Winter Issue 2021

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WINTER 2021 - $4.95

How To Make The New Normal Work For You! THE POWER OF GRATITUDE Why Financial Well-Being Matters, Especially Now There is Proof in the Power of Positive Thinking


























letter from the editor Dear readers:

PUBLISHER Wellness Interactive Branding, LLC®

At What a year it has been! If you’ve ever seen the movie, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” 2020 would be the year to erase from your memory bank. I’m not going to pretend that the year’s misfortunes did not happen. In fact, we are all living the effects of the pandemic even now, with more lockdowns in place as the world eagerly waits for its vaccine Charu Suri doses. In this winter issue, we focus more on possibilities instead of dwelling on our struggles, of making the new normal work for us, how to use positive vibes, and also how to get a good night’s sleep without resorting to medication. The arts have brought people closer together during a time that has been really tough for artists. In this issue, we talk about how these artistic pursuits can help you heal. Gratitude is another huge way to heal, and one writer explores how you can develop feelings of gratitude—and create joy-- even during the toughest of times. Working from home can take a huge toll on our postures: we give you tips on how to become well by sitting on stools properly, the right way to bend your joints, and incorporating play breaks during your workday. While this may sound trite, little changes can go a long way to making you relax and become well. 2021 will be a better one for all of us: I believe this wholeheartedly. With two FDAapproved vaccines to help us with COVID-19, my sincere hope is that we can put this virus behind us and get on positively with our lives and be really and truly well again. Send us your thoughts to:

Charu Suri

FOUNDER Desiree Watson EDITOR Charu Suri COPY EDITOR Laurel Dowswell ART DIRECTOR Deborrah McDowell-Davis VP OF MARKETING Ngbita Wallace BRAND MANAGER Elizabeth Beyer-Partin SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER Jade Gunver CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Ajeé Buggam Tami Bulmash Miriam Foley Ashley Hubbard Annita Katee Natascha Mirosch Sheryl Nance Nash Charu Suri


The editorial content in the Wellness Lounge® magazine is for educational purposes only and is not intended to, nor should be construed as, medical advice and/or efforts to diagnose, treat or prescribe for any human disease, pain, injury, deformation, or physical condition. The editorial content in the Wellness Lounge® is not intended to, nor should it be construed as , a substitute for the advice or treatment of a health care professional prior to engaging in any alternative treatment or diet for exercise regimen discussed in the Wellness Lounge®, and/or relying upon or using any educational/informational information provided by or obtained from, the Wellness Lounge ®. Under no circumstance shall the Wellness Lounge® or its employees, independent contractors and/or agents be liable to a reader for any damages or injury arising out of, or related to, the editorial content of Wellness Lounge®, including but not limited to, the reader’s use or reliance upon, or the reader’s inability to use or rely upon, information provided by, or obtained from, Wellness Lounge® All rights reserved. Wellness Interactive Branding, LLC® is not responsible for unsolicited manuscript images, or other materials. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of Wellness Interactive Branding, LLC®.

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Personal Health There is Proof in the Power of Positive Thinking

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ife during COVID-19 has been quite an intense journey. Everyone has been affected by it in an enormous way. The “new normal” of wearing masks daily, social distancing, and working from home has extended its time longer than we’ve all projected. But while the emotional and mental baggage of 2020 has been hefty, a healthy way to start off the new year is to start journaling. Journaling Has a Long History Journaling can be traced back as far as handwriting itself.

By Ajeé Buggam

The earliest diaries originated in Italy in the fifteenth century for recording public records and accounting. Over time journaling shifted from recording public life events to reflect an individual’s private life. In the 1700s, travelers began to record their discoveries in journals. Many artists, writers, and other creatives began adding journaling to their creative process. Leonardo De Vinci wrote 5,000 pages of journal entries about ideas for inventions and precocious observations.

7 During the 1800-1900s, there was a rise in war journals. More people continued to journal, unaware of the benefits of journaling throughout that time frame. In the 1960s, psychologist Dr. Ira Progoff began offering classes and workshops in the intensive journal method in New York City. Dr.Progoff used a “psychological notebook” with his therapy clients for several years. The intensive journal is a three-ring journal consisting of several color-coded sections for different aspects of the writer’s psychological healing and life exploration. The Prognoff journal method became rapidly popular over the years, and today the method has been taught to more than 250,000 individuals through a network of journal consultants trained by Dr. Progoff and his staff. He published a book in 1978, focusing on promoting journaling for personal growth through his book At a Journal Workshop. In the eighties, public schools began to implement journaling in English classes for academic purposes and noticed it provided students with therapeutic benefits. Journaling even began to be honored as a holistic nonmedical method of wellness, and several mental health professionals began offering journaling workshops. Today journaling has evolved into several self-discovery areas, from psychologists to writers or other creatives offering journaling books, workshops, and retreats. There is so much healing power in journaling, and there are so many ways to explore the process. Journaling is a creative way to release emotional and mental distress for all individuals, despite race, class, or age. It allows us to bring our realities to life in front of us and analyze our emotions and make logical decisions about them.


National certified counselor Tanya J. Peterson at mental health startup Choosing Therapy has written three books regarding journaling for anxiety and overall well being. She spoke about the significance of advising journaling from her experience practicing and the effective ways to journal. Her responses provide hope and encouragement. Peterson stated, “The act of journaling is a powerful healer. It's a very intentional way of focusing your thoughts and emotions. When you journal, you put yourself in charge of all the thoughts and emotions swirling around inside your head, so they’re no longer bouncing around wildly. Journaling lets you channel them, see them in a different light, and change your relationship with them. It’s a very empowering process.” Journaling can be an introspective hobby to pick up that actually helps mature your soul and approach life more intentionally.

Self-growth can be a bittersweet process, but it’s worthwhile once you put in the time – which could be up to five or ten minutes a day journaling. There is no one size fits all regarding journaling. You can get better results if you journal daily rather than sporadically, as Tanya mentions, but it can still help you process your emotions even if you don’t practice it as often. Some helpful journaling techniques to practice are selfaffirmations and gratitude journaling. These are often paired together. Peterson states, “The best technique is the one that meets your own needs. Gratitude journaling is the practice of reflecting on what is right in your life to help you shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Some people find this very empowering and helpful in breaking out of negative, stressful thoughts.” There are several approaches you can take journaling; your approach should be flexible and meet you where you’re at mentally and emotionally. Journaling helps lower and remove emotional and mental distress. It’s actually a full-body practice, as very few people are aware of. According to Peterson, “The act of mindful journaling calms the body’s automatic stress reaction—the fight-flight-or freeze reaction—by slowing the sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system—the one dubbed restand-digest.” So if you're writing down the highs and lows of a relationship, work, or church scenario, it’s ok to paint the scenario with words in your journal, reread it back to yourself, cry if you need to, and jot down solutions for approaching the scenario more effectively.


Several writers have taken it upon themselves to offer writing classes, like the award-winning journalist, poet, and journaling teacher Becca Hensley. “Journaling heals because it can be an honest conversation with yourself,” she says. “In my 30 years of teaching journaling, I have heard over and over again about breakthroughs and epiphanies from my students.” By documenting our feelings, fears, and assumptions, we can concrete on the areas of our life that need a bit more attention and those that need a bit more nurturing. It’s an incredible experience to experience breakthrough through her classes that involve writing, but are not necessarily writing classes. “Going to my course, however, is like going to the gym with a personal trainer,” Hensley adds. “I am there to facilitate the transformation by offering an opportunity for my students, but my classes are totally private, so it is a safe haven where the students can experiment with

8 Personal Health feelings and unearth buried things. I have developed a very specific program, which leads to healing and unblocks hidden feelings.” Currently, she offers sessions on Zoom; a new book is scheduled to be published next year (for more information, follow her on Instagram @beccahensley). Another phenomenal author to follow for great journaling tips is Alexandra Elle, who offers journaling workshops, and hosts the wellness podcast The Hey, Girl Podcast. Check out her new book After The Rain in tandem with her journaling book, In Courage Journal, which is divided into sections to help you process emotions in varied areas of life.


Some of us practice journaling at a young age to help process navigating through the noisy world we live in.

Nyleah Ford, a technical and fashion designer based in New York City, says, “As an introvert in a loud household of seven [people], I journaled when I was younger and liked that time alone. I revisited journaling in college after a challenging relationship, and it's been part of my routine ever since. Journaling helps me to check in with myself and assess my feelings.” For her, the pursuit of journaling changed according to the various phases in her life, and that’s the beauty of it.

The more you practice journaling, the more you get to dive deeper into just being comfortable with all of who you are and who you're becoming. As mental health counselor Peterson mentions, "When you journal, you take control of your thoughts, and in that moment, you aren’t stuck and struggling in the swirling storm. When you journal, you not only give yourself shelter from the storm, you actively and intentionally calm the storm of thoughts and emotions.” Your emotions no longer run your life once you're able to dissect your own issues in life.

THINGS TO PURCHASE TO START JOURNALING A great way to start is to purchase a self-reflection kit from We’re Not Really Strangers []. The kit comes with cards that allow you to honestly examine your emotions and record them accurately in your journal. []

You can also explore journaling through apps like Journey [] and Grid Diary [] to have your journal super accessible. Journaling is a skill that everyone can explore, with so much power in vulnerability, but it starts with assessing yourself first.



Ajeé Buggam is a content writer and fashion designer from New York City and an alumna from the Fashion Institute of Technology. She specializes in writing about race, social injustice, feminism, entrepreneurship, and mental wellness.


“Positive thinking is an incredibly powerful tool for healing, but not when it comes at the expense of avoiding negative emotions or processing trauma.

By Ashley Hubbard

What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.


ow many times have you heard these statements? Managing difficult moments in life and negative emotions using the ‘good vibes only’ approach has been a common movement circulating in recent years. It implies that people only want to be surrounded by positivity or that if you really try hard enough, you can always be positive. This perspective is also known as toxic positivity. Presenting and expecting others to present only good vibes seems to have become more common amongst the era of social media. While the idea might sound good conceptually, the

reality is not healthy. Psychotherapist Haley Neidich, LCSW, states that “a majority of the people who talk about and post good vibes only content have no idea what they’re doing is toxic and potentially harmful to others.” When Positivity Becomes Negativity When an individual adopts an unrealistic level of optimism and negates facts to suppress their basic human emotions, they're setting themselves up for a deeper level of failure. While suppressing negative emotions and focusing on the positive sounds great in theory, humans are meant to experience emotions – all of them.

10 Personal Health “Positive thinking is an incredibly powerful tool for healing, but not when it comes at the expense of avoiding negative emotions or processing trauma. People who suffer from depression, for example, would benefit from thinking positively about things, but telling them that's the ONLY thing they should be focusing on (good vibes only) is super alienating,” says Neidich. Negative emotions should never be forced away. Neidich agrees that much of the problem with ‘good vibes only’ really comes in the ‘only’ part of that statement. Implying that someone’s mental illness, or negative feelings, will go away if they just think positively. This invalidation of someone’s feelings and emotions denies, rejects, and dismisses their authentic human self. This can make the individual feel insignificant, wrong, and like they’re the only one who feels the way they do. Coltrane Lord, a sacred/conscious intimacy and relationship expert, offers an alternate movement – ‘good vibe goals’ – in which good vibes are a goal, not a mandate. She explains that “we all have moments when it is essential to go through the feelings of grief or anger from traumatic or difficult experiences in order to let the process of healing release through the body.”

According to Behavior Research and Therapy, the first study to investigate whether an extended practice of positive alternatives to worry has lasting effects on anxiety and worry found that significant reductions in negative intrusions occurred when replacing the usual flow of verbal worry with any alternative positive ideation.

BALANCING POSITIVE AND REALISTIC THINKING Finding a healthy balance between positive and realistic thinking is the ultimate goal, and Lord gives an example of this.

ACTIONABLE TIPS TO BALANCING EMOTIONS 1. Understand that a human being is capable of having multiple feelings simultaneously. 2. Give yourself permission to feel both the negative and positive emotions. 3. Utilize journaling to record your feelings. 4. Try deep breathing exercises or guided meditation to work through your emotions.

Lord makes a fantastic point that “a whole person is one who has the facility to express all emotions in a constructive and healthy way, never pointing fingers inward or outward, but simply allowing emotions to flow through them.” It is not one individual’s job or place to tell another how they should or shouldn’t feel. Additionally, it is not in a person’s best interest to hide or lock away all negative emotions.

POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING However, scientific research backs up the power of positive thinking. Studies in peer-reviewed journals found that positive thinking is good for the immune system, reduces anxiety, and increases positive emotions such as happiness.

If you lost your job and it feels as though the world might end, acknowledge that. If you feel worried, scared, hurt, or ashamed, honor your feelings and locate the sensations. Name these sensations in your body (my head hurts, my hands are sweaty, I have a lump in my gut, etc.). Find gratitude in the job or other experiences you had and what it taught you. By focusing on the lesson, you can use this experience as a launching pad for your next experience that you desire, such as higher pay or starting your own business.

This is positive thinking. When you attach this desire and allow yourself to feel it as if it is already happening, it turns the thought into an experience, and experience is the reality. “You won’t only find balance and equanimity, you will manifest your goals,” says Lord. When positive thinking intersects with positive feelings, people feel hope. “Our thoughts become feelings, our feelings become actions, and our actions become habits, and our habits become our character,” Lord explains.

Ashley Hubbard is a Nashville-based freelance writer, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, and more. Passionate about animal and human rights, sustainability, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences at home or on the road. She shares these experiences on her website,

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Self Care How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep, Especially Now

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By Miriam Foley


iving through a pandemic is stressful. There is real cause for concern, cause to worry about one’s health and the health of friends and family. Many have lost loved ones, or their job. Then there is the uncertainty, the isolation, the bombardment of news and statistics several times a day. It could be considered a natural progression that many of us are living with stress or anxiety levels that are more heightened than usual. A recent study by the University of California, Irvine found that "Acute stress and depressive symptoms increased significantly over time as COVID-19 deaths increased across the United States." The national survey of more than 6,500 U.S. residents in March and April 2020 is the first of its kind to examine early predictors of rising mental health problems across the nation.

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“The mental health consequences of direct and media-based exposure to compounding stressors such as the pandemic, an economic recession, weather-related disasters, and racedriven social unrest are profound,” says Roxane Cohen Silver, a psychological science professor and one of the study's principal investigators. “This has been an extremely stressful year that has taxed the public's ability to cope and endangered the most vulnerable groups in our society.” The research, published in Science Advances, found that several factors were directly linked with distress in the early months of the pandemic: "Pre-existing mental and physical health diagnoses, daily COVID-19– related media exposure, conflicting COVID-19 information in media, and secondary stressors – job and/or wage loss and shortages of necessities – were all associated with acute stress and depressive symptoms." Cohen Silver and her colleagues are keen to emphasize the importance of controlling media exposure to the pandemic, given that “repeated exposure to bad news about collective traumas can amplify distress.” As winter draws in, people are likely to find themselves even more isolated from society and loved ones, yet exposed to mental health triggers, as well as vulnerable to seasonal affective disorder, which is also prevalent during this season. Perhaps this is the time to embrace the quiet, to slow down, to reflect. It’s the perfect opportunity to indulge in those small, simple pleasures that are so often sidestepped in the rush and pressures of our hectic, non-COVID, daily lives.

We might take note from the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, and look inwards. According to the great thinker, happiness doesn't come from external conditions or rewards. It comes from the private, internal success people bestow upon themselves. Put simply: pared-down needs; simple pleasures; a life that is good for one’s soul. There is cooking, gardening, reading, listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts... And there is art. Evidence suggests that creating art has cognitive benefits; it can lower stress and anxiety. Painting, drawing, sculpting – even scribbling – can stimulate the centers in the brain related to pleasure. It has the power to transport you to a different world, to capture your interest and imagination; to spark creativity. In a 2016 paper in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, Girija Kaimal – a professor at Drexel University and a researcher in art therapy – found, along with fellow researchers, that 45 minutes of creating art significantly lowered levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. The international documentary I Remember Better When I Paint is about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer’s. Psychotherapists and hospitals across the U.S. have incorporated art therapy into their programs. "It's that sense of losing yourself, losing all awareness. You're so in the moment and fully present that you forget all sense of time and space," Kaimal told NPR earlier this year.

Viewing art is good for you too. Research shows it helps lower the level of cortisol and causes an uptick in that of the pleasure hormone, dopamine. While there might not be much opportunity to physically access your favourite museum or to take a city break to enjoy the Guggenheim in New York, engaging with the arts has never been easier. Some of the world’s most highly acclaimed museums have moved at least part of their offering online, meaning you can virtually visit La Louvre in Paris, head over to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and finish with The British Museum in London – all in one sitting from your sofa. Walk through one of Korea’s most popular museums and its six floors of contemporary art in the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul. Discover Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam. Take a stunning tour of the Vatican Museum. Browse an interactive photo gallery at the National Gallery. More than 2,000 museums and galleries have opened their doors through the online platform Google Arts and Culture. More still have taken tours and exhibits online independently, so there’s a whole world of art to behold, and it’s all at your fingertips. You see, you can still escape this winter, while finding both relief and treasures – and all from the comfort of your own home.

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Take a virtual tour of this breathtaking collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Modern, and Contemporary Art.

Get a peek at artworks from Monet, Cézanne, and Gauguin held inside the Musée d’Orsay, in the heart of Paris along the banks of the Seine.



See Van Gogh’s masterpieces up close in the largest collection of his artworks, which includes more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 750 personal letters.

Transport yourself to Mexico City with this museum’s archives, dedicated to the archaeology and history of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic heritage.

Miriam Foley is a freelance journalist writing about travel, wellness, lifestyle, parenting and more.

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Can’t sleep?

I By Natascha Mirosch

f it’s any comfort, you’re not alone. More than half the adult US population reports sleeping less than seven hours during a typical 24hour period and nearly a third say they sleep less than six hours.

As a society, we sleep around an hour less than we did 40 years ago. Anecdotally, 2020 may see that figure plummet dramatically if the 2.77 million latenight Google searches of the term “insomnia” are anything to go by. That’s a whopping 60 % increase compared to people searching the term in the same period (April-May) in previous years, fuelled no doubt by the COVID-19 crisis. The inability to sleep, “insomnia,” comes in two forms, “primary” and “secondary.” The first is the inability to sleep without a specific cause, while secondary insomnia can be caused by psychiatric problems, medication, medical conditions, or chronic pain interfering with sleep. How much sleep is enough?

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“In general, humans need seven plus hours of sleep, but then individual needs may be different, determined by our genetic make-up.”

“Average sleep needs depend on our own body clock or circadian rhythm,” says Doctor Muna Irfan, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Minnesota and Program Director of Sleep Fellowship at Hennepin County Medical Center. “In general, humans need seven plus hours of sleep, but then individual needs may be different, determined by our genetic make-up.” Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of our ‘body clock,’ including the sleep-wake cycle. Light exposure sends signals that generate alertness while, as night falls, the clock initiates the production of the sleeppromoting hormone melatonin.


Jetlag, shift work, a medical condition, stress, anxiety, or other conditions can result in a disruption of our circadian rhythms and cause insomnia. Most of us are familiar with the typical ‘brain fog’ that can result after a poor night’s sleep, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “Sleep deficit can cause multiple symptoms, including mood symptoms, depression, and irritability, as well as affect concentration and tasks which require abstraction and reasoning. It can also affect memory and cognition,” Dr. Irfan says. Sleep deprivation can cause daytime sleepiness, which significantly impacts quality of life, the ability to perform work, and increases the risk of accidents. In fact, people with insomnia are nearly three times more likely to die from an injury or road accident.

In addition to the short-term impacts of not getting enough sleep, there are also serious long-term effects. “(Lack of sleep) can have a direct impact on clearing the toxins from the brain which can cause dementia.” Dr. Irfan says. Studies have also associated shortened sleep duration with a risk of myocardial infarction and hypertension, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes.


Before the industrial age, human sleep patterns in many parts of the world were very different to what they are today, according to Professor Roger Ekirch, author of “At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past.” It was believed sleep was segmented into two shifts, the “first sleep” and “second sleep.” People went to bed at sunset, slept for around four hours, then woke. They stayed awake for a few hours and went back to sleep at around 2 a.m., rising at dawn. The advent of longer working days and artificial lighting extending the daytime hours and affecting melatonin production changed our sleep patterns to a ‘mono-phasic’ – one long night-time sleep. Some cultures still practice bi-phasic sleeping, supplementing their night’s sleep with an afternoon siesta. There’s growing evidence showing a nap of between 30 and 90 minutes can improve cognitive function. Forwardthinking companies such as Google, Nike, Cisco, and The Huffington Post have taken note and provide quiet rooms or sleep pods for their employees, believing it increases their productivity and satisfaction levels.

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So how do we get the best quality sleep we can? Dr. Irfan says that habit and consistency are key. “My best advice would be to adopt strategies of cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia to help improve sleep. There are some free medical apps and modules such

as “Path to Better Sleep,” “CBT-I Coach” and self-help books such as “Good Night Mind “and “No More Sleepless Nights,” which discuss applying behavioural principles to help improve sleep.” Above all, we should no longer be seeing sleep as a passive function, but actively seek best practices, she says.

“Sleep serves a very important function in our lives and thus we should recognize its importance and ensure that our body gets the rest it deserves. Current society and obligations may hinder sleep, but it’s a vital part of self-care which we should not ignore.”

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TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP • Don’t spend any extra time in bed beyond sleeping.

• Don’t use electronic devices in bed or engage in stimulating activities before bedtime. • Avoid watching the clock. • Limit light exposure right before bedtime. • Develop a bedtime routine to unwind and shut down the worries of the day. • Don’t consume caffeine or alcohol a few hours before bedtime. • Keep a regular bedtime routine and wake time according to your own biological clock.


Prescribed medication

Phototherapy or Light Therapy

Weighted blankets



CBD A 2017 meta-study of the available research suggests cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia but more research was needed.

Most experts generally recommend prescriptions, such as Ambien, for a shortterm treatment.

A study published in September’s Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that weighted blankets were effective when insomnia was coupled with a psychiatric disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD.

Some studies have shown that melatonin supplements may help with circadian rhythm disorders brought on by jet lag or shift work.

Binaural beats

Musical compositions recorded at different frequencies in the right and left ear are believed to be useful for concentration and for relaxation, but there’s no strong evidence for their effectiveness as a sleep aid.

Sitting in front of a light box for a prescribed time may be effective in treating a few circadian rhythm dysfunctions.

The scientific community believes that research around traditional herbal medicines such as valerian is inconclusive.

Deep Breathing Techniques

Believed to produce melatonin and affect the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in better sleep onset latency and sleep quality.

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e all know that sitting in a chair for several hours isn’t good for us, but we still do it. Sedentary lifestyle has become a defining trait of Western culture: a means to get more done by doing less. However, shortcuts come at a price. If these surges in pain and posture issues are markers of our time, we are in trouble. Long before it was referred to as “good” or “bad.” posture shaped the values inherent to cultures. Historically, the nature of your posture had a tremendous influence on class and status. Perhaps it was the grand nature of ancient Greeks or the regal nature ascribed to aristocrats, but carrying oneself in a certain manner has long been attributed to power and prominence. Yet, the implication of posture in present culture has expanded. Posing in an attempt to “sit up straight” is still a means to an end, and the real prestige of “good posture” only exists if it’s a precursor to good health. Inactivity has become a way of life in the West and is blamed for the rise in obesity, back pain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. More notably, stationary activities, such as screen time,

are the chosen pastime of U.S. families. A study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology found that parent screen time is the strongest predictor of child screen time. If American adults and children were already spending most of their waking hours sitting down over a decade ago, what can be said about these behaviors now? Or during the course of the pandemic? The irony is in the very lifestyle the bourgeoisie has been taught to covet. Namely, postural depictions of stature and sophistication have devolved into a slumped figure sitting in front of a screen. Interestingly, this is in stark contrast from the postures inherent to Eastern cultures, often perceived as less progressive, yet the bearers of healthier lifestyle practices desired by the West. Fortunately, westerners have started taking note of eastern wisdom. Dr. Turner Osler, an academic trauma surgeon turned research epidemiologist, says, “Back pain is virtually unknown in cultures that still sit in traditional ways. Japan has a back pain rate of about three percent; the United States, about 80 percent. Our spines are identical, so what’s going on?”

By Tami Bulmash

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Dr. Osler explains that chairs are predicated on the idea that we require support in order to sit. Yet we aren’t being supported; we’re being confined and restricted. He asserts, “We spend on average 11 hours a day in intimate contact with chairs, and they are reshaping us for the worse. Much worse.” The solution, according to Dr. Turner, is making sitting an active rather than passive experience.

After decades of working as a physician and researcher, Dr. Osler created a line of active chairs, including the button chair for children. With his social mission, the ButtOn Chair Project, Dr. Osler’s goal is to make active sitting freely available to schools throughout the U.S. and the world. He also gives away the plans to make your own backless, active chair on his website. As Dr. Osler told me, “I started out with the idea that active chairs would help people explore their postural

22 Self Care options and discover better ways to sit, but the metabolic advantages of constant, if small, motions lead me to propose active sitting as an all-day affair, as a way to inject more movement into people's largely passive work lives.” Being active doesn’t just mean running around. You can be active while you sit, stand, and even lie down because you are always using muscles. The idea is to engage the appropriate muscles and not overwork or strain the same ones, which often happens with excessive sitting.


The next time you catch yourself bending over to pick something up, use your knees to squat to the floor instead. Bending at the joints rather than from the spine keeps the bones doing their job rather than over-engaging the same muscles. You can also practice the squat with your kids after prolonged sitting-- it’s a great way to offset the tension accrued in the chair.

Eastern cultures have better posture habits than we do in the West, not because they sit less, but because they sit smarter. Rather than relying on a chair for support, they sit in a squat position and engage the large muscles of the legs such as the quadriceps and calf. They squat every day and for long periods of time. Here are a few efficient ways to promote ease, mobility, and improved posture that stem from Eastern principles. The best part is they can be done from the comfort of your home or office.


A nice feature for people working remotely as well as children who are learning virtually amid the pandemic is the ability to take breaks in your own space. Personally, I take lying down breaks multiple times a day on the floor. I put a couple of books under my head, so it remains aligned with my spine and bend my knees so my feet are flat on the floor while my knees are pointing up. I lie on the floor for 20 minutes to allow my spine to lengthen. It is my favorite form of postural self-care.

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Long before it was referred to as “good” or “bad.” posture shaped the values inherent to cultures.


Sitting on stools or surfaces without back support strengthens your torso. Begin by sitting on a backless surface for five minutes at a time. If you start to sense discomfort and pain, stop. It takes time to engage new muscles that haven’t been active due to a sedentary lifestyle, so be patient with yourself.


Encourage children to play on the carpet rather than sit on the couch to view a screen. If electronic use is inevitable, ask them to sit on the floor while watching TV or prop the device on a coffee table or chair. If you notice them slouching, instead of telling them to “Sit up Straight,” suggest they think of their heads floating up to the sky like a balloon, and their spine is the string that follows.

Your posture can lift you up or bring you down. You can engage your muscles to support your body or rely on the chair to keep you from falling to the ground. The key to improving posture isn’t whether or not you sit for hours, but rather the way you sit for hours. Your posture is the sum of your choices. If you want to improve it, be mindful of your body habits. Tami Bulmash is a certified Alexander Technique teacher and has devoted the past twenty years to the study, research, writing and teaching of postural health. She is the author of “iPosture: A Closer Look at the Lifestyle Practices of Schoolchildren” and co-author for the Amazon #1 Bestseller, “Heart & Soul”.

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By Charu Suri


ith most of us working from home these days, it’s been more than challenging than ever to figure out what the new normal is. How exactly do we navigate these waters with all our ups and downs? I realized that since almost everyone is in the same boat, it might make sense to turn to someone who truly knows her stuff. So, I approached Karen Mangia who wrote the book, "Working from Home: Making the New Normal Work for You" (available now on Amazon) to ask her the top tips for making the new normal really work for you. Mangia wrote the book at breakneck speed during the pandemic, and it was published by Wiley. “My editor asked me to write the book in a few weeks, or at least within 30 days,” she said. “I did the impossible by focusing on what was possible.” While we all have tried to adapt to the new environment, some concrete points can help. Here are Mangia’s top tried and true tips:

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When you’re working from home, it’s easy to make impromptu jaunts to the kitchen, to refill your water bottles when you get there, or graze at cookies. “When

we work at home, we get sucked into “just one more” syndrome, or one more blog and we are always grazing on work-- that becomes the gateway to that burnout.”


To develop healthy habits, put routines, rituals and boundaries in place. The reason why Mangia says routine is critical is that you had a routine at work in the first place, such as dropping off and picking up kids, or a happy hour, or meeting up with a trainer. The same type of routine becomes necessary at home. Routines are actually an upside, easy to executive and don’t take much time.

upside incentive to closing that pantry door). “I had a family that shared with me that they took a walk around the block, and how that helped their day,” she says. “For some others, it can be exercise. I know one executive that has a sevenyear-old. At the end of the day, he does what used to happen in cartoons: Fred Flintstone would yell and go down the tail of a dinosaur and yell Yabba Dabba Do.”

Rituals can be therapeutic and motivating. These can include playing music, mindfulness and movement. Listen to a song or a couple of songs, Mangia advises, or do 5-10 minutes of meditation (an


Since the situation that we all thought was temporary has become more permanent, the simplest thing to do is to pause and ask yourself what’s working. “Some people are still in the uncomfortable antique dining room chair,” she says. “You’re going to be at home for a few months longer. Choose to take off of your list what’s not working; it’s a very small adjustment that you can easily make. Pause and take stock of what’s working, especially since we have a bit longer to make the new normal work for us.” Mangia advises that you do tiny changes, instead of big leaps. What if you’re feeling alone and frustrated? Find ways to connect.

Mangia says that without these markers, it’s harder to know when to cease activity and leave (for the day).

Do a phone call with someone. Putting together a group that gets together, like a new work skill or a new book club. Find some ways to create the connection that you seek, and in doing so you get to connect with people who remind you that you can still influence how and with whom you connect, says Mangia. This will break up some of that monotony. “On Monday mornings, I have this virtual coffee group with my company. We’re not really talking about a big project but just have fun talking about sports or books. One of my colleagues is a painter and it’s just fun (to hang out) and this starts the day off on a positive note. We’re all in a position to create those moments. It’s also a great way to demonstrate that you’re a leader and able to think differently during these times.”

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MANAGING REALISTIC CREATIVITY AND PRODUCTIVITY. Productivity is a hard one now. “I have found that asking three questions help: Does it have to be me, Does it have to be me right now, and the bonus question, does it have to be a meeting?” asks Mangia. “So many people report that they’re exhausted of having a meeting.” These questions will help you to reclaim some time that you might be spending on things that don’t matter. Another way is to take any meeting and shorten it. Does a meeting have to be that long? Take 5-10 minutes away from the meeting and decide if you handle it in an email. It is okay to use a collaborative document, says Mangia. “Find your style: if you’re looking for ways for a challenge, take a little time out, and see if you can do it as a phone call, or move it into a collaborative document. Most people will find a way to take meetings off their calendar.”

THE TAKE-AWAY While no one has a magic formula that will help you adjust to the new normal, these tips are good reminders that baby steps can help you get the most of your work environment. A safe and healthy work from home experience to all!

Charu Suri is a freelance journalist and also the editor of Wellness Lounge®. She is also a pianist and composer.

27 Personal Health

Spirituality and Mental Health COVID-19 And the Lesson Of Gratitude

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number of persons across the country have begun to benefit from a new, innovative course under the Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI). The initiative was introduced on September 15th this year, by Founder and President of the Sankofa Global Project, Tracy Gray. Ms. Gray describes this new course as “a powerful venture that will advance the vision for Truth, Reparation, and Reconciliation.”

The Racial Equity and Justice Initiative is a big idea that is employing strategies that seek to redefine traditional learning experiences, particularly for those hitherto under-represented and marginalized. Participants who are students will pay a reduced cost for training modules and coaching.

Participants are expected to obtain crucial skill sets to create a Racial Equity and Justice Toolkit. The toolkit would allow creators to initiate and develop a variety of programs and set the pace for equitable and fair interactions among individuals and groups in various communities both locally and globally. The initiative, the first of its kind, offers a practicable online training program for facing and addressing racism, inequity, and injustice, on a new virtual platform. This springboard facilitates individualized, small cohort or large group training and development. Eight facilitators will provide instruction in different topic areas, among them Critical Thinking: Racial Equity and Justice in My Community, Personal Focus: Goals, Accountability, Personal Responsibility, and Problem and Project-Based Learning: Make a Plan of Action. The certificate course is a 10- week study designed to empower participants, with the intention that they would in turn empower their respective communities. Asked whether it was a good strategy amid a pandemic, to launch such an initiative, facilitator Dr. Darin Gray said that “the key to virtual learning and virtual involvement is to make sure that your project is imparting big ideas… you have to create a way of thinking.” Tracy Gray, Founder

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“When it comes to understanding the deep issues of racial equity and social justice, Tracy Gray is able to use her deep knowledge, skill, and personal experience to shed light on the causes and solutions to these issues. Her work as an educator, entrepreneur, and public speaker provides Tracy with the needed multiple perspectives to be action oriented and goal driven. When people engage with Tracy Gray, positive change happens!” - Dr. Leslie Craigo

I have witnessed Tracy effectively design and implement innovative educational programs in California and New York. Her organization received the highest recognition from President Barack Obama’s Office of Science and Technology Policy as one of the first cohort of organizations that expanded STEM opportunities nationwide for all students. Tracy consistently brings attention to racial equity and justice through research, advocacy, and building community relations.

"Tracy and I met in 2012 when we were Jack & Jill Mother members in the San Francisco Bay Area. In a pivotal time when she was founding the Sankofa Global Project, Tracy requested that I mentor her. I advised her to focus on what incites her passions and become the expert in that area. “I have learned a great deal about developing educational programs and inclusive activities centered on access and opportunity from Tracy. She has been an invaluable asset to our non-profit arm, The Collab-Orators. She has a unique ability to combine technology with innovative curricula to shape educational programs that reach students in inspiring ways. Her entrepreneurial spirit along with her creativity and passion for teaching is an invaluable resource for anyone who is lucky enough to partner with her.” - Adina Levin, Co-Founder, Collab Fabrication Lab & Innovation Studio,

Tracy is a widely respected education leader, entrepreneur, and equity advocate. I look forward to seeing the success of the Racial Equity & Justice Initiative!" - Karen Valentia Clopton, Human Rights Commissioner and General Counsel and VP Access and Inclusion.

“Tracy Gray and the associates of The Sankofa Global Project remain, first & foremost, advocates for racial equity in education and entrepreneurship. This latest REJ Initiative now offers a viable on-line training program for facing and addressing racism, inequity, and injustice on a new Virtual Platform - one that facilitates individualized, small cohort or large group training and development locally, or on a global scale. Knowing that you’ll have your own self-designed Racial Equity & Justice Toolkit at the completion of the program, and that you’re also supporting a larger goal of reparations via the new GED+ Ed Tech Program means you also accept the premise that destiny and your desired future is definitely in your hands.” - Marvin Haire, Ph.D., Director/Facilitator, The Gourd of Wisdom Institute.

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CREATE A RACIAL EQUITY & JUSTICE TOOLKIT • Support your social impact programs and projects! • Complete Course - Receive Award Certificate - Publish Toolkit Complete Course - Receive Award Certificate - Publish Toolkit Individual 10 Week Study Course • • • • •

Personal Focus: Goals, Accountability, Personal Responsibility Professional Development: One Step at a Time Problem and Project-Based Learning: Make a Plan of Action Communication and Creativity: Families for Equity & Justice Critical Thinking: Racial Equity & Justice in My Community

BONUS: 10% of every paid registration fee will fund the GED+ Ed Tech Program. The GED+ EdTech Program supports individuals who are in a GED program - or have completed a GED program - in the design and creation of an Ed Tech business.



Spirituality & Mental Health

Link for the course:

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“The history of money is all about wellbeing, and I don’t just mean having enough of it to live well. Money itself— i.e., having a medium of exchange that represents value we all agree on—makes life so much easier,”

By Sheryl Nance Nash


he history of finance is as old as life itself. It has perpetually been a vital aspect of civilization, whether at a provincial or international level.

Finance originated in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000 - c. 3150 BCE) and proceeded through Roman Egypt (30 BCE-646 CE). For most of its archives, ancient Egypt's and Mesopotamian economy operated on a barter system without cash. “It was not until the Persian Invasion of 525 BCE that a cash economy was instituted in the country. Before this, finance flourished through an exchange of goods and services based on a standard of value both parties considered fair,” says history buff and financial expert David Morneau, who is also CEO of the marketing firm inBeat Agency. He says that by the period of the First Dynasty, international finance and economic systems had been inaugurated within the regions of the Levant, Libya, and Nubia. Egypt had a negotiating colony in Canaan, a number in Syria, and even more in Nubia. The overland trade route through the Wadi Hammamat wound from the Nile to the Red Sea, the goods packed and tied to the backs of donkeys.

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As for the first banks, trace them to the temples in Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Ancient Babylon. It would be the Romans, though, who took banking out of the temples and into their own buildings. “The history of money is all about well-being, and I don’t just mean having enough of it to live well. Money itself—i.e., having a medium of exchange that represents value we all agree on—makes life so much easier,” says Amanda Phalin, PhD, senior lecturer, department of management at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

BARTERING Before money, how did we get what we needed or wanted? “We traded and bartered. If you had a pig but needed five chickens, you had to find someone who not only had a pig but also wanted your five chickens. You may have been forced to engage in multiple bargaining and trading transactions just to put scrambled eggs on your plate. Money—whatever a society chooses it to be— eliminates that time-and-energy-wasting process. Now we can get our eggs faster, leaving us time for making not just scrambled eggs, but pies, quiches, and even breeding the chickens for more eggs. Money makes our lives more efficient, allowing us to do more with the limited time and resources we have,” she says. For sure, money has been top-of-mind in 2020. The pandemic impacted everyone financially. Many saw savings decimated; others struggled for the first time after losing jobs. On the flip side of the coin, some saved money because routines changed. There was no more commuting to work, or frequenting restaurants for date night, and no lunchtime outings or happy hour with coworkers. The question now, though, is where to go from here? How to find financial peace when the pandemic and its effect will be around for some time to come. The experts weigh in. “To build a sense of financial well-being -- someone who is in control of their money -- it will be important to shore up the areas of vulnerability that COVID exposed and create a forward-looking plan,” says Patricia Stallworth,

a certified financial planner and host of the Minding Your Money Minute podcast. There’s plenty you can do to rebuild your finances, or if you’re in good shape right now, to keep moving forward toward a secure financial future.

ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY FUND After this year, nobody needs convincing that wild stuff can and will happen that rock your financial world. Aim to have savings that will cover at least three to six months of your expenses. Knowing that you have a little something to tide you over instead of relying on credit cards will comfort you when trouble strikes.

RE-EXAMINE YOUR BUDGET Forget winging it. Going forward, create a budget and stick to it. First, identify your fixed expenses like rent/mortgage, car payment, etc. Next, look at your variable ones, such as entertainment and restaurants. See where you can trim them and take that money to build an emergency fund, advises Rubina Hossain, a certified financial planner and past president of the Financial Planning Association. Once you have your safety net, focus on retirement savings and other mid and long-term goals that may need tweaking given all that’s changed.

IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT SCORE If pandemic-induced financial issues damaged your credit score, work on raising it as soon as possible. This will not only make you feel better, but a good score helps you qualify for lower interest rates and puts you in a favorable light, be it a potential employer or landlord. Sean Messier, associate editor of Credit Card Insider, offers tips. “Apply for a secured credit card if you have the cash to fund the required security deposit. Use the card for everyday purchases, then pay off your full statement balance every month to avoid interest charges. This should make it fairly easy to boost your credit scores, as long as you’re managing credit wisely elsewhere.”

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He says to consider repairing your credit with a credit builder loan. They’re specifically designed to help people with poor or no credit boost their scores, and they’re available from a variety of banks and credit unions.

GET THE DEBT MONKEY OFF YOUR BACK Many people turned to credit cards to get through 2020. It’s hard to be at peace when creditors are calling. Make paying off that debt a priority. One common technique is to target your highest interest credit card first or the card with the highest balance. Pay more than the required minimum monthly, as much as you can, and on your other cards, pay the minimum. Talk about a mental boost. The victory of getting rid of one debt will energize you. Hit repeat. Move on to the next card using the same strategy. However, don’t make the mistake of draining your 401k to pay down some of your debt. Says Todd Mosley, a bankruptcy attorney with the Mosley Law Firm, “I’ve had clients do this and still end up filing for bankruptcy later. They not only depleted their savings but deferred their financial recovery.”

PRACTICAL TIPS FOR SAVING DESPITE THE PANDEMIC REFINANCE Take advantage of historic low interest rates and refinance your mortgage. “A lower payment frees up cash that you can put toward savings or to chip away at debt,” says Marguerita Cheng, CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth.

AUTOMATE SAVINGS Avoid temptation. Have a portion of your paycheck automatically directed to your savings account.

MAKE LEMONADE OUT OF LEMONS Capitalize on the fact you are not driving as much, not at the gym, don’t need new clothes for the office and the like. Instead of frittering away that money, re-route it into a savings or investment account. It adds up. Say you were spending $10 a day for lunch and pricey coffee, break that habit for six months and pocket that money. You’d save around $1,800. “That’s nice, but really take advantage of the pandemic and stick that $1,800 in an investment account for 25 years and forget about it. If it makes an average return of 7%, it could be worth $10,000,” says Casey Halliley, vice president of financial education for Sqwire, a financial wellness company.


Keep in mind the words of finance guru Suze Orman, “A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from the worry about the whatifs in life.”

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer specializing in travel, personal finance, and business. Her travel writing has appeared on, Newsweek. com, Afar, Sherman’s Travel, Orbitz, and among others.

When you’re on a serious savings mission, just relying on your paycheck won’t suffice. Generate extra cash. Make use of any special skills you have, like playing the piano. Offer lessons online or off. Consider opportunities like driving for Uber, delivering food, or tutoring online (many parents need help with homeschooling). Take inventory of your household for treasure that can be sold on Craigslist and elsewhere.

CUT EXPENSES Right now, it’s about necessities. Everything else is a distant second. Work hard at trimming the grocery bill and the number of times you order takeout. Rethink subscription services. Evaluate necessities like your cell phone. Can you do better with another provider? With fewer expenses, you’ll have more money to get through any storm and reach your financial goals.

35 Personal Health


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36 Spirituality & Mental Health

By Annita Katee


contracted COVID-19 in late March. Everything was still new, tests were extremely rare, and mask mandates were not yet in place. In Los Angeles, lockdown had just been announced, and like many others, I had begun self-isolating and was trying to complete a frustratingly intricate 1000-piece puzzle, as well as baking copious amounts of banana bread. It was a Friday afternoon when I started to develop an irritating dry cough. As I continued to work on that arduous jigsaw puzzle, my cough worsened. By Sunday, an additional symptom appeared: a tight chest. It was at this point that I booked a virtual doctor’s appointment. By Monday’s consultation, I now had an ongoing cough, tight chest, muscle aches, and a slight fever. With a rarity of test supplies, I was diagnosed with ‘suspected coronavirus’ and prescribed to stop work, stay inside, and rest for the next week. For the most part, I’m a fit and healthy 26-year-old woman. However, I do have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which can affect the immune system. The CDC defines CFS as “overwhelming fatigue that is not improved by rest.” Dr. David Borenstein, MD, says the link between COVID-19 and CFS stems from a lack of

sleep. “Generally, people with CFS don’t sleep well, and we know how important sleep is to our immune system,” he said. “So having chronic fatigue can already reduce your immunity just by a lack of sleep - which can then affect your risk.” Dr. Borenstein also noted that he had found a link between COVID-19 and deficiencies in vitals. “Every patient that comes to me with COVID-19, I look at their previous Vitamin D and Zinc levels, and boom, they’re all low. Every one of them.” Dr. Borenstein advises all to check their vitamin and mineral levels and work closely with a physician to ensure no toxicity. As the days went on, so did my symptoms. Friday, one week on, I felt my best. But just as I was hopping into bed, things turned. My chest began to close up, I was having trouble breathing, and my body shook in pain. I have never been more grateful and appreciative of not only doctors and nurses, but of cleaners, receptionists, and security personnel at the hospital. I applauded the effort they put in at all hours of the day, even during the time of a significantly low support of PPE. I spent the night in the hospital and was given some IV drips and oxygen therapy. But while I’m thankful that my health improved, it meant that I didn’t qualify to get a COVID-19 test. At that time, with such low supplies, they were saved for only those admitted. I was lucky enough to qualify for a drive-thru


When you replace, “Why is this happening to me?” with “What is this trying to teach me?” --everything shifts. The feelings of gratitude start to take hold, and you realize that this is a powerful emotion that is important for your wellbeing. test the following day, and over a week later, I received my results: not surprisingly, they were positive. At this point, it had been twoand-a-half weeks since my first symptom. I continued to stay indoors, not leaving my apartment for nearly nine weeks. Yes, nine. That was how long it took for the cough to disappear. In those nine weeks, I binged on many shows, deep cleaned my apartment countless times, and finally completed that puzzle! Those weeks really taught me how important human connection is. On the flip side, they taught me that we can be strong when there’s no other choice. There are still so many unknowns with COVID-19, with Dr. Borenstein noting that many are now facing a condition he’s penned as “Post Covid Fatigue.” My experience has taught me a lot, but most importantly, it’s reminded me to be grateful each and every single day for all the good in my life. If you’re going through any sort of hard time, I encourage you to remember this when you replace, “Why is this happening to me,” with “What is this trying to teach me?” --everything shifts.

Spirituality & Mental Health


Why is it that, for the most part, we only think about how amazing our bodies are when we’re unwell? Having COVID-19 reminded me to appreciate my moving, working, and functioning body every single day. I was grateful to not have been near as sick as the millions of others, and that age and prior health and fitness levels were on my side.

2. GRATITUDE FOR TECHNOLOGY Social media and technology can be toxic, but also such a blessing. Living overseas for the past few years has taught me how best to utilize technology to keep up relationships and special connections. While staying inside, I felt in touch with the outside world.

3. GRATITUDE FOR LOVED ONES This year has forced us to sift through and separate close friends from acquaintances. I’m lucky enough to have friends all over the world who organized Zoom trivia nights, called, texted, and local ones who kindly dropped groceries at my door, cooked me food, and even just sat outside for some face-toface time through my screen door.

4. GRATITUDE FOR A HOME Sadly, there’s been a large increase in homelessness this year. I not only had a roof over my head, but I was living alone - which gave me added peace in knowing I had not and was not going to pass on the virus. Another benefit was the large windows in my apartment. While I couldn't go outside, the sun and natural light shone through every day.

5. GRATITUDE TO BE ABLE TO STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES Not having been outside for close to nine weeks, when I first stepped out in peak Spring, the aroma of fresh flowers and the vision of bright colors was overwhelming in the best way. It was a lesson to appreciate the small things in life like being in nature and being able to simply go on walks. My lungs were compromised when I first stepped out. I could only walk around for 10 minutes before returning inside.

Annita is a writer and host living in Los Angeles originally from Sydney. She loves covering anything health, lifestyle, entertainment and travel, and her work has appeared in Daily Mail, and various other Australian and US publications.

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"Diverse perspectives are essential at all levels of an organization. The Racial Equity & Justice Initiative will support people - and the process - of creating a more inclusive and more equitable community." -Tracy L Gray

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Tracy Gray has devoted her career to racial equity and justice as an educator, advocate, and small business leader. The team and instructors of REJI, and our partners, at The i3 Institute are racial equity justice advocates who have demonstrated success in working with and supporting diverse communities. We envision vibrant and healthy communities that benefit from diversity, equity, inclusion, and intention

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am my ancestors' wildest dreams. While I have worked hard, and have been blessed with opportunities, I am also the exception to the rule. I am an outlier in a system that denies most other Black students equal and equitable access to a quality education; a system where young people who look like me often find their potentials unrealized; a system where no matter how hard you work, being born in the "wrong" zip code might mean your opportunities are squandered before you were even born. Dorson Community Foundation was founded with a tunnel-vision focus on helping students from underserved communities overcome these very inequities, and bridge the gap of opportunity in their lives. While children from the affluent and predominantly White Essex County suburb of Millburn-Short Hills enjoy one of New Jersey's leading public school systems, a mere 10 miles away in the predominantly Black and Latino inner-city of Newark, only 50% of students at Barringer Arts High School graduate on time -- among the lowest rates in the state. My mother, the founder of Dorson and a business owner in the innercity of East Orange, observed the differences between the suburbs and low-income communities of Essex County. She watched as the employees of her home care agency -- predominantly immigrant, low-income,

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OPENING THE DOOR TO A BRIGHTER TOMORROW Dorson Community Foundation enriches and develops the next generation of leaders and agents of change from under-served communities by emphasizing self-discovery and civic engagement to empower students on their path to and through post-secondary education and onto career success.

DORSON SCHOLARS PROGRAM A tuition-free, four-year, college prep program that supports highly motivated, inner-city, high school students.

single mothers -- struggled to raise their children amid the stress of an urban environment and provide the necessary resources to fulfill their slice of the American dream. Tired of watching an unequal pathway set out for Black and Latino youth in the inner-city, my mother refused to sit idly awaiting political intervention. She took action herself. She knew these students' lives mattered well before it became a novelty to believe so. In 1992, Dorson was established in East Orange with a mission to level the playing field for these youth and provide opportunities, mentorship, and a safe environment for them to realize their potential. Over its 28year tenure, Dorson has offered a wide spectrum of programming open to youth in the local community, including free business literacy classes, a free computer lab, free SAT prep classes for high school students, a dance studio offering classes for boys and girls of all ages, advising to college-bound high school seniors, and so much more. Our students

42 Spirituality & Mental Health are accomplished scholars and our programs have made a tangible impact in their lives, and all of this was made possible through an allvolunteer team with zero paid staff and a shoestring budget. As a child growing up in Dorson programs myself, I watched from the backseat as my mother drove around Essex County dropping students home after late night SAT prep classes. I've watched my father write a personal check to pay for students to attend summer programs when fundraising efforts fell short. I've watched volunteers spend hours reviewing students' college applications and scholarship essays. For nearly three decades, we've been supporting highly-motivated inner-city students with great potential and telling them

about their value in the world; we've been investing our time, money, and resources in their futures, and we've been connecting them to opportunities to direct them on a pathway towards success. At Dorson, we've been long committed to this fight to change the outcomes for Black and Latino youth, before anybody cared, back when others thought societal change was too difficult, and before it was a hot ticket issue. As the country and national consciousness have awoken to the inequalities facing Black lives, l've grown hopeful. Hopeful that Dorson can finally receive the overdue support and resources from corporations and individuals stepping up to this battle. While education was intended to be the

great equalizer, it's evident it is not, and that organizations like Dorson are essential to closing the opportunity gap for youth from underserved communities. For newcomers entering this fight for racial justice, we ask that you join Dorson in the decades of hard work we've extended in the name of empowering students from the inner-city. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the educational inequities facing Black and Latino children, and makes our support of these students' futures that much more critical. It's been our driving devotion to our students and guidance under my mother's greater vision for inner-city youth, that has kept us going.

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