Tuesday, April 14, 2009

100 Edifying Talks for Self-Improvement

This being a personal development blog, we are always looking for resources that may be helpful in our mutual "quest for perfection and eternal life (BYU's mission)."This entry may indeed include the mother-load.

Please click on the reader-submitted link here to find 100 different talks, reports and resources that may be of interest to you for self-improvement. Whether you want to learn about health, arts and culture, religion, or business, there are a number of links that may tickle your fancy.

Happy reading!

Kelly Sonora
Andrea Kratzenberg

Monday, March 30, 2009

You've Gotta Have Friends

If you have lost touch with old friends from BYU or elsewhere, here's a reason bigger than guilt to get back in touch: A study conducted by the Centre for Aging Studies at Flinders University in Australia found that individuals with a large network of friends outlived those with fewer friends by 22 percent.

The authors suspected that good friends discourage unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and heavy drinking, and the companionship provided by friends may ward off depression, boost self-esteem, and provide overall support. Also, as people age, they may become more selective in their choice of friends, therefore spending more time with people they like.

Close relationships with spouses and children, by contrast, has almost no effect on longevity. Lynne Giles, one of the researchers, emphasized that family ties are important, but seem to have little effect of life-span.

So give your old roommates, dorm buddies and mission companions a call (and check our alumni directory here if you need some help tracking them down!).

Contributing: Janessa Cloward
Photo: Loretta Humble

Friday, March 27, 2009

Seven Tips for Being Healthy

As the weather begins to get warm (or for those of us in Utah, as ice finally melts off the sidewalks), we often have a tendency to set goals about "getting back into shape." Springtime is like the second New Year's, and surely a second chance to reestablish those New Year's resolutions that never made it past Jan. 15.

Scott H. Young, a university student and blogger, who has worked to get in shape himself, has authored and article that lists seven good tips for getting in shape. You can read the article here.

Contributing: Chris Giovarelli
Photo: Ramasamy Chidambaram

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beware of Facebook Scams

You know the drill. As soon as you log on to Facebook, a trillion application invites from your friends pop up. You're invited to become a Jedi master, a mob boss, grow an online garden, name a star or buy small countries. For many of us, the "block this application, and block any application every sent by this person, their children, or their children's children" is a great feature that we use regularly.

While internet scam aren't anything new, the onset of Facebook and other online communities has bred a whole new set of scams.

For those who may be more likely to open widgets, applications, or other downloads, MSN has an update on five scams that you may encounter, and should be aware of. You can read the story here.

Contributing: Chris Giovarelli & Beth Hansen
Photo: Steve Woods

Monday, March 9, 2009

Giving Leads to Joy and Wealth

BYU students, faculty and alumni were commended for their charity and encouraged to spend even more time giving the gift of giving, in Tuesday’s forum.

Arthur Brooks, the speaker, explained to students the importance of giving, and how it positively affects the lives of those who give.

“You simply can’t find any kind of service that won’t make you happier,” Brooks said.

Inspired by John D. Rockefeller’s theory that those who give will become rich themselves, Brooks began a study to find the connection between giving and wealth.

Brooks, an economist and author, said he thought this theory to be impossible, but his studies showed otherwise.

“I was perplexed,” Brooks said. “[My findings] didn’t go with my theory.”

Brooks said he tested the theory time and time again and still came up with the same results: by giving, people become rich themselves.

With these results, he said he then looked for the reasoning behind the theory.

“I found that happiness is the secret to success,” Brooks said. “Charity brings happiness, and happiness brings success.”

Brooks said there are four main myths that people hold about charity.

First, giving makes us poorer. Brooks said from his findings giving only makes us richer, not poorer.

Second, he said people tend to believe that people are inherently selfish. Through his findings, he discovered people only learn to be selfish.

Third, Brooks said though people think giving is a luxury, in fact it is a necessity.

This leads into Brooks’ fourth myth when people believe it is the responsibility of the government to give to the people.

“The day the government takes over is when we get poorer,” he said. “We must demand to take our place as givers.”

Brooks said he encourages all those who were listening to go out and teach others of the power of giving.

“You have been given the gift of giving,” Brooks said. “Now give that gift.”

He said if we want to help others, we need to help them learn how to give, not just give to them.

In the end of his address, Brooks commended BYU and the LDS religion for the charity efforts they have shown.

He said the example that has been shown to him has been wonderful.

If you'd like to listen to Arthur Brooks' entire talk, please click here to visit BYU's Speeches page and search by speaker.

Contributing: Whitney Clark
Photo: Andrew Van Wagenen

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

To Diet or Not to Diet?

Strictly speaking, a diet is what you eat on a regular basis. When we talk about dieting, we typically think of cutting calories to try and be more healthy. In reality, what we are really doing is adjusting our diet, but frankly, we're all on diets, always.

The Word of Wisdom provides us with a pretty basic (and quite healthy) plan for how we can maintain a healthy diet, namely:
  • avoid alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea and other harmful substances or drugs
  • eat lots of fruits and vegetables, especially while they are in season
  • eat grains
  • sparingly eat meat
In addition to the simple steps to following this "diet," there is also a promise that accompanies it:
And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.
Aside from just what we eat, the gospel also teaches us to remain athletically active. Physical activity, coupled with healthy eating, has been proven to not just control weight, but contributes to an overall feeling of health and happiness.

So what about all those other diets? It appears that in the culture that we live in, rather than just inventing our own diets based on the simple steps outlined above, we often look for preconceived diets and the processes they describe. While the purpose of dieting should always be to "alter our diets" to make us feel more healthy, and rarely for the sole purpose of drastic weight loss, sometime a prescribed plan is helpful. WebMD has provided an interesting resource that allows users to look at an overview of major diet plans and then decide which plan is best for them. You can see this list here. These diets should be reviewed carefully and aligned with the solid gospel principles found in the Word of Wisdom and other revelations.

No matter what plan you take to "alter your diet," it appears that in the end, being resolute and constant in your chosen plan is often more important that the plan itself. In 2005, the Journal of the American Medical Association published findings from the Tufts-New England Medical Center indicating that of 160 individuals who participated in four diets, all those who followed their diets closely (whichever diet it may have been) lost weight. Basically, make a plan and stick to it. When choosing a diet that is manageable and responsible, the primary focus should be feeling healthy, and not solely weight loss. Incidentally, the study also found that none of the popular diets produced more than "modest" weight loss.

By following the basic principles of the Word of Wisdom and by exercising regularly, everyone can find a diet (as in what you eat on a regular basis) that will help them to feel healthy. Faddish diets, short-term fixes, or focuses solely on weight loss are rarely characteristics of a manageable and long-term diet plan.

So to diet or not to diet? Well again, strictly speaking, you already have a diet. To determine if you need to "adjust" your diet, ask yourself the simple question: "What do I need to feel more healthy?"
Contributing: Chris Giovarelli
Yucel Tellici

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Beyond Boxes and Bins

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
-William Morris

A wanderer on a lonely road came upon a torrential stream that had washed out the bridge. He couldn’t swim and was afraid to wade across, so he had to spend several days cutting down trees and vines with his small knife to build a raft. The raft he built was solid, and the heavy raft carried him safely across the flood. On the other side of the bank he though, “This is a good raft—if there’s another stream ahead, I can use it.” And so, he carried the raft for the rest of his life.

I believe that this Zen parable reflects the attitudes of many people who are struggling with a messy house. In the aftermath of the holiday season, we are especially prone to hang onto things that were given to us as gifts. (Are you really going to use that handy digital coin sorter?) Or, even worse, we tend to keep old, worn out things that we’ve already replaced. For example, I just barely threw away my worn out running shoes. My husband had to convince me that I would never use them again, even though I hadn’t really looked at them in three years, and I had recently purchased a new pair of running shoes. My response? “But I just MIGHT need them someday!”

A brand new year is upon us, and we’re all suffering from the effects of a major economic downturn. Your first reaction to the recession might be to cling onto your clutter for dear life—there’s no way you can get rid of anything that has potential utility, right? On the contrary, now is the perfect time to change our messy habits, purge the junk, and organize our homes! While a quick trip to IKEA or Bed Bath & Beyond might provide some temporary relief from the clutter, I hope to make some suggestions that will be more long-lasting than a shiny new Rubbermaid container.

What is “clutter”?

Understanding what “clutter” is can help you in your quest for organization. According to Merriam-Webster, “to clutter” means “to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.” Generally speaking, “clutter” can also mean anything that holds you back from achieving your goals, like holding onto emotional baggage, taking on other people’s responsibilities, or putting off major changes that you’ve been intending to make for a long time. This “emotional clutter” often manifests itself in the form of junk because we are too distracted to attend to housework, or to throw away the accumulating trash.

Why de-clutter?

The Lord has told us to be organized! In Doctrine and Covenants 109:8, we are told to “organize [ourselves]” and to “prepare every needful thing.” I mentioned earlier that a recession plays a major role in hoarding tendencies, when in reality we should be avoiding hoarding at all costs. We have been taught in the scriptures that material possessions are fleeting, especially in times of financial distress. Samuel the Lamanite taught in Helaman 13:31 that “the time cometh that [the Lord] curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them; and in the days of your poverty ye cannot retain them.” Instead of focusing on saving potential “junk” items, focus on saving money and practicing wise spending habits.

What is holding me back?

I’ve provided plenty of good reasons to have a clutter-free home. So why do most of us still struggle with clutter? Have you recently experienced a major life change, such as the birth of a child, a marriage, or a divorce? Are you too busy at work or in school? Do you have kids at home that create a messy environment? These are all legitimate reasons for having some disorder at home, which in some cases just takes a trip to DI and a vacuum to fix. But if you find yourself unable to function because of the mess in your home, you might want to consider seeing a specialist who can help you overcome some of these problems.

Where do I start?

Asking yourself these four general questions can help you find a good starting place to get rid of clutter:
  1. Am I going to use this item? Start with this simple question and then narrow down your answers.
  2. What is this item for? Is it a seasonal item? An item that you use daily? Does it need to be readily accessible, or can you put it away in storage?
  3. Is this item a “want” or a “need”? You might need a set or two of pajamas to sleep in, but you don’t “need” 15 sets. The same goes for holiday socks, old food containers that have been recycled to be Tupperware, etc.
  4. Will I be seriously inconvenienced if I throw this item away? Try not to think too hard about this question, because a simple “yes” or “no” will make your de-cluttering venture much easier.

The bottom line:

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). By focusing on “treasures in heaven” rather than our temporary earthly belongings, we can become more in tune with ourselves, strengthen relationships with others, and draw closer to God.

Contributing: Hannah Hammill
Photo: Jyn Meyer

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