Share January Wellness Corner We’re early into the new year – a great time to build new habits. You might have set exercise goals for your body, but what about your mind? This month, we’ll give you tips and tricks on strengthening your body’s most important muscle: your brain. Studies show exercising your brain can lead to less stress, better memory recall, mood boost, and increased motivation and focus. Change Your Routine Switching up how you normally do things challenges your brain, which gives it a workout. You might even find that you like the new way of doing things! Use your non-dominant hand: Switching hands to do basic activities such as eating and brushing your teeth sounds simple, but it can be hard at first. Changing this up actually results in increased brain activity. Look at things upside down: Turn your watch upside down. This makes your brain think harder every time you look at it. Same with your phone – try looking at it upside down to make your brain work a little more. Read out loud: Reading out loud or even listening to an audiobook stimulates your brain differently than reading silently. Brain imaging shows that the brain lights up in different regions when the same word is either read, spoken, or heard. Take a new route to work: When you drive the same path every day, your brain turns on autopilot and isn’t very stimulated. Driving a new way activates your cortex and hippocampus. Take a Technology Break Technology is great – it makes our day-to-day lives easier. But it’s easy to become dependent on it. This year, give your brain a break with these technology-free activities. Monitor your screen time: In your phone’s settings, you can see how much time per day you’re spending on each app and how much you use it total. It’s likely a lot more than you think. Try and limit your phone time to one hour per day– you’ll be surprised what you notice around you! Turn off your GPS: Driving somewhere new? Go old school and use a map. Your brain will be stimulated discovering the route instead of passively listening to Siri give each step. London cab drivers memorize over 25,000 streets to do their jobs, and research shows they tend to have a significantly larger than normal hippocampus, which is the brain’s memory center. Head outside: Going out into nature, and especially exercising outdoors, increases vitality and pleasure, while lowering tension, depression and fatigue. Even walking for a short period outside can benefit your mind and body. No screens allowed! Get Creative Creativity stretches your mind and fulfills it. Take time to express your creative side and try something new. Make time for a hobby: Do you already have a hobby you love? Set aside some extra time this year to devote to it. Working on a hobby focuses your brain similarly to meditation. Looking for a new hobby? Try out cooking, knitting, hiking or gardening. Think about what interests you – there’s likely a hobby that ties into it. Learn something new: It’s never too late in life to learn a new skill. Interested in music? You can take piano lessons online, even using a virtual keyboard. Online courses on any topic you desire are easy to access online, and TED Talks can be found on YouTube to increase your knowledge. Explore your area: Visit your local art museum and get inspired. When was the last time you visited your local library? Check out your next book in person instead of buying it online. Try out a new restaurant. Expanding your horizons can help break your brain out of its normal routine. Skincare is a booming industry, full of different creams, washes, and serums that all promise you healthier, younger-looking skin. If you’re not familiar, it can be difficult to even know where to start. Fortunately, there are three easy steps you can take to give your face the care it needs. The most fundamental step of skincare is gently cleansing any excess dirt or oil from your face. If you have oily skin, go for a lighter foam wash. If your skin is drier, use a heavier wash in a cream or lotion format. Micellar water is an excellent option as well for most skin types. You can also try exfoliating cleansers for a little stronger clean that will remove dead skin cells. Just make sure to stay away from harsh exfoliators made from nutshells, and don’t overdo it – once a week is plenty. Next, use a moisturizer or face lotion after you’ve washed and dried your face. Moisturizing helps your skin retain water, which keeps it hydrated and healthy-looking. Your skin type matters for picking out the best product here too. A moisturizing gel is ideal for oily skin types, most facial lotions work for combination skin, and dry skin is best served by a heavier lotion or even a cream. Before you leave the house, apply sunscreen to your face. The UV rays from sunlight harm your skin, and dermatologists recommend applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. This quick daily step can help prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as certain types of skin cancer. Skincare doesn’t have to be confusing or expensive. Adding these three quick steps to your daily routine can help keep your skin fresh, moisturized, and safe from the sun. “Budget” might not be anyone’s favorite word, and understandably so. Talking about finances can be stressful, and even the idea of sitting down to make a budget can be an intimidating prospect. Know your income In order to know how much you can spend per month, you have to know how much you make. Check your paystub or direct deposit to see how much you’re paid per month. Be sure to add any steady income from a side hustle or from investments (i.e., interest from a CD). If you’re making a joint budget with a spouse or partner, be sure you’ve included their income. This number represents the money you can rely on to come in each month. Estimate your monthly spending habits This can be the trickiest part of the process, but it is essential. Use your bank statements and/or credit card statements to see how much money you spend per month and note where it goes. While some items like rent or student loan payments will generally be set amounts, other expenditures are more fluid, like dining out or buying clothes. For those less predictable categories, go through a few months of statements and find the average amounts you spend, which you can use in your forming budget. Make sure to include any ongoing subscriptions and routine payments you know you’ll be making, like cell phone provider and water bills. At the end of this process, you should have a second number that represents roughly how much you spend per month. Prioritize your spend Ideally, that second number is less than the first. If it isn’t, or if it’s the same, it is likely time to examine your spending patterns and eliminate items that aren’t necessities. For instance, you may realize that you’ve been spending more than you think on eating out, or maybe you forgot how many streaming subscriptions you have. Cutting back on these items will allow you to bank that money toward potential emergencies, or even a big-ticket item you want to purchase but can’t yet afford. Making and sticking to a monthly budget can be life-changing. Apps such as Mint or Goodbudget help you understand and manage your income. A little saved each month can add up quickly. Your emotional wellness is important to us at PPV. We are proud to offer a 24/7 FREE employee assistance program (CuraLinc) for all our employees (full and part-time) and any dependents in your household. You do not need to be in an active state of crisis to take advantage of this terrific, free resource! We are here for you both on good days and tough days. If you would like additional information on emotional and mental health, you can confidentially contact me at the information below.