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The Basics of Making Your Money Work for You

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It’s a common misconception that growing your wealth is a function of how hard you work. Your dedication to the grind plays a pivotal role, to be sure, but it is by no means the only driver on your way to a more comfortable financial situation.

If you’re willing to dip your toes into the money management world, you’ll soon realize that there are simple steps you can take to maximize your paycheck beyond the number you see on your bi-weekly stub. Here are three of those steps for you to consider, apply, and improve your quality of life:

In Your Best Interest

It’s quite easy to find a high-interest savings account that will pay you twenty to thirty times more interest than a savings account at a major bank. This is because interest rates in the developed world are currently quite low, allowing certain financial institutions with low overhead costs to pass these savings along to you.

The idea here is to open one of these high-interest accounts and fund it with the money you reserve for basic expenses. That way, whatever is in it will grow at a steady monthly clip as you go about your day-to-day life. If you’ve done business with your current bank for many years, you may find it more convenient to keep two accounts open—one high-interest savings, and one chequing—and transfer spending money from the former to the latter.

Starting a Business

This point is about creating additional income streams for yourself beyond your main source of employment. Consider hobbies you enjoy that you could monetize and eventually build into thriving businesses, or you can be more strategic and identify a field with an unmet need you’re compelled to find a solution for.

You don’t have to be an expert in your business so long as you’re willing to learn, save some start-up capital, and put in the hard work to give yourself a solid foundation. Part of that foundation should include knowing that, even if you take every precaution as an entrepreneur, setbacks will still find a way to show up at inconvenient times.

It’s conceivable that you might need to resort to a payday lender to get yourself out of trouble. But before you do, shake off the stigma of looking for advice on getting a loan and crunch some numbers to make sure it contributes to your overall financial plan.

Investing in Stocks

Long-term investing means buying shares of stock in the world’s leading companies to participate in their growth, usually through index funds or their actively-managed counterparts. Owning these shares represents an essential step toward long-term wealth accumulation. Over the last two or three decades, they’ve returned an average of 7% per year.

You can open a TFSA or RRSP at any major bank and automate investment contributions to coincide with your paycheck. Thanks to the power of compound interest, your money will appreciate in value as the companies you own become more profitable through new products and services.

Why deprive yourself of a more comfortable financial cushion when the means to acquire one are within reach? In addition to working for money, go ahead and shop around for bank accounts, cook up a new venture or two, and invest surplus funds every month to get your money working for you.

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Dopamine and Friends: The Happy Chemicals in our Brain

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Most of us have heard the word Dopamine or Serotonin. They’re often used in popular culture, or described as ‘The Happy Chemicals’. While this is mostly accurate, there are four neurotransmitters (chemical substances) released in the brain that are responsible for the experience of happiness or any other positive emotion. 

Even those familiar with the Dopamine and Serotonin often use them interchangeably, even though they are activated in entirely different activities and circumstances. 

We’re all in the pursuit of happiness in one way or another. One of the core reasons why people begin to try and improve their lives and themselves is so that they can be happier and experience a greater quality of being. 

Knowing about the four chemicals that produce the happiness sensation in the body can almost act as a formula to get your result!

DOSE

Here are the four chemicals that play an integral role in the experience of happiness. 

  • Dopamine
  • Oxytocin
  • Serotonin
  • Endorphins

Dopamine

Dopamine is released in the brain everytime you expect a reward or experience pleasure. This means a bite out of a pizza slice immediately releases dopamine which allows you to enjoy it so much. 

But dopamine doesn’t just stop there. It also has a powerful effect on making you want to take another bite of the pizza, and another, and another. That’s why dopamine is integrally involved in addictions. 

Dopamine can also be linked to motivation. Your brain begins to only want to do the activities that will release the most dopamine. So if eating a pizza releases more dopamine than a salad, that’s why it’s so tough to eat healthy. Similarly, watching a youtube video or scrolling through instagram also gives instant gratification: release of dopamine in the brain. Doing your work or assignments are lower dopamine releasing activities (at first!) which can unmotivate you.

But dopamine isn’t the end-all. We don’t need to blindly listen to this chemical. In fact, if you choose to eat that salad and do your work, you’ll experience an even higher level of dopamine much later after accomplishment: and be proud of yourself too!

Why is it connected to happiness? Dopamine lets you enjoy the good things in life. In cases of mental illnesses like depression, and substance abuse; brains that have severely low levels of dopamine experience anhedonia which is the inability to feel pleasure of any kind. They no longer have the motivation or desire to eat or move or do anything.

Oxytocin

Known as the love drug or even the ‘cuddle hormone’, oxytocin is released with physical contact with loved ones, even if you’re petting your dog! Oxytocin levels in a person can also have a link to how much love they received as children from their parents. People with low oxytocin levels have shown tendencies to feel hostile and suspicious of other people in their environment. 

Oxytocin is integral in our brain’s perception of the social relationships we’ve formed. In a study, a group of men were given a dose of oxytocin and asked to describe their relationship with their mothers. The men who already had a secure and good relationship with their mothers were able to recollect instances and examples of how caring and understanding she was. 

However, men who didn’t have a good relationship with their mothers were able to explain in detail how she wasn’t caring enough or didn’t love him as much as she should have. 

Oxytocin helps us identify and articulate our feelings about all social relationships. In another study dutch students given a dose of oxytocin, they displayed strong preference for Dutch names and aversion to Arab and German names. Oxytocin helps us identify with our group and feel a strong connection and sense of belonging with them. This also means a sense of animosity towards those that don’t ‘belong’. 

So how does oxytocin relate to happiness? You know that feeling when you’re with a friend and laughing uncontrollably about something? That moment can feel like true joy and happiness, and it’s all because of the release of oxytocin. In fact when people say ‘Laughter is the best medicine’, they’re not entirely wrong!

Serotonin

When most people use the term Dopamine for happiness, they actually are referring to serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for mood stabilising, and the feeling of well-being and well, happiness!

But Serotonin does more than this. Common belief is that Serotonin is only in the brain, when actually more than 70% of serotonin receptors are in the digestive tract. Serotonin is closely involved in how regular your bowel movements are, nausea, blood clotting and sleep. In short, the optimal levels of serotonin will ensure smooth bodily functioning. 

Too less serotonin in the body can make the person experience depression amongst other mental illnesses, including suicidal tendencies. 

High levels of serotonin doesn’t equal more happy: nerve cell dysfunctioning and high blood pressure, diarrhea and fever can be some of the symptoms as you’re on the brink of serotonin syndrome. 

Most recreational drugs increase levels of serotonin in the body, which is why people experience the incredible ‘high’ and happiness while on them. A good case in point is MDMA, which increases serotonin levels drastically for the high and subsequently depletes resources for the next day or two. That’s why the ‘downer’ of MDMA is said to be so awful: even nicknamed ‘Suicidal Tuesdays’ for what happens to people after rolling on Molly on the weekend. 

But even apart from illegal drugs, serotonin can be regulated to a great extent by the regular healthy individual. Exercising and being active can help regulate the serotonin in the body, as well as spending time in nature and practicing meditation. Getting sun exposure is a big factor: since Vitamin D levels and Serotonin are closely related!

Endorphins

Next time somebody tells you about a runner’s high, they’re really talking about the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are also more popular in pop culture, commonly linked to exercise.

They also are the body’s natural painkillers. In fact, endorphins have a very similar effect to opioids! They work similarly, relieving pain and flooding the body with a feel-good sensation. 

Endorphins take around 30 minutes to be activated. So while any form of exercise is good for you (including taking the stairs instead of the elevator), if it’s endorphins you’re after, you’ll want a good work-out session. 

Many people experiencing mild forms of mental illness as well as periods of low feelings benefit enormously from pursuing a sport or physical activity. 

For bonus chemicals: don’t just exercise, exercise with friends and sunshine! Then you’ve tick marked all four D.O.S.E and have hacked the code for happiness.

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Do Video Games Relieve Stress?

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We live in one of the most stressful times today. If the global pandemic wouldn’t be enough, we also have to bear the effects of the financial and employment crisis it has caused, not to mention the many other issues we have to face today. Under these conditions, it’s not surprising that stress, anxiety, and depression are commonplace. 

The World Health Organization has called stress the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century” a few years ago, pointing out its many negative health effects, ranging from digestive discomfort to headaches, high blood pressure, and in the long term, heart disease, diabetes, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. This makes stress relief one of the most important preventive measures one can take. 

Reach for the game

When they go home after a hard day at work (or finally close Zoom, Microsoft Office, and Skype after a long day at the home office), many people like to unwind by playing video games. Is this a good way to de-stress? Well, it depends on who you ask.

Games that involve fighting, shooting – violent games, in general – seem to have the opposite effect. At first, that is. Playing these games can be especially stressful – aside from the difficulty of the game, multiplayer titles also add the occasional fumbling of the teammates who are always blamed for losing. But once the game is over, the stress disappears, leaving relief, a sense of achievement and relaxation in its wake.

Researchers around the world have studied the efficacity of video games as a means of recovery after experiencing stressful situations and found that not only did they reduce the effects of stress but also helped some subjects develop healthier coping mechanisms.

The more casual, the better

Casual games are all around us today, available at every major app marketplace, every online casino, everywhere we look. Slot machines are the games available in the greatest variety – online casinos have libraries of hundreds of them, ready to be played either for real or for fun, with virtual funds. These games fit into the “hyper-casual” category because a player can learn the rules and play them within seconds, and can stop at any time without sacrificing any progress.

A group of researchers from the East Carolina University’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies have looked at the effects of casual games on stress and recovery. They followed a group of students using popular casual games and compared their reactions to a controlled group who were engaged in a web-based activity similar in physical and mental nature to the game-playing groups. 

The results were astounding. Each of the games studied had different effects on the subjects’ brain (reflected by EEG readings) – all of them improved their mood, reduced their anger, significantly reduced their psychological tension, and depression.

Compared to simply relaxing, casual and hyper-casual games are much more effective at reducing stress and its effects. Depending on the type of the game itself, the effects can differ – but they all contribute to stress relief.

Video games are, indeed, a good way to reduce stress. And for many people in these trying times, they are more important than ever as a means of relieving stress – and, in the long term, in helping protect our health.

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5 Business Essentials for Surviving COVID-19

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Chances are that your company didn’t weather the coronavirus storm without suffering considerable losses. If only you had a contingency plan for unprecedented global pandemics…

Of course, nobody did. So, lest we dwell on how we could have prepared for the crisis. What matters now is your response to the challenges that lie ahead. Getting back into business and re-opening smoothly requires tackling unfamiliar problems. It’s crucial that you take the necessary precautions. Read on to learn more. 

Facilitate Remote Work

Are any team members capable of performing their duties from home? The option may not be available to everyone. But for employees who can work remotely, minimizing their on-site presence is a smart move. You’ll need to draw up a policy with procedures and guidelines for working from home. Keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Set clear rules and expectations 
  • Provide the correct hardware and software
  • Use encryption and VPN tools to improve security
  • Identify and implement suitable communication software
  • Perform check-ins to assess the wellbeing of external workers

Stay in Touch

Make sure to send out regular updates on where your business currently stands. Routinely informing staff via emails and company meetings will reduce panic and relieve uncertainty. Discuss the precautions you’re taking to ensure their safety. Keeping employees up-to-speed with rule changes and policies can cut down on training times. 

Prioritize Hygiene

Depending on your industry, there are likely certain regulations that you need to follow when it comes to sanitization. Regardless, you’ll want to set aside a budget for cleaning products – you’ll be using them a lot. Here are some basic steps for every business to take:

  • Increase how often and thoroughly you clean
  • Stock up on sanitizers and disinfectants
  • Ask employees to follow cleaning procedures
  • Request that staff who feel ill stay at home
  • Encourage more frequent hand washing 

Don’t forget about masks and gloves. Customer-facing businesses may have to invest in temperature sensors, as well as products such as the Sneeze Guard EZ to protect employees and give them peace of mind that they’re safe. 

Look into Federal Relief

Have you explored your options for government assistance? Numerous initiatives are in place to help small businesses stay afloat. This includes low-interest disaster loans, employer tax credit and income tax deferment. Economic Injury Disaster Loans can be taken out to cover important expenses such as payroll and fixed debts. 

Shift Your Strategy

Now is an ideal time to reconsider how you spend your marketing dollars. If you previously relied on traditional channels, taking a more digital approach can help you save money and expose your business to a larger audience. Aim to cover the basics, including:

  • Setting up social media profiles
  • Building a newsletter mailing list 
  • Creating listings on review platforms
  • Optimizing and refining your own website

The end appears closer than ever, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Contact your suppliers, investors, partners and other key stakeholders to learn how you can safeguard your business and stay afloat while COVID-19 makes its way out. Rest-assured that your efforts will pay off in due course.

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