Posted in Editorials

Expression to Heal

posthealing1Unearthing physical, emotional or spiritual healing can often be a struggle with our internal self. Whether you are recovering from an illness, grieving the loss of a loved one or coping with a difficult situation, studies believe self-expression helps to keep you grounded and connected to vitality and creativity where healing energies can emerge.

We are learning that more and more doctors and healthcare facilities have started incorporating creative therapies into their treatment options due to increasingly positive outcomes for both physical and mental healing.

As children, we immersed ourselves into a colorful world of expression through music, arts, crafts and symbolic modalities, without a care in the world. Our focus and intent was all driven on creation to bring profound happiness to our heart and soul. There was always a seamless connection to our true selves.

As we’ve grown in our social and professional lives and chaos sets it, it’s easy to neglect those things which once ignited passion, motivation and created balance within us. To find balance again and restore healing, we must tap into our creative expressions.

Studies show creative expressions in any form help to shift your focus away from negative thoughts and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

 

There are many pathways to self-expression and thus, self-healing. When those feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear, grief, anger, frustration or loss, comes to the surface, I encourage you to find your path to healing.

Here are a few ideas to get you started that have all been proven to lift your spirits and ignite positive, healing energies.

  • Writing. The power of your thoughts on paper, are priceless. You think, write and unleash all your emotions
  • Art. Your canvas is a product of who you are. You are the beholder of the beauty that’s inside you. Speak to your work and let is help heal you as you paint or draw.
  • Dance/music. Use these poetic elements to release your creativity. Find solace in your movements, voice and dance.
  • Yoga. Breathe, relax and enjoy the sensation of freedom as you transform your body into various poses.
  • Meditation. Deepen your conscious level and harmonize your mind, body and soul.
  • Exercise. Use your body strength to build mental strength. Let go of your anxiety during your workouts.
  • Knitting/sewing/crocheting.  This boosts relaxation and encourages self-motivation and pleasure in creating beauty.

As you begin your journey to self-healing you will find you are discovering and learning more about yourself than ever before. Find your creative therapy and enjoy your healing.

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Posted in Editorials

Cheese it Up, You’ll feel great!

18882079_10158768208965524_1180985150837098535_nYour smile is one of the easiest, painless and medication free ways you can increase your longevity, health, happiness and overall well-being. The expression of a cheerful heart is a basic human behavior that is unfortunately, so commonly overlooked.

Studies show just by smiling a little more each day, you reap the benefits of feeling great and looking pretty awesome too. Here a few reasons why laughter really is the best medicine

  • Burn some calories while you have a good chuckle. Research has shown that laughing for 10 – 15 minutes a day burns up to 40 calories and relaxes muscles for up to 45 minutes. It’s a great form of exercise.
  • Overload your immune system with all the good stuff it needs. Yes, laughing actually increases your blood flow, balances your hormones, improves heart rate and overall leaves you less prone to sickness.
  • Positivity is your best friend. When you laugh, you release endorphins often known as the “happiness hormones.” Endorphins release leaves you with increased positive emotions and thinking.
  • Don’t worry, be happy. Bobby McFerrin was on to something! Being exposed to or experiencing laughter has been proven to protect you from feelings of depression, anxiety or fears. A study reported a group of people were asked to watch ten funny cartoons before taking a math test. Compared to participants who red ten poems, the group who did more laughing had decreased anxiety about the test. This lead to higher test scores for the cartoon group, demonstrating laughter really is good for your mental health
  • Just enjoy life. Smiling is just more enjoyable than not smiling. Challenges are inevitable and life always throws a few tough breaks our way. But, strapping on a smile helps us tough it out with confidence and determination. Laughing at the littlest things in life will help us weather the storm, build healthier relationships and overall, live happier lives.

Maybe your dog learned a new trick, grandpa told a corny joke, your 4 year old just used your lipstick as a paint brush, (try to smile after the anger settles) or maybe you just saw the most beautiful flower bed or sunset or watched the comedy of the year.

Whatever it is, find a reason to spare a smile. You’ll be happy you did!

Posted in Health

Qigong – A holistic approach to overall health & vitality

qigongSince I’ve taken up the practice of Qigong, I’m eager to share my learning experiences and the various health benefits I’ve gained from this ancient meditative Chinese exercise.

The official definition of Qigong according to the National Qigong Association is a mind-body-spirit practice that improves one’s mental and physical health by integrating posture, movement, breathing technique, self-massage, sound, and focused intent. Qi (Chi) means “life energy” and gong means “cultivation and its benefits.

This holistic approach to overall health and vitality has been adapted by Eastern practitioners for centuries and has been used to maintain health, manage illnesses and increase longevity. It encourages self-awareness, focus, concentration and intent.  A daily routine of these gentle movements helps cultivate the flow of energy in our bodies. Harmonizing the breath, body, mind and spirit allows you to tap into an abundance of chi to promote physical and emotional health.

I practice Qigong for at least an hour a day and found many helpful videos online to refer to. There are many Qigong centers you can locate in your community. These exercises can be done sitting, standing or even laying down and is customizable depending on your health needs. For me, it all begins by letting go of my surroundings, and becoming more aware on the unconscious level to unleash the flow of energy. My body is straight, my feet stay grounded to the earth, but my knees slightly bent. My shoulders and arms are relaxed and my neck is delicate and straight.

Keeping the appropriate posture in Qigong promotes free flow and circulation of energizing chi without restrictions. My breathing is slow and calm and I’m observant of every deep breath I take. The goal is to release the negative energies and take in the refreshing, positive energies.

This is just my routine. I encourage you to find your own process of building awareness and infusing the body with chi. Some experts believe that there are more than 3,000 different styles of qigong in existence today and there are many  diverse approaches. Once you discover how to integrate your mind, body and spirit, the sensations that you experience during Qigong, will become more natural and the benefits will become more noticeable.

I’ve seen many enhancements in my overall life by practicing Qigong such as increased energy, better sleeping habits, more flexibility, increased motivation to accomplish goals and more.  Various studies find there are many more health benefits including:

  • Balanced emotions
  • Increased focus
  • Improved memory
  • Improved quality of life for cancer patients
  • Increased Energy and Vitality
  • Aids in digestion
  • Builds bone density
  • Builds the immune system
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreases stroke risk
  • Improves asthma
  • Improves circulation
  • Improves flexibility
  • Improves kidney function
  • Improves posture
  • Increases balance
  • Speeds recovery

The benefits are endless. Find a routine that works for you and begin slowly. You’ll be happy you invested the time.

 

Posted in Editorials

How to know if your Marketing Campaign is Successful

Launching a marketing campaign based on your company’s goals and strategic initiatives is a sure way to meet your expectations, but do you know if your campaigns are delivering the highest return on investment (ROI)?

This is a reality many organizations struggle with. While you may forecast your potential earnings, you want a more definitive approach to analyzing ROI. Here are a few ways you can track your campaigns to maximize the benefits.

Unique phone numbers. When placing media related to specific campaigns, use a unique phone number for each medium, whether it’s print, radio or broadcast. When calls come in, you can track where an individual heard or saw your specific ad. You can better monitor which media channels are yielding the highest return.

Custom website page.  Depending on your target audience, majority of people prefer to visit websites. Having a dedicated landing page or custom web address attached to a campaign allows you to track visitors to that page and monitor activity trends. You can gain insight on which campaigns are driving traffic. Tracking website activity is explained more in depth in the next item.

Google analytics. This is a valuable tool for any organization to monitor traffic to their website.  Use the google dashboard to understand which pages are being visited more than others, getting more unique clicks, have repeat traffic, high page views, etc. This allows you to enhance your website and maximize its potential based on your monthly report findings.

Specific promotions. Running specific promotions allows you the ability to utilize promo codes that must be used or mentioned in order to receive the promotion. You can use unique codes with print, radio, TV, direct mailing, etc. For example in a newspaper ad you can say, “Mention the word Bluebird to receive your free gift,” whereas radio you can say “Call us and mention the word radio.” Again, it’s about knowing the effectiveness of your marketing channels.

Ask customers. Old fashion communication is still very much in tune with marketing strategies. Just talk to callers or walk-in’s, and ask where they heard about you. My advice is not to give them choices. They may just pick the first or second choice you rattled off, rather than answering truthfully.  Every customer interaction is an opportunity to measure your ROI. Do it consistently on every level.

A successful campaign can only be measured by its overall effectiveness. Tap into these resources and understand if you’re marketing dollars are being spent appropriately, or need to be shifted. Justify your marketing investments and start building campaigns that support your strategy.

 

Posted in Editorials

Tips to Building Brand Awareness

Behind every successful business, product or service, there is an established brand reputation that helps build customer loyalty and confidence, driving overall sales and growth.

Keeping up with current market trends and understanding the key factors to help tap into your target audiences is integral to growing your brand. Here are a few tips to help initiate your brand strategy.

Social Media. It’s a force to be reckoned with. All social media platforms are conversation starters, network movers, reputation builders and breakers (so be careful how to use), and is a valuable resource for gaining insight on your target audiences. Utilizing content marketing such as sharing of social media posts, articles and videos, stimulate interest and begin to grow your reputation. Supporting a community event- blog about it, take pictures and post it on Facebook twitter and Instagram. Have a special sale or promotion you want people to know about- hit the social share button.

Public Relations. Promoting is what it’s all about. Through traditional print media, social media, community events or speaking engagements; tell your story. Who are you, what makes you different, what can you bring that’s unique and engaging? Use every opportunity to find avenues for press releases whether it’s a new product you are launching or a new partner you are teaming up with. Host special events and invite the public and media.

Consistent Messaging. Having a multichannel marketing approach is encouraged, as long as you keep your communications clear and consistent. Your brand should be recognizable to your current and potential audiences. Consistence tells your consumers you understand your approach and believe in it. This is a way to retain and build your customer base while reinforcing your identity.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In today’s digital age, improving your rankings in search engines to navigate users to your business is a must. Think about all those people trolling through the internet looking for your product or service. Wouldn’t you want to be at the top of that search list? SEO is about using key phrases and terms related to your services and products to drive traffic to your website.

Customer Experience. Consumer interactions and touchpoints are the most valuable assets you have. By creating positive integrated experiences for your customers, you reap the rewards of word of mouth referrals, positive image reinforcement, return customers and of course, increased brand reputation and revenue. Whether it’s a call, in person meeting or email, think about how you can craft your selling points to be useful, engaging and unique to your customer. Tell your story be presenting the opportunities and how or she can benefit. Use your time to take your customer through a journey, in which they will keep returning to experience.

According to a recent article in Forbes, “We need to think about our reputations as a constant, competitive advantage; a driver of growth and prosperity; and a strategic asset.” Building brand reputation is a top of mind marketing initiative.

Posted in Health

Benefits of Meditation for Children

From television screens to I-pads and cell phones and social media, children’s minds are overloaded with information. Not all of what they are exposed to has a positive impact, but often, reinforces thoughts and images that induce temperamental behaviors and effects healthy development.

Dating back to centuries ago, practicing meditation has been found to have a profound effect on the mind, body and soul. Meditation is now also seen as a useful tool for children of all ages, in educational settings, at home or even on the athletic field. Here are some benefits children can reap from just a few minutes a day of mindfulness.

Improved focus. Concentration is important at any age and the sooner children are trained, he or she can perform more efficiently academically and socially. Meditation removes distractions and invites comfort. Children can learn attention skills and develop a higher regard for their surroundings.

Researchers in Australia conducted a study of 26 children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) between the ages of four and 12 who were treated with Yoga Meditation for six weeks.

Findings of the study included;

  • Reduced hyperactivity
  • Reduced impulsiveness and inattention
  • Improved parent-child relationships
  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • Reduced use of medication in 50% of children

Reinforcing positivity and build self-awareness.  A meditation routine can transform the way children respond to stress, fears or anxiety.  A peaceful break of breathing and relaxation can help children refresh their thoughts to focus on the positive, blocking out negative energies or thoughts. Guided meditative affirmations help children increase their self-confidence and help them tune in to their feelings or actions. For example, by him or her hearing and repeating the words “I am safe,” “I am calm” or “I am proud of myself,” can help shape their attitude and behavior.

Excel academically. A study published in Developmental Psychology found that 4th and 5th grade students who regularly performed meditation exercises did 15% better on math tests. We know focus and concentration is improved, so it only makes sense kids will excel in their schoolwork. Kids need encouragement to progress in their studies, at any level. Meditation stimulates the brain and reinforces the idea of succeeding and believing in our abilities. Children develop a connection to learning and are able to be happier doing it.

Physical strength and endurance. Healthy living begins at a young age. Meditation helps improve breathing and heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and overall promotes healthy heart, brain and functioning. Meditation also helps recharge the body releasing both physical and mental energy, which in turn maintains overall health.

Children need a supportive and nurturing environment to thrive in from a young age. They need to be conditioned to face difficult situations with positivity and confidence.

Meditation in a quiet, non-distracting place can offer children a way to experience peace, happiness and to allow them to express the joys of their childhood. Find a few minute a day to invite meditation into your children’s life whether it be through breathing exercises, guided meditations, positive affirmations or just sitting quietly.

 

Posted in Editorials

Caribbean American Resources for Millennial Population

Equipping the Caribbean American millennial community with targeted outreach and educational programs helps to foster positive outcomes culturally and socially. This generation is fortunate to have access to diverse resources in the Caribbean community, to help them facilitate their academic, social and vocational skills. Here are few beneficial resources one can tap into.

Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CACCI)
Whether you are a small or start-up business owner, the chamber provides networking opportunities, assistance with starting and expanding a business, access to cultural activities workshops, seminars and more.  First time entrepreneurs or investors can gain valuable insight to jumpstart a successful career and learn the ins and outs of a particular industry. http://www.caribbeantradecenter.com/index.htm

Indo Caribbean Alliance (ICA)
This organization provides year-round services and supports to foster higher educational goals including SAT prep and college prep workshops. ICA is a strong voice in the community raisin awareness about political, human and ethical issues effecting the Caribbean American population. The organization is committed to empowering the Caribbean culture and its values with cultural events, diverse initiatives and more. http://www.indocaribbean.org/

Caribbean American Center of New York (CACNY)
This non-profit organizations aims to enhance the lives of immigrants, minorities and other groups by empowering them with information and education. They provide educational and counseling workshops, access to job training resources, access to healthy living tools, and awareness on current issues that impact the quality of life of community member, in an effort to create an integrated solution. http://www.caribbeancenterny.org/

Caribbean Culture Theatre
Embodying the Caribbean culture to its deepest roots, this is where creativity thrives.  Arts, literature, poetry, music and dance are brought to life at this magical place and all walk s of life can engage, explore and absorb the Caribbean heritage.  The theatre hosts events that encourage youth to learn about Caribbean pioneers, scholars and influencers, while giving them access to a rare opportunity to express their own creativity. https://www.facebook.com/caribbeantheatre/?rf=113843305313690

Use these resources to your advantage to build, grow and learn within your cultures and diversely.  Share them with friends and family and become a leader in enacting positive change.

Posted in Health

Managed Long Term Care Streamlines Delivery of Care in Home or Community

Managed long term care plans (MLTC) were created to provide integrated access to home and community based health services and supports for those requiring long term care.

The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that about 9 million American men and women over the age of 65 needed long term care in 2006, with the number expected to jump to 27 million by 2050.

Long term care is offered to those who can no longer perform everyday tasks or activities of daily living by themselves due to a chronic illness, injury, disability or as a result of the aging process.

As the need for these services continue to grow, MLTC plans have accordingly aligned a coordinated delivery of care that includes care management, personal care assistance, home health care, transportation, a network of providers and hospitals, and more; all under one plan.

Health care professionals such as a nurse, home health aide, social worker or therapist are bridging the gap to care by offering assistance with tasks such as bathing, dressing, cooking and eating, rehabilitation therapies such as physical, occupational and speech therapy, or nutritional counseling and social or environmental support.

The pivotal goal of MLTC is to improve the quality of life for an individual. One of the most important benefits of the MLTC Plan is having a personal Care Manager who will work with members to seek and coordinate solutions to meet their health and long term care goals, while working hand-in hand with their physicians, caregivers and family.

If you or a loved one need long term care, visit Department of Health for a list of plans in your area.

Posted in Editorials

Managing Debt During the Holidays

7-ways-stick-holiday-budget-1-intro-lg-1Financial debts are burdensome, worrisome and tend to send us in a spiraling sinkhole by the passing day.  Unfortunately, these debts don’t reverse as quickly as we expect, and most certainly will still be lurking in our empty bank accounts when the holidays hit.

The act of giving presents for the holidays, is essential for most families, and is considered an annual tradition of giving, compassion, and family and holiday joy.   But, for some, it may be difficult to shell out during the holidays when you’re basically spending money you don’t have.

So, how can we manage the growing pile of bills, while still putting a smile on our family and friend’s faces?

Here are a few realistic tips that I think is worthwhile to consider.  Let’s be honest, managing debt is not a leisurely undertaking, but a few ways you may be able to spend less during the holidays, may make it less burdensome.

Make a budget and stick to it
Instead of thinking how much you should spend on each person this year, think about an overall budget. What’s your total cap you can spend according to what you can afford. This will help you allot the appropriate amount to each gift and help you keep track if you’re spending too much on one gift. Sticking to the budget is key, and knowing if you do want to spend more, let’s say on your special beau, just be sure you now know you have less to spend on others.

Shop around and shop smart
Do not be that shopper that just walks into the store and picks up the first item you see. Competitive pricing is alive! Shop around and look for deals. Use coupons- no one will know (unless they read this article).  Most often the scarf you see for $30, may be swapped up for $10 at another outlet. Do your research if you’re looking for a specific item.  Bargain buying is the way to go.

Choose one day to hit the stores
I know I’m a big offender of this one. Going back to the stores multiple times makes me spend more. I see other things that I DON’T need, or think of an unlikely present, just because. Trying to get all the shopping done on one or two designated days may save you unnecessary spending. The less time you spend shopping, the more money  you have to pay those debts!

Stick to the motto “At least for the kids”
The holidays are embraced by children. Their lists to the man in the North Pole filled with their favorite toys followed by a “I promise I was good this year.” Milk and cookies left for the big guy and the anticipation galore heats up as they secretly dream about the array of presents under the tree waiting for them in the morning, There is nothing wrong with skimping on a few family members and just buying for the kids. After all, the holidays are about their beaming faces on Christmas morning!  Who’s considered a kid you ask- I’ll go with those under 18, but you can cheat a bit on this if you like.

Do not finance ANY gifts
what’s the point of paying off for your mom’s new furniture set, next year? There is none. I see your debt rising and your sinkhole getting deeper. Just don’t do it. Don’t let the 18 month 0 down scheme get you. It will also mean, less budget for next year! The interest rate will rocket by the time you can pay it off and your cash flow will seriously be disrupted.

Save some cash (this is a hard one)
I’m being realistic as I write this, as I know it’s a difficult task. But, try to save some cash to spend for holiday gifts rather than swiping the card. Credit card debts are the number one culprit and it really puts families in serious dangers. You still have time- even if its $5 a day- put it aside and be happy when you can pull out the hard earned cash rather than the plastic that you’ll owe in great interest.

Happy holiday shopping and good luck!

Posted in Editorials

Don’t Forget to Live

I remember growing up on a block surrounded by kids of all ages whose laughter and playful taunts echoed throughout the neighborhood. We anticipated sunrise to feel the warmth as we rode our bikes, played hide and seek and walked to the pizza shop. We rode the bus to the mall to check out the latest sneakers that dropped, although none of us could afford it.  We watched as the moon crept through the skies, turned on our porch lights and we would sit outside tossing around amusing stories of the day that unfolded before us, listening to the chirping crickets and catching lightning bugs. When overcast clouds gave us a rainy night, it was a reminder we would all arrive outside bright eyed and ready to wash the dirt off the cars in the morning. As we lay in our sound and safe beds brewing up the next day’s adventures, it was never forgotten that tomorrow would indeed be another magnificent day to explore, laugh, cry, and fall and most of all, live.

Fast forward to a day in the life of those same kids now. Things have changed drastically. Wanting to prolong sunrise so we can get a few more minutes of much needed rest to battle a day of kids’ lunches, school drop offs, delayed subway trains and unbearable coworkers whose life’s goal is to make you miserable. You leave the house without even a peck on the cheek, or simple “have a nice day.”  The thread on your jacket begins to unravel and the clash of thunder and lightning just makes you wish you never got out of bed.  You finally get off the train totally drenched, walking up to the coffee cart, only to realize you left your wallet home because you were in such a rush, so now, you can’t even buy yourself breakfast.  Catching only a glimpse of the beautifully decorated store windows as you scurry off to work and missing out on the talented teenager dropping some serious chords with his guitar. We anxiously await darkness to hover over, so we can put the kids to bed and fall asleep besides them, dauntingly exhausted and drained. We never ask about each other’s day, never steal a kiss or even a stare.

It’s inevitable we must all fulfill the duties of our everyday tasks. It’s pretty much written in stone that we have an unbroken responsibility to our children, to our homes and to our jobs. How could we possibly get through the day without doing a single chore or raising an elbow to clean up a mess (at least I can’t).  But nowhere does it forbid that we live our lives. I cannot say we should live as we did as kids, because a flood of memories would spiral me into wanting to skip work as I skipped school to get Ralph’s Italian Ices, or round up all the neighborhood adults for a quick manhunt game.(This would be awesome!)

Just stop and wonder. Stop to take a breath of fresh air and admire all the yellow Lilies in the summer midst or the multicolored butterflies fluttering about. Listen to your favorite song on the radio and sing it as loud as you can without a care in the world, strap on those dancing shoes and dance your heart away in the rain (As cliché as it sounds) or just hold on to your loved one’s hands and cherish that you can feel their soft touch.

We forget to live, to really live. We forget what it’s like to be free and full of excitement to wake up and experience the outside wonders, as my kids do every day. We forget to realize, every day, no matter how unusual to our expectations and clouded with complications and seemingly impossible obstacles are in that day, no matter how stressful we become and inundated with tasks, every day, is a day to live.

We smile at the teacher at school as we drop off our kids every day and say, “how are you?”  But when’s the last time you asked your significant other how they are?  Your boss needs you to take the highest paying client you have to dinner and you say ok. But, when your kid asks you to play outside, you say no because you’re too tired.  You come home in a frenzy, rush to make dinner and clean up the kitchen. But, when it’s time to eat, you’re still washing the dishes, the kids are sprawled in the living room watching TV eating their dinner, and your spouse is reading the newspaper while scarfing down a plate.

As life accelerates, we tend to roll with the punches and tumble into equilibrium of repetitive habits. Get up, make breakfast, feed the kids, go to work, come home, eat dinner, sleep.

How do we stop or at least alter this reoccurring cycle to find enjoyment and peace- even for a few minutes a day.

Forgetting to live is almost like not living at all.  When we become open and vulnerable to unnerving and raw negativity that influences what we think, say and do and how we aim to define living, it creates a bubble around us that forces us to envision nothing beyond the realm of this bubble.

The prerequisite for achieving satisfaction in life should be fulfilling simplicity. We get caught up in achieving “the American dream” that we neglect our own dreams.

The challenges that lay ahead are only true challenges within us if we haven’t really lived for what’s important. Face the unexpected with your heart and soul attached to your loved ones. Love the sunsets and raindrops as they tap on your window. Listen to the sounds of the ocean and tell your children incredible stories about heroes and mermaids.

Spend more time with loved ones. Cherish what you have today, or it can be gone tomorrow. Make memories together, hold on to life together. Live in the moment or by chance, live for the purpose of your deepest dreams and fantasies.

Whatever you do, however you do it, don’t forget to live.