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Add Years to Your Life

May 8th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

9 Healthy Habits That Add Years to Your Life

Go online and you can find hundreds of tips and tricks all claiming to be the secret to the fountain of youth. But the real keys to living longer aren’t that mysterious, and most can be added to your everyday routine. These healthy habits can help lower your RealAge—the age your body thinks it is compared to your chronological age. To help you get started and stay motivated, try following these nine, easy habits—all proven to help boost longevity.

STAY ACTIVE

Walking has a host of health benefits, including easing stress and boosting weight loss. But it can also help fight serious diseases. “Walking gets your heart beating a little bit faster and tends to help it stay strong,” says Keith Roach, MD, chief medical officer of Sharecare and co-creator of the RealAge® Test. In fact, a 2013 study found that regular walking lowers the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes just as well as running or jogging.

The benefits don’t end there. Daily strides may help you live longer, according to a 2018 study published in Circulation. The study suggests regular exercise, about 30 minutes a day, can help lengthen your life, but there’s even some research linking as little as 120 minutes of walking a week—just 17 minutes a day—to lower mortality.

Need help keeping tabs on how much walking you actually do each day? Try tracking your daily activity using the Sharecare app, available for iOS and Android. Once you activate the Steps tracker, your phone will automatically count your steps. 

DON’T SKIP SEX

A healthy sex life can benefit your relationship and lower your RealAge. Men who engage in regular sexual activity can reduce their risk of prostate cancer, according to Dr. Roach. For women, the benefits include less stress and better relationships—both of which can reduce the risk of chronic health problems, he says.

Having regular sex needn’t be a chore—there are simple (and fun) ways to get busy. Communicating with your partner is key, so don’t be afraid to share your desires and dislikes, and if you’ve got a packed calendar, it’s OK to schedule the deed.

MANAGE YOUR ANGER

Do coworkers call you a hothead? Does 6 p.m. traffic send you into a bout of road rage? You could be hurting your health. Many men won’t admit to having a short fuse, but research links those who do to a higher risk of developing heart disease, says Roach. Extreme anger in both men and women is rare, but it can be dangerous. “If somebody is walking around stressed and ready to explode at any minute, that can’t be good for their heart,” he says.

Anger can increase your heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Outbursts of anger may even trigger a heart attack. If you feel your face begin to flush and your fits clench, give yourself a moment to breathe or try channeling your energy into exercise. 

BREAK THE SITTING HABIT

No one knows exactly why a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health, but it’s possible a seated position puts an abnormal amount of pressure on the vascular system, which comprises the vessels that carry blood throughout the body. This stress may slow blood flow, increase the likelihood of blood clots and make it harder for the heart to pump blood. “People who sit for a large part of their day are at a considerably higher risk for developing heart disease, the number one killer in the United States,” Roach explains.

To lower your risk of heart disease and other siting-related conditions, like obesity and certain cancers, walk and stand whenever possible. If your job requires long hours behind a desk, take standing meetings or skip the email and hand-deliver a note to your coworker.

SKIP THE JUNK AND FILL UP ON HEALTHY FOODS

You may be great at ignoring the office candy machine, but processed foods—especially refined carbs found in chips, pretzels and snack cakes—can be just as dangerous. Shortly after sucking down pre-packaged foods, your body turns them into sugar, causing a spike in glucose and forcing the pancreas to make even more insulin, warns Roach. This added insulin can lead to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease—potentially cutting years off your life.

A diet rich in healthy, whole foods might have the opposite effect on the body. When combined with other good-for-you habits—like limiting alcohol consumption and steering clear of cigarettes—a healthy diet may add more than a decade to your life expectancy, according to research published in 2018.  

When building your next meal, start with a base of colorful vegetables, a serving of whole grains, a portion of lean protein and a drizzle of healthy fats. To stay on track, try jotting down your daily food and drink consumption in a nearby notebook, or log your intake using apps like Sharecare, which you can easily download on iOS and Android devices.

GIVE MEDITATION A TRY

Think meditation isn’t for you? You may want to reconsider. “Meditation isn’t necessarily about sitting on a prayer mat with your eyes half-closed and in the lotus position,” says Roach, “It may be about learning some breathing exercises you can do when you find yourself worrying.”

Not only can techniques like mindfulness meditation help you find Zen in the midst of a hectic day, they may also change your brain. According to a 2016 study published in Biological Psychiatry, meditating regularly can help you stay calm and handle stressful situations better, which may help reduce your disease risk. Want to give it a try? While sitting or standing in a comfortable position, give yourself a few minutes to become aware of the steady rhythm of your in and out breathing. As your mind calms, notice your thoughts and feelings, allowing them to pass without judgement. You can also try mantra meditation, which involves the silent repetition of a calming word or phrase like “peace” or “take it easy.”

A 2017 study published in The Lancet also suggests a link between stress and an increased stroke risk. Keep your cardiovascular health in tune by giving simple meditation practices a try.

STEER CLEAR OF CIGARETTES

It’s no secret smoking is harmful for your health, but never developing the habit may be more beneficial than you think. Research published in Circulation in 2018 shows that avoidance of smoking makes the list of life-lengthening habits, along with regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Cigarette smoking can increase your risk for a slew of health problems, like cancer, heart disease, lung disease and stroke and up your likelihood of premature death. Mortality rates among smokers are three times higher, compared to those who’ve never picked up a cigarette.

If you’re already a smoker, it’s not too late to improve your health. Just minutes after taking your last puff, your heart rate and blood pressure begin to normalize. Over time, kicking the habit can improve lung function, lower your likelihood of developing heart disease and cancer and reduce your mortality risk. Patches, gum and support groups can help make cessation a bit easier. Tracking your tobacco use can also help—just download the Sharecare app for iOS or Android and log your progress. 

MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT

Warnings about obesity and excess body weight have saturated the media—and for good reason. Obesity—a condition that affects more than 30 percent of American adults—is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. These conditions can lead to premature death, but can often be prevented. There is no single cause of obesity, but factors like inactivity, an unhealthy diet, genetics and certain health conditions and medications may play a role.    

Obesity is measured using your height and weight to calculate a number known as body mass index (BMI). A score greater than 30 is indicative of obesity; a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, which is also unhealthy. There are proven ways to lower the number you see on the scale, and 2018 research suggests the work is worth it, since maintaining a healthy weight can help add years to your life.

To slim down, start by swapping sugary drinks for water or seltzer, minding your portions and moving more throughout the day.

DON’T OVERDO THE BOOZE

Both the benefits and the risks of moderate alcohol consumption—one drink a day for women and two for men—have been questioned in recent years. While more research is needed to confirm the health benefits or drawbacks of modest drinking, the harmful effects of excess alcohol consumption are well-established. Exorbitant alcohol use has been linked to higher rates of certain cancers, increased risk of stroke and heart attack and a higher likelihood of mental health problems.

According to the same 2018 study that touted regular exercise, a healthy diet and weight control, alcohol consumption of less than two daily drinks has been linked to a greater life expectancy. If you don’t already enjoy a nightly scotch on the rocks or chocolatey glass of cabernet, there’s no reason to start sipping. But, if you’re slinging back more than 30 grams of liquid courage per day—about two drinks’ worth—this research could be the push you need to scale back.

Since you’re already tracking your steps and food and beverage intake with the Sharecare app, available for iOS and Android, log your alcohol consumption, too. 


7 Affordable Health Food Hacks

May 8th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

You want to eat healthy, but after picking up a few items, your budget is blown. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. The average four-person American household spends anywhere between $560 and $1270 on food per month.

But according to research from Gallup and Sharecare, nutritious eating can really pay off. One report gave Active Living scores to communities based on four key components of an area’s environment. The communities with the highest scores had higher rates of healthy eating habits and produce consumption. Another report ranked some of the healthiest cities in the nation based on one simple question: “Did you eat healthy all day yesterday?” The top communities, like Naples, Florida, Barnstable Town, Massachusetts and Santa Cruz, California are making active strides to improve accessibility to healthy foods, reduce access to unhealthy fast food and educate their community about nutritious eating habits.

Even if you don’t live in one of these communities, there are tricks and tips available to help you eat healthy on a budget. From meal prep to picking seasonal produce, here are 7 hacks that will help you fuel up properly without breaking the bank.

FIND VEGGIES AND FRUIT IN THE FREEZER AISLE

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruits last longer than fresh produce so they don’t go to waste, and they’re more affordable. Canned and frozen produce items are taken to be packaged right after harvesting, so they’re ripe and their nutrients are well preserved.

Read food labels to avoid canned and frozen products with high calorie sauces or syrups, saturated fat, added sugar or added salt. Frozen berries, spinach and corn, as well as canned tomatoes and beans are good options to start with.  

SHOP THE SEASON

When shopping for fresh produce, buying fruits and vegetables that are in season, or foods that grow during the current season and climate, is definitely the way to go. Seasonal produce costs less because it’s more likely to come from a local farm rather than one located farther away. And seasonal produce is liable to have more flavor and more nutrients like potassium, vitamin C and calcium. Fruits and veggies are picked when they are the freshest and distributed soon after, so you’ll reap their original health benefits. Your local farmer’s market is a fun and easy place to go for in-season produce. Click here to find out what’s in season, when.

TRY THE STORE BRAND

On average, store brand grocery items cost 23% less than name brand items and most of the time, the two products are essentially the same. Like national brands, all store brand products undergo quality and safety checks before they make their way to grocery store shelves.

Whether it’s a cereal product or a canned vegetable, always compare store brand and name brand nutrition labels to make sure the quality and ingredient lists are comparable. If they are, choose the store brand option to help your wallet out big time. 

MEAL PREP CAN HELP YOU SAVE, TOO

Meal prep will help you make better food choices and save you money. When meals are ready to go, you’re less likely to order take-out or swing through the drive through at the end of a long day.

Over the weekend, set aside a few hours to plan and prep your meals for the week ahead. Try assembling meal ingredients for things like soups and smoothies in plastic baggies or containers so you can throw them in the pot or blender in a pinch. Make daily snacks and lunches for the week all at once, and cook big batches of veggies that can accompany any main dish you have during the week. Join our clean eating challenge to get easy make-a-head recipe ideas.  

BUY IN BULK

Public wholesale stores may seem intimidating, but for foods you eat regularly, they may be the best bet for saving money. But before you start loading up your cart at Costco, make sure you compare the bulk price per unit with what you normally buy.

It’s easy to get carried away when buying in bulk, but if you stick to pantry staples and foods with a longer shelf-life, you’ll save some cash and cut down how often you need to go to the grocery store. Bulk shop for items you’ll use up before they expire. Brown rice, oatmeal, natural honey, dried beans, vinegar and whole-wheat pasta are some of the healthy food items that can stay in your pantry for a while. 

DRINK MORE WATER

Drinking more water can help you lose weight, promotes good brain function and helps keep your joints lubricated so you can move about easier. And if you bypass soda, coffee, juice and tea when grocery shopping, opting for good ‘ole H20 instead, you’ll save money, too.

Water is calorie free, while other beverages may be filled with sugar and empty calories. Add flavor to your water with slices of affordable fresh fruit like limes, berries and oranges.

10 Things Wealthy People Do

May 8th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

to Keep Getting Richer

In a world of average people — and average salaries — many of us aspire to join the 7-figure club. Who doesn’t dream of becoming wealthy, so they can stop working, go on guilt-free shopping sprees and take endless vacations?

However, most rich people don’t do those things, and that’s part of how they build and maintain their wealth. There’s a difference between living a life of careless spending (which will quickly drain even a wealthy person’s bank account) and living for long-term financial independence and wealth.

The self-made rich aren’t necessarily smarter than anyone else, but they have mastered some important principles that help them get ahead and stay ahead. Most important, they treat building wealth as a learnable skill — and it’s one that you can learn, too.

So, if you’d like to join the ranks of the super wealthy, try honing these 10 habits and lifestyle changes and see what financial freedom truly feels like.

1. Have a financial growth mindset.

Wealthy people are incredibly creative when it comes to thinking about business and finding different ways of making money. Mega-successful people set themselves apart because they nurture a financial growth mindset, which changes how you view money and helps you focus on seeing profitable opportunities.

This mindset helps successful and wealthy people believe that there are always bigger and better projects to work on and there’s always more money to be made. They’re open to exploring new ideas. They believe they’re always capable of making changes and creating a positive outcome.

2. Network with other successful people.

Wealthy people understand the importance of surrounding themselves with other successful people. Wealthy people spend time networking with others who are wealthy but also have drive, talent and, most important, the potential to become wildly successful. The rich spend time every month getting to know other like-minded people at conferences, events and gatherings, or just grabbing coffee or a drink with someone interesting.

This is time wisely invested, as it keeps their minds focused on success and helps them meet new people who have fresh and thought-provoking ideas. Doing this also helps wealthy people fill their contact lists with relevant and influential people who can potentially help them (and vice versa).

3. Get outside your comfort zone.

Wealthy people are successful because they have learned that success comes to those who embrace a little discomfort. They understand that the only way to really improve is to push yourself beyond your limits. If you want to become wealthy, you’re going to need to fuel your creative spark, come up with unique business ideas and then take the plunge.

Wealth and success don’t emerge from the safety of a 9-to-5 job. They come from drawing on your inner strength and going for your big dream. All successful business leaders, visionaries and game-changers have gone beyond their comfort zones in order to achieve the ultimate success. The people who will go down in history had the courage to face their fears and take that first step into the unknown.

4. Create multiple income flows.

The more money you have, the easier it is to make more money. And the easiest and fastest way to make more money is to have multiple income streams. That way you always have money coming in and can use the excess income to invest in new income flows. This, in a nutshell, is the primary way the wealthy stay wealthy.

There are two basic forms of income: active income, in which you work for the money you make, and passive income, in which payment isn’t directly tied to the number of hours you work. Passive income includes rental property, dividend stocks, index funds, writing a book or creating an app, all of which will bring in a steady flow of income from sales or royalties.

5. Invest.

Rich people make their money work for them. They know that investing is the key to growing their finances. While saving money for a rainy day is important, your investments are going to do the heavy lifting to help you become wealthy.

Saving means putting money into a safe place until you want to retrieve it, but most savings accounts don’t yield high interest, so this pile of money basically stays static — it’s not going to grow much beyond what you add. But smart investments will give you healthy returns, which you can then reinvest. When you invest in something, you also accept some amount of risk, so you never want to invest more than you can afford to lose.

6. Take calculated risks.

The rich don’t gamble on big financial decisions; they do what they can to mitigate risk. They do their research and analysis, and determine which options best suit their financial needs and business desires. They weigh the pros and cons, and then take calculated risks.

They make financial decisions by asking themselves, “Will this bring me closer to my goal?” They avoid frivolous risks that aren’t really going to benefit them, and never take a cavalier attitude when it comes to money.

7. Focus on self-improvement.

Wealthy people are usually avid readers, but you won’t find many mindless beach novels in their bookcases. The wealthy understand the importance of self-education and pushing themselves to become better in all ways. In fact, if you look at the books piled by their beds, you’ll mostly find titles on self-improvement.

While 85 percent of rich people read two or more self-improvement books per month, only 11 percent read for entertainment, compared to 79 percent of the poor. And a whopping 94 percent of wealthy people read news publications, compared to 11 percent of non-wealthy people.

8. Never completely retire.

The ultra-rich certainly have enough money to never work another day in their life, but the majority of them keep working, at least to some degree, often well past 70. That doesn’t mean they’re clocking long days at the office; indeed, they’re probably taking their fair share of vacations and enjoying flexible schedules. But many rich people never completely retire. This is not because they can’t afford to, but because they enjoy what they do.

Many are entrepreneurs at heart, and the desire to run and grow a business never leaves them. The stability of working and the sense of purpose and fulfillment it gives them is an important part of their overall happiness. Working gives them an ongoing feeling of success and an objective to keep them focused. Not to mention that it keeps the money rolling in!

9. Avoid overspending.

While non-wealthy people daydream about spending money without worry, buying fancy cars, big houses and expensive clothes, the rich understand that the more money you spend, the less you have. The wealthy wouldn’t stay wealthy long if they spent excessively. No matter how much money you earn, you’ll always be poor if you spend more than you make.

The rich recognize that the less you spend, the more money you have to grow your wealth. Keep in mind that frugality is relative to your income — a wealthy person may spend much more than someone who is considered middle class. But in relative terms, the rich tend to be thrifty, and they make sure they don’t overspend.

10. Take time to reflect.

Many of the self-made wealthy spend time in focused thinking every day. Spending 30 minutes (or more) in a quiet space gives them time to reflect on their life and goals, to think about their health and relationships, consider their career and financial goals, and analyze where they’re currently at and where they want to be. Critical thinking time is essential to staying ahead of the market and considering what changes may be coming your way.

This is also time to focus on self-improvement and working through ideas. Some may opt for journaling or writing to help them come up with creative solutions and ideas. Just make sure you’re spending your time on productive thinking. Don’t waste your mental energy on ruminations or negative thought loops that will make you second guess yourself. The wealthy don’t.


5 Phone Hacks for Travelers

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

(That Will Help Make Your Next Trip a Whole Lot Easier)

travel a lot. And by a lot, I mean really a lot. I’ve flown more than two million miles and spent more than 1,000 nights in hotel rooms. Did I mention that I travel a lot? Here are some things I’ve learned about my phone’s ability to make my travels a whole lot smoother that I hope you can use on your next trip. Happy trails! 

1. Turn your calendar into a Swiss Army knife.

If you’re not using a calendar that’s synced between your phone and laptop or is cloud-based (like on Google) then stop reading and go figure that out right now, dinosaur.

Your calendar is a very powerful and valuable tool which can solve a lot of problems, but only if you use it properly. First, mobile calendars automatically adjust for the time difference when you travel, showing your appointments, flights and reservations in the local time (the time in the place you are in). So, if you put in all your flights, appointments, etc., into the calendar, you’ll always know what’s what. If you’re working on the road overseas, and have to be on conference calls back in the U.S., the appointments you made in your calendar before you left will show in the local time, so you won’t get confused and miss calls and deadlines.

Pro tip: Add in all the details of your flights and hotel reservations, as well as the phone number and addresses of your destinations into the notes for eachappointment. Isn’t that a lot of work? Nope. Most confirmation emails from hotels and airlines include a link or an attachment which do it automatically with a click. When you’re done, finding your way to your next appointment is a single touch on the address in your calendar — the navigation app opens automagically — and all the information about your next activity will be right there. No more frantically searching your emails for addresses and phone numbers.

Related: How to Stay Productive and on Task When Traveling for Work

2. Add a +1 to all your U.S. contact numbers.

When you’re overseas, the numbers in your phone may not work correctly, or not at all, because every country has its own unique way of dialing phone numbers. Adding +1 (1 is the country code for the U.S.) before all your important U.S. phone numbers in your mobile address book will usually fix all of that so that you’re able just to use your phone as you normally would. Otherwise, you’re going to have to learn the prefix (“exit code”) for each country you visit, because even your home number is an international call when you’re overseas.

Pro tip: Make sure your personal contact information is stored correctly (including the +1) and complete. Sharing your contact card is a very tech-savvy look when people “ask for your number” — just be sure there’s nothing stored in there you don’t want to share (like your home address or passwords — yes, some people do that). You can create a second contact card (”personal”) if you want to have one with all your secret deets.

3. Upgrade your passcode.

If you don’t use a complicated passcode to unlock your phone, you’re asking for trouble. Besides having all your personal information, photos and who knows what else in it, your phone is the most perfect way for thieves to steal your identity. Thieves can use your phone to send and receive texts and emails posing as you, and can reset every password you have: banks, social sites, medical records, your video doorbell, webcams…Plus they can send pictures to your ex that might cause even bigger problems. And don’t forget about the codes to unlock your laptop or tablet you might leave behind in the hotel while you’re out. In the age of the cloud, access to any of those devices presents the same open doorway to making your life miserable.

Pro Tip: If you’re using fingerprint or FaceID to unlock your phone, good for you, but remember when you first bought the phone and set the password to “0000” because you never use it? Oops. Your phone’s password bypass just as easily unlocks it, so make it something complicated as if your life depends on it.

Related: 7 Entrepreneurs Who Built Businesses Off Their Love of Travel

4. Get your airline and hotel apps.

Before you leave, download the apps for your hotel and airline and sign in. The apps will instantly update you about flight delays and gate changes and often offer local tips and events during your stay. Most importantly, you’ll be able to make quick modifications to reservations on the move, so changing a flight or extending a hotel stay is a little less painful.

Pro tip: These apps also include the proper international phone number to reach reservations and customer service, as well as the direct number to your hotel.  

5. Your camera is good for more than selfies.

If your phone is not from the bronze age, and you have location services turned on, the photos you take with your phone are precisely geotagged. This allows you to find a place you visited, or find out more information about something you might have seen, using the location embedded into the photo’s metadata. (Don’t worry about the tech — the phone does the work for you). Forgot to write down the name of that awesome locals-only pub? Opening a photo you took will allow you to find the location, and most of the time, the exact name.

Pro tip: Remember that GPS works best outside, so if it’s somewhere you really want to remember, be sure to take a photo when you’re leaving.

Source: entrepreneur.com

9 Ways Happy People Start

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

9 Ways Happy People Start Their Mornings

Everyone approaches their morning differently. Some people wake up excited to start their day. Others like to ease into their day more gradually. No matter how you like to start your morning, there are things you can do to ensure every day gets off to a great start.

Everyone approaches their morning differently. Some people wake up excited to start their day. Others like to ease into their day more gradually. No matter how you like to start your morning, there are things you can do to ensure every day gets off to a great start.

A good morning routine will help you feel relaxed, alert and energized. Starting your morning on the right foot means creating a feeling of happiness that you can carry with you all day long. Your morning routine should include not only getting ready, but also making space for feeling joy and feeling mentally and physically prepared to take on whatever the world has in store for you.

Start your day off the right way with these 9 habits that happy people use to get their morning going. (Hint: It’s not about gulping coffee and running out the door.)

1. Get enough sleep.

An exhausted person isn’t a happy person. Nothing will kill your happiness faster than waking up tired and grumpy. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, you’re probably starting your day drained and irritated. It’s hard to have a positive outlook when all you want to do is crawl back into bed.

A good night’s sleep is like a magical elixir for your physical health, and is key to your overall sense of happiness and well-being. Research has shown that sleep is one of the most effective ways to improve concentration, strengthen the immune system and improve a person’s mood and feeling of well-being.

However, not getting enough sleep impairs memory and increases levels of stress hormones. So, the first step to creating a happy, cheerful morning is ensuring you get enough quality sleep the night before. Set a sleep schedule for yourself and stick to it — your happiness may depend on it.

2. A new day, a new start.

Happy people begin each day anew. They wake up with the mindset that each day is a new beginning — a chance to move forward and not let past failures weigh them down. Yesterday may have been a rotten day, but that doesn’t mean today has to be.

Happy people start their day with an affirmation. They declare from the outset how they want their day to go. A positive morning affirmation can be a powerful way to start your day feeling confident and ready for success. Examples include:

  • I have the knowledge to make smart decisions for myself.
  • I am, and always will be, enough.
  • I let go of any negative feelings about myself or my life and accept all that is good.
  • I am courageous. I am willing to act and face my fears.

3. Wake up grateful.

Waking up with a feeling of gratitude ensures you start your day in good spirits. A thankful heart is a happy heart. Gratitude is powerful because it’s both a feeling and an action. Actively thinking about things you’re grateful for, in turn, makes you feel grateful. It’s a positive thought loop that’s easy to practice and has beneficial effects on your physical and mental health.

You can wake up feeling grateful by simply taking a moment when you first open your eyes to look about and feel a swell of appreciation for everything around you. Recognize how wonderful this moment is, and how good it feels to be here. Today is a gift, and you can do with it what you will. You can choose to make the most of it. You can choose happiness. Take a moment to acknowledge all you have and see the possibilities of the day before you.

4. Keep a manageable morning routine.

Happy people don’t frantically tear around trying to get ready at breakneck speed and then rush out the door, already late for their first meeting or appointment of the day. Doing this will set you up for feeling stressed out and harried all day long. Starting the day with a contented and peaceful attitude requires you to have time to wake up properly and to get ready at a calm and measured pace.

Happy people tend to keep their routine simple and manageable. A complex routine is hard to stick to and can leave you feeling anxious and exasperated first thing in the morning. Cut out multitasking and reject unneeded distractions, like checking and returning email while trying to get ready. Do one thing at a time. Keep your morning uncomplicated and as stress-free as possible so you’ll set yourself up to be in a good mood all day long.

Related: The 10-Minute Morning Routine That Will Clear Your Mind

5. Meditate

Daily meditation, whether it’s a quick five-minute practice or a lengthier session, can help create a contented and happy mind. Spending time meditating each morning improves focus, increases self-esteem and confidence, and quiets the cacophony of mental angst and turbulence we are constantly contending with. You can meditate at any time of day, but it’s best to do it in the morning so you’re sure to get it in, and so you can benefit from its effects throughout the day.

To begin the practice of meditation, start by sitting quietly in a comfortable position or in a chair for two minutes every morning. This is a chance for you to check in with how you’re feeling, both in your mind and body. Be focused on the moment. Turn your attention to your breaths or do a body scan, focusing on one body part at a time. Recognize your thoughts and feelings, and maintain a loving attitude toward yourself. Meditation is a chance to get to know yourself and be aware of each moment you are in.

Related: 7 Proven Ways Meditating Prepares You for Success

6. Start your day with exercise.

Before you dive into a long day of work, make sure you take time to get some exercise in. Some people find that fresh air first thing in the morning brightens their mood all day. Try a brisk walk, a run around the block or a trip to the gym. Other people may prefer to start their day with a home workout, such as stretching or yoga.

Morning exercise gets your blood flowing and gives you a boost of energy for the day. Exercise also releases feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These may buffer feelings of stress and anxiety, and help relieve symptoms of depression. Research has shown that working out improves how we feel about our bodies and gives us a sense of well-being.

7. Make your bed.

It may sound silly, but beginning your day by making your bed can set you up for feeling ready to take on the world. According to one survey of 2,000 Americans, bed makers tend to be adventurous, confident and sociable. People who don’t make their beds tend to be shy, moody and sarcastic.

Many successful people recommend making your bed as a simple way to start the day off on the right foot. For example, Tim Ferriss has said that the simple act of bed making teaches us that it’s the little things in life that matter.

US Navy SEAL commander Admiral William H. McRaven gave a now-famous commencement speech at the University of Texas in which he said that making your bed is so powerful because it gives you a feeling of accomplishment first thing in the morning. It encourages you to take on even more tasks and motivates you to get more done in life.

8. Nourish your body.

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true. Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism and gets your body and mind prepped for a busy day. Research has found that breakfast eaters have better diets and consume more fruit and vegetables than those who don’t eat breakfast.

But just as important, a nourished body leads to an improved mood. Eating breakfast also sends a positive message to yourself that you are taking care of your health and well-being. You’ll find you can concentrate better if you start the day with a healthy meal. You’ll be less likely to feel fatigued and get that “hangry” feeling mid-morning, which leads to overeating at lunch. The best breakfasts pair carbs with proteins to get your body fueled and ready to go.

9. Set goals for the day.

Happy people often have a sense of purpose. They aren’t wandering aimlessly through life; they work each day to make progress and accomplish their tasks. It feels satisfying to have set priorities for yourself and strive to meet milestones. Happy people make sure they begin their day by setting goals for themselves. What do you want to accomplish today? What is the most efficient and effective use of your time?

Make it a point to spend a few minutes each morning determining what you want to do that day. Be sure to think through your to-do list carefully — often we spend too much time on things that aren’t really important. Focus on what matters and make sure you’re scheduling downtime. After all, the secret to lasting happiness is finding ways to enjoy each day in its entirety.

I Deleted Facebook Last Year.

April 5th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Here’s What Changed (and What Didn’t).

When Facebook and its family of apps experienced a daylong malfunction last week, millions of people got a taste of what life would be like if the social network were out of their lives for good.

I can tell you more about that: I permanently deleted my Facebookaccount five months ago.

So what has happened in the aftermath?

The social network’s long-stated mission has been to connect people so that we can live in a more open world. But after being off Facebook since October, I found that I did not feel less connected and that my social life didn’t suffer, even though I was no longer seeing status updates and pictures on my News Feed.

My friends and I continued making plans over email and messaging apps. So did my family. Same old, same old.

There were some differences, though — including some strange experiences with online ads. Facebook has long used information that it collects on its users to target people with the most relevant ads. So after a few months of deleting the social network, I began seeing random ads pop up on sites like Instagram (which Facebook owns). Among them: promotions for women’s shaving products, purses and bathing suits.

Instagram might have started thinking I was female, but my wallet thanked me. I realized I was spending considerably less money on my usual guilty pleasure of buying clothing and cooking gadgets online because I was no longer seeing the relevant Facebook ads that egged me on to splurge. Over the past five months, my online shopping purchases dropped about 43 percent.

So what about FOMO, otherwise known as a fear of missing out, typically induced by social media? That is often one of the biggest reasons people are afraid to quit Facebook. What if they didn’t see that post about an outing with a distant friend? Or a party invitation shared on the social network?

For me, it turned out that without Facebook, there wasn’t much I really missed out on — except targeted ads. Here’s more of what I learned.

Over the 14 years that I used Facebook, I accrued about 500 friends. Most were former classmates whom I had lost touch with.

In my real life, I have about 20 friends I talk to on a regular basis. So when I finally deleted Facebook, the fallout was underwhelming.

Those same friends kept in touch over iMessage, Signal or email. We still get dinner or go to the movies together. I can think of one friend who exclusively used Facebook Messenger to communicate — we email now and talk less than we used to, but when we meet in person we are as close as we always were. And I can’t remember the last time I attended an event that I was invited to via Facebook, so I never had a case of FOMO.

I can also tell you what I absolutely don’t miss about Facebook: the people who frequently posted online quizzes, political news stories or their thoughts about current events on the site. Occasionally, there were funny or interesting posts, but ultimately most were time wasters.

Recently, I also started reading more books. Could it be because I’m no longer expending my energy reading Facebook?

Brands have long been able to target us with ads through Facebook’s tools. You might see an ad on Facebook for a watch, for instance, because a watch company used the tools to upload your email address and leverage other data that the social network has on you — like your age or the fact that you follow Timex’s Facebook page.

When you browse sites outside Facebook, the company can still track your browsing activity to help brands serve you targeted ads. After visiting a website for a pair of shoes, for example, you might see an ad for those shoes — or similar ones — when you go to another site.

The social network uses a variety of approaches to collect information about web users. One involves Facebook pixel, an invisible tracker that brands can embed into their websites. When you load a website for a brand, Facebook pixel sends information about the device and its browsing activities back to the company. The social network can then use that information to help brands target you.

When I deleted Facebook, I wanted all of that ad targeting to go away. So not only did I erase my Facebook account, I also installed tracker blockers on my computer browser and mobile devices to prevent advertisers from using web cookies and invisible tracking pixels like Facebook’s. (For instructions on how to shake ad targeting more thoroughly, see this previous column.)

The extra steps worked. The onslaught of targeted online ads stopped.

“If you have the tracker blocker and deleted your Facebook account, you’ve exited,” said Gabriel Weinberg, the chief executive of DuckDuckGo, which offers internet privacy tools including a web browser that blocks trackers.

Facebook says it does not build profiles on people who are not on the social network, nor does it serve targeted ads to them. “Sites and apps send us information about the people who visit them, regardless of whether that person has a Facebook profile,” the company said in a statement. “If you aren’t a Facebook user, we don’t know who you are and don’t build any kind of profile on you.”

Advertisers still have methods other than Facebook to chase me around, but there are economic reasons for them to give up. With Facebook’s tools, it was relatively affordable and effective for them to track and target me. Without those, it gets a lot more costly.

“You might be too expensive for them to chase,” said Michael Priem, the chief executive of Modern Impact, an advertising firm in Minneapolis.

Facebook has often defended targeted ads by saying that internet users are annoyed when they see irrelevant ads. I disagree. Yes, the ads I now see have nothing to do with me — but the benefit was watching my spending drop immensely.

About a year ago, I recall shopping on the site for Taylor Stitch, a men’s clothing retailer. I looked at a coat and closed the window after deciding not to buy it. Then over the next weeks, an ad for that coat loaded on Facebook, inside Instagram and on other websites. Guess what happened? I bought it.

After deleting Facebook, I have more often canceled online purchases after asking myself: Do I need another plaid shirt, frying pan or cocktail shaker? The answer was always no. And as there is now nothing to change my mind, my credit card remains sheathed.

I opened Mint, the budget tracking tool, to get a clear picture of how much I was saving. From October to mid-March, I spent about $341 on clothing and $1,100 on Amazon purchases.

That was a significant drop from my internet shopping sprees before I deleted Facebook. From October 2017 to mid-March of 2018, I spent $1,008 on clothing and $1,542 on Amazon. Gulp.

For years, I saw ads on my personal Instagram account for men’s boots, briefcases and video games. Now, I’m getting ads for products like women’s razors and brassieres.

I have a theory for the change, which Facebook didn’t dispute: Having no Facebook account means Instagram is missing big pieces of accompanying information about who I am and what I like. So it may be lacking signals to serve the correct ads.

And because my fiancée and I both run our dog’s Instagram accountand interact with it from our personal accounts and our own devices, some wires may have been crossed and Instagram now thinks I’m female. (Instagram does not require people to share their gender when signing up for accounts.)

That’s a bit odd, but I’m not annoyed. Instead, I find the irrelevant ads amusing. At least they give me ideas for future gifts.

Source: nytimes.com

The Real History of St. Patrick’s Day

March 4th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

When you think of St. Patrick’s Day, you probably think of green beer, shot glass necklaces that say “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” and everybody talking about how Irish they suddenly are. That’s all well and good, but I bet you don’t know much about the holiday’s origins, or the saint it celebrates. Well, take off that stupid hat, stop talking like a leprechaun for a second, and educate yourself a smidge.

St. Patrick, considered the patron saint of Ireland, was actually born in Banna Venta Berniae, a town in Roman Britain, sometime in the late 300s AD. That’s right, Patrick wasn’t Irish. And his name wasn’t Patrick either—it was Maewyn Succat, but he didn’t care for that so he chose to be known as Patricius down the line. He actually had many monikers throughout his life: he was known by many as Magonus, by others as Succetus, and to some as Cothirthiacus. But we’ll just call him Patrick since everybody else does. Has a nice ring to it…

His father, Calpurnius, was a deacon in the early Christian church, but Patrick wasn’t much of a believer himself. It wasn’t until he was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16 and enslaved for six years as a shepherd that he chose to convert to Christianity. While in northeastern Ireland, Patrick learned the Irish language and culture before attempting to escape back to Britain. But Patrick wasn’t very good at escaping apparently, because he was captured again. This time by the French. He was held in France where he learned all about monasticism before he was released and sent home to Britain where he continued to study Christianity well into his twenties. Eventually, Patrick claimed he had a vision that told him to bring Christianity to the Irish people, who were predominantly pagan and druidic at the time, so Patrick he made his way back to Ireland and brought a big ol’ bag of Christianity with him.

When Patrick arrived back in Ireland, however, he and his preaching ways were not welcomed, so he had to leave and land on some small islands off the coast. There he began to gain followers, and he eventually moved to the mainland to spread Christian ideologies across Ireland for many years to come. During this time, Patrick baptized thousands of people (some say 100,000), ordained new priests, guided women to nunhood, converted the sons of kings in the region, and aided in the formation of over 300 churches.

Folklore also tells of Patrick banishing all the snakes from Ireland, but as badass as that may sound, there were never actually any snakes on the island to begin with. Lame, I know. But Patrick may be the one responsible for popularizing the shamrock, or that three-leafed plant you’ll see plastered all over the place today. According to legend, Patrick used it to teach the Irish the concept of the Christian Holy Trinity. They already had triple deities and regarded the number three highly, so Patrick’s use of the shamrock may have helped him win a great deal of favor with the Irish.

These days, Patricius is known to most as Saint Patrick. Though he’s not technically a canonized saint by the Catholic Church, he’s well-regarded throughout the Christian world. But why the holiday? Why always March 17? What’s with the green? And why do we think of a non-Irish, non-snake charmer as a symbol of Ireland?

St. Paddy’s Day started as a religious celebration in the 17th century to commemorate the life of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. This “Feast Day” always took place on the anniversary of Patrick’s death, which was believed to be March 17, 461 AD. In the early 18th century, Irish immigrants brought the tradition over to the American colonies, and it was there that Saint Patrick started to become the symbol of Irish heritage and culture that he is today. As more Irish came across the Atlantic, the Feast Day celebration slowly grew in popularity. So much so, in fact, the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737.

By the mid 19th century, the United States saw a massive influx of Irish immigrants hoping to escape the Great Famine. This transformed the relatively small-scale Feast Day observance into a full-blown celebration that people wanted to be a part of whether they were Irish or not. In 1903, Feast Day became a national holiday in Ireland, and over time it transformed into what is now called St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday has since been celebrated all over the world in countries like the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Russia, and even throughout Asia. As it happens, St. Paddy’s Day is so popular, it’s thought to be celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. What was once a fairly chill day of going to mass, watching a parade, and eating a hearty meal with family has transformed into the biggest party in the world.

If you’re wondering why you’re wearing green right now, there’s more to it than protection from pinching fingers. It goes back to the Irish Rebellion, when Irish soldiers wore green as they fought off the British in their trademark red. Until then, the color associated with St. Patrick and Feast Day was actually blue. The song soldiers sang during the war in 1798, “The Wearing of the Green,” changed all of that and made green, the color of shamrocks, Ireland’s mainstay color. From then on, people wore green on St. Patrick’s Day in solidarity. And when Chicago dyed their river green for the first time in 1962, the practice of wearing and decorating in green became a part of pop culture. It’s now commonplace to bust out your best greens mid-March.

Okay, so why all the drinking then? It’s part historical subtext, part us succumbing to advertising, and part stereotyping. Originally, St. Patrick’s Day, or Feast Day, saw the lifting of Lent restrictions for the day, giving Christians a breather as they made their way to Easter. Basically, it was a day to eat and drink as much as you please in celebration, hence the traditional Irish meal of bacon and cabbage. But imbibing on whiskey and beer was not part of the equation. In fact, pubs in Ireland were forced by law to shut down for the holiday until later in the 20th century, and drinking alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day was greatly frowned upon until the late 1970s.

Then, a huge marketing push from Budweiser in the 80s convinced thirsty revelers that drinking beer and St. Patrick’s Day were one in the same. The rest is drunk history nobody seems to remember, as it’s all been replaced in our heads with quotes from Boondock SaintsMuch like Cinco de Mayo, many people now use the holiday as an excuse to binge drink, which fosters negative stereotypes by incorrectly associating the act of getting wasted with Irish culture. But, at least now you can take a swig of your Guinness in pride because you know the real story. Sláinte!

Update: This article originally linked Saint Patrick’s birthplace of Bannaventa with Banna Venta Berniae, in the Northamptonshire region of England. This is believed to be inaccurate, and the exact whereabouts of his birthplace are uncertain.

The Washington Monument

March 4th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

15 Things You Might Not Know About the Washington Monument

It’s the tallest building in Washington, D.C. and it honors the first U.S. president, George Washington. Here are a few more Washington Monument facts to celebrate the anniversary of its dedication on February 21, 1885.

1. BUILDING A MONUMENT TO GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS NOT A UNANIMOUSLY SUPPORTED IDEA.

Today, trumpeting George Washington as a hero and a symbol of national pride isn’t going to start any arguments. In the 19th century, however, Washington’s approval rating was far from 100 percent. The very idea of constructing a monument to honor the former president felt like an affront to the Democratic-Republicans—the opposing party to the Washington-aligned Federalists—who both favored Thomas Jefferson over Washington and decried such tributes as unseemly and suspiciously royalist.

2. IT TOOK ALMOST 40 YEARS TO COMPLETE THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT’S CONSTRUCTION.

After decades of deliberation about where to build a monument to George Washington, what form it should take, and whether the whole thing was a good idea in the first place, the foundation for a great stone obelisk was laid at the center of Washington, D.C.’s National Mall on July 4, 1848. Although the design looks fairly simple, the structure would prove to be a difficult project for architect Robert Mills and the Washington National Monument Society. Due to ideological conflicts, lapses in funding, and disruptions during the Civil War, construction of the Washington Monument would not be completed until February 21, 1885. The site opened to the public three years later. 

3. A COUP WITHIN THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL MONUMENT SOCIETY DELAYED CONSTRUCTION.

In 1855, an anti-Catholic activist group nicknamed the Know-Nothings seized control of the 23-year-old Washington National Monument Society. Once in power, the Know-Nothings rejected and destroyed memorial stones donated by Pope Piux IX. The Know-Nothing affiliation cost the project financial support from the public and from Congress. In 1858, after adding only two layers of masonry to the monument, the Know-Nothings abdicated control of the society. 

4. EARLY IDEAS FOR THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT INCLUDED STATUES, GREEK COLUMNS, AND TOMBS.

Before the society settled on building an obelisk, several other ideas were suggested as the visual representation of George Washington’s grandeur. Among them were an equestrian statue of the first president (which was part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for Washington, D.C.), a separate statue situated atop a classical Greek column, and a tomb constructed within the Capitol building. The last idea fell apart when Washington’s family was unwilling to move his body from its resting place in Mount Vernon.

5. LATER DESIGN PLANS INCLUDED AN ELABORATE COLONNADE …

Even after Mills’ obelisk model had been accepted, a few flashier design elements received consideration as possible additions to the final project. Mills had originally intended to surround the tower with a circular colonnade, featuring not only a statue of George Washington seated gallantly atop a chariot, but also 30 individual statues of renowned Revolutionary War heroes. 

6. … AND AN EGYPTIAN SUN.

Mills placed a winged sun—an Egyptian symbol representing divinity—above the doorframe of the Washington Monument’s principal entrance. The sun was removed in 1885. 

7. THE MONUMENT ORIGINALLY HAD A FLAT TOP.

It has become recognizable for its pointed apex, but the Washington Monument was originally designed to bear a flat top. The monument’s design was capped with a pyramid-shaped addition in 1879.

8. THE ENGINEER WHO COMPLETED THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT ASKED THE GOVERNMENT TO SUPPLY HIS WORKERS WITH HOT COFFEE.

Several years after the 1855 death of Mills, Col. Thomas Lincoln Casey Sr., chief of engineers of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, assumed responsibility for completing the Washington Monument. Among his most memorable orders was an official request to the U.S. Treasury Department to supply his workers—specifically those assigned to the construction of the monument’s apex—with “hot coffee in moderate quantities.” The treasury complied. 

9. DOZENS OF MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS ARE BURIED BENEATH THE MONUMENT.

On the first day of construction, a zinc case containing a number of objects and documents was placed in the Washington Monument’s foundation. Alongside copies of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are a map of the city of Washington, publications of Census data, a book of poems, a collection of American coins, a list of Supreme Court justices, a Bible, daguerreotypes of George Washington and his mother Mary, Alfred Vail’s written description of the magnetic telegraph, a copy of Appleton’s Railroad and Steamboat Companion, and an issue of the arts and leisure magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, among many other items.

10. SOME OF THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT’S MEMORIAL STONES BEAR STRANGE INSCRIPTIONS.

The vast majority of the 194 memorial stones lining the Washington Monument are not likely to inspire confusion. Common inscriptions celebrate George Washington, the country, and the states they represent. However, a few of the monument’s stones bear engravings of a more curious variety. A stone donated by a Welsh-American community from New York reads (in Welsh), “My language, my land, my nation of Wales—Wales for ever.” Another stone from the Templars of Honor and Temperance articulates the organization’s rigid support of Prohibition: “We will not make, buy, sell, or use as a beverage any spirituous or malt liquors, wine, cider, or any other alcoholic liquor, and will discountenance their manufacture, traffic, and use, and this pledge we will maintain unto the end of life.” 

11. THE APEX WAS DISPLAYED AT TIFFANY’S BEFORE IT WAS ADDED TO THE STRUCTURE.

The men who created the Washington Monument, though reverent in their intentions, were hardly above a good publicity stunt. William Frishmuth, an architect and aluminum magnate connected to the project, arranged for the pointed aluminum top of the monument to enjoy an ornate two-day display at New York City’s luxury jewelry store Tiffany’s. The apex was placed on the floor of the storefront so that shoppers could claim to have walked “over the top of the Washington Monument.” 

12. OPENING CEREMONIES ATTRACTED SEVERAL BIG-NAME GUESTS.

Among the 20,000 Americans present for the beginning of construction in 1848 were then-President James K. Polk, three future presidents (James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Johnson), former first lady Dolley Madison, Alexander Hamilton’s widow Elizabeth Hamilton(John Quincy Adams’ widow was too sick to attend), and a bald eagle.

13. THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT WAS THE TALLEST STRUCTURE IN THE WORLD FOR ABOUT SIX MONTHS.

Upon its official opening on October 9, 1888, the Washington Monument—standing an impressive 555 feet high—boasted the superlative of tallest manmade structure on Earth. The honor was short-lived, however, as the following March saw the unveiling of the Eiffel Tower, which topped out at 986 feet. 

14. IT IS STILL THE TALLEST OF ITS KIND.

As of 2019, the Washington Monument still reigns supreme as both the world’s tallest all-stone structure and the tallest obelisk. (The stone San Jacinto Monument in Texas is taller, but it sits on a concrete plinth.)

15. A FEW DECADES AFTER CONSTRUCTION, THE MONUMENT CAUGHT “TUBERCULOSIS.”

Wear and tear had begun to get the best of the Washington Monument by the early 20th century, prompting an exodus of the cement and rubble filler through the structure’s external cracks. The sweating sensation prompted John S. Mosby Jr., author of a 1911 article in Popular Mechanics, to nickname the phenomenon “geological tuberculosis.”

5 Tricks to Make Spring Cleaning Fun

March 4th, 2019 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Did you know that 54 percent of Americans are completely and utterly overwhelmed by the amount of clutter in their lives? I totally believe it. That’s why we’re so enamored by Pinterest-inspired cleaning hacks and new ways to make this daunting task seem more…well, not so daunting. And if you’ve ever had to wrangle your S.O. or family into seasonal cleaning then you know how much of a firestorm that can be.

The experts over at VarageSale, the virtual garage sale for your phone, have shared some tips on how to motivate your family to join your spring cleaning decluttering mission this year (without using food as bribery). Take a look!

Turn Clutter Into a Vacay Fund

Promise the family a fun trip funded only by the money made from selling your items online. The extravagance of their trip will be determined by how much they sell.

Show the Kids What Their Clutter is Worth

Ask your children to pick five to 10 toys in their room or play area that they’ve outgrown to sell. Once sold, show them the money they’ve made, and divide the loot into streams of spending and saving.

Do a Decluttering Scavenger Hunt

Give each family member a mission to find items in their room within a list of categories (i.e. one pair of shoes, two shirts, three books, etc). The family member to finish first is the winner.

Let’s Make a Deal: Clutter-Free Edition 

If you buy your child something new, s/he has to find two to five items to part with in exchange. They might start with smaller items, like an old coloring book or just one toy car, and that’s okay. Once the game is established, push them to part with bigger items.

Take the Cake

Start a friendly competition between family members (you can make teams for the little ones) where all sales from their sales go into a communal pot. Whichever team sells the most takes the pot for that contest! Winners get to choose a fun family activity using money from the pot, like going to the movies or getting dinner at their favorite restaurant. The pot starts over the next day or the next time you want to tackle more spring cleaning so kids stay motivated to win.

Dance the Clutter Away

Be realistic and make time for a dance party. Removing the dust and cobwebs of winter can be an overwhelming task. Tackle the job in digestible blocks of time by creating a playlist of four to five of your favorite high-energy songs. Add a sixth song at the end that will inspire you to enjoy a mini dance party break. (Taylor Swift, FTW!)

Source: hgtv.com