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Celebrating International Day of Friendship

Thomas Aquinas once said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” Through thick and thin, highs and lows, good times and bad, true friends are those who stay with you through everything; they are those you can go to with great news, and seek for help when you struggle. The best friends are the ones who are there throughout the years, even when the business of life makes it challenging to keep in touch.

Friendship can cross the boundaries of race, culture, politics and even international lines. From a global perspective, our world faces constant challenges, crises and forces of division, which undermine the harmony of our global community. To confront these challenges, we must promote and defend a shared spirit of human solidarity—through friendship. So, in 2011, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed today, July 30th, as the International Day of Friendship. According to their website, the U.N. states:

Through friendship—by accumulating bonds of camaraderie and developing strong ties of trust—we can contribute to the fundamental shifts that are urgently needed to achieve lasting stability, weave a safety net that will protect us all and generate passion for a better world where all are united for the greater good.

The International Day of Friendship was first conceived in 1997 as an initiative following a world Culture of Peace proposal. It recognizes the relevance and importance of friendship as a noble and valuable sentiment in people’s lives from around the world. Whether you make friends with your next door neighbor, community member or someone who lives halfway across the world, you can celebrate International Day of Friendship. Here’s how.

1. Get to know your neighbors.
One of the easiest ways you can celebrate International Day of Friendship is by simply getting to know your neighbors. How often do we surround ourselves with others, yet barely know anything about them? Your neighbors are the first line of people you can make an effort to know, care for and walk alongside with through life. Make an effort to reach out to the neighbors in your area and get to know them. Take over a plate of cookies, invite them over for dinner or ask them to do something in town. By getting to know your neighbors, you can take the first step in truly building bonds of friendship in the community near you.

2. Be involved with your community.
Speaking of community, why not take your friendships to the next level by being involved with others in your community? Get to know people by joining various clubs and activity groups, or volunteer with an organization to find lifelong friends who share the same values as you. Check out what’s available around you and see how you can join a cause or a club you care about. The more you’re involved with, the more opportunity you will have to meet different people and make new friends.

3. Make friends with somebody different from you.
Finally, take advantage of International Day of Friendship by making an effort to be friends with somebody different from you. This could mean different racially, ethnically, politically or culturally. Oftentimes, we’re naturally attracted to people who have the same background, same appearance and same opinions as us. However, these types of friendships might not challenge us to grow. Instead, be intentional about meeting people who might be different from you, getting to know them and pursuing a genuine friendship with them. This way, you can have a variety of different friends, who can all challenge and strengthen you in different ways.

As Thomas Aquinas said, true friendship is the most prized thing on earth. This International Day of Friendship, celebrate one of our closest human relationships by being mindful of how you make friends. Get to know your neighbors, be involved with your community and make friends with somebody different from you in order to truly build bonds across boundaries. You may find the more friends you have, the more joy flows through your life.

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5 Ways to Establish a Productive Morning Routine

You know the old saying, “The early bird gets the worm.” One 2012 study published by the American Psychological Association found that self-professed “morning people” reported feeling happier and healthier than their night owl counterparts. There’s also a distinct reason why many top executives are early risers. With fewer distractions in the morning, more time for breakfast and the chance to start your day off with a good work out, being productive in the morning matters. And since many workplaces are on the morning-heavy 9:00-5:00 schedule, there’s even the argument that early risers tend to be more efficient employees.

There’s no doubt about it: the early bird does get the worm, and if you strive to live a more altruistic lifestyle, your morning routine should play an important role. When you have an efficient morning routine, you set an effective tone for the rest of the day. Here are five ways to establish a productive morning routine.

1. Keep your alarm away from your bed.
In today’s technological world, many people use their smartphones as their alarm in their morning. They check their phone before bed, plug it into the wall beside their bed, then check it immediately first thing in the morning when the alarm goes off. Instead, keep your phone—and your alarm—away from your bed. Then, when it goes off in the morning, you’re unable to roll over and immediately hit the snooze button. Instead, force yourself to get out of bed, walk over and shut the alarm off. This way, you’re already up and moving, ready for the day!

2. Drink a full glass of water.
Water is the most important thing for a productive morning. As soon as you are out of bed, drink a full glass of water to help spike your energy levels both mentally and physically. Drinking water first thing in the morning immediately hydrates your body and provides natural energy which can last the whole rest of the day. If you add a slice of lemon, you could even pack in more nutrients, potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants. This doesn’t mean you can’t still have some coffee, but save that for later with breakfast.

3. Save time for exercise.
Whether it’s a 10-minute walk on the treadmill or an hour-long intensive workout, set aside time to exercise during your morning routine. Researchers at the University of Bristol recently found that people who exercise during the day have more energy and a more positive outlook on life, which are both critical to productivity. In fact, one article by the U.S. News & World Report even stated that working out early in the morning increases your mental clarity for 4-10 hours afterwards. Exercising first thing in the morning starts your day off on a high note and improves your self-control and energy levels throughout the day.

4. Enjoy some quiet time.
In a busy and bustling world, we rarely, if ever, enjoy any quiet time. By waking up earlier and focusing on a productive morning, you can make space for quiet time. Spend the time reading, meditating or setting goals for the day. How do you envision this day, and how will it influence your larger goals in life? Think about the things in life you are grateful for, and consider what you want to achieve moving forward. By enjoying quiet time, you can clear your mind, focus on the day and feel less anxious as you head to work.

5. Eat a real breakfast.
Finally, this can come as no surprise: eat a real breakfast. According to the Huffington Post, about 31 million Americans skip the most important meal of the day. Instead, you can start off on a higher note simply by filling your belly early on. People who eat breakfast are less likely to be obese, more likely to have stable blood-sugar levels and tend to be less hungry throughout the day. Whether it’s a protein shake or eggs and bacon, a healthy breakfast gives you energy, improves your memory and helps you concentrate on the rest of your day.

Establishing a productive morning routine is an important step in living an altruistic lifestyle. When you feel more efficient throughout the day, you can create more opportunities to give back to others. Use these tips to help establish your routine, and soon enough, you too can be an early bird.

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Celebrating Global Hug Your Kids Day

They tell you no, run away from you and use up all of your money. They throw a fit, leave a mess and seem to take extra long to get anything done. But, they also cuddle with you, love to play games and ask to read a book. They tell you they love you and look up to you as their hero. There’s no doubt about it: kids are a challenge. If you’re a parent, you know how grueling the role of caregiver can be.

But, being a parent is also the most rewarding experience in life. Especially if you strive to live an altruistic lifestyle, there’s nothing quite so altruistic as parenting. Kids rely on you for their every need, and you show them how much you care by providing, serving and giving affection. And what better way to show affection than by celebrating today—Global Hug Your Kids Day!

Global Hug Your Kids Day is a day we can all get our arms around. Celebrated on the third Monday of July, the purpose of today is simple: hug your kids. Show them how much you love, comfort and support them by giving them hugs which make them feel safe and secure. Still, there’s more to Global Hug Your Kids Day than just giving your kiddos a hug or two. If you want to celebrate today, here are some fun ideas to get you started.

1. Give your kids a hug.
Obviously, one of the easiest ways to celebrate Global Hug Your Kids Day is by giving your kids a hug. After a tragedy, one common sentiment and saying people share is along the lines of, “Be sure to hug your kids.” But, why not strive to continually show your children affection through hugs? Use today as an excuse to give your kids a big, loving hug, and show them how much you care. Get into a consistent habit of hugging and making sure your kids feel loved.

2. Hug other kids you care about.
If you don’t have children, fret not! You can still get in on the holiday. Use today to give other kids in your life a hug and show them how much you love them. If you have a niece or nephew, a child mentee or even a family friend, give them a hug today. Or, if you are a parent, see what other children in your life might need a hug today. Maybe their parents are no longer with them, and they need someone to step in. Celebrate the holiday by giving hugs to kids in your life from a variety of different backgrounds.

3. Learn the science behind hugs.
If you celebrate Global Hug Your Kids Day, why not learn some of the science behind hugs? Turns out, hugs are actually extremely beneficial to our emotional, mental and even physical health. According to a Reader’s Digest article, hugs can boost your immune system, lower stress levels, increase self-esteem, reduce depression and even promote trust. In fact, hugs are critical to our physical and emotional survival. Dr. Deb Castaldo, Ph.D., even reported that babies and animals who do not enjoy touch benefits can fall victim to the “failure to thrive” condition, which can literally result in death. So, take today and start hugging, for your own sake and for the sake of your children!

4. Discover your kid’s love language.
Finally, use today to research and understand your child’s love language. A love language refers to how someone prefers to receive and/or demonstrate their love and affection for another person. Various studies and scholars have identified “The Five Love Languages” as words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.

While hugging might be a great way to show love, physical touch might not even be your child’s main love language. Take time to consider what your kids’ love languages might be, and how best you can demonstrate love to fit their needs. For instance, if your child loves quality time, then a great way to show affection might be spending some one-on-one time with him/her, rather than always spending time as a big family.

Nothing is more altruistic than parenthood. If you’re a parent—or even if you’re not—take today to celebrate Global Hug Your Kids Day. Give your kids a hug and show them how much you truly love them. Today is the perfect opportunity to show your kids you appreciate them, and demonstrate your love with a great, big hug.

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How to Set (and Accomplish) Life Goals

We all have goals in life. Whether they’re professional, personal or physical, our goals push us toward our larger purposes in life. They give us targets to aim for, and when we accomplish them, we can look on to the next target, as we keep moving forward toward our ultimate mission in life. Of course, none of this is possible if we don’t actually accomplish our life goals.

Setting goals is simple. We’ve all heard different phrases, acronyms and ways to properly set a goal for life. However, accomplishing goals can be a whole different task. Particularly for those who choose to live an altruistic lifestyle, accomplishing your goals is an intricate part of not only improving your own life, but helping to support others throughout their lives, as well. Today we dive in to how you can set (and actually accomplish) life goals.

1. Set goals which motivate you.
The first step in setting appropriate life goals is choosing goals which actually motivate and inspire you toward action. If you’re not passionate from the very beginning of a goal, then you definitely will not be passionate during the tough, nitty-gritty ending. You must care about the outcome of a goal before ever applying it to your life. Start out by choosing a few goals which apply to the high priorities in your life. For instance, if your personal goal is to impact someone in need, an example goal could be to join a child mentoring program. When your goals are inherently motivating, they continually inspire you to accomplish them.

2. Choose SMART goals.
Once you have motivational goals in mind, it’s time to actually piece them together. Here’s where the SMART technique comes in. SMART represents goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound. Your goal should first be clear and well-defined. It should also be easily measurable. For example, instead of “lose weight,” a measurable goal would be “lose 10 pounds.” Be sure your goal is actually attainable. If your goal is too big or downright impossible, it’s going to be difficult to keep your motivation up as you strive to complete it. Goals should be relevant to the general direction you want to take in life. Finally, they should be time bound with a deadline. Not only does this give you a sense of urgency, but it also clearly defines whether you accomplish your goal or not.

3. Write your goals down.
When your SMART goals are ready to go, take time to physically write them down. The act of writing makes your goals real and tangible, rather than some far-off thought. Use action-oriented language, such as, “I will,” rather than “I would like to.” When your goals are written down, put them somewhere you can see them every day, such as by your work desk or on your bathroom mirror. This will continually remind you of your goals and encourage you to keep going as you strive to accomplish them.

4. Make a plan and stick to it.
Finally—and here comes the important part—if you want to accomplish your goals, make a plan and stick to it. Create mini-goals along the way which will help you on the path of your larger goal. Celebrate small victories, and when you make mistakes, don’t stay down for long. Oftentimes, when people mess up on the path to accomplish their goals, they feel defeated, when in fact it is the perfect time to keep moving forward. If you miss a step toward accomplishing your goal, realign your path and try again tomorrow. The important thing is to stick to the plan even in the smallest circumstances, and you will ultimately accomplish your goals.

If you strive to live an altruistic life, goal setting is an important component. When we set goals throughout every aspect of our lives, we naturally move ourselves closer to our final purpose and mission. By using these steps for goal setting and sticking to your plan, you can set—and achieve—any goals you put your mind to.

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Volunteering Ideas for the Fourth of July

Happy Independence week! The Fourth of July is just a few days away, and the week is filled with a variety of different festivities, activities and celebrations commemorating the holiday. Whether it’s a fireworks show, a parade or even a family barbecue, Independence Day is the perfect day for everyone in the community to come together and celebrate our nation.

Of course, what better way to commemorate such a special holiday than to focus on ways you can give back? If you strive to live an altruistic lifestyle, the Fourth of July is the ideal opportunity to get involved and support others. Do you want to make a difference and give back to your community this holiday week? Check out our list of volunteering ideas for you to try on the Fourth of July.

1. Volunteer with an event.
No matter where you live, communities across the country offer a variety of different events and activities to celebrate the Fourth of July. You, too, can help others by getting involved with the cause this year. Check with organizations in your area to see how you can join in serving at an event. Maybe you can run a booth at a street fair, help guide a float during a parade or even shoot off fireworks for a late-night show. See how you can get involved this week to bring joy to others and celebrate an important holiday in our nation’s history.

2. Put together a care package.
If you really want to give back this Independence Day, make an effort to say “thank you” to those who fight for our independence. Take a moment to put together a care package and a thank-you card to send to our troops around the world. Many troops cannot be with their families over the festive summer season, so give them a little slice of home with a care package that thanks them for their service and reminds them of the difference they make. Check out national care package organizations, or see if there are any in your community you can work with.

3. Donate some food.
As Americans, much of our holiday traditions revolve around food. The Fourth of July is no exception. Whether it’s hot dogs, watermelon or macaroni salad, food is a huge part of celebrating Independence Day. Unfortunately, many people might not be able to afford food for their own Fourth of July parties. Look in your community to see if you can donate food to a shelter or family in need. Or, invite a neighbor into your home for the holiday and share your food with them. Food brings us together and breaks down barriers; volunteer to share your food this holiday to see what it can do.

4. Study the past.
Independence Day is a historic holiday, and is a great part of our nation’s history. This week, take some time to study the past and the origins surrounding the Fourth of July. You may have already learned some interesting facts in school, but you might also be surprised to learn something new about the holiday. For instance, did you know only one person signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776? That person was John Hancock. Everyone else signed at later dates. The United States’s history includes both good and bad, and by studying it, we can look forward to the future.

5. Encourage family time.
Finally, what better way to live an altruistic lifestyle than to devote time and energy to serving your family? The Fourth of July is the perfect time to celebrate your friends and family by encouraging time spent together. Focus this week on celebrating the holiday with your close friends and family in order to build a stronger connection and live a more loving lifestyle.

The Fourth of July is just a few days away, and this year, you can make it about more than just fireworks and watermelon. Get involved with your community by looking for causes you can join with to volunteer. Together, we can celebrate the holiday and make the world a better place at the same time.