photo for lifehac_alone
BY : AMANDA RICHARDSON

Our world is more hyper-connected than ever. We have smartphones, tablets, iPods, laptops, and a few of us even have those soon-to-be relics called desktops. We’re so addicted that – according to Pew Research Center – 67% of cellphone owners find themselves checking their phone even when they don’t notice it ring or vibrate, and 21% of us report going online “almost constantly.” We’re so busy networking – online and off – that we leave little time for ourselves. But here’s the thing – alone time has some significant benefits.

Science shows that we overestimate how much we need people and underestimate the value of solitary experiences.

In essence, it comes down to a PR problem. Being alone has a bad rap. It is often erroneously associated with being lonely or anti-social – both of which are not beneficial to health. But being alone is distinct from these conditions, and research is mounting on its benefits to body and mind. For example, a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that those, “who forego hedonic activities alone are missing out on opportunities for rewarding experiences.”

So, what are the benefits of being alone? Here are five ways that being alone will enrich your life.

1. Alone time can help you rest and recharge
If you’re like most people, you are continually overwhelmed by an onslaught of distractions, and a lot of it comes in the form of other people. Meetings, phone calls, texts, social media, parties, and date nights. You’re rushing here and there, trying to keep the mental Rolodex of your contacts and tasks straight. You need a break.

Being alone allows you the opportunity to settle your nerves, decompress and regain clarity and focus. Whether it’s taking a hot bath, doing a 10-minute meditation or just enjoying a few moments by yourself, alone time can help you collect your thoughts and harness the energy you need for the rest of the day.

2. Being alone enhances creativity
Susan Cain, the author of the book Quiet, told Scientific American, “solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity.” While brainstorming is often touted as the solution to producing creative ideas, decades of research shows that it can backfire. People may feel constricted in groups, worried about what others will think of their ideas, or just not motivated to commit to a deep exploration.

On your own – whether it’s at home, in a cafe, on a city street, or in nature – you have space and the permission to open up your mind and discover new ideas and possibilities.

3. You get more done when you’re alone
Back in 1913, an agricultural engineer named Maximilien Ringelmann found that individuals put in more effort when working alone on a task (rope pulling, in this early 1900’s instance) than when working together collectively in a group. Known as “social loafing,” this phenomenon has been replicated in numerous studies in different situations over time. Think about your last group project – can you remember one “loafer” you encountered? I thought so, and it probably didn’t help create the best product or the most positive experience for anyone.

Interestingly, even when someone thinks they’re contributing their maximal effort to a group, studies show that they aren’t. Much of this is due to a loss of motivation, unclear goals, or an inability to coordinate group efforts. Being alone is when you can harness your motivation and ultimately get more done.

4. Solitude can boost intimacy
In religious terms, solitude can serve as a time to be at one with God. And for the one-third to one-half of the population who are introverts, it’s a chance to reconnect with oneself. But psychological studies have found that the benefits of being alone extend beyond introverts and the spiritual. Disconnecting offers a powerful opportunity to regulate our lives and strengthen ties.

Spending time alone can help you reassess and gain perspective on relationships and supplies a much-needed break from socializing. This way, when you return to the social world, you can be more fully engaged with loved ones and less distracted by your own internal monologue. Plus, through activities you pursue solo, you might meet new and exciting people that you would never have encountered otherwise.

5. You have the greatest gift of all when you’re alone: freedom
Any parent will tell you that one thing they miss dearly now that they have kids is freedom. Young college grads will commiserate that, although they “love” their roommates, they can’t wait for them to leave for a weekend. Even newlyweds sometimes celebrate when the other is away.

Let’s face it, the freedom to do what we want, when, and how we want it, becomes rarer as we get older. Taking time to detach, disconnect and spend time by yourself – doing whatever it is you want on your own terms – helps to improve mood, create balance, and enrich perspective. No boundaries, no judgment, no negotiating. It reminds you that you are in control of your life and that fulfillment ultimately comes from within.

Featured photo credit: Yanko Peyankov via images.unsplash.com
Girls Smiling
By : MAHESHWOR BHATTARAI

Mother Teresa once said “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” We have been smiling all our lives. And to some degree, we already possess the inherent knowledge that smiling not only feels good but it actually does good too.

Yet many of us shy from smiling as often as we ought to. I’m not the one to judge; we all have our own problems to deal with in life. But way too often, we actually punish ourselves by choosing not to smile when we really should be smiling our brains off!

So, the next time you get the opportunity to smile, just smile, and enjoy all that positivity it spawns. If you’re not convinced, well here below are reasons you should be.

1. Smiling makes you look attractive.
Your smile says a great deal about you. It really is true. Not convinced? Try this. Try to think of some of the people you’re attracted to. Done? How many of those were actually smiling? Well, you don’t have to tell me because I already know the answer.

We are naturally hardwired to be attracted to people who smile. Something about seeing someone smile builds up all this positive energy in our minds. And every time we see them, we associate them with all that positive energy.

So, the next time you’re around a bunch of friends or strangers (it really doesn’t matter) and you want to attract attention, just smile.

2. Smiling makes you happier.
Now this is as true as it is strange. Smiling actually makes you, the person smiling, happier regardless of the situation. Normally we are hardwired to smile only during pleasant situations.

The brain in turn releases endorphins which lowers stress and improves your overall mood, hence making the situation pleasant. But it being a voluntary action, we can actually trick the brain into believing that an otherwise dull situation is actually pleasant by simply smiling.

So the next time you’re bored, or god forbid sad, try this — kick back, take a few deep breaths and smile. Just smile, and watch your brain work its magic!

3. Smiling improves your immune system.
It has been reported that when you’re smiling, the body releases more white blood cells than it usually does. And the prime purpose of white blood cells are to protect the body against both infectious diseases and foreign invaders.

So, smiling more often actually makes your body more immune to diseases and hence makes you healthier. In fact, that is the prime reason why so many famous celebrities are invited to children’s hospitals. If they can get the children to smile, that will, to some degree, boost their overall health.

So with this in mind, don’t just go smiling on your own from now on. Make others smile too!

4. Smiling makes you a better leader.
Smiling encourages trust. We can all agree to that. A person who is constantly smiling appears more trustful than someone who is not. And what more do we look for in a great leader than trust?

Take a look at all the popular leaders of the world. I don’t say the great leaders, because not all of them may be popular. But the popular ones, who are also the more successful, smile more often than others.

This is true for leadership in all levels. Fear and intimidation may work like a charm for a while, but they never last long. The leaders who truly make a mark in history are the ones that smile.

5. Smiling helps you make a better impression.
Have you ever been in a room with strangers and struggled to socialize to the extent you wish you could? Wouldn’t you in turn want to be that person who can get along with everyone in the room in a jiffy?

Well, if you look at the people who can actually do this, you will find that the key to their success is, you guessed it, smiling. Yes, they’re smiling more than you are. But guess what? Their personality is no match for yours. Put on more smiles, and you’ll be sweeping all the charm towards your direction in no time!

6. Smiling makes you more productive.
We talked about the value of smiling as a mood booster earlier, but it doesn’t end there. The effect of one good smile follows you to your workplace and in fact, helps improve your overall performance there.

And this is actually backed by research. A 2010 research led by Andrew Oswald, a Professor of Economics at Warwick Business School, proved that employees who smile more often are significantly more productive and creative in the workplace.

So whether you’re an employee or an employer, smile more often and make others around you smile more often too. It will be great for everyone involved.

7. Smiling makes you more approachable.
Imagine yourself in a room with two people you’ve never met before. You need to ask them a favor. And it’s not just any favor. It would actually be of mutual benefit. Both persons are on their phones. One is smiling, the other is not.

After a while, they put their phones down, and you’re ready to approach them. Which of the two would you go to, or at least go to first? Once again, I know the answer.

There is something about smiling that attracts trust. It makes the person wearing the smile appear warm and kind. The very qualities that make one approachable.

8. Smiling makes you more confident.
Not only does smiling make you look more confident, it actually makes you confident in the long term. If you’re someone who smiles often, you tend to attract more attention, trust and respect than others around you.

This in turn makes you look for the attention, trust and respect in every situation which is the hallmark of confidence — believing that you deserve something.

And how do you do that? The only way you’ve ever known. Smiling more! Which in turn makes you even more confident. It is almost like a chain reaction. A never ending cycle that only makes you more confident and happier with every iteration.

9. Smiles are contagious.
Well, they are, aren’t they?  How many times have you seen someone smile and get no reaction from the other party? Very few, right? People smile, even if to be polite. And we’ve talked about the seer effect of just smiling, even in pretense.

When you’re smiling, you’re actually asking the other party to join in on the fun with you. And 99 percent of the time, they do join you. Smiles are one of the most contagious things in the world, behind probably only to laughter, which is in a way just a louder smile. So smile more, and spread the joy!

10. Smiles are free.
We have discussed a lot of benefits of smiling. But we are yet to discuss the most important reason you should smile more often –- because they’re free! When was the last time you blew away something so beneficial yet absolutely free? Smile, just smile.

You’ll be happier and you’ll make everyone around you happier. Dale Carnegie wrote this on his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”: “A smile costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.” Old Carnegie sure was onto something!

Featured photo credit: smiles by Alex via flickr.com
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By : JACOB CASHMAN

Nowadays, it is fairly common for people living in big cities to decide against staying at their mom and dad’s house or on their own. Instead, it’s becoming more and more common for people to live with people who are not blood relations. You know this, of course, being the up-to-date cosmopolitan that you are. But what you may not know is that there are multiple benefits offered to those who take this one step further by deciding to have total strangers as roommates. These benefits include:

1. You Learn to Communicate And Speak Your Mind in a Healthy Way.
If you are living with family, they have likely known you since birth. Therefore, in a lot of communication, you likely rely on your family understanding your body language and the things you don’t say. Even long-term friends who become roommates can understand you in a similarly intimate way. When you decide to have strangers as roommates, you have no such luxury. Every time something annoys you in the slightest, you have to say something, because there is no way these newly-made-intimate strangers are going to know your peccadilloes without having them spelled out.

2. You Expand Your Social Network.
If you decide to keep living in the same space and spending time doing the same things you’ll likely continue to see the same people. And, as Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” In the same sense, if you desire to meet new people and be exposed to fresh ideas, there’s nothing that will get you integrated into a new group of people as quickly as having strangers as roommates. You open up a whole new network of potential friends, loves, and business contacts just by sharing a living space with people you didn’t previously know.

3. You Save Money and Live Somewhere You Otherwise Couldn’t Afford.
Millennials are often said to be overly concerned with money, having come of wage-earning age during the Global Financial Crisis, so if there’s one reason you should consider having strangers as roommates, it’s the extra cash you will have in your wallet at the end of each month. I, myself, am about to move in with a few strangers into a townhouse on the West Side of Chicago. I am going to have the top-floor bedroom of this four-storey all to myself, along with ample living space and multiple bathrooms. With the average price of a single bedroom apartment in Chicago approaching $1,600 a month, what I am getting for the price I am paying is a steal.

4. You Will Learn Which of Your Possessions You Truly Need to Survive.
In moving in with strangers, you will likely have to negotiate concerns over shared space and how much of your “stuff” you can actually haul into this new home. Accordingly, you will find out that your prized Wolfgang Puck Howitzer-Style Cappuccino Maker is not something that is essential to your survival, but, rather, is a fictional appliance I just made up on the spot. In fact, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that your new roommates Keurig machine works just fine in delivering caffeine directly to your blood stream.

5. You’ll Learn How to Be Friendly With People Without Necessarily Having to Be Friends With Them.
The skill of being cordial and friendly with people you don’t know (and may actually want to maintain a distance from) is something that is very valuable in work settings, especially in offices. You’ll have to learn how to have your new roommates like you, and feel warmly towards you, without having them know every detail of your life– or having to eat every meal with them. Trust me, this is a skill that is not easily obtained, but is one that is needed in many circumstances.

Featured photo credit: Peek/MJZ Photography via compfight.com
article by : Johlene

10 Tips for Photography to improve your Blog Photographs that will help you gain more visitors to your site and build the community you´ve been longing for!

1. Natural light is best when used correctly. Always avoid direct sunlight. Backlighting and Side Backlighting are the best. Backlighting also requires the window to be behind the object, in order to brighten the dark shadows while improving the subject detail. Use a reflector (a white carton paper will do just fine) to reflect light on areas where the light is low.

2. Shoot at different times of the day, at different locations (in your house) and angles, to see where you get the best quality photographs. The angles and locations play a huge part in your photo’s composition.

3. Tethering your camera to your PC/Mac via Lightroom helps in photo shooting as your pictures will automatically be downloaded to the computer rather than using an additional memory card. Tethering involves use of a USB cable, plugged in both the camera and laptop. After connecting it, a live view feed starts rolling on your PC/Mac. This saves massive time because you can see your photographs on your PC/Mac screen while the photo shoot is in progress. I can´t count the amount of times the images looked great on my camera screen, just to realise once I´ve downloaded them that they are not good enough.

4. Use a tripod as it saves time and helps to eliminate noise in the photograph because the higher the digital noise, the more likely it is to get random fluctuations. A combination of tripod and low ISO helps in nailing the perfect shot with minimal noise.

5. Keep the exposure (light) meter of your DSLR camera in the middle to avoid over-exposed photos. Use the Exposure Level Indicator on your cameras viewfinder to get the perfect settings that line up your objects at the center. Apply the exposure bias accordingly if you still get too bright or dark pictures.

6. Fill the negative spaces in your shot (less is more). Concentrate on the food and then build on that. Use one colour in the background so as not to subtract the viewer’s attention from the main subject. Then place your main subject in the frame (according to the rule of thirds) and work from there by filling the negative spaces with elements that tie to your main subject. In Food Blogging you would for example use chocolate chips when photographing chocolate chip muffins.

7. The lens is more important than the camera body because it’s the part used in clearly and accurately focusing the object at the right distance. The lens is what is going to give you the quality photographs you want.

8. Shoot RAW not JPEG because when you shoot in RAW you capture all data from the sensor. In addition, you are likely to record greater levels of photo brightness while adjusting the white balance easily. RAW gives you more room to breathe and allows you to rectify photos that are under exposed in Lightroom.

9. Be prepared by making sure you have all your props handy before shooting (and don’t forget a cloth to clean if you´re working with food for example). This helps avoid you needing to stop to get something before you can continue.

10. Enjoy what you do and don’t try to learn everything at once. Getting the best pictures for your blog will probably take time to perfect. However, be patient and you will get there.