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Why Read Books?

Whether it helps us reach new heights or it simply lets us know we’re not alone in our struggles, an inspiring book is often the best therapy.

So if you’re looking for a reason to smile, even just a few minutes of reading can make your day better and your life happier.

Here are some recommendations for some inspirational reading. 

  1. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E.P. Seligman.

Martin Seligman, an expert in positive psychology, says the four main components of well-being are: good relationships; engagement with what one is doing; positive emotion; and a sense of accomplishment. According to Seligman, being well leads to being happy, and while he didn’t write this as a self-help book, it is helpful in that regard. Mr. Seligman provides plenty of research and inspirational stories to illustrate each component. The journey to a happier life awaits you within these pages. If you enjoy this book, you might also want to check out Authentic Happiness by the same author.

  1. Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar.

Ben-Shahar teaches that happiness isn’t something that just happens, and it’s not an ending. Anyone can learn to be happy, and with the help of this book, that’s exactly what happens. Filled with lots of scientific research, spiritual enlightenment, and plenty of self-help tips, you can learn to apply Dr. Ben-Shahar’s principles to your own life and be happier than before.

  1. And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.

Sometimes all we need is a few inspiring words to give us peace of mind and happiness, and that’s what you’ll find within these pages. They will lift you up, give you strength, and re-kindle your passion for life. You can’t help but feel better once you’ve read this book.

  1. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord.

If you’re looking for something a little more light-hearted, this book is it. It’s the fictional story of Hector, a psychiatrist who’s good at his job, but finds he needs to know more about what makes people happy. He sets out on a world-wide journey to find the answers he seeks. The result is a cute, fun and uplifting story that leaves you wanting more. The good news is, there IS more. Hector’s journey doesn’t end with his quest for the secret of true happiness. He also heads out to find the secrets of love and time in books two and three. And in case that still isn’t enough, Hector and the Search for Happiness is also a major motion picture.

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” – Walt Disney

Adapted from HappierDaily.com.

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Happy Earth Day

When it comes to planning for the future, most people focus on health and financially stability for themselves and their family. But what about the health and stability of our earth?

Although it might not be a priority of estate planning, instilling an appreciation of nature and working to leave behind a better planet for our families and future generations is an important goal to consider.

Years of research have shown the many benefits of spending time outdoors and exploring nature for people of all ages. As we get older, keeping both our mind and body in good shape becomes increasingly important; exposure to the natural world can help improve short-term memory, boost the immune system, and even reduce the risk of an early death by promoting higher activity levels and a reduction in stress. For children, spending time outside allows them to build confidence and relationship skills, increase creativity, and even help with attention disorders and hyperactivity.

Personal health and wellness benefits aside, fostering empathy and appreciation for our natural world is more important now than ever. It is impossible to ignore the fact that our planet is in the midst of major changes, many of which are the consequences of human activity. Massive efforts are being made to reduce our plastic use, resource consumption, and carbon footprint, and at times all the “go green” messaging can be a bit overwhelming. However, what is important to remember is that you do not need to make a complete lifestyle change to have a positive impact; making small, simple choices can add up and will make a difference.

If you haven’t already, switching to reusable grocery totes is one of the easiest and most important changes you can make. Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but take more than 500 years to break down; in the meantime, many of them end up in our waterways along with tons of other single-use plastics, resulting in the pollution of our water supply and the death of over 100,000 marine animals annually.

Thinking of going through your closet for spring cleaning? Rather than throwing out last year’s fashion, donate to organizations like Goodwill or other second-hand stores. And when it’s time to upgrade your wardrobe, these same thrift stores can be a great place to save money and the planet. If you have items that are too worn out to wear, donate to organizations that can reuse or recycle the materials, such as a local animal shelter or Teracycle.

Speaking of clothing, consider switching to wool dryer balls to cut down on waste as well as wrinkles. Many newer appliances are already designed to use less energy and water, but choosing to run a load of laundry or the dishwasher only when they are full can help even more. And once the warm weather hits, installing dark curtains over large windows can reduce your energy bill by keeping the room cooler without having the AC blasting.

These small changes can help to leave behind an earth in which our children and their families can not only survive but thrive. And taking the time to get your family outside today is a simple way to improve your overall quality of life, build a connection and respect for our natural world, and create memories that will last long in to the future.

Laura Soder, Environmental Educator

Elmwood Park Zoo