Monday, May 27, 2013

How Learning An Instrument Can Help Reduce Your Daily Stress

Our bodies are equipped with a stress response that can be triggered by work, relationships, finances or just about any aspect of our daily lives. It’s incumbent upon us to strike a balance between working hard and providing for ourselves and families, while also taking care not to overload our minds and create too much stress in our lives.


Having too much stress can affect our health, cause us to feel sick (whether we are or not) and cause us to needlessly worry and feel anxious.
If it gets bad enough, these stress responses can become the norm for our bodies, creating a constant sense of anxiousness, frustration and impending doom. We were never designed to take that much stress on in our lives; the negative effects are way too costly for the benefit of a few thousand extra dollars a year.
While we’re quite familiar with how to create stress, what eludes us most of the time are opportunities to alleviate it.
There are plenty of ways to give yourself a break, but one of the more surprising and possibly more consistent remedies would be simply to learn an instrument and play some music on a regular basis.
Medical research has shown that making music with an instrument does actually reduce the stress response in our body and can effectively reverse what stress triggers set in motion.
The more regularly we’re able to play an instrument and enjoy it, the better off we’re going to be in terms of our stress levels. In fact, it has enough of an impact to be considered a healthy lifestyle decision, which like any similar decision, needs to be a matter of constant habit and not a one time thing.
Enjoying as Opposed to Working
For this to work, you want to find an instrument that fits one of the following categories so that you don’t really have to “work” to play it:
     You’ve already learned the instrument but haven’t picked it up in a while.
     The instrument is simple enough to put sounds together without a steep physical or mental learning curve.
The point of this exercise is to get away from work, not trade one form of work for another, so pick an instrument that’s easy, like the piano, or an instrument that you might have already learned earlier in your life that’s easy to pick up again.
When you do play, make sure you don’t allow it to turn into a pursuit or some kind of improvement game.
You’re not trying to turn into a musical genius or sell an album. Instead, you’re just trying to relax, enjoy yourself and make some simple music that will allow your body to de-stress. If you feel like you need to improve your musical ability, you’re getting back into work mode and will have less of a benefit from the time you spend playing.
Making it a Habit
Whatever instrument you choose, just enjoy the sounds that you are able to make. Above all, make it into a habit and spend a little bit of time every week (or every day if possible) engaging your mind in that fashion.
Know that it’s a proven method to lower stress, and if you stick with it over time, you’ll get to the point where you can probably put some energy and genuine interest into the instrument itself. Once that happens, you’ll have not just a de-stressor, but a creative outlet, which can also lead to lower stress days and more enjoyable leisure time.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in Los Angeles who writes on everything from marketing and social media, to gaming and tech, to health and beauty. She finds that playing music on a daily basis, whether it be playing an instrument or listening to an album, helps her eliminate a good amount of stress.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Money, Money, Money!

I'm a huge proponent of scholarships. Why borrow money if you can earn a scholarship? Most scholarships are available to college students of any age.

 Here are some recent scholarships opportunities I've come across:

GotChosen: This award is available to college students. The prize is $1,000. A winner is selected at random every month. You don't have to write and essay or have a top GPA. All you need to do is enter to win every month. It's worth a shot.

From Failure to Promise: This award is still available. All you have to do is read a book and write a essay answering the questions on the scholarship website. You also must have a 3.0 GPA to apply. Deadline: July 31, 2013.

Student Transportation Video Contest: Do you like to make videos? Well you could create one discussing some aspect of transportation in America and win a prize of $500. Visit the website for more specific information. Deadline: August 15, 2013.

Here is proof that students actually are awarded scholarships. Read about how one student earned $40,000 here.

What scholarship opportunities have you come across?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Visualize Success

"Anything you may hold firmly in your imagination can be yours."~William James

Positive visualization is not a new idea. It is something that many people do not practice, however.  If you want to succeed at anything, it is important to visualize yourself actually succeeding.

When athletes prepare for a big game they often create a movie in their minds of game, they see themselves making the touchdown or the 3-point buzzer beating shot. They replay these scenes over and over again in their minds. This positive visualization paired with hard work and practice often leads to a successful outcome.

Positive visualization doesn't only work for sports figures or celebrities. It works for anyone. I came across this story of a man losing nearly 300 pounds because of positive visualization.

Stephen Mariani loved baseball, but couldn't fit into the seats in the stadium. As he began to work on his health, he visualized the day when he'd be able to walk into the stadium, take his seat comfortably and enjoy the game. He kept this vision in the forefront of his mind every day. Then one day it finally happened just as he'd imagined!

Check out his story to see the ways positive visualization can help to improve your life today.

*Photo courtesy of