These are the best places you can safely travel to this summer during the pandemic

The term ‘wide open spaces’ has never been more pertinent when it comes to planning a stateside getaway amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s vitally important to be courteous of others when planning a domestic getaway—just because a state or small town on your radar has low cases of COVID-19 does not automatically make them somewhere you should visit.

Think of it this way: if you’re driving to a virus-free town from a big city where COVID-19 is still on the rise, there’s no way you can guarantee that you don’t currently have the virus (you can make others sick even if you are asymptomatic!). The last thing you’d want to do is unknowingly spread COVID-19 to a town that doesn’t have the resources or facilities to properly take care of their residents if they have an unnecessary spike in cases because of your family vacation.

So, with that in mind, if you’re itching to have a change of scenery, consider somewhere with wide open spaces, like a cottage or cabin, where you can easily spend your vacation self-isolating with your friends or family without coming in contact with others. Here, we’ve rounded up some great vacation options that are relatively low-risk yet  just as relaxing and memorable as international travel.

Grand Teton Tiny House Retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Just minutes from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Grand Teton Tiny House Retreats are all about the classic appeal of rustic cottages. Offering 25 pint-sized, yet luxuriously outfitted tiny house rental units, the resort is located a stone’s throw from Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole ski slopes.

The Vintages Trailer Resort in Dundee, Oregon

The Vintages Trailer Resort in Dundee, Oregon consists of 35 refurbished and beautifully decorated retro trailers, each of which are fitted with a propane grill and all the tableware and utensils one could possibly desire, allowing you to enjoy home cooked meals rather than going to restaurants. The trailer formation also makes social distancing super easy, with contact-free check in processes, no shared hallways or elevators, and a minimum of 18 feet between each trailer.


My Tiny House Village in Portland, Oregon

Tucked into the Sherwood forest and within minutes of several Tualatin Valley wineries, this  unique micro-resort features a collection of tiny homes all arranged on a charming former Christmas tree farm. Every tiny house includes everything you could possibly need for a relaxing escape. The best part? Guests can check themselves in with a keypad and each house “rests” for at least 72 hours after check out, after which each unit is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.


Angels Rest Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska

Featuring private entrances, modern bathrooms, and fully equipped kitchenettes (with outdoor barbecues), the waterfront cabins of Angels Rest Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska currently encourage longer, isolation-friendly stays by offering weekly rates with reduced daily rates the longer the stay. The water-view rooms offer self-check-in and out and housekeepers no longer enter occupied units—instead, guests can call or text their needs and an exchange will be arranged on the front porch. After two weeks of self-isolation, regular housekeeping services will be offered.


Redwoods Treehouses in Sonoma County, California

Made for those looking for a socially distanced adventure, the Redwoods Treehouses in Sonoma County, California offers off-the-grid experiences high up in the redwood tree canopies of Sonoma County. Guests will have access to expansive first hikes, skywalks, and ziplines for ascent and descent from the treehouses.


The Mohicans Treehouse Resort in Glenmont, Ohio

Located in the heart of Amish country, halfway between Cleveland and Columbus (but also a reasonable driving distance from several major cities like Dayton, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis), The Mohicans Treehouse Resort is outfitted with nine state-of-the-art treehouses and four lavish ground cabins on over 77 screws of natural landscape and rolling hills.

The open-air property has no lobbies or common areas. The team at Mohicans Treehouse Resort have also amped up their standards for sanitation, which meet all CDC and WHO cleaning protocols.

This is exactly how much humidity helps to slow down COVID-19

While everyone was out stocking up on toilet paper and hoarding antibacterial agents, they overlooked one thing that could help the most: a humidifier. 

Recent studies suggest that the spread of COVID-19 is linked to changes in climate, specifically that higher humidity equals slower spread. 

Increased humidity means the viral droplets will be heavier, therefore falling to the ground or other surfaces more quickly, where it will not survive and be less likely to infect you. Our immune systems also work better in higher humidity, so how do you increase humidity in your home? Buy a humidifier! Keep the levels of humidity around 40% – 60%, according to the recommendation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

With studies coming out of Yale in 2019, and a separate study published on June 9th, 2020 in the Geographical Analysis journal, higher humidity is linked to a reduced spread of the virus. Researchers in the study estimated that for every 1% increase in humidity, there was a 3% decrease in viral transmission.

A 50-city climate data study published on June 11th in JAMA Network Open was conducted during the early months of the COVID outbreak (January – March 10, 2020). This study analyzed and compared climate data from the 8 cities that had significant spread of the virus, with the 42 other cities that did not see substantial community spread. These 8 cities were Wuhan, China; Tokyo; Daegu, South Korea; Milan; Paris; Qom, Iran; Seattle, and Madrid. All had high infection rates, and all were located along the 30° and 50° N corridor, with temperatures between 41-52 F, and low absolute humidity. Coincidence? The researchers think not. 

Mohammad Sajadi, MD, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said recently in an interview with BreakingMED, that climate is just one of many factors associated with the spread of SARS-CoV-2. 

“Transmission is multifactorial, but temperature and humidity may give us some guidance about when areas have the highest potential risk,” he said.

Based on the findings of these studies, it seems that we can make estimated projections on which cities will see a drop or spike in cases due to climate changes in the coming months.  

Using these 5 words in a virtual meeting make you seem powerful

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Meetings. Most of us despise the very thought of sitting through another meeting, chalking it up to a waste of time. But, that could be due to meeting leaders simply using the wrong words. 

MIT found that the words “yeah,” “give,” “start,” “meeting” and “discuss” have a larger impact than all others, according to Business News Daily

Those five words were associated with more successful business meetings than any other words. They often lead to “high persuasiveness” and a “desired response”. 

Virtual meetings are no different. In fact, it’s arguably more important to use success-driven words in virtual meetings because attention-spans of participants might be compromised by distractions at home, in coffee shops, or from where ever the participants are. 

And, as people increasingly connect through remote communication like video conferencing, these 5 power words are important elements in successful meetings

Powerful words in meetings are words that suggest progress, conclusions, or inclusiveness. For example, “start” and “discuss” imply actions and imminent decisions.

“To use these words effectively, you need to know how and when to sprinkle them into the conversation. The study outlined the effect of each word during various parts of a meeting,” the report cited. 

The word “yeah” indicates agreement or acceptance and helps to set the stage for a productive discussion, especially among participants who might be looking for a fight or expecting disagreement in the meeting. In addition, using “yeah” as a way of changing the subject helps to acknowledge the change in a positive way and helps to draw a clear path toward the new topic. 

“Give” has a way of focusing attention toward the person speaking. Experienced speakers use this power word at the beginning of their speech or report as a way of spurring excitement. 

Similarly, “start” is attention-grabbing. “It lets everyone know the time for waiting and chitchat is over and indicates they should begin actively listening, as the business of the moment is about to proceed,” the report said. 

Cleverly, using the word “meeting” implies that the conversation is powerful, important, and useful, which can also imply to the participants that they, too, are powerful, important, and useful. Also, if the virtual meeting is getting off-topic, using the term “meeting” can also help to redirect the conversation back to the meeting’s original purpose. For example, “This meeting is getting a little off-track”, or “Let’s refocus on this meeting”.  

Lastly, “discuss” is a calming word that lets participants know that differing opinions are welcome and encouraged during the meeting. “People pay more attention when they feel they are included,” said the report. “Calling any communication within a meeting a “discussion” creates a camaraderie that makes it more likely that everyone will feel welcome to add their own views.”

Try using these 5 powerful words in your next virtual meeting to help encourage focus, positivity, and control in a way that makes participants feel welcome and valued. 

This is what happens to your body around fireworks

With the Fourth of July upon us, people all over the country are getting their grills and backyards ready for some summer fun. This year promises to be a bit more subdued in most areas of the nation, but that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t planning on celebrating as best they can. Of course, no Fourth of July celebration would be complete without a few fireworks.

If you’re planning on setting off a few rockets yourself this year, take a moment and consider the latest findings from New York University. Researchers from NYU Langone Health discovered that some of the most common fireworks available emit copper, lead, and other toxic metals (titanium, strontium) into the air when set off.

It’s those metals that give fireworks their beautiful, vibrant colors. Unfortunately, those same toxins can also inflict considerable damage if breathed in by nearby onlookers.

In all, the team at NYU examined 12 types of popular, commercially available fireworks. Of those 12, two were confirmed to emit harmful levels of lead after being lit. Moreover, experiments involving both human cells and rodents revealed that particle emissions from five of those firework types can significantly increase oxidation upon lung exposure. Oxidation can damage or kill cells.

“While many are careful to protect themselves from injury from explosions, our results suggest that inhaling firework smoke may cause longer-term damage, a risk that has been largely ignored,” says senior study author Terry Gordon, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine at NYU Langone Health, in a release.

Additionally, Gordon and his team analyzed air quality samples taken from various regions of the United States a few times each year, for a total of 14 years. Those samples were originally collected by the EPA. They discovered that the levels of toxic metals present in the air were higher pretty much all over the country each year right around both New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July.

“Although people are only exposed to these substances for a short time each year, they are much more toxic than the pollutants we breathe every day,” Professor Gordon notes.

As far as the study’s authors can tell, this is the first study to ever investigate how firework exposure affects human cells and animals. This is also the first project to test the surrounding air for metal particles after setting off some fireworks.

So, as mentioned before, the research team tested 12 different types of fireworks. Some of the varieties that were tested included the Blue Storm firecracker, the Black Cuckoo, and the Color Changing Wheel. All tested fireworks were set off in a lab setting within an enclosed chamber that captured any lingering metal particles in the air. Those particles were then exposed to a group of human lung cells and dozens of mice. 

Of all the types of fireworks tested, the Black Cuckoo won the dubious distinction of most toxic. The toxins released by this firework were 10 times more harmful to human cells than a non-toxic saline solution.

The study’s authors say their work and conclusions are just the beginning when it comes to unraveling the full spectrum of firework-related health repercussions. For example, while this study focused on one-time exposure to such toxins, more research is needed to determine the effect of repeated exposure. Although, prolonged and frequent exposure to such toxins almost assuredly promises to be even more harmful. 

Does this study mean you should avoid fireworks altogether this year? Not necessarily, but these findings are worth keeping in mind. It’s firework safety 101 to light rockets far away from bystanders and to never pick up a lit firework. Also, be sure to keep your party guests away from areas where fireworks had been set off previously for at least a few hours afterward, if not longer.

The full study can be found here, published in Particle and Fibre Toxicology.


11 morning habits of the most successful people

The way you start your day can set the tone for how the rest of it will follow. Your probability of success can fluctuate depending on what you choose to do with those critical hours before your workday gets underway. That’s why the morning routines of leaders can offer insights into how they are able to create the successful businesses, products, and achievements we see today.

Here are the everyday morning habits of some of the most successful thinkers in the world that you can embrace.

1) They don’t need alarms

From starting a daytime television show to launching her own network, media mogul Oprah Winfrey has proven, time and again, that she can set forth her intention and will it into action. That includes how she wakes up.

In a diary, she explained how she sets her internal clock: “I have never set an alarm, I don’t believe in them. They are … alarming! I put the number in my mind and I wake up before that, usually between 6:02 and 6:20, because the dogs are trained to go out around that time. My first thought in the morning is, ‘Oh, I’m alive. Thank you!’ ”

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2) They get enough sleep

To wake up without an alarm clock, it helps to get enough sleep. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, another business leader who also wakes up naturally, says he prioritizes getting eight hours of sleep a night.

“For me, that’s the needed amount to feel energized and excited,” he told Thrive Global. To start the best morning routine, you need to prepare for it the night before.

3) They wake up early

Many of the successful people in the world are up and going while the rest of the world sleeps. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is known for getting into the office at 7 a.m., while Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour is out playing an hourlong tennis match every day at 5:45 a.m.

If you want to be an early riser, it helps to make your bedroom a waking environment. Businesswoman Martha Stewart said that letting light into her room helps her wake up: “I have no shades on my windows, so I usually wake up with sunrise, which has been around 5 a.m. I generally read the New York Times right away,” she told The Cut.

4) They journal

Journaling is a well-researched activity known to boost your creativity and relieve your stress. It’s a morning habit that writer and activist Janet Mock says she does daily.

Mock said that after she gets up at 6 a.m., she sits down to journal: “It’s this thing called ‘Morning Pages,’ which are three longhand pages. I sit at my desk, and write whatever is on the top of my head, I get all the trash out of my head. It’s not great writing, it’s just like a purge, like there it is, I’m over it, it’s done, it’s contained.”

5) They exercise

Morning exercise is a daily habit listed by many successful leaders. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who is the owner of lifestyle company Goop, said that she regularly works out from 10 a.m. to noon after checking emails. Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates likes to multitask with his morning treadmill workouts and will watch “DVDs from the Teaching Company’s ‘Great Courses’ series” while exercising, according to The New York Times.

As Niki Leondakis, the CEO of the luxury lifestyle brand Equinox, who regularly does morning yoga, puts it:I’ve always known that you have to be physically healthy and strong to be mentally healthy and strong. It’s all connected.”

6) They spend time with loved ones

Bezos has said he does not usually schedule early-morning meetings because he wants to spend that time eating breakfast with his wife. “I wanted her to get the best hours of my day,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 1999.

7) They go outside

Cal Newport, self-improvement author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” goes for a morning walk with his dog when he wakes up. He said that it can be a creative, meditative time. “It’s dark when the walk starts, but I don’t mind the solitude … For me, interesting thoughts have a tendency to emerge when the rest of the world is quiet.”

When playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda was working on his acclaimed musical “Hamilton,” he told the New York Times that he would start his mornings with long walks outside with his dog, Tobillo: “We’ll do two hours in Central Park. It gets my mind going.”

8) They practice gratitude

Business and life coach Tony Robbins has a detailed guide on how we should start our mornings off right. But if motivational incantations, exercise, and Kapalbhati Pranayama yoga breaths are not your style, there’s one tip that all of us can do each morning to make our days better: practicing gratitude. Robbins recommends slowing down your breaths and thinking of three things you are grateful for today, spending about a minute on each thing. They do not have to be big moments of gratitude, they can be as small as enjoying the cool air on your face.

“The reason I picked gratitude is because when you’re grateful you can’t be angry. And when you’re grateful you can’t be fearful,” he explained.

9) They ask themselves what they want to achieve

Benjamin Franklin, who was quite a productive guy as we know, famously ended his long days with the question ‘What have I done today?’. Why not start the day with the question of ‘What do I want to accomplish today?’

10) They listen to music

Why not start the day with a little dance party? Music has been shown to improve one’s mood drastically. That’s what actress and entrepreneur Priyank Chopra-Jones does. She told Harper’s Bazaar,”The first thing I do in the morning is put on music. But I don’t like playing music on my phone; I have to have a JBL speaker to really hear it.”

11. They don’t rely on alarm clocks

Now Oprah is not really human so, of course, she doesn’t need an alarm clock but what is interesting is she trains her mind to wake up early. “I don’t believe in [alarm clocks],” Winfrey told The Hollywood Reporter. “[Instead,] I put the number in my mind and I wake up before that, usually between 6:02 and 6:20, because the dogs are trained to go out around that time.” Your mind is a powerful tool.

This article was first published on January 22, 2018 and has been updated.

Study finds all people, and even monkeys, share similar thought patterns

Each person is a unique individual in their own right, but a groundbreaking new study is offering up considerable evidence that all humans are ingrained with similar thought patterns. Moreover, when a group of monkeys was included in the research, they too displayed similar ways of thinking and ordering ideas (to varying degrees).

All in all, the study’s authors say their work provides some much-needed insight into the development of human languages dating back to the beginnings of our species. These are no small conclusions; this study suggests human and monkey thought patterns are far more similar than previously thought.

This study was a collaboration between Harvard University, UC Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University.

From the Amazon to Ohio, regardless of an individual’s age, gender, culture, background, and even species (human/monkey), the research team observed similar thought patterns among a group of diverse participants. A total of 100 subjects took part in the research. That group included indigenous Tsimane people from the Amazon rainforest in Bolivia, both U.S. adults and children, and macaque monkeys.

More specifically, all of the participants displayed a natural tendency toward “recursion.” Recursive thinking essentially describes the ability to think about thinking. That probably sounds confusing, but recursion is what allows humans to arrange words, symbols, or phrases to communicate complex messages or ideas.

“For the first time, we have strong empirical evidence about patterns of thinking that come naturally to probably all humans and, to a lesser extent, non-human primates,” says study co-author Steven Piantadosi, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of psychology, in a press release.

While researchers were expecting to see similar recursive tendencies among human subjects, they were shocked to see how quickly monkeys took to recursive tasks as well.

“Our data suggest that, with sufficient training, monkeys can learn to represent a recursive process, meaning that this ability may not be as unique to humans as is commonly thought,” says study co-author Sam Cheyette, a Ph.D. student in Piantadosi’s lab.

Recursive phrases, often called “nested structures” in the world of linguistics, may provide an easier understanding of recursion. Consider this sentence: “The dog that worried the cat that killed the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.”

What dog is being described in the above sentence? Well, the dog that worried the cat. And, which cat is that? The cat that killed the rat, and on and on. This all may seem incredibly simple, but the ability to understand and order all of those smaller ideas into a larger sentence is an example of recursion.

So, 10 US adults, 50 US preschoolers or kindergarteners, 37 members of the Tsimane tribe, and 3 monkeys were gathered for this study. Each participant was trained to memorize a series of abstract symbols in a particular order. For example, { ( ) } or { [ ] }. These combinations were intended to mimic the nested structures as described above.

Both American participants and monkeys used a big touch screen to learn, memorize, and recall the patterns. If a subject successfully recalled a piece of a pattern a ding would go off, if they made a wrong move a buzzer sound would play, and if an entire sequence was correctly replicated a chime would play. The monkeys also got some food or juice for making the right choices.

The Tsimane’ participants, meanwhile, weren’t as familiar with modern technology. So, they were given index cards and verbal guidance instead.

Next, all participants were told to arrange in the correct order a series of four images from different patterns shown in a random order so that they would make a certain degree of sense. So, let’s say they were shown ( } ( {. The correct, recursive way to rearrange those symbols would be { ( ) }.

While the results weren’t all exactly the same, for the most part, all of the participants were able to arrange the provided symbols in a recursive manner. This is especially noteworthy considering the “Tsimane’ adults, preschool children and monkeys, who lack formal mathematics and reading training, had never been exposed to such stimuli before testing,” the researchers write.

“These results are convergent with recent findings that monkeys can learn other kinds of structures found in human grammar,” Piantadosi adds.

This research speaks to the very essence of what makes us human and separates man from beast. Beyond experiences, education, or cultural impressions all humans are born with the ability for recursive thought. Perhaps even more importantly, we now have scientific evidence that our closely related evolutionary ancestors share similar cognitive abilities.

The full study can be found here, published in Science Advances.

9 crucial rules of fast career advancement

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to write their own rules and fly up the career ladder while others pay their dues for years to get in similar positions? While luck may play a small role in the differences between those two types of situations, a lot of it has to do with having the right mindset and consistently showing up in a certain way. And this is good news because it means that, with the right perspective and habits, you too can get on the fast track to the career of your wildest dreams.

So, are you ready to arm yourself with guiding principles that will help skyrocket your professional aspirations? The nine crucial rules of fast career advancement below apply in pretty much any industry or setting. Better yet, they also apply to life in general.

Avoid doing for the sake of doing

Doing more doesn’t always mean getting more. Having a great work ethic is important, but you want to be intentional about any steps you take before ending up burned out and resentful. People who advance fast in their careers know when to press on the gas pedal and when to take a step back to assess the situation and plan their next move. They also tend to be adept at working smart instead of hard.

“When it comes to career advancement and professional success, we often think it’s all about doing, and we jump into action steps that are too high on the ladder. We don’t prepare, we try to go too far too fast, and in the process, we hurt ourselves — emotionally and physically with burnout, disappointment, and regrets. Needless to say, after what seems to be a ‘failure,’ only a few dare to get back up and continue,” says Tanja Senica, life, and career coach and founder of Hit Splits Coaching.

Always believe in yourself

High-flying professionals know that the most important asset they can ever develop is their sense of self-belief. If you want to move ahead fast, you need to believe in yourself even when nobody else does. The road to success might be paved with unexpected obstacles, failure, rejection and toxic coworkers. Some people might laugh in the face of your dreams. When the going gets tough, you can rely on your unshakeable confidence. And when things are going well, you can fly even higher knowing you are worthy of achieving your goals.

Follow your passion

The most successful people in the world tend to follow their passions long before their salaries follow suit. “This is important because it is usually connected to intrinsic goals and motivating factors. Your passion is your joy, it’s what excites you and puts a smile on your face. When you have that, you are already a winner,” says Senica.

Don’t wait for opportunity – create it

When opportunity knocks, you seize it. When an opportunity is nowhere to be found, you create it. Such is the philosophy of professionals who get ahead at lightning speed. It’s not enough to wait for a role to open or make your intentions of getting promoted clear. Set a bigger vision for your life and career so you can notice unexpected opportunities when they pass you by and jump on them — or even do things like start your own business or pitch your dream company to see if they can create a job for you.

Flying solo is not the way to go

One of the more negative perceptions surrounding fast career advancement is that you have to be ruthlessly competitive to get ahead. But to rise to the top, you actually need to be a good team player. “According to a Harvard study, employees with the highest connectivity score have a 40% higher chance of promotion,” says Senica.

It makes sense: In organizations made up of several functions with sometimes competing priorities, individual wins happen when collective wins are focused on.

Don’t live someone else’s dream

According to Senica, the biggest mistake of all is trying to live someone else’s dream: “I’ve seen it countless times: Making parents happy or proud, making a lot of money in a given field, gaining the respect of friends, social validation, etc.”

Before aiming for that next big career challenge, ask yourself who you are living for. You can only make it so far wanting your outcome for the wrong reasons. People who get ahead fast and consistently are fueled by a desire to reach their dreams so powerful nobody can get in their way. On the other hand, an achievement for the sake of what looks good on paper or what pleases others can end up leaving you drained and unfulfilled — not exactly a state to produce impactful results from.

Trust your intuition

Trust your gut. “Although there are many ways to connect to or cultivate intuition, it remains one of the most underestimated habits in the professional world,” says Senica.

Why underestimated? Because a lot of people think of intuition as this esoteric concept, but it’s often the edge that will set you apart. “Some of the most successful people are getting many (or most) of their creative ideas and decision-making answers through deliberate and conscious intuition.”

Stay patient

Staying patient might sound counterproductive when wanting to grow fast. But playing the long-game means understanding that periods of patience and steady progress often precede massive breakthroughs and successes that can easily appear as they happened overnight from the outside.

“Success rarely happens overnight because one needs to grow into a successful person,” says Senica. “Being patient is part of that; so many people, unfortunately, stop watering their career plant right before the seeds begin to sprout.”

Enjoy the journey

The ultimate secret of professionals who climb the career ladder super quickly is that they learn to have fun along the way. Because time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. And there is no point reaching goal after goal if you’re going to be miserable the whole time — kind of defeats the purpose of having goals in the first place.

“Get to know yourself, your passions, your values, your strengths. Get to know your goals, motivations and deepest desires. And then make a decision, declare it to the world, and go for it no matter what. And remember to have fun!” says Senica.

3 ways to prevent the pandemic from spoiling your retirement – whenever it is

retirement seniors

The pandemic has brought the possibility that some older workers will have to retire sooner than they planned.

One factor is that people 65 and above are considered to be among the highest-risk groups for severe illness from COVID-19. Thus, as the economy opens back up, baby boomers, in particular, are thinking twice about returning to office environments that could expose them to an increased risk of contracting the disease. And while in some cases retirement decisions will be voluntary, retirement may be essentially decided for some older workers due to jobs being eliminated as struggling companies restructure.

One report showed retirements of people from 50 to 65 and over have surged because of the pandemic. Medicare eligibility starting at age 65 and full Social Security benefits soon thereafter become economic incentives. But as we know, it takes a lot more than government aid to get us through the retirement years. And for older workers who planned to work long enough to collect full Social Security benefits but instead retire earlier, that could have permanent financial consequences. Filing at the earliest age of 62 will get the retiree-only 75% of their annual full benefit. Whereas every year you delay filing for Social Security past full retirement age brings an additional 8% until you turn 70.

People often keep working as long as they can so they can continue to add to their retirement savings while also benefiting from employer-subsidized health insurance. Many older workers from the 40s on up think they will need to work longer because of the current economic crisis. But due to the pandemic, we seem to have less control over length-of-career considerations than ever before. And because of that, it ups the ante on taking care of your retirement funds in advance of retirement and knowing ways to grow them and balance the risk to them.

When trying to figure out how to protect your retirement portfolio in the uncertain months ahead, remember that sometimes, trying to save yourself from future market volatility can result in major investing mistakes. Here are some examples to avoid during this recession:

Being too conservative.

Finding a foothold for financial stability is on many people’s minds given these nervous times, but stability can be taken a bit too far. For example, focusing almost exclusively on fixed-income investments limits your growth potential. They won’t match the growth of equities when the economy rebounds. One rule of thumb: the majority of those not yet retired should put at least half of their portfolios inequities, and the younger one is, the higher the percentage of equities. You can reduce risk and achieve stability by improving the quality of your equities, such as those with well-regarded management and consistent customers, and those that have paid dividends over a long period.

Ceasing to invest.

While some companies have paused matching employee 401(k) programs due to the pandemic, it’s not out of the question that they’ll one-day resume when a recovery ensues. But no saving plus no investing equals putting yourself much further behind for retirement. If you can afford to contribute to an IRA or 401(k) during the recession, do it. Suspending your investing because of concerns that your positions will lose value is a back-sliding strategy that can bite you. As the economy climbs back, share prices increase, but if you sat on cash while waiting for a recovery, you won’t benefit from the upswing. And later on, you’ll pay higher prices for those shares when you could have gotten them for less.

Trying to time the market.

Basing investment decisions on current market conditions is tricky. Some people are making those kinds of decisions, such as selling off or pausing contributions, to protect themselves from future market declines. But for example, when deciding to liquidate, you later may have to decide when to reinvest. Will that timing always be good? No. Even professional fund managers have difficulty timing the market. So it’s better to remember that you got into the stock market in the first place because, over long periods, history shows it often trends up. Don’t react to what’s happening today. Stick to a consistent schedule of investing. And remember: long-term growth helps fund your retirement.

About Albert Lalonde

Albert Lalonde, a financial planner, an investment advisor representative is the founder of Kaizen Financial Group (  Lalonde, a fiduciary, was inspired to enter the financial industry after watching his parents navigate their own retirement with no one to properly advise them. He has passed the Series 65 securities exam and holds an insurance and health license. Lalonde graduated from Montana State University, from which he earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees.

4 ways to feel good on a hard day in lockdown

It’s become clichéd to say that these are challenging times. Everyone knows that many people are more stressed, anxious, lonely, and depressed than usual. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly a third of Americans now show signs of clinical levels of depression or anxiety. It is entirely reasonable to feel these things, given what’s going on.

However, we recently conducted a study that found that, even under these strenuous circumstances, some people are managing to thrive. At the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at UNC Chapel Hill, our research team has been collecting data from adults around the United States this spring, starting in April, when most of us were under stay-at-home orders to flatten the coronavirus curve.

For many people, more of the bad tends to mean less of the good. If something sad happens on Tuesday, people forget about what gave them joy on Monday. But research has found that resilient people—people who handle life’s challenges especially well, and who quickly bounce back from setbacks—are better able to hold on to the good, even in the presence of the bad. That is, when faced with challenges, resilient people don’t avoid negative states, thinking everything is fine. Rather, even while feeling stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression, the resilient among us continue feeling love, gratitude, joy, and hope. Accepting (not suppressing) negative emotion is part of what it means to be resilient.

Our team’s research has also shown that resilience is not a fixed trait. The good news is that we can cultivate it. Resilience increases as people experience more frequent positive emotions. Like an upward spiral, positive emotions lead to greater resilience, which leads to more positive emotions. So, the question is, how can you experience more positive emotions—even with the world in its current state? Here are some of the insights the data revealed.

1. Set aside time to take care of your body, mind, and spirit

Exercise, hobbies, and prayer or meditation tend to bring positive emotions for young and old alike, and for those living alone or with others.

Of course, most people know that these activities are important. But they are especially important these days. The tie between time spent on these sorts of activities and positive emotions is particularly strong for people experiencing more negative emotions.

So, the more stressed, anxious, lonely, or depressed you are, the more it matters that you take time to exercise and care for yourself. One strategy that we, the authors, have found useful is to put repeating events in our calendars. That way, we’ve always got blocks of time dedicated to these things, as well as automated reminders.

2. Help others

That being said, it’s important not to become too self-focused. Regardless of how much time people spent taking care of themselves, we found that those who go out of their way to help others also experience more positive emotions. Crises provide ample opportunities for kindness. You can donate face masks or other equipment to health care workers. If you’re healthy, you can donate much-needed blood, or buy groceries and other necessities for elderly and high-risk neighbors. Such altruistic acts aren’t just good for those receiving help. They’re good for those giving it, as well.

3. Get on social media—but minimize passive scrolling

Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, can be very important for staying connected while physically distanced. But it needs to be used properly. Our data showed that the amount of time people spend passively browsing social media (scrolling through feeds, looking for updates) is unrelated to positive states, but instead strongly linked to anxiety and other negative feelings.

Now, social media can be useful for sharing messages of hope and solidarity. And it is, even now, being used to help organize people fighting for justice. But social media feeds are also typically filled with distressing news and politicking. We need to be careful not to spend too much time passively monitoring them.

On the other hand, actively interacting with others comes with more positive and fewer negative emotions. We found that was just as true for introverts as it was for extraverts, and for those living alone as well as those living with others.

4. Meet face to face, even if you’re six feet apart

It does, however, matter how one is interacting. Social media will never be enough. On average, time spent interacting face to face comes with more positive emotions, whereas time spent in voice or video calls, or text-based interaction (email, texting, etc.) does not. This seems to be because it’s far easier to establish a meaningful connection with someone when you are face to face.

We found that the link between interaction time and positive emotions is accounted for by the feelings of connection and care for others that were experienced while interacting, which are lower in calling and text-based interactions. In other words, what matters is not how much time you spend with others, but rather the quality of the emotional connection you forge with them.

These connections seem to have long-term consequences, too, beyond just having a good day today.

One of the projects we’re currently working on in our lab looks at the link between social interaction and mental health over the course of multiple weeks this past spring. As mentioned above, past research has shown that frequent positive emotions help resilient people to thrive even in times of crisis. What we’re now discovering is that co-experienced positive emotions—the good feelings that you get when you really connect with someone—seem to be even more important than positive emotions experienced alone.

Our current research is suggesting that, over the long term, resilient people sustain the positive aspects of mental health (happiness and a sense of life’s meaning and purpose) and avoid the negative aspects (depression, anxiety, loneliness, and stress) in part by finding moments of positive connection in day-to-day life.

It doesn’t take long to forge these connections. In fact, we’ve discovered that the number and duration of interactions are not what matters. Rather it’s quality over quantity—the benefits of socializing come largely from the emotional connection you make with another person. During these “challenging times,” it’s even more important than usual that people stay connected and help each other.

This article originally appeared on The Greater Good.

People who win at everything in life possess these 9 qualities

You think you have what it takes to succeed?

You think you know what patience and persistence really look like? A lot of people talk about it — but the real question is, can you walk the walk?

Most can’t.

In fact, according to a 2016 small business roundup, over 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first four years. And of all the small businesses started back in 2011, only 4 percent made it to the second year, and 3 percent made it to the fifth year.

Entrepreneurship is the quintessential example of what it means to push through to the end. It is the profession that unapologetically reveals whether you have what it takes to see your vision through to the end, or you’re just another Wantrepreneurs talking a big game.

So, what are the differences between a winner and a wannabe?

1. A winner never stops practicing what got them to where they are in the first place.

Anyone can achieve a small amount of success.

A good amount of people then ladder that up to moderate success. But the real difference between the people who become wildly successful and those that fall off track is that the winners never forget what got them their first win.

They never stop practicing that original skill, that foundational piece that was so influential in their journey.

Don’t forget where you came from. Your first win was your first win for a reason.


2. A winner never says, “I’ve figured it out. I’ve got the answer.”

There is no answer — not a permanent one, anyway.

You might have discovered your next move on the chessboard, but the moment you proclaim (to yourself and the world) that you’ve got it “all figured out” is the moment you begin defending what you’ve got, instead of fighting for how much more you can have. There is always room to grow.

There is always more to learn.

Stop looking for the destination.

A winner doesn’t see the finish line. They see the next wall they’re prepared to run through.

3. A winner is hyper-aware of how they spend every single moment of their day.

You really want to become successful?

Then you need to be prepared to be intentional with the entire structure of your routine and day to day lifestyle, start to finish. The way you relax has to be as intentional as the way you work. The people you spend time with have to be as important to you as your own goals and aspirations.

Every single aspect of your life has to be done purposefully.

That’s the marker of someone determined to design their life.

4. A winner owns their mistakes so they can learn how to improve, faster.

You’re not a winner if you can’t own up to your own missteps.

It’s not just about accountability; it’s about having the ability to take a good, hard look at yourself and question deeply how you can continue to improve.

People who take accountability just to say, “See? I took the blame,” miss the point entirely. This isn’t about proving it to someone else. This is about using those moments as opportunities for your own growth.

A winner welcomes these moments.

5. A winner is focused on mastering their craft, not proving their talents.

You can always tell the difference between a winner and wannabe in the way the person treats what they do.

A winner cares far more about becoming the best at their craft, regardless of how many people know it, whereas a wannabe wants the entire world to know how great they are and simultaneously struggles to spend adequate time mastering their craft.

The two move opposite of each other.

6. A winner sees their failures as opportunities to prove themselves again.

When a wannabe falls down, they stay down.

They wallow, and they wonder how it “all went wrong.” They struggle to see the lesson, and they usually end up taking great pride in where they used to be, which comforts them as they lie face-down on the pavement.

A winner does the opposite.

They see their downfall as another opportunity to climb the climb again. To prove that they weren’t a one-hit-wonder. To demand of themselves greatness, again and again.

7. A winner only spends time with other winners.

The vast majority of people don’t understand what this actually means.

Winners spending time with winners have nothing to do with external success or what has already been achieved. A winner recognizes work ethic, drive, passion, vision, and most of all, dedication. Those are the defining characteristics that even the most successful people look for in the up-and-comers.

It’s not just about what you’ve done to prove yourself already.

It’s about who you are, and the early signs that show where you’re headed in life.

8. A winner knows that success can’t be judged by the day or even the week. It has to be judged over the long term.

Nothing great happens overnight.

It may appear that way. It may look from the outside like it happened suddenly. But anyone who has ever built something of value knows that success doesn’t hit quickly. It comes after months and years of hard work, and a constant focus on improvement.

That’s why winners have unrelenting patience. They weren’t born with it. They’ve just learned, the hard way, that great things take time.

9. A winner does not care about a title.

Titles are for people who judge their worth externally.

At best, a winner will use a title as a simple means of explaining what they do. But when push comes to shove, they will not refer to their title and statue to gain leverage over others — especially in a company setting where, “Because I am the CEO” tends to be a point of diplomacy.

True winners, who are in their hearts leaders, know their value. And their value is not defined in a title.

It is exemplified in who they are, what they do, and the way they do it.

This article originally appeared on Medium.