man breaking cigarette stick

Quit Cigarette Smoking by Managing Your Cravings

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking is the primary cause of preventable death. In the United States, 16 million citizens have a disease caused by smoking cigarettes. The activity is directly responsible for illnesses, such as stroke, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, as well as different kinds of cancer.

It makes sense for people to attempt to quit smoking. Some may abruptly stop the habit without medication. Others may need the aid of a nicotine patch or guided hypnosis with a clinical hypnotherapist. Although you can stop smoking for good with any of these techniques, you may relapse.

What makes cigarettes so seductive?

Cerebral Smoke Signals

The addictive power of cigarettes comes from the unique chemical properties of nicotine. Unlike other addictive substances, smoking cigarettes don’t induce euphoric happiness or trigger audiovisual stimulation. Simply put, you don’t get high from smoking a cigarette. The nicotine that a stick of cigarette contains only triggers the release of dopamine in the brain.

What makes nicotine unique is that each puff of a cigarette tells the brain to release dopamine, unlike other drugs that stimulate the brain just once. This hardwires the brain to repeat the behavior just to receive more dopamine, almost like a Pavlovian reaction.

The repeated release of dopamine also makes other activities more pleasurable, acting as reinforcement to those behaviors. Because of this, nicotine acts as a gateway substance, making the consumption of other chemicals more pleasurable to the brain. As such, it can be difficult but not impossible to “unlearn” the behavior. You can do it through discipline and curbing the impulses the nicotine taught.

Craving Control

Time to quit smoking

Resisting the urge to smoke a cigarette is the key to quitting for good. You can control your nicotine craving in a number of ways. They range from distracting yourself to replacing the craving with something else.

  • Avoid your tobacco triggers. You will experience the strongest cravings when you’re in situations where you used to smoke. These situations can be events, such as drinking sessions or parties, or emotions, like when you feel stressed or happy. Pinpoint these triggers and change the routine that you associate with smoking.
  • Think about why you’re quitting. Remember the reasons you’re quitting. Perhaps it’s because you don’t want to be healthy, or because you’re significant other has asked you to stop. Maybe you’re going to be a parent soon. Visualize these reasons or say them out loud to help you resist the cravings.
  • Sweat if off. Distract yourself from the urge to smoke by engaging in physical activity. If you’re outdoors, try walking or jogging around the block a couple of times. If you’re in an office, walk up and down the stairs or keep yourself busy with clerical work.
  • It doesn’t end with one. At one point, you may try to rationalize that you’ll only have “just one more.” You may believe that doing so will satisfy the craving then and make it easier for you to stop. Don’t believe it for a second. Smoking one more stick can unravel all your hard work and cause you to take up the habit again.

Ask others for help when you feel like your best efforts might make you smoke again. Enlist the support of friends and family, visit online support groups, or work with a therapist. Above all, believe that you can do it. Once you’ve committed to giving up smoking, never give up on yourself.

Teens drinking in the car

How to Stop Your Teens from Drinking and Driving

Whenever we see a movie about teenagers, there is likely a scene where one of them tries to fool a store clerk that he is of legal age to buy beer. It is no laughing matter, especially when someone we know and love does the same and on top of that, drives while drunk.

You should do all that you can to keep your teenager from drinking and driving. It is a given, though, that you will not always be there to keep an eye out for them. But there are other ways to keep your children on the straight and narrow.

Talk about having the right friends

Many teenagers succumb to drinking illegally because of peer pressure. So, you should start with this situation and teach your kids to be with the right friends.

Of course, that is easier said than done, particularly during this stage of their life, when they want to hang out with the “cool” kids. As long as you do not pressure your children to choose the right people to be their friends, they might be open to your suggestions.

Unfortunately, some of them could be a bad influence on your children. One thing you can do in this situation is to tell them about your experience in finding the right kind of friends when you were younger. If they see that you had the same dilemmas as they have right now, they will likely consider following your advice.

man passed out with keys on a bottle

Explain the consequences

You should also explain to your teenage kids the repercussions if they drink when they are not of legal age yet. Most teenagers think they are invincible, and that they are crafty enough to avoid getting caught. You should imprint in your teenagers’ minds that they could not be more wrong.

Police officers are trained to detect reckless behavior on the road. Even if your teenage kids think that they can drive while drunk, they will definitely be pulled over. And when that happens, they could end up in jail. Try telling them what happens to people who end up in jail for the first time, and they will think twice about drinking and driving.

Aside from instilling fear into teenagers, explain to them the long-term damages of having a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction. Assuming that they would want to study in some university, tell them that if they have an arrest record, it would be doubly hard for them to set foot in any reputable school.

You could even tell them that after their DUI conviction, it would take them three years before they are no longer deemed a high-risk. While they are considered high-risk, they will have to get an SR22 insurance from Arizona or whatever state you are in.

Teach your children to be responsible and mindful of people who might be pressuring them into drinking. Getting a DUI conviction can be very detrimental to a teenager’s life and prospects. Protect them as much as you can by educating them about the repercussions of drinking and driving.

Young woman studying at home

Learning These Courses Will Never Go Out of Style

One can argue that a degree is not relevant anymore when you can literally create a new job role for yourself. Online marketing is at an all-time high and jobs that were not available a decade ago are now needed everywhere. However, it still pays to get the essential skills necessary to build a lasting career even if the job market changes drastically. Here are some of the courses that will still be relevant in the future:

Business Management

There are more innovative job opportunities these days because entrepreneurs recognize a need and develop solutions for it. You can take advantage of those new jobs or you can be the entrepreneur yourself. Whichever route you decide to take, you will be thankful for online education courses focusing on management, as they will help you navigate the ins and outs of business operations. You’ll get the skills needed to run your own business or to level up to a managerial position in no time. Even with requirements becoming more flexible for job vacancies these days, you’ll still have an edge if you have intimate knowledge of how a business runs.

Accounting

Calculator and pen on a balance sheetAny business will need someone with accounting knowledge to help them manage the financial side of operations. No business runs without any money circulation involved. You need raw materials for manufacturing, and you need manpower. They both require payment. Customers pay for your products, and you’ll have to dock expenses from sales to get the total profit. The government also takes money from you in the form of taxes. They also take money from your employees, which you handle on their behalf. And then there are the employee benefits.

Without someone handling the accounting, you may pay a higher tax than necessary, and you may not be able to maximize the earning potential of your business. There are infinite ways for your accounting skills to be relevant, but you’ll need to do more than self-study to be qualified.

Psychology

There are too many factors that contribute to the mental health of each person. Some of them are internal and even genetic while others are external and may be related to the work environment. A practicing therapist will not run out of clients any time soon, as it is healthy for a person to have someone to talk to about their thoughts.

Your opportunities if you graduated a degree in psychology do not stop there. You can work in schools as a counselor or you may also venture into the corporate world as part of the human resources department. You may also become a consultant for other industries, including law enforcement. Knowledge of the human mind is a useful skill to have, especially if you learned it through a competitive course that takes into account the latest snapshot of the world to make lessons more relevant and your skills more applicable to real-world settings.

Sure, you can study on your own without paying for it, but that also means you can’t prove that you learned the right skills. At the end of that day, a degree is the only proof you need.

What’s Taught in Schools and What’s Needed at Work

Bridging the Gap Between What’s Taught in Schools and What’s Needed at Work

One of the primary drivers of the student debt crisis is the inability of many college graduates to find jobs that either relate to their field of study, or because their majors did not prepare them for a life of work.

In today’s digital world, it’s no longer a question of whether or not to follow your dreams: opportunities to monetize your passions are available anywhere you go. However, the combination of competition and a lack of practical skills has been holding back thousands of graduates and creating a crisis of employment. Many feel let-down by an educational system that has ill-prepared them for the rigors of adult life.

To get around this, many graduates go for post-graduate courses, if not to gain more knowledge, then to stave off the inevitable. However, many are disappointed to find that real-life skills are still lacking in the post-grad system, and their continued education means racking up more debt.

Bridging the Gap

A lot of students, rightfully fearing that the real world will offer challenges that school hasn’t prepared them for, take on internships or workshops in a proactive move to self-prepare. But many of these interns are either unpaid or underpaid, and worst of all, their school doesn’t offer much in terms of support other than imposing compulsory attendance, which is not the greatest motivator nor teaching tool.

Despite the changes of the world around us, many schools are still lagging behind: instead of offering courses or classes that teach people what they want, they still rely on old, outdated systems of teaching. Many students are still barred from choosing the classes that they truly want and crafting a customized curriculum that fits both their passion and their need to learn valuable skills. It is disconcerting that, in the 21st century, schools still dictate what students are supposed to learn, regardless of their personal preferences, the skills they need for their future profession, or their passions.

educators

As educators, we need to bridge that gap and (re)create the educational system in such a way that it scales to individual students and their learning styles, their dreams, and their necessities. This doesn’t just apply to college students; from kindergarten onwards, we’re taught to think in binary oppositions, being made to choose between only 1 of 2 things (do you want to be a doctor or an engineer? Are you good at sports or are you good at academics?). Taking this kind of thinking out of our educational system is the first step in advancing our society one individual at a time.

Memorization is great and all, but its real world applications are lacking: when was the last time a rote memorization of algebraic formulas saved us from an actual problem that required algebra (say, calculating grocery expenses or figuring out loan repayments)? Let me be clear: algebra and other mathematic disciplines are essential, but it needs to be taught in such a way that it prepares students for the real world.

Changing the Way we Teach

Learning theory is a great step towards creating a holistic person, but it’s only the first step. Unfortunately, many schools stop here. What we need to teach aside from theory is practice. Applying theory into real-life problems is an ideal that our current system cannot reach, mostly because it’s busy regimenting students into a one-size-fits-all grading system.

 

While it’s good that students are taught the basics of poetry along with trigonometry, teaching the advanced concepts of these disciplines to someone who doesn’t require it (perhaps an athlete or an aspiring painter) and then holding them accountable if they fail, is not only damaging to their ego, it also creates a system that punishes people for pursuing their passion.

Education should not be a factory: we cannot be complicit in the creation of future employees whose only purpose in life is to serve the corporate machinery. This isn’t just some lofty, enlightened ideal either, it’s a mindset that could have profound effects on our economy at large.

We’re seeing this already: many millennials are choosing to forego traditional jobs and distancing themselves from entire industries simply because they’ve learned how to adapt and learn the skills they want on their own. In effect, this has given them the ill-fitting “industry killer” moniker. In reality, however, they’re not the ones killing industries: industries are failing because they can’t cope with the change.

If there’s anything millennials should teach us is that each individual learns things in their own unique way, and designing a system that caters only to perpetuate corporate interests is intrinsically flawed, and will, in fact, run counter to what they want.

How to Course Correct

A complete change in mindset is needed in order to correct our educational system and ultimately create a society that is productive, happy, and advancing itself towards a higher form of knowledge. To do this, we need to address key issues:

  • The individuality of students
  • Their unique needs and passions
  • Proper training in their chosen field
  • Placing value on their mental and emotional health

Changing the Way we Teach

Taking into account the individuality of students means catering to their specific learning styles and adapting to their needs. This isn’t baby-ing: it’s ensuring that every individual receives an education that they can understand and retain.

Once we accomplish this and we reignite a love for learning, then we need to address their unique dreams. Figure out what each student wants and encourage it, rather than telling them it’s impossible. We aren’t just educators, we are enablers of passion.

When we determine what it is that drives our students, then we delve into their training. As I mentioned earlier, learning things that are incidental to their main passion does more good than harm, but continuing to teach them those things even when it’s unnecessary is detrimental in the long run. We must train our students in what they want to learn. Offer them a chance to become experts in their field, rather than holding them back by requiring them to attend classes they no longer need.

And finally, we need to talk about their mental health. Too many schools across the country don’t take into account the psychological and emotional burden we place on our kids. We can’t treat them like children then expect them to act like adults. On the contrary, we need to allow them their youth, and be there to guide them into thinking for themselves. Especially for teenagers, when their hormones are in full swing, educators need to be more sensitive and address not just their academic issues, but their emotional issues as well.

Transforming the educational system should be our ultimate goal. We need to stop creating employees and start creating leaders, innovators, creators, and visionaries.

a teacher and her student

Teacher’s Guide: Tips and Tricks in Teaching Creative Writing

Creative writing is one of the most enjoyable forms of writing that students learn in school. Unlike in the case of academic and formal theme writing, students are able to express their creativity in such writing classes. They can craft stories, describe characters and settings, and share with the readers their thoughts and ideas. Through creative writing, they can share their experiences, make their own world, design their heroes and villains, and create and solve conflicts for their characters.

Teachers play a big role in encouraging their students to enjoy writing. As the captain of the ship, you should lead and inspire them to enjoy the craft and later on, be good at it. However, how can you be an effective creative writing teacher? Here are some tips and tricks for you:

Plan ahead

As with teaching any subject, planning is of great importance when teaching writing. Plan ahead to make sure that you and your class will be on the right track. Schedule your lessons and arrange topics chronologically. Start with the basics such as plot and character development. Look for materials to supplement your lessons. There are plenty of creative writing worksheets online. Make use of them as part of your students writing activities—either as seatwork or homework.

Set themes and topics

It also helps to line up themes and topics for your students to draw inspiration from. Browse through magazines and books to get ideas. List down topics as your “seed ideas” and arrange them according to your scheduled lessons. This should help students use their imagination as they work on subjects that may not be familiar to them.

Challenge your students

Test your students’ skills by giving them writing challenges. One good example is writing a six-word story. Writing stories can be daunting, especially when you’re required to write at least three pages, for instance. But the thing is that it’s harder to write when you’re limited to just a few words. This kind of challenge will make your students get those creative juices oozing for good.

Encourage competition

Friendly competition is great for every class. Encourage your students to step up their game by giving them activities that will earn them points and bragging rights. Give them contests such as character designing and making their own story endings, as well as homework like word bank and journaling. Give them points for their output and give recognition to top scorers. Remember that creativity is subjective, so create a simple rubric to assess their written works.

Allow review and feedback

writing on a notebook

Let your students review the works of their classmates. You can group your class into small groups wherein they can share their stories and writing pieces.  This should help your young writers to gain confidence in what they’re doing and listen to other people’s comments and suggestions to better their skills. At the same time, it helps you gauge the competencies and weaknesses of your students through the eyes of other audience.

The best thing about teaching a subject like creative writing is that you don’t just get to teach, you also learn in the process. It is truly a great experience seeing your students get better at writing. Who knows, you could very well be training the next Hemingway or perhaps the next J.K. Rowling.