Wanna Get Promoted? Hit the Gym

In the movie, Limitless, Bradley Cooper plays a struggling author who begins taking a nootropic (smart drug) to access 100% of his cognitive abilities.  While ultimately, Cooper experienced unpleasant side effects from the drug, the premise was fascinating...what if there really was a way to access more of our brain power?  Fortunately, there is.  It's called exercise.

According to Arthur Kramer, a professor of psychology, neuroscience, and engineering, regular physical activity actually alters the brain structure in a way that supports memory and decision making.  As he explains in his recent article, Want To Reward Your Brain? Get Off the Couch, consistent exercise improves executive functioning.

While Kramer doesn't come right out and say that improved executive functioning leads to promotions, we're reading between the lines.  Specifically, he describes executive functioning as “a type of cognition that refers to the ability to plan, multitask, self-regulate, and manage complex tasks, as well as harder-to-define aspects of functioning, like dealing with ambiguity.”

Furthermore, research shows that a person doesn't need to pump iron for a few hours a day to experience cognitive benefits.  Instead, Kramer reports that 3 hours of light exercise a week are enough to improve cognitive function within 6 months.  Even better, this seems to occur regardless of age.  Where once upon a time, aging was associated with cognitive decline, research now shows that brain health can be improved at any age.

Having read all of that, you may be wondering how you can incorporate more exercise into your life.  We have some suggestions:

  • Park 20 minutes away from your job and walk the rest of the way to work.

  • Hire a personal trainer; the financial investment will serve as additional incentive!

  • Walk your dog more frequently and for longer durations of time

  • Sign up for a fitness class that interests you, whether it's Jazzercise, Zumba, tennis, volleyball, or swimming.  By making a regular commitment to exercise with others, you'll be more likely to follow through.

5 Smart Ideas for Spending Your Tax Refund

Is that pocket full of cash you got back from the IRS about to burn a hold in your pocket?  Before you blow it on frivolous purchases, check out our financially savvy suggestions for spending your refund money:

  1. Pay Down High Interest Credit Cards.  If you can pay them off entirely, even better.  Let's say you owe $5,000 on a credit card with an 18.9% interest rate, and you pay $200 on it each month.  At that rate, it would take you over 11 years to pay off the credit card and ultimately, it would cost you $8,109.16.  As you can see, paying your credit card balance off with your refund would result in significant savings.

  2. Put It In Savings.  Nearly 70% of Americans have $1,000 or less saved up.  If you're one of them, think about opening—or contributing to—a savings account.  Experts suggest you have a minimum of 6 months of living expenses saved up in the event of car problems, medical issues, and other unforeseen emergencies.

  3. Invest in Yourself.  By putting your refund toward college or a professional certification, you're investing in your future earning potential.  Consider taking that sales training course you've been eyeing or signing up for continuing education classes to sharpen your skillset.

  4. Make an Extra Payment on your Mortgage Debt.  If you don't have credit card debt, think about making an extra payment on your mortgage.  If you made one extra payment a year on a 30-year $200,000 mortgage with a 5% interest rate, you'd pay your mortgage off 4 years early and save yourself $32,699 in interest over the course of the loan.

  5. Spend It On Something You Need.  If you've been putting off dental work or car repairs, now's a great time to attend to them.  Put your refund toward buying something you need but have struggled to afford.

6 Interesting Facts About Mother's Day

First off, Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers out there from those of us here at Scisbo.  We hope you have a lovely celebration.  Relax, put your feet up, and allow your family to wait on you hand and foot.  While you're enjoying a self-indulgent moment, read on to learn some interesting trivia we've compiled about Mother's Day:

  1. An Unusual Tradition...Interestingly enough, in what is formerly known as Yugoslavia, children used to actually tie their mothers up for Mother's Day.  The only way the mothers could earn their freedom was to buy the kids off with treats!

  2. About Those Treats...On the big day, moms are most commonly treated to restaurant meals, jewelry, gift cards, flowers, clothing, and accessories.  On average, people tend to spend about $126.90 on the holiday.

  3. Speaking Of Consumerism...Anna Jarvis is the founder of Mother's Day in the US. She commemorated her own mother on May 10th, 1908, three years after her mother had passed away.  Ironically, Jarvis spent the final years of her life fighting the consumerism that Mother's Day had become associated with, LifeBuzz reports.

  4. A Global Holiday...Mother's Day is actually celebrated in 50 countries worldwide.  Many of those countries—like Canada, Belgium, Finland, and Australia—celebrate Mother's Day the same day we do, the 2nd Sunday in May.  In India, however, Mother's Day is celebrated in October.  Interestingly enough, it's not just celebrated for one day either. Traditionally, Mother's Day is celebrated for 10 days in India.

  5. Ring, Ring...There are a lot of great children (and moms!) out there.  More phone calls are placed on Mother's Day than any other day of the year!

  6. And Restaurants Are Packed!  While you may be inclined to think that Valentine's Day is the biggest day of the year for restaurants, it's actually only the 2nd biggest.  According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is the most popular day of the year to eat out. 

3 Ways Meditation Can Help Your Career

When you imagine moving up the corporate ladder, you probably envision yourself working harder, faster, and smarter.  While that may be true, you'd probably be surprised to discover that a meditation practice can give you an edge.

Research shows that meditation offers a number of benefits that can improve on-the-job performance.  Specifically, meditation has been shown to:

  1. Improve Your Focus.  According to research, our minds wander about 50% of the time.  Think about how much more productive you could be if you were able to maintain your focus and devote 100% of your attention to any given task.  With meditation, you can.  Studies show that meditation not only boosts our ability to concentrate but it also improves memory.

  2. Strengthen Creativity.  As an executive, you're probably confronted with new business problems on a regular basis.  When these types of challenges occur, it's important to be able to devise creative solutions.  This is where divergent thinking comes in.  Divergent thinking refers to our ability to think of a number of possible solutions to a given problem.

    Meditation has been shown to strengthen this skill.  For instance, in one study, participants were told to engage in open monitoring meditation, a form of meditation where the practitioner becomes aware of thoughts and feelings but observes them with detachment.  After engaging in this type of meditation, the study participants performed better at a divergent thinking task.

  3. Reduce Stress & Anxiety.  The higher you rise up the corporate ladder, the more stressful your job tends to be.  However, by developing a meditation practice, you'll be better able to handle the stress and anxiety that often causes people to burn out.  Research shows that meditators produce less cortisol, the hormone associated with stress.  They also experience lower levels of anxiety and fatigue.  

Why Risk Taking Works (Usually!)

While there are some people who embrace risk-taking, for many of us, the very idea is an uncomfortable one.  Yet, studies show that people who take risks are happier and more satisfied with their lives.  That being said, how can someone who is naturally cautious become more comfortable with risk-taking?

Brave author Margie Warrell has the answer.  She suggests that if we knew the odds were stacked in our favor when it comes to risk-taking, we'd be more comfortable taking chances.  In her article, Take A Risk: The Odds Are Better Than You Think, Warrell identifies 4 critical thinking mistakes people make when it comes to risk-taking.  They can be summarized as follows:

  1. We Overestimate the Probability of Something Going Wrong.

    Rather than consider all of the benefits that might occur as a result of taking a risk, we're more inclined to focus on the potential disadvantages.  Because those disadvantages loom large in our mind, we often misjudge the likelihood of them occurring.

  2. We Engage in Catastrophizing.

    Catastrophizing refers to our tendency to imagine the worst possible scenario.  For instance, a person might feel fearful at the thought of becoming an entrepreneur, because their business could fail, they could then lose all of their money, subsequently they'd lose their house, their wife, their social stature, etc.  As you can see, while technically this could happen, we tend to exaggerate the negative consequences of risk-taking.

  3. We Underestimate Ourselves.

    As Warrell explains, sometimes we let our misgivings that we “have what it takes to succeed,” prevent us from taking risks.  It's unfortunate because many talented people allow their doubts about their abilities to hold them back.

  4. We Minimize or Deny the Cost of Maintaining the Status Quo.

    When we're risk-adverse, we tend to tell ourselves that “things aren't so bad,” or the unhappiness of the status quo is superior to the unhappiness associated with trying something new and failing.  Yet that isn't usually the case. Unfortunately, issues that we try to sweep under the rug tend to grow in magnitude, becoming worse the longer we ignore them.