Tag Archives: health

Benefits of nature for health and creativity.

Why You Need More Nature in Your Life

Benefits of nature and enjoying the great outdoors can help your mental health among other factors.
Image from Fix.com. Click to open full image; expand for better legibility.

The idea that spending time in nature and taking a break from technology increases your well-being shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The benefits of nature are not only great for your health, but allow you to build a different perspective of the world, as well.

A 2014 study at the University of Michigan found that nature walks were associated with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental well-being.

Research is being conducted in Japan on the physiological effects of shinrin-yoku—also known as “forest bathing,” which means to take a walk in the woods.

According to this 2011 study published in European Journal of Applied Physiology, the benefits of nature “may lower blood pressure by reducing sympathetic nerve activity (reducing urinary noradrenaline levels) and increasing parasympathetic nerve activity. In addition, habitual walking in forest environments may have beneficial effects on blood adiponectin and DHEA-S levels, and habitual walking exercise may have beneficial effects on blood NT-proBNP levels.”

Whenever I have the luxury of being outside, I take in all of the natural colors, types of plant and animal life, and sites that nature has to offer. Living in Colorado, it’s almost second-nature for everyone to be passionate in hiking, camping, etc.

Great Sand Dunes view from backcountry campsite.
The Great Sand Dunes in Mosca, CO, where I backcountry camped and hiked in 2016.

The sand dunes were an amazing place to explore. The colors changed according to the sun’s position—as shown in the above image where the sun was starting to set. This place was captivating where it was so quiet during evening and nighttime that you could perfectly hear your own heartbeat due to the lack of ambient sound as well as a jaw-dropping view of the stars. Not being bombarded with city sounds and getting the chance to see every spec of the Milky Way visible to the human eye are definitely some benefits of nature that I experienced those two nights in the Dunes.

Sunflower center shows the logarithmic spiral occurring natural in nature.
From Jim Wilson at the University of Georgia.

More benefits of nature include seeing how everything comes together in the details. How do colors interact when leaves are changing due to the changing seasons? What shapes form when the wind relentlessly pounds against a rock? When it snows, what shapes are formed by individual snowflakes?

You can find the answer to such questions by taking the time to explore the intricate details of the outdoors and not just the big picture. Time and time again I strive to examine as many things as possible while hiking. Because of this, I observed how balance plays itself out in both symmetrical and asymmetrical ways—similar to best practices and techniques in the design world. After seeing such wonders, I was able to observe the outside world in a completely different point-of-view—along with a newfound respect for nature.

According to this American Scientist article, “Twisted Math and Beautiful Geometry,” mathematical and geometric concepts occur naturally in nature and influence how we see and experience the world around us.

“Of the numerous mathematical curves we encounter in art, geometry, and nature, perhaps none can match the exquisite elegance of the logarithmic spiral. This famous curve appears, with remarkable precision, in the shape of a nautilus shell, in the horns of an antelope, and in the seed arrangements of a sunflower.”

We all need a break from reality once in awhile, so take to the trail, or even your backyard, to discover the benefits of nature for—not only your well-being—but your creativity, as well!

Why You Should Volunteer Your Journalism Skills

This post was published on First Draft, the Society of Professional Journalist’s Generation J’s Committee blog: blogs.spjnetwork.org/genj/2016/09/01/volunteer-journalism-skills/


In a society where both new and seasoned journalists are expected to keep up with the digital revolution and competition, feelings of being overwhelmed are commonplace. How are you expected to land a job if:

  1. You just graduated and don’t have any years (or decades) of professional experience, or
  2. The skills required include either a few or ALL of the following: produce videos, manage social media, write stories and blogs, build graphics, build a rocket ship to the moon, etc.

That’s where volunteering for just a few hours a week can save you in more ways than one.

Volunteering Can Help You With Your Career

If you volunteer, you'll have a 27% higher chance of finding employment than those who don't volunteer.
Image from Non-Profit Quarterly.

According to a Forbes article, “The Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that promotes volunteerism, tracked more than 70,000 jobless people between 2002 and 2012 and found that those who volunteered had a 27% better chance of finding a job than those who didn’t.”

My first journalism-related, volunteer experience was with Citiwide Pre-Vocational Center in Washington, DC, which seeks to improve and foster employment opportunities for low-income families in the metro. I had a quick email and phone interview with the founder and became the Social Media and Website Coordinator from 2012 to 2013. While there, I cleaned the website’s HTML and CSS, managed social networks, and designed a new logo for them.

One of my first logo designs I did for Citiwide Pre-Vocational Center as part of my volunteering experience.

Image above: The logo I created for Citiwide Pre-Vocational Center back in 2013, which was one of the first logos I helped design.

Another experience involved volunteering at Fuzzy Faces Refuge in North Carolina, which provides a sanctuary for common and endangered animal species and works to promote safe interaction with humans. While volunteering, I helped maintain their website and social networks, photography and videography, and even helped market a few events.

Above: Here is a video I quickly produced for one of Fuzzy Faces Refuge’s annual events. This video isn’t perfect, but to visually show and brand this event for the non-profit was worthwhile as they were extremely appreciative and it was fun! (youtu.be/i3VtAIzgSPI)

U.S. News wrote, “5 Ways Volunteering Can Save Your Job Search,” where volunteering can increase your morale, grow your network, upgrade your resume, teach you new skills or improve on existing ones, and even help you choose a career.

Every time I had an interview with a company during or after these experiences, the interviewer would be very interested in my volunteering background. Those experiences became a unique part of my background and helped me land two different jobs after college. Volunteering also helped me increase my network and skills.

Volunteering is Great for Your Physical & Mental Health

Volunteering makes people feel good about themselves because they help without expecting anything in return. People donate their time and efforts to a non-profit whose mission they believe benefits society. According to a post on Harvard’s blog, “Participants who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others—not to make themselves feel better.”

Searching for a job right out of college can be hard and challenging. You may be left with feelings of low self-esteem as well as a fear of the unknown, but volunteering can benefit you! According to a study from the University of Exeter Medical School in England, volunteers have lower levels of depression, enhanced well-being, and are more satisfied with life. There’s also evidence “of an approximately 20 percent reduction in mortality among volunteers compared to non-volunteers.”

Regardless of whether you’re just starting out in your career or are a seasoned journalist, you should consider volunteering your journalistic skills as it will benefit you in some way. I couldn’t wait to help at events or to promote content for the non-profit because I knew I was benefitting their mission while expanding my own skills and network!

If you’re interested in volunteering, I recommend the following sites to get started:

Sources:

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Dealing with Workplace Bullying

“Oh, so that’s why you were hired.”

That phrase was said to me within the first month of starting a new job a while back, and, no, the person behind this quote was not referring to my experience, skill or personality. This person was attacking my physical appearance as the sole reason of me being hired. Of course being newly employed, I awkwardly laughed it off without knowing what else to do, but I will never forget that quote or the intentions behind it as it was probably one of the most insulting things to say to anyone … especially to a young woman new in the ‘real-world.’

Questions of ‘Was I acting ditzy? Did I do something that led her to react so catty or rude?’ In the end, I realized it was her way of attacking me in an attempt to knock me over, an attempt to belittle me. The majority of my past and present colleagues do not act in such a derogatory demeanor, but there were some who did as well as tales about from others in completely different fields and companies. No one is perfect, and not everyone will like everyone they meet in his or her lives, but what was said to me is considered workplace bullying.

My goal of this blog post is to encourage women not to attack one another in the workplace. Times are hard, but when aren’t they? With men still making more than women who are equally qualified in most sectors of the workforce, is it not expected that women are not only intimidated but even terrified of other equally qualified women working beside them with new ideas, angles and backgrounds?

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research: “Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the equal, if not main, breadwinner in four out of 10 families. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2013, female full-time workers made only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 22 percent. Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio.

Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional When Things Get Personal book.
Image from Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional When Things Get by Katherine Crowley.

After looking at the statistics, you see that women make 22 percent less than men on every dollar earned. Most men tend to be in higher management roles, so you have full-time women working under male managers, while more than likely making less than fellow male colleagues doing similar tasks. These women are constantly trying to prove themselves with or without consciously knowing it in the sense of being damn good at their jobs. Of course the same can be said to non-management males. Because of this, women may see other women as competitors in productivity, or maybe just as easy targets to belittle them so they no longer pose an uncontrollable threat.

According to a study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, “77 percent of currently bullied targets are bullied by perpetrators of the same gender, i.e., man-on-man and woman-on-woman.” Female bullies, though less in number than male bullies, make up 31 percent of the workforce, but they target other women in 68 percent of cases. So, of the female bullies out there in the workforce, they are after other women. Why is this?

Regardless of the reasons, be it competition, insecurity, or being easier targets than men, I take my quote from Ms. Norbury in the movie “Mean Girls”: “…but you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.” Not that this is the specific situation at hand, but it does get at what I’m playing at. Working together instead of against one another in a professional and respectful environment may help females gain ground in the workforce versus the other way, which is to take down other women’s self-esteem and energy.

If you are ever in the situation where a fellow coworker says that you were hired because of the way you look or your age and is attempting to imply that you are too dumb to work with them, remember you are not alone in this scenario. Be stern, and professionally tell them that what they said will not be accepted and is immature. If they keep it up, take it to higher management, and if it still continues, go for legal advice. Don’t just laugh awkwardly like I did! If I had said something right then and there, perhaps my experience would’ve been a more positive one, instead of one that suffocated my desire to do what I love. But as time moves on, so does the hurt feelings. Experience and the notion of not letting anyone walk over you fills the once-confused and grey void.