Category Archives: Collaborative Posts

On Being Great Parents: The Good, The Bad And the Ugly

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Children don’t arrive with instructions. There’s no single book that will provide you with everything you need to know about raising a family. Believe me; I’ve looked. It’s true that you will be bombarded with well-meaning advice from friends and family. And there is no end of hints and tips on the internet. If you listen to it all, it can quickly become overwhelming. Over the years you’ll learn to filter out the noise and apply the lessons that are relevant to you. Until then, this may help.

  1. Foundations

Start with getting the basics in place. Children need to feel safe. This includes having food, shelter, clothing and security. It’s not about having lots of money and the best of everything. It’s about consistency and getting the bases covered.

Are there simple changes you could make to ensure your family’s comfort and security? Is your home a safe environment? It’s important to have a maintenance checklist and minimise any risks. This includes setting up safety measures and regular checks. Do you have a security alarm to protect against intruders? If not, it’s worth checking out your options. Reading guides like Alarm-Reviews.net security system buyers guide is a good place to start. Getting the basics in place will provide you with peace of mind. If you’re relaxed and happy, your children are likely to feel the same.

  1. Moral Compass

Discipline is a contentious issue and one that is much debated. It’s important to teach our kids right and wrong. But what’s the best way to go about this?

  • Don’t just tell your kids what to do, model good values
  • Own up to your mistakes and apologise
  • Share your own personal experiences with your children
  • Make your children accountable for their mistakes and be accountable for yours
  • Encourage your children to help others
  • Value and praise good behaviour
  • Keep communications open
  • Condemn bad behaviour and not the child
  • Carefully monitor their access TV, the Internet and other outside influences

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  1. Spend Time With Them

One of the best gifts you can give to your children is your time. Most of us lead busy lives, and we have to work. Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from that. However, set aside time each day to spend with your children. This could be helping them with their homework, allowing them to chat to you as you’re making dinner, bedtime stories, etc. Safeguard this time and don’t let anything get in the way of it.

Another great way to be with your kids is to schedule in family time. This is particularly important when your kids are getting older and spending more time with their friends. Set aside an evening each week or a day at the weekend to do something fun as a family.

  1. Build Confidence

Having confidence in yourself is invaluable and will stand you in good stead for years to come. We all want our children to be self-assured and confident in their own abilities. However, it can be difficult to instil this, especially with the advent of social media. There are a few simple things we can do to help with this.

  • Step back a little and allow your children to make their own decisions
  • Allow children to take healthy risks, within reason of course
  • Don’t answer every question but encourage children to find their own solutions
  • Encourage them to experiment and find what they enjoy doing
  • Let them make mistakes and help them to learn from them and move on
  • Praise your children but don’t overdo it

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  1. Encourage Hobbies

Encourage your children to have hobbies. Limit time spent on electrical devices and encourage them to pursue other interests. Find out what they like doing. This could be playing a musical instrument, taking part in crafts, dancing, sports, etc. Whatever it is, fire their enthusiasm. You should also do the same. Allow them to see that you also have hobbies and that you spend time doing what makes you happy.

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  1. Talk

Talking is good. Let your kids see that they can talk to you about anything. If they confide in you don’t judge them. Talk the issue through and help them to find solutions. Make sure that you are available so they have plenty of time to grab your attention. If they seem worried or distracted, encourage them to discuss what’s on their mind. Communication is the key to all great relationships.

Above all, love your children and allow them to see that they are loved and cared for. Don’t just tell them, demonstrate it through your actions. Establishing boundaries and even punishments will let them know they are cared for. This is the most important thing. Get this right, and the rest will follow.

Break The Mould This Christmas And Do Something Different With Your Gifts

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With Christmas looming around the corner, the stress is on. You need to find dozens of unique and interesting presents, some of which, for people you barely even know. This time of year is hard for everyone, but the challenge shouldn’t take away the festive fun. It’s easier than ever to be creative when it comes to buying gifts. Using the Internet and the tips from this post, you will find Christmas shopping a breath of fresh air, this year.

  • Preplanning

The best way to start this great endeavor is by putting on your thinking cap. You’re not ready to hit the shops yet! Each person you’re shopping for is going to have an intricate array of interests and desires. Your job is to translate this into the perfect gift.

Think about what you know about a person. Their hobbies and interests are very important, as well as their age and gender. Once you have established the things they enjoy, you can start thinking of the actual gifts. With each idea, you need to run down a checklist.

  • Will they like it?
  • Does it match their current interests?
  • Is it appropriate for them?
  • And can you see anyone else buying the same gift?

Of course, some of these are hard to answer. The first two questions can almost be rolled into one. The first point is more to establish how certain you are that they will like the gift. If you are doubtful, and that “will” becomes a “might,” it’s probably not a great gift. You never want to try and force a new hobby or interest on someone. Which is what the second point is for; if the gift doesn’t match what they already do, it will likely go untouched after the big day. The third point is pretty self-explanatory, but the fourth isn’t. Think about the receiver’s social circles, and try to decide whether or not someone else might buy the same gift.

  • Inspiration

If you’re struggling with preplanning, you’ll need a touch of inspiration. Here is where the Internet first comes in. There are loads of quirky and unique gift stores online. Although a lot of them are expensive, they’re great to give you some ideas. There are loads of sites around to inspire unique and unusual gift ideas, like Cuckooland or Hawkin’s Bazaar. These sites will often allow you to search by hobbies and gender/age, making it super easy to find what you need.

  • Be Creative

Be creative in all of your gift hunting. Use things like social media, to find out what people talk to their closest friends about. Talk to as many people who know the giftee as possible. The more you know about a person; the easier it is to find a gift.

If your biggest concern is the budget this holiday season, well thought out homemade gifts always go down well. If you have any skill, find a way to use it. The weirder and more unique, the better.

Hopefully, this will take away some of that seasonal stress we all know too well. Remember to put the effort in before you buy a gift, and that price isn’t everything.

Not Guilty! Don’t Blame Your Pets For These Home Problems

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I’m sure you love your pets just as much as I love mine. But when things are going wrong, it’s easy to blame them for things that aren’t really their fault. We end up shouting at the poor confused animal when they often have no idea what they’ve done wrong. That’s bad enough, but sometimes they aren’t even to blame! Let me show you exactly what I mean.

Allergies Flaring Up

I constantly blame my pets for this, particularly when they seem to be causing allergies for my nieces and nephews. But you don’t have to blame your pets for allergies in the home. There are plenty of ways to avoid the problem completely. First, you should be hoovering and polishing at least once a week to make sure that dust and muck doesn’t build up. This will always make your allergies worse and guess what, the pets aren’t to blame. You might also want to consider purchasing some anti allergy pillows. These are really useful if you find your allergies are worse in the morning. It means you’re allergic to dust mites and has nothing to do with your furry friend. Although, if you do have a pet and you think you might be allergic you can get tablets. You don’t have to say goodbye and find him a new home.

Bad Behaviour

This is one of the ways that pets are quite similar to children. Particularly domestic pets like cats and dogs. If you think that your cat or dog is behaving badly, it isn’t their fault, it’s yours. There’s no such thing as bad pets, only bad owners. If you want them to behave better, you need to train them better. It’s as simple as that! The good news is that the old saying an old dog can’t learn new tricks isn’t true. They can and will. You just have to be willing to put the time in. It’s never too late to teach your pet to behave.

Toilet Training

If your animal is relieving himself inside, this could be another issue with training. However, you might be surprised to learn that as they get older animals will naturally want to do their business outside. If they complete their business inside it’s because they are desperate. You’ve left it too long, and you need to be taking them out more regularly. So next time your dog leaves a package on your bed, smack yourself on the nose with a newspaper instead.

Bugs And Beasties

If we see bugs and beasties in our home, it’s natural to think the animal brought them in. But the truth is that they probably didn’t. Instead, those little bugs are attracted to your home because you’re not keeping it clean enough. Or, because you’ve got an environmental problem like mold. Nine times out of ten it’s nothing to do with the pet. It’s about how well you’re maintaining the home.

I hope you see now that  these problems aren’t the fault of the pet at all. The only one you can blame is yourself. But there’s no time like the present to fix these issues and give your pet a hug instead of a scolding.

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It’s Party Time! How To Make Your Family Celebrations Unforgettable

Birthday parties are supposed to be fun, but if you’re the parent planning them, they can be stressful and time-consuming. Here are some tips to make sure that your kids’ birthday parties run smoothly and you all have the time of your life!

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Ask Your Child What They Want

Every child is different and although many of them love to have all the attention and focus on them, some are still developing their social butterfly wings and might be anxious about inviting too many people. Talk to your child and ask them what exactly they want – maybe they might want a children’s entertainer to take the focus off them, or they’d rather not invite too many guests. Remember, it’s all about what makes them happy!

How To Do Food

On your party invites, make sure to ask parents to let you know if their kids have any dietary requirements. Then you can start planning. Maybe your venue provides buffet lunches or hot meals like burgers and fries, but if not, you can make your own lunch spread. Keep it simple – sandwiches, mini hotdogs and pizza slices work well, along with bowls of potato chips and snacks like cheese straws and baby tomatoes. Provide juice boxes to prevent any spillages from overturned cups, and don’t provide any snacks with nuts, like peanut butter sandwiches, just in case of allergies. If you’re a good baker, you could even make your own birthday cake!

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What Entertainment To Provide

Unless you’re a party entertainer yourself, it’s usually a good idea to sit back and let a professional show you how it’s done. Elsa and Anna impersonators usually go down a storm with Frozen fans – the resulting Let It Go singalongs might give you a headache but the kids will have a great time! If you’d rather branch out and do the games yourself, traditional activities like pass the parcel, scavenger hunts and musical chairs always go down well. Make sure you’re fair to all the kids and give them all a chance to win. Your birthday boy or girl will be getting plenty of gifts – they don’t need to win all the party games too!

Let Your Kids Have Their Own Fun

A lot of the parties we remember most fondly from our own childhoods are the ones where we were allowed to let loose, run wild and entertain ourselves. If you want to splash out, rent some amusement rides from Mad Cow Entertainment. You can also hire a bouncy castle, fairy floss and popcorn machines to turn your venue into a fairground for the day and create an unforgettable birthday for your son or daughter. Make sure you keep an eye on them when they’re bouncing – and maybe wait until after they’re done on the rides to serve lunch!

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Wait Until You Get Home To Open The Gifts

It’s tempting for your child to tear into them straight away, but everyone will be happier if you take them home and open them there. It’ll stop any awkward moments like duplicate gifts from being an issue, and remember that not all parents have the same amount of money to spend on birthday gifts. Save them until you get home and not only will you prevent anyone from feeling bad, but your child will get to appreciate and enjoy each gift fully.

Ready To Break The Cycle of Yo-Yo Dieting For Good?

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Are you a long-term yo-yo dieter? It really is one of the most frustrating things ever to experience. Just as soon as you’re making progress and doing well, you find yourself slipping back into old habits. It’s not a healthy approach to nutrition and it doesn’t do your self esteem much good either, where you feel like you’re forever failing yourself. If you’re ready to break the cycle for good, here are a few things that might help.

Identify Your Underlying Issues With Food

The best way to stop yo-yo dieting and finally break the cycle is to work out the reasons why you overeat. The answer is likely to be extremely complex and made up of many different factors. But try to be completely honest with yourself and write it down if it helps. Do you turn to food when you’re feeling emotional or bored? Does disorganisation mean you often eat right before bed? Are you too busy or lazy to cook meaning you often resort to unhealthy takeaways? You might even have an underlying medical condition which makes you feel hungrier than you should. Working out the reasons as to why you turn to food can give you much more control over the situation. If you feel as though you have extreme issues when it comes to food, you could even consider speaking to a therapist to help you work through them.

Clear Out Your Kitchen

Having unhealthy treats or temptations in the home is an accident waiting to happen. Even if they are for your partner or children, get them on board too. Kids especially will benefit from switching unhealthy snacks for healthy ones. Allwomenstalk.com for example has ideas for healthy swaps you can make. In fact this is one of the most beneficial things you can do for them nutritionally. Get rid of anything that isn’t providing your family’s body with goodness. From salty, processed canned and prepackaged meals to sugary cereal to even unhealthy sauces and preserves. Do a big grocery shop and replenish the kitchen with the things that you know you should be eating. This stops you from picking and snacking on things just because they are readily available and acting as a temptation. While you could break your healthy plan by driving to the shops, this takes a much more conscious effort.

Set a Healthy Yet Realistic Eating Plan

In the beginning, when your motivation levels are high it’s easy to say ‘right I’m not having any unhealthy foods from now on’. The problem is this motivation can’t last forever, and permanently depriving yourself isn’t the answer. Providing you eat healthily for the majority of the time you can treat yourself to things in moderation now and again. If you plan for these, you won’t feel guilty afterwards or end up going completely off track. Adding a supplement to your diet can also boost your weight loss. Always choose something that’s natural and safe, Garcinia Cambogia is one example which has been proven to be effective. Sites like www.bestdiets2016.com have more information about this.

Learn To Cook

Learning to cook healthy yet exciting meals means you’re much less likely to resort to something prepackaged or from a takeaway just because you want something satisfying and flavourful. Invest in a selection of herbs and spices and learn how to use them in your meals. These can add taste without fats or oils. Know where to make healthy swaps in recipes, for example natural yogurt instead of heavy cream. If you can get excited and passionate about cooking, and build up a repertoire of healthy yet delicious dishes you and your family will always eat well. You could look at a healthy food site like www.health.com for ideas to get you started.Even if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, buying a slow cooker allows you to add lots of healthy produce to the pot in the morning and have a home cooked meal ready by the evening. Experiment with different recipes and ingredients, and just have fun with it.

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My Advice For An Unforgettable European Vacation

Are you heading to Europe next summer? If you are there are plenty of incredible places to visit with an entire content, just waiting to be explored. It’s the perfect region for a romantic getaway a family trip or a wonderful week of rest and relaxation. Here’s my advice for getting the most from your European vacation.

Hit The Tourist Spots Hard

London, Rome, Venice, Paris and Athens. These are some of the main tourist spots in Europe, and they are the places that you want to focus on. They are packed full of exciting activities and adventures for the whole family. As well as unforgettable sights that you’ve heard of but haven’t yet seen. I recommend planning a few days in each of the capital cities across Europe. If you do this, you’ll get a taste of the different cultures each country has to offer.

Know Your Needs

Are you interested in a fun filled vacation or a tour through history? Choices like this will determine where you should be travelling to in Europe. For instance, if you want a fun vacation for the kids, you need to visit Paris. Outside the city, you’ll find Disneyland and a few other theme parks that the kids will love. Or you can travel to Italy and explore historical sites in Rome and Venice.

Get The Right Documents

Lastly, you may be aware of the many threats and challenges that Europe is currently facing. At the moment, there is mass immigration, terror scares and tightened security. That’s why it’s important to get all your visas and documents properly taken care of. In the infographic below, you can see some of the changes that will be coming to European visas in the next few years. You must be aware of these changes and how they could affect a future European holiday.


Infographic Produced By ETIAS Information

Christmas Is Coming! Gift Ideas That’ll Make You The Best Aunt Ever

As you all know, my role as an auntie is one of the most important things in my life. I spend a lot of time planning out what I want to give them for birthdays and Christmas – what do you get for the kids who have everything? Christmas is coming up pretty rapidly in less than two months, so it’s that time of year when we’re all thinking about it! To help you out, here are some of my tried and tested gift buying practical tips.

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Pick Toys That Encourage Creativity

Look out for toys that encourage children to use their imaginations. Not only will they get hours and hours of fun out of them, but you’ll be able to give yourself a smug pat on the back at the knowledge that you’re contributing to their creative education. Look out for doll houses, tea sets, and toy garages that will encourage children to make up their own stories. If you want to go more directly towards creative play, pick out art supplies like poster paints, play dough, craft supplies and sketchbooks. You’ll probably get some handcrafted artwork in a month’s time in return!

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Make Sure Your Gift Is Appropriate For Their Age Group

It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying a present for a one year old that won’t be suitable until he or she is eighteen months old, in the safe knowledge that they’ll grow into it. But try to steer away from doing that! Parents will get frustrated and the little tot will be upset that they can’t play with their shiny new toy yet. Make sure you check the labels and look at the gift to ensure there aren’t any small parts that can be swallowed or choked on. If you’re buying for a baby, check out sites with well-known brands directly aimed at them – for example Bubbalove stock Babyboo, Beaba & more, meaning that when you buy from them you can also get a gift for the parents and stock up on presents for the next big celebration too.

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Books Are Always Welcome!

One big exception to the age-appropriate rule is books – these are always a great gift even if your niece or nephew can’t read yet. Flicking through the pages of their favourite storybooks helps kids to get into the habit of reading, which will benefit them later in life. A wide book collection also encourages parents to read to their children at bedtime – this is a great part of their night time routine as it helps calm the child down to go to sleep and also aids parent/child bonding.

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Choose Gifts That Encourage Social Interaction

If, like me, you’re buying gifts for a set of siblings, you can pick out presents that they can all use together, like board games, sets of Lego or Duplo, and toys that can be used outside, like a set of badminton racquets and a net or a football goal for the back garden. It’s important for children to understand how to play independently, but there’s nothing better for parents to see than groups of siblings and friends hanging out and enjoying spending their time together. And, of course, that means that next time you go over, you can point the kids towards the board game you got them for Christmas, and sneak off with their parents for a leisurely glass of wine and catch-up chat!

The Road To Recovery: Returning To Work From A Long-Term Illness

Preparing to return to work after a long time away can be surprisingly stressful. A lot of people in this position worry about what might happen when it comes time to start working again. There is plenty involved, and it can be difficult knowing whether or not you are getting it all right. Add to that the stress of the illness itself, and it is easy to see how people can struggle with this situation. Nonetheless, there are ways of ensuring that the whole process goes a lot more smoothly. In this article, we will be sharing some essential advice for making the transition back to work easier and less stressful. Let’s take a look at how to do that now.

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Learn Your Illness Fully

If you are off work due to a chronic illness, it can be hugely helpful to learn the illness as well as possible. This might sound obvious, but it is surprising how many people do not learn the ins and outs of their own illness. No matter what the illness is, it is likely that understanding it fully will help you to be able to handle it better. With better handling, your recovery is likely to be considerably quicker and less painful. This will, in turn, make the return to work a lot easier to deal with. If you are off work due to a serious injury, then it is still advisable to learn all there is to know. It might be that your doctor has not quite told you everything. However, be careful about where you get your information from. Remember that you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. It is a good idea, however, to ask medical professionals or your carers what you can do to speed up recovery.

Keep In Touch With Your Employer

From the moment that you realise you will be off work, it is imperative that you keep in touch with your employer. This is for a number of reasons, all of which are likely to prove important. First of all, your employer will probably appreciate being kept in the loop. There is a good chance that you will be able to return to your exact position as before. However, this will be much easier if you keep your employer informed as to your condition. It is a good idea to let them know if it is going to take longer than expected, for example, as this could affect things hugely. It also benefits your health to do this, as keeping everything in place will reduce stress and so improve your condition. It might be a good idea to pass on any confirmation that you receive from your doctor to your employer.

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Make Sure You Are Ready To Return

Before you actually begin the process of returning to work, it is essential that you ensure you are ready. The first and most important stage here is making sure that your health is in the best shape possible for your return. It is unlikely that you will be completely healthy, but you want to know that you can function properly at work. Most employers will carry out occupational health assessments to determine whether you are fit to return to work. Beyond that, it is also essential to seek the advice of your doctor and see whether they agree. Getting yourself ready for return also entails that you are psychologically ready. It can be surprisingly destabilising to return to work after a long time away. You want to be sure that you will be able to cope with the process mentally. There is no way to know for sure; it is mostly just a matter of being honest with yourself about how you feel. If you don’t feel up to it, it might not be time. However, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of never returning to work out of fear.

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Stay Positive & Embrace Changes

This is likely to be one of the most difficult periods of your life to date, so the power of embracing positivity is likely to be important here. It might seem like the hardest thing in the world to stay positive at this time. However, it is hugely important that you try to. If you are successful in being positive, you will find that this has great knock-on effects on your health more generally. Also, try to be aware that it is likely that things have changed since you were out of work. Be ready to embrace various changes in your life, both in and out of work.

They Grow Up So Fast: Ideas For Spending Quality Time With The Little Ones In Your Family

Whether you’re a mother, a grandmother, or an auntie like me, you’ll want to spend as much quality time with the little ones in your family as possible. After all, they grow up so fast. One minute they’re running around in diapers and the next they’re starting middle school – kids grow up so fast.

If you’re going to build a strong relationship with the little ones in your family, you need to spend time with them from a young age. Of course, knowing the best ways to make quality time fun and enjoyable for everyone can sometimes be a struggle. The good news is that there are plenty of options for spending quality time with the little ones in your family. It’s just a case of finding things that interest them and you.

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Ask them what they like to do

A great way to ensure that quality time is fun is to ask the kids that you’re spending time with, what they like to do. Do they love to go bowling? Are they mad about bike riding? Is going to the movies their favorite pastime? Find out what they love to do and then go from there. If you actually ask the kids what they like to do, they’ll enjoy their time with you a lot more.

Find a hobby that can be something that you do together

How about finding a hobby that you can do together? This should be something that they don’t already do with other family members. It should be something that the two of you can do together. Is there something that they’ve mentioned they would like to learn how to do, such as sewing for instance? If so, perhaps you could make sewing the thing that you do together. As well as teaching them how to sew by hand, you could also teach them how to use a sewing machine. You can read up on the best sewing machines for kids, with an array of children’s sewing machine reviews online. They are so many things that you could do together; it’s just a case of getting inspired and finding the perfect hobby.

Cheer them on

To be an important person in the life of younger family members, you need to be there for them. A great way to show that you support them is to cheer them on at school plays, sports events, and musical recitals. It may not be one-on-one time, but after the event is over, you can all go out as a family and spend some quality time together. Some of the best memories are made when the whole family goes out together. Head to a family-friendly restaurant and spend the evening relaxing and having fun as a family.

There are lots of ways you can spend quality time with the little ones in your family; these are just a few suggestions. The most important thing is to find a common interest, and also, to show them that you’re there for them, no matter what.

Sick Of Feeling Stupid? Everyday Habits That Will Make You Feel Much Smarter

It’s obvious that as intelligent as we may be, we would all like to be that bit smarter. As clever as we may think we are, there is always someone that bit brighter. Just by opening their mouths, they make us feel about 20 IQ points dafter. It’s one thing sitting in front of a quiz show and knowing all the answers. But if you switch over to University Challenge or Mastermind, it can take about ninety seconds to feel like a dunce.

It helps to sit for a minute and remind yourself that you’re never going to know everything. Of course you’re going to feel a little bit clueless watching a particle physicist talking about quarks. They’ve devoted years, even decades, to studying them. You can’t do that with everything. But if you’re concerned with gaps in your knowledge, there are ways to make up these deficiencies. Just be prepared to feel dimmer before you feel brighter.

Watch Or Read The News Every Day

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Yes, it can be depressing. It seems that more and more these days, things turn up on the news that make you feel sad or angry. But those feelings of uncomprehending shock can go one of two ways. You can wonder what’s wrong with people and the world, or you can learn. The more you know about situations, the easier it is to process bad news in general. And a wider understanding of the world can be useful in everyday life, too.

Sleep On It

There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture. If you want to get information out of people, get them to a position where they feel so fried that they can’t think straight. Even if you’ve just had a sleepless night, you can easily find yourself forgetting the PIN for your debit card. You get slower, and that’s cumulative.

Get to bed at the same time each night, turn out all lights an hour before and make sure you’re comfortable in there. You need to be at a medium temperature to ensure your sleep is of a high quality as well as quantity. The bed shouldn’t be too soft or too hard. Investing in a Tempur mattress or similar is worthwhile if you’re not sleeping well. A good night’s sleep gives you a clearer head and better decision-making abilities.

Lose Yourself In A Subject

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How often do you sit watching something on TV, or hear people talking about an issue, and think “That’s interesting. I’d like to know more”? For a lot of us, it happens almost every day. Take that thought a little further. For virtually any subject you can name, there is a wealth of information to be found. And with the internet at your fingertips, you can find it fast. If you’ve got a holiday planned, learn about the destination or learn its language.

It doesn’t matter what it is – it could be French pop music or local politics. The key is that as you learn more, you get a better command of the subject and can talk about it with authority. You’ll be less prone to doubting your intelligence. This allows you to approach any subject with a mind that is ready to take things in.