glucose to protein. This process, known as glycation profoundly increases the amount of inflammation in the body.
Opting for a low-fat diet, eating the wrong types of processed, rancid fats, or too few healthy fats.
Insufficient intake of antioxidants, which are mostly found in fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Consuming too much foods loaded with irritants and toxins, such as chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, GMOs, and heavy metals.
Having undiagnosed sensitivity to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) and other foods such as dairy, eggs, and corn.
Candida yeast overgrowth, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and intestinal parasites all trigger the immune response and lead to gut inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s natural defense against something it believes to be potentially harmful. For instance, if you sprain your ankle, the body will sense some kind of stress going on. The natural response is to create swelling and pain to reduce movement and promote healing. These are the hallmarks of the inflammatory process; in small doses, it is not a negative thing.

It only turns bad when inflammation gets out of control and becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation is typically low-grade, silent, and produce no symptoms. When the body is constantly under assault, the inflammation response stays on and it spreads to every part of the body through the bloodstream. The brain is particularly susceptible as it is also connected to the gut via the vagus nerve.

Unchecked inflammation results in the production of a variety of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines which are toxic to the cells. The cytokines travel throughout the body causing oxidative stress, leading to a reduction of cellular function and even cellular destruction, and resulting in actual loss of function in the body. Studies using new imaging technology showed dramatic elevation of inflammatory cytokines in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and individuals with other brain disorders. Hence, to prevent brain inflammation, the foremost is to maintain a healthy gut.

2. Foods That Feed The Gut And The Brain

The reason why inflammation is so rampant in western civilization is the modern diet. It is high in foods that provoke inflammation, such as refined flour, excess sugar, oxidized or rancid fats, trans fats, plus a wide range of chemicals and preservatives. And it is low in foods that reduce inflammation, like long-chain omega-3 fats, fermented foods, and fermentable fiber.

The following are some foods that are particularly beneficial to the gut and the brain:

Avocados
Beets
Blueberries
Bone broth (used for healing the gut lining damaged by inflammation)
Broccoli
Coconut oil (used as an alternative fuel for the brain, other than glucose)
Celery
Chocolate, dark only
Egg Yolks
Fermented foods (rich in beneficial bacteria to keep the gut healthy, e.g. kimchee, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, yogurt, and fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha)
Fermentable fiber (used as food for the good gut bacteria, e.g. asparagus, artichokes, garlic, jicama leeks, and onions)
Olive oil, extra virgin
Green, leafy vegetables
Rosemary (anti-inflammatory)
Wild caught Alaskan salmon
Sardines
Turmeric (anti-inflammatory)
3. Exercise To Reduce Inflammation

While bouts of exercise tend to promote acute inflammation, when done regularly over the long term, it actually decreases chronic inflammation. The oxidative stress from the exercise forces your body to build up your antioxidant defenses. This is indicated in studies showing extended exercise programs help reduce inflammatory markers, such as insulin resistance (a risk factor for diabetes) and high sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (an indicator of cardiovascular disease).

However, some people tend to over exercise and it is extremely important to allow for sufficient recovery, especially when doing High Intensity Interval Training (repeated sprints interspersed by recovery). If you over-train, as in marathons, you may do more harm than good since your body needs to recuperate from the damage (acute inflammation) incurred during your workout.

The average American adult spends about 10 hours each day sitting. Research shows that this level of inactivity cannot even be counteracted with a 60-minute workout at the end of each day. So, what do you do if you have a desk job?

Know that the body needs near-continuous movement throughout the day. At the bare minimum, you should get out of the chair every 50 minutes or so and walk around.
One way to increase activity is to simply walk more. It is recommended that you aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day. A fitness tracker will be a useful tool to help you meet your daily goal.
4. Lack Of Sleep Impairs Brain Function

Sleep deprivation is really bad for brain function. Many studies show that sleep loss impairs various cognitive functions and behavior, including arousal, attention, cognitive speed, memory, emotional intelligence, and decision making.

Using brain imaging technology, like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists compared the brain of someone who was sleep-deprived to the brain of someone who had slept normally. They found reduced metabolism and blood flow in multiple brain regions which indicated impaired cognitive function and behavior.

Several nights of poor sleep or one night of no sleep will start to disrupt your hormonal balance. According to a study from Stanford University, your body’s ghrelin levels, which stimulate feelings of hunger, can jump nearly 15 percent. It also lowers your levels of leptin, a hormone that regulates energy balance, which explains why you tend to feel sluggish when you are sleep-deprived.

Your brain also struggles to curate and sort new memories. You are able to absorb new information but your brain has problems accessing that information and putting it to good use. You may feel distracted, while your reaction time plummets. This makes tasks like driving more difficult and dangerous.

A CDC survey shows that half of Americans (48%) do not get enough sleep. So if you want your brain to stay at tip-top shape, you need to place sleep high on your priority list. In the event that you just cannot get enough nocturnal sleep, a 30-minute nap at lunch time is still helpful although it cannot fully eliminate the negative consequences of sleep deprivation.

5. Vitamin D May Save Your Brain

Much has been learned about the health benefits of vitamin D over the past decade. While it has long been recognized that vitamin D supports strong and healthy bones, its role in brain-related disorders is becoming increasingly evident.

A new study that collaborated multiple highly respected institutions around the world found a profound correlation of low vitamin D level and increased risk of developing dementia. Even having a moderate deficiency of vitamin D was associated with a 53% increased risk of dementia. Those who were severely deficient had a 122% increased risk!

Many people are not aware that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased inflammation. There are about 30,000 genes in the body, and vitamin D affects nearly 3,000 of them. Your brain has vitamin D receptors too. Therefore, unless you get 20 minutes of sun exposure daily (without using sunscreen on face, arms, and legs), you may want to consider supplementation.

Most people need around 5,000 I.U. a day to reach the optimal level of 50-70 ng/ml as determined by a blood test. If you supplement, opt for vitamin D3, which is the natural form, and take it with vitamin K2, with at least 100 mcg of menaquinone-7 (MK-7). The combination of D3 and K2 will make sure that calcium is deposited in the bones instead of the arteries.

6. Think Positive And Stimulate Your Brain

Stress and anxiety kill existing brain neurons and stop new neurons from being created. Research has shown that positive thinking speeds up the formation of cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety. Hence, catch yourself when your negative thoughts surface, discard them, and replace them with positive ones.

When you learn or do new things, new neural pathways are developed. As a result, you want to stimulate your brain on a continuous basis. Remember the phrase – use it or lose it?

Carol Chuang is a Certified Nutrition Specialist and a Metabolic Typing Advisor. She has a Masters degree in Nutrition and is the founder of CC Health Counseling, LLC. Her passion in life is to stay healthy and to help others become healthy. She believes that a key ingredient to optimal health is to eat a diet that is right for one’s specific body type. Eating organic or eating healthy is not enough to guarantee good health. The truth is that there is no one diet that is right for everyone. Our metabolisms are different, so should our diets. Carol specializes in Metabolic Typing, helping her clients find the right diet for their Metabolic Type.

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Why You Should Stop Boasting About How Busy You Are

An Accomplished Life

“Hi Tom, how are you?”

“I’m well Jane, just extremely busy.”

“Oh, I’m glad to hear you’re keeping busy then.”

“Yes, I’m flat out at the moment.”

The above interaction is one that takes place between people on a daily basis.

But what is behind the busyness?

Is it a way to deflect attention from what really matters?

People brag about their busy lives to highlight themselves living an accomplished life to their peers.

Similarly, they may wish to communicate how meaningful their work is and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Being occupied implies oneself is consumed with matters of significance. That is why people state their busyness, to have you know they are important.

Busy people struggle to keep their attention in the present moment because their focus lies in future events and planning for the next project.

“We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business,” states authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.

I question those who have a hectic schedule as a method to divert their attention from connecting with their core self.

The title quote by the Greek philosopher Socrates, invites you to be wary of a busy life which can be barren.

The busy person is disconnected from others, simply because their attention is focussed on their own commitments. There is the impression of a purposeless life, masked behind the facade of a frantic lifestyle.

Busyness can be reframed to imply your pursuits are purposeful instead of busy.

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan affirm, “Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.”

Busy or Just Unproductive?

You can be busy but not productive and still chase your tail.

Beneath the busyness lies the unconscious desire to be rewarded for hard work.

People believe being preoccupied is impressive and associated with status. You must be pursuing something prestigious, otherwise you wouldn’t be busy.

I’m reminded of an episode in the Seinfeld sitcom where the character George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, walks around the office looking annoyed. He realises that being busy is associated with stress and works hard to uphold this facade.

He appears irritated, causing his supervisor; Mr. Wilhelm to fear George is cracking under the pressure of his work.

While this scenario is fictional, it shows how people unconsciously use busyness to draw attention to themselves.

Similarly, you may believe multitasking is indicative of productivity. Busyness implies being on top of things which is often the furthest thing from the truth.

“Productivity isn’t about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil… It’s more about priorities, planning, and fiercely protecting your time,” affirms associate editor at Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky.

The busy pandemic comes at a cost to people’s well-being and happiness. You may find it difficult to disconnect from work to spend time with family. These are the pursuits that rejuvenate you instead of deplete you.

Busyness can be a sign of procrastination. It is a smoke screen to cover up being overwhelmed and in need of help to prioritise your life.

Consequently, those in the creative field will tell you they are absorbed in their interests and not busy with work.

It was the late Stephen R Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People who said, “It is possible to be busy-very busy-without being very effective.”

The Demands of a Hectic Schedule

It is vital that you set clear boundaries if you wish to be fulfilled. Busy people find it difficult to say no since they do not wish to offend others or be seen as incapable.

I’m yet to meet a busy person satisfied with their hectic schedule. I’m certain they would trade their frantic life for: less work, more time and money.

Occasionally, you might be pulled by circumstances not of your choosing. Business may unexpectedly increase if you’re self-employed as you try to meet the pressures of growing sales. But that doesn’t mean you are happy if all you are doing is working to provide for the demands of other people.

You have a choice how you spend your time. To claim you are busy is failing to prioritise your time wisely.

“Everybody’s busy. Everyone does the actions. But were they the right actions? Were those actions productive? Did you take a step forward? These are questions that most people never take the time to think about,” reminds us author Jeff Olson in, The Slight Edge.

After all, what is the point of being busy and stressed to the point of exhaustion that your health and relationships suffer, just to improve your bottom line?

Surely, there’s a more efficient way to work in the 21 century while enjoying more leisure time?

Busy people are prone to being overwhelmed if they continue to drive themselves hard. It is not healthy to run yourself into the ground and expect to stop at the drop of a hat.

Something must give. That may be as excessive drinking to help you wind down or toxic behaviours such as: compulsive eating, gambling or whatever distracts you from what is important.

We all have the same hours in the day and how you spend it is entirely up to you. Many people squander their time running around believing they are productive, when they are simply busy due to their lack of organisation and prioritisation.

“We are so busy being enticed by our next endeavour that we forget to savour what is already there and could be deeply meaningful. It is useful to remember the adage “The more things change, the more they remain the same” avows author Bernard Roth in, The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life.

A better way to reframe busyness is to state you are productive or engaged in what you are doing. Conversely, communicating you have taken on more than you can handle, is a step towards reclaiming your lost time.

This is not a cry for help, but exposing your vulnerability to those willing to help you better manage your time.

Find ways to be less busy and more engaged so you are in Flow, as the Hungarian psychology Professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi espouses.

Busyness is a not indicative of a rewarding life if all you are doing is jumping from one task to the next.

Those who manage their time successfully hold on to it like it was their last breath. They prioritise what is important and so should you.

I invite you to think with the end in mind as Stephen R. Covey conveys in his teachings.

Only then will you appreciate what really matters and worth devoting your time and energy towards.

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