Managing Stress for a More Peaceful Life

GatheringofExperts - PeacefulStress influences a person’s physical and mental health, which in turn affects their ability to make decisions, deal with problems, and interact with others. Managing stress is imperative for a productive, happy life. A person saying they are going to reduce the stress in their life and actually doing it is easier said than done. Here are a few steps people can take to ease tension and help them relax.

Imagine sitting in a room full of people who are completely stressed out, and someone offers a stress-reducing medicine that is free, easy to use, fun and legal. This “medicine” is often used in hospitals for cancer patients and is safe enough for children. This magic potent is called laughter. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress and conflict. It causes healthy physical changes that strengthen the immune system and protect from the harmful effects of stress.

Nothing works better or faster to put the body and mind in balance than a hearty laugh. Humor connects you to others and keeps things in perspective. If the stress in the room is palpable, try to see the humor in the situation. Laughter is infectious. If you can find a reason to laugh, others will join in. When shared, laughter bonds people and increases cooperation. [Read more…]

The Benefits and Hazards of Outdoor Exercise

Internal blog 6Exercising in polluted air can increase the risk of asthma, heart attack and stroke. But is avoiding a workout any better?

Rather than exercise outside on bad-air days, many people choose to go to a gym, use a treadmill or skip the workout altogether. Those options work most of the time, but what about when a person must choose between canceling a long awaited sporting event or a bicycle trip because of the air quality index? In situations such as these, is exercising in polluted air worse than not exercising at all?

That is a question that scientist are currently researching. There are early indications that the potent anti-inflammatory effects of frequent exercise actually neutralize the damage caused by air pollution. It sounds counterintuitive: Exercise means breathing deeper, which means more particles bypass the nasal filtering and lodge lower down in the airway. But recent studies suggest exercise may actually offset the negative effects of breathing polluted air.

Using epidemiological data, Netherlands’ researchers recently discovered the air-pollution effects of changing from a car to a bicycle for quick trips in air-polluted municipalities would subtract between 0.8 and forty days from a person’s average life span. However, the extra exercise would prolong that person’s average life span by three to fourteen months.

All activity is beneficial, but exercising outdoors has been proven to have the added benefit of affecting a person’s mental wellbeing. Exercise helps to reduce stress, relieve anxiety and depression. Exercising outside in the fresh air and sunshine can give an added boost to a person’s overall sense of wellbeing.

The health benefits of exercise appear to outweigh any added risk. Of course, not everyone suffers or benefits equally. Genetics play a major role in a person’s health, so individuals and their doctors should take that into account when determining the pros and cons of outdoor exercise, especially during days when the air quality index is high.

Debunking Health Myths

10.10.13 - health myths waterBottled water is of higher quality and healthier for us—correct? Experts say that isn’t necessarily true. If your water is from a public water supply, check with the local water department to see if the water is tested regularly for coliform bacteria, nitrate or other contaminants. Ask for the latest report on your community’s water supply. You will probably discover the water is just as safe as that in the designer bottles selling for several dollars each. If you prefer the taste of bottled water, consider buying a cost-effective water filtration system, rather than buying by the bottle.

Sugar-free drinks are a terrific diet aid—right? As recent studies reveal, perhaps not. Experiments show that when you eat something sweet, your brain receives the message that you are consuming sugar and responds with insulin. The sugar that is already in your blood is routed to fat cells to make room for the incoming sugar. When the sugar doesn’t arrive, your body is confused. It wants to replenish the sugar level in the blood. Suddenly you feel hungry again. Recent experiments have shown that, because real sugar gives you energy and fake sugar makes you weak (causes a drop in blood sugar level), you eat more and gain weight. If your primary interest is in losing weight, you may want to reconsider those sugar-free items.*

Fat is a bad thing that should be avoided at all costs—true? Actually, the body needs some fat in order to absorb nutrients, but make sure the fats you are consuming are good fats. Whether you are watching your weight for health reasons or simply to lose a few pounds, make sure eat good fats in order to ensure you absorb the nutrients your body needs. Avocado, olive oil and goat cheese are all good fats when consumed in small quantities. A fat-free diet is counterproductive because when your body, aided by small amounts of good fat, absorbs nutrients, you will be less hungry, eat less, and lose weight naturally.

*Note: Not all sugar-free substitutes are the same. People with diabetes should check with their doctor regarding sugar substitutes.

Traveling to Italy

traveling-to-italyIf you plan to travel to Italy, here’s the No. 1 most important travel tip: Eat gelato as often as possible. Italian gelato is one of the greatest delights in the entire country. Referring to gelato as ice cream is borderline blasphemous.

If you want to “experience” rather than just “see” the country, the best advice is don’t try to see or do too much. You can’t experience everything Italy has to offer in a week or even a month. First decide what and where you are most interested in exploring and then choose the locations. Concentrate on seeing a few things and seeing them well. Take your time and relax. Consider staying in one place for a few days. You’ll get a better feel for the locale. Don’t make checking an item off your to-do list a substitute for enjoying the essence of a place.

Consider getting up early. Crowds usually don’t arrive at popular sites until well after breakfast. Have a refreshing afternoon nap during the heat of the day and then stay up late to enjoy the social interaction of the local community. Italians eat late, usually around 8 p.m.

Plan to get off the beaten track. That may mean getting away from large cities, but you won’t regret it. Don’t totally dismiss the popular tourist attractions, but a few days in the Tuscan countryside can build some great memories, too.

If you’re interested in an inexpensive place to stay and a way to gain an appreciation for how people live in rural Italy, you may want to try an agriturismo vacation. Agriturismo is a combination of the Italian words for agriculture and tourism. It is a style of vacationing in country or farmhouses that is similar to bed and breakfast accommodations. An agriturismo vacation is suitable for the whole family and in some places can be very romantic or luxurious.

To get on an Italian’s good side, learn a little Italian. To get a flavor for the local cuisine, eat where the locals eat. To save money on incidentals, shop local supermarkets. In general, in order to get a feel for the country and its people, experience Italy as the natives do. The Italians you meet will be pleased that you’ve at least tried to fit in to their culture and you may just experience the vacation of a lifetime.

Tips for a Smooth Home Renovation

agatherHome renovations can be a big project and must be well planned. While most people do not realize it, a home renovation is not as easy as it sounds.  Just ask people who have refurbished their homes recently, and you will understand that a renovation is often a huge time and money commitment. While renovation is probably a lot more cost-effective than building a whole new structure, it creates problems of its own.  Here are some thoughts about renovation for your edification.


Some people believe that spending money on a quality renovation instead of being cheap is acceptable since the necessary funds will magically appear. In reality, that isn’t true! Talk to people who have renovated their homes and do as much cost-comparison and window shopping as possible. Check your budget with your contractor regularly to make sure you’re on track. Determine needs vs. wants. Is a granite countertop really necessary?

Length of project

It’s important to determine how long a renovation project will take. Can you afford or do you want to be out of your home for six months or more? Most homeowners come to realize that building in a financial cushion will be necessary. For most, renovations take more time and money than initially thought or planned. It is important to plan accordingly.

 Find a Contractor

We’ve all heard the horror stories about contractors that cost a fortune and let renovations go on forever.  The best contractors can be found through word of mouth, but if you can’t come up with a good referral, find them on the Internet. Make sure you get several estimates before signing any agreements.


List the items that you, along with family and friends, can do yourselves. Perhaps you can paint and tear down a wall, or sew new linens, curtains and throw pillows. Measure all spaces, windows, walls and more.

 Find Bargains

Begin watching for sales and discounts. Upcoming weekends can now be spent visiting thrift stores and yard sales. Appliances can be purchased at the scratch-and-dent. Tile and flooring may be found at the discount supplier in town.


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Proposed 2013 Tax Changes in Congress

agatheringofexpertsSome major tax changes have been proposed in 2013, and they may affect taxpayers across the country. For individuals who want to make sure that their financial futures are secure, it is important to stay aware of these changes so that proper measures are taken.

The most significant proposed change relates to top dividend tax rates. It has been suggested that top dividend tax rates increase from 15 percent to 44 percent, a significant increase. This proposed increase is because of the impending expiration of Bush tax cuts.

On capital gains, the current top tax rate is 15 percent. Those who fall within the 10-15 percent income bracket are not required to pay. The income cap may rise to 20 percent.

If Congress does not vote to extend certain tax cuts, dividends could possibly return to being taxed as income. Individuals who are in a higher income bracket will bear the brunt of the impact, with tax increases on dividend income that could total up to 39.6 percent.

It is also possible that investors may experience a significant increase with other investment incomes. The proposed increase bumps up the tax rate from 35 percent up to 44 percent. Other investment income includes a wide range of assets—among them trade income, dividends, interests and property net gains.

If an individual inherits a property from a relative who has passed away, that property is still subject to an estate tax. The new owner can be exempt from the estate tax if the value of the home is less than $5 million. Under the proposed tax laws, the exemption amount would drop to $1 million.

One more proposed adjustment in 2013 is a Medicare contribution tax, which is currently at 3.8 percent. This tax will be issued on a specified amount of unearned income. This change would mostly affect individuals who hold investment income in excess of a certain amount.

Seeking out a trusted financial adviser is an essential step before filing taxes. A financial adviser is able to work with clients and their tax professionals to review any tax cuts and exemptions that apply to their estates.


Predicting Earth’s Future – Perhaps it’s in the Stars

Is it possible to determine the fate of Planet Earth by studying the remnants of dead stars in other solar systems? Many scientists think it is.

The Sun and the planets that orbit it comprise our Solar System. Each of the planets in a Solar System attracts to itself other moons, minor planets, comets, asteroids, gas and dust. The Sun is the greatest entity in our Solar System and since larger masses have the greatest gravitational pull, it constantly tugs at the planets and their satellites. While the Sun is pulling on the planets, the planets are trying to fly off into outer space. The planets then become trapped between the two opposing forces. Poised between sailing toward the Sun and soaring off into space, they are perpetually revolving around their parent star.

Recently University of Cambridge scientists reported that they have examined two dead star systems situated about 150 light-years from Earth that may give us a glimpse of what Earth’s Solar System could look like one day. Using the Hubble Space Telescope to examine the chemical remains of the stars, it was discovered that these burnt-out solar systems are packed with silicon and carbon, the same components found in materials that make up planets like Earth and our Solar System. These dead stars, referred to in the scientific community as white dwarfs, are located in the constellation Taurus in a star cluster called Hyades. Computer simulations show us that as stars age and discard their outer layers they lose mass and destabilize the environments around them.  Instead of being surrounded by empty space as one would expect, the remnants of these stars are packed with asteroid-like debris. This debris falls onto these dead stars and contaminates them. When this happens, they are referred to as ‘dirty’ stars.

The previously mentioned burnt-out stars are very similar to our Sun. The scientists’ recent discovery gives us some indication as to how our Sun will die and what will happen in our Solar System when it does. When our Sun’s nuclear fuel is depleted or runs low, our Sun will gradually enlarge until its outer layers are blown free. A few of the inner planets will be engulfed by the eruption and their asteroids will be hurled out of their orbits. Asteroids that swerve too close to the sun will be broken up and the resulting debris will be drawn into a ring around our now-dead Sun. The resulting debris from these events will fall onto our Sun and turn it into a dirty star.

NOTE: It is never too early for the human race to start searching for a solution to a catastrophic natural occurrence such as this, but there is still time for experts to come up with a plan to save our world. Scientists speculate that this scenario involving our Sun and Solar System won’t occur for approximately five billion years.

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO, on Staying Social in the Golden Years

PamGrayBonaventure_SocialPam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO, stresses the need for seniors to maintain and develop friendships throughout their golden years. By keeping a steady routine of social engagement, Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO, says that seniors are more likely to stay in top physical and mental shape.

A Gathering of Experts: How do friends help seniors maintain mental acuity?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: A recent study showed that maintaining an active social life can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by more than 70 percent, which is a significant figure.

A Gathering of Experts: Is a lack of friends really more harmful than other bad habits?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: Feelings of loneliness or isolation are even more harmful to your health than not exercising or eating right.

A Gathering of Experts: What overall impact do friendships make?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: Friends have a significant impact on eating habits and exercise routines. Taking part in activities with other people is encouraging for those who might need that extra push.

A Gathering of Experts: What subject should seniors discuss?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: Just the occasional round of friendly banter has a big influence on feelings of self-esteem. When gossiping in a positive manner about family and close friends, seniors come away with a sense of inclusion.

A Gathering of Experts: Isn’t gossip considered hurtful?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: It’s more about chatting and sharing stories. Just keep the subject matter lighthearted and fun, and stay away from more serious topics or personal attacks.

A Gathering of Experts: Anything else?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: Discussing special hobbies or interests also makes for interesting and fun conversation.

A Gathering of Experts: How has making friends been shown to improve mental strength?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: When tested on a series of specific mental tasks, seniors scored higher if they said friends are an important factor in their lives.

A Gathering of Experts: Should particular types of people be avoided?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: Surrounding oneself with positive people is a key aspect of senior living. It is best to avoid individuals who are quick to criticize or intimidate.

A Gathering of Experts: How do friendships improve a senior’s quality of life?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: An active social life often slows down the aging process and offers seniors a sense of control.

A Gathering of Experts: How do men differ from women in this area?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: The difference in genders is negligible. Although more reticent than their female counterparts, men of a certain age who discuss medical issues or personal problems with their male friends feel less alone or depressed.

A Gathering of Experts: Where can seniors meet new people?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: Popular activities include dancing classes, swimming lessons and bingo halls. A local library or newspaper will reveal a wealth of activity options.

A Gathering of Experts: What about those who prefer exercising alone?

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO: Numerous art galleries, entertainment venues and museums offer senior programs tailored to their clientele.

Pam Gray, Bonaventure Senior Living COO, first joined the company in 2004 and entered her role as COO in 2007.

Financial Q&A: Asset Management Growth

Q: Why is asset management important?

A: Asset management growth continues to be an essential goal for any business or company. An industry will experience strong results and an improvement on previous years when asset management growth is achieved. It also shows that a company has selected the correct approach, one that promotes compatibility across all departments.

The times of manual work are over. Asset management continues to gain importance as industry moves through the new millennium. The successful administration of assets will include numerous complex and diverse databases, and businesses must rely on timely and accurate information.

Q: What constitutes effective asset management?

A: Asset management is one of the most important strategies used in any industry. The corporate world today leans heavily on data maintenance and technological systems. To ensure that a business is running smoothly, both software and hardware assets should be managed properly. A thorough evaluation of financial statements, the marketing and sales plan, guest satisfaction data and the budget will likely be required. Asset management firms can give strategic advice on tax planning and acquisition services, as well as offering alternatives for the future.

Q: How does asset management affect a company?

A: Overall, asset management makes way for the proper organization of facilities, transportation, production and digital assets. Maintenance, procurement, budgeting and depreciation calculation of fixed assets should be evaluated, too. The value on these fixed assets must be maximized, with a goal toward minimizing all projected costs. A number of organizational modules are now available that assist different industries with managing aspects of day-to-day operations such as assets, materials, human resources and software.

Operational management systems provide necessary tools for improvement on these assets, decreasing the cost of ownership while developing their return. Additionally, the systems offer assistance with tasks such as license compliance and encourage heightened security for internal operations. This factor is especially important for companies with several branches in different locations. Now, management has a better, more efficient way to track both intangible and physical assets.


RIP Print Media?

Is print a dead form of media? This question has been asked constantly since the Internet took over the world of marketing. Many companies have migrated their physical advertising efforts to digital because of cost effectiveness and potential exposure. However, printed material lends credence and solidity to a business’s image.

Print is tangible

Printed advertisements, such as posters, mail pieces, and ads in newspapers magazines etc., are real and can be physically seen and touched. Unlike Internet advertisements that are subject to disappear or be replaced with the latest, greatest product without warning, once something is printed it remains a constant reminder of the business’ message. For most consumers, the ability to physically hold information from a business lends credence to the company. After all, Internet advertising is cheap and can be done by anyone, anywhere. Print advertisement costs money which many people equate with a company’s quality and success.

More branding opportunities

There are many different types of print. Print ads can be on paper, cardboard, magazines, T-shirts, and other products and apparel. Companies who utilize print and promotional products in their marketing strategies may keep their brand image in front of clients even when they’re not at their computer. For instance, many companies give away ink pens with their logo clearly displayed in the hopes that customers will use them elsewhere. This essentially creates a tiny billboard anywhere the customer uses that specific promotional product.

Print is taken more seriously

Despite worldwide reliance on the Internet for information, many people tend to trust printed materials over those simply published online.

Print can reach with the Internet cannot

While it may sound completely out-of-line with current beliefs about the widespread availability of the Internet, print advertisement can reach places that even the web can’t. For instance, a large number of senior citizens are wary of the Internet and trust their good old-fashioned printed newspapers for information. Many mountain cabins and chalets rely on print advertisements to let their guests know about local attractions and dining options since Internet connections can be nonexistent away from the city. Business cards, rack cards, and brochures are quick and easy to grab and do not require lengthy downloads and are free of annoying pop-up advertisements.

Bridging the gap

Bridging the gap between print media and online presence isn’t that difficult. The recent invention of the QR (Quick Response) Code allows consumers to simply take a picture of the print ad and bring up additional interactive information on their compatible device.

Most business owners are best served by marketing their business under as many channels as possible. Finding the right balance between print and digital media is different for each business and is based on the demographics of their target customer and budget considerations.