Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Are Happy People Just Naive?

Our very own Claire Gunnels spoke to a packed house about practical ways to zap our pessimism gene and increase happiness. Skeptical? For many of us, our concept of happiness is backwards--we don't achieve happiness by working hard and being successful, rather, if we are happy, we will work hard and increase our chances of success. Studies show us that happy people are better able to learn, create and see opportunities than those who perceive things negatively. Claire was inspired by The Happiness Advantage, a book by Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor, who has spent his career studying the habits of happy individuals. As his research shows us, even if genetics predisposes you to pessimism, you can take steps to reprogram your brain to think more positively. Here are the proven techniques that Claire shared with us:
  1. 3 Gratitudes- Write down or tell someone about three specific things that occurred in the past 24 hours for which you are grateful.
  2. Journaling about Positive Experiences- Take two minutes to write down the details of a positive experience you had in the last 24 hours.
  3. Fitness Fun 15- Even just 15 minutes of exercise daily can release endorphins and improve your mood.
  4. Meditation- In the middle of a hectic day or stressful situation, take a few moments to focus on your breathing and slow it down. Asking your brain to focus only on a single, simple task helps it to regain focus and work more efficiently.
  5. Conscious Acts of Kindness- Every day for 21 days, take a moment to email a friend or acquaintance to praise or thank them.
If you begin to do one of the above techniques daily for 21 days you can create a habit and rewire your brain to look for the positive. A lot of these things may seem like common sense, but how many of us consciously put these techniques into practice? Thanks to Claire for the great insight into the science of positive thinking!

Check out Shawn Achor's TED talk:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What Do You Really Know about Medicare?


Toni King brought  in the crowds today at LIFE with an information-packed program as she explained that what you don’t know about Medicare will hurt you. Toni’s knowledge, passion and good humor were apparent as she tackled a difficult topic with aplomb. We just had an hour, so many of the attendees will opt to go to a more in-depth free program on Wednesday, August 28--see details below. As door prizes we gave away two copies of her book, The Medicare Survival Guide. And stay tuned, the Academy for Lifelong Learning at LSC-CyFair has invited her back. 

Toni is holding a free workshop next Wednesday at The Abbey:
Wednesday, August 28, 5:30-7:30 pm
The Abbey at Westminster Plaza
2865 Westminster Plaza Dr.
Houston, TX 77082
RSVP at 832-800-4674

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dirty Tricks, Mudslinging, and October Surprises

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Prints & Photographs
Professor Alex Smith joined us today to share all the details from some of the dirtiest presidential election campaigns in U.S. history. First off was the election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, a pair who started out as best friends but whose friendship was spoiled by their campaigns in 1796 and the results. Until 1804, the candidate with the highest number of votes would be President, and the candidate with the second highest number of votes would become Vice President. So runner-up Thomas Jefferson had to serve as Vice President to his opposition John Adams for four years. People from both parties made outrageous claims about the opposition for the rematch in 1800--the Federalists even went so far as to claim that Thomas Jefferson had died, so a vote for him would be waste. Despite it all, Jefferson won the Presidency.

A few other interesting items:

  • In 1828, supporters of of John Quincy Adams tried to discredit Andrew Jackson by claiming he was illiterate (he did once spell Europe "Urope"). But Jackson, who is famous for saying "It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word," managed to win the election anyway. 
  • The 1876 race between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes was so close that neither party would concede. An electoral commission had to be formed and big surprise, the group of 15 men, 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats, determined Republican Rutherford B. Hayes to be the winner.
  • In the election between Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine in 1884, despite the news of Cleveland's supposed illegitimate child, James G. Blaine lost the election due to the unfortunate events of a single day in October. He had failed to denounce the words of a preacher that spoke before him, so it was published that Republicans thought of Democrats only as "rum, Romanism, and rebellion."
  • In the 1908 race between William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft, Taft spent most of his time playing golf while the current President, Teddy Roosevelt, campaigned for him.

If you'd like to read up on Presidential elections, check out the library's books on the subject. Thanks so much to Alex Smith for a fascinating and colorful look at past campaigns.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Seriously Sushi

Today at LIFE we had a real treat. A genuine sushi chef, BK,  from Simply Wonderful Sushi (our Kroger store sushi at Barker Cypress and 529 among others) came and did a dynamite sushi demonstration. Natasha was his sous chef and she gave us a brief history of sushi with some etiquette tips. Don’t point your chop sticks and don’t place them in your rice perpendicularly (this is Japanese symbol for death). When eating nigiri (a ball of rice topped by fish), dip it fish side down in the soy sauce or the rice will all break apart. Place the fish side down on your tongue so it is the first thing you taste. BK made California rolls (crab, avocado and cucumber strips) and a dragon roll (green avocado on the outside). Then he took some pre-made California rolls and dressed them up to create totally new creations. Everyone got to taste these wonderful little bites from the sea and from the mountain. Did you know sushi means rice in Japanese? We asked Natasha why sushi tends to be such big bites. She agreed that if you slice them thinner, they are easier to eat. Ask your sushi chef to slice each roll into ten or twelve pieces for easier to eat sushi. Sashimi is just the fish without the rice. BK showed himself to be quite the artist as the sushi was both a feast for the eye and for the palate.