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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Some thoughts on growing a business

If your business does something that brings an influx of new clients then that’s great, but it doesn’t mean your work is done. You need to keep that momentum going by figuring out what consumers want next.

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If a business stands still for too long then it ends up in a rut. Perhaps you’ve already achieved some level of success in your company, whether it’s a small business or a large organization. However, success can only be maintained if a company is willing to “change with the times”. Nothing remains the same in the world of business. The entire concept of selling commercialized goods to a consumer market is based on the idea of growth. People want newer and better versions of the things they already own if they’re going to part with their money. That’s why the businesses which remain on top have mastered the art of reinventing themselves over and over again. They might be selling identical or near-identical products to the things they were selling ten years ago, but the important thing is that they repackaged their service. They evolved.

You need to grow, in other words. If your business does something that brings an influx of new clients then that’s great, but it doesn’t mean your work is done. You need to keep that momentum going by figuring out what consumers want next. Your goal is to find a gap in the market and then find the next one. Once you’ve found a profitable solution to a consumer problem, every other company in your industry is going to copy what you did so that they can emulate your success. You might have some loyal clients who become accustomed to your goods and services, but your customers in the wider target market might simply choose whichever business is offering the cheapest or newest deal in your industry. That’s why you’ve got to stay on top of your game. Continuous growth is the key. And if you want to make that an integral part of your business then here are some thoughts on expanding your company.

Start investing to improve your business.

Your business can’t grow until you put something back into it. Maybe you started your company from the comfort of your home, or maybe you got a few friends together because you had a great idea. Whatever the case, your humble beginnings may have served you well in the early days, but there’s only so far you can get with limited resources and limited people. At some point, you’re going to need more employees, a bigger office, and other improvements that all cost money if you want your company to grow. You want to deliver a more extensive service to a wider client base, but that’s going to require some investment on your part.

However, if your company is still small and its profits can’t quite stretch to cover the necessary improvements you had in mind then perhaps you could look into alternative means of financing your next big business venture. You might even want to look into the property market to open up a new source of income that would fund the necessary business investments you had planned. You might want to check out this new launch property as a good place to start when trying to turn over a healthy profit outside your business. Property is a smart way to invest your excess funds. The point is that you need to find some way of funding business improvements. Investments are a necessary risk if your company is going to grow.

Become a more productive company.

One of the best ways to grow as a company is to increase your levels of productivity. And you can do that by putting the focus on your employees. Motivated people work harder, so you need to keep your workforce happy. You could give them incentives such as a bonus or a free lunch for working hard. You could even spruce up the office so as to create a more pleasant working environment. Above all else, you need to remember that your employees are people and they want to work for people. You create a much more loyal workforce when you demonstrate that you care about your workers as more than statistics or machines that keep your business running. You need to humanize yourself as the boss. That doesn’t mean you need to be friends with everybody in the office, as a professional relationship is still important if you want to ensure that you’re respected in the office. However, respect is a two-way street; you need to recognize the value of your workers. Your members of staff will be far more productive if they feel that they’re valued as individuals in a personal and a professional sense. The more productive they are, the great your company’s growth.

Of course, happy workers might still struggle to be as productive as possible if you don’t optimize the way in which they work. If you’re overloading your members of staff with too many different tasks to complete then you’re not putting their work hours to good use. You might want to make things easier for your employees by automating certain processes in the workplace. Repetitive tasks only waste precious hours of the day, but such tasks are also irritating for your members of staff. You can both make lives easier for members of your workforce and create a more productive work environment by automating certain administrative tasks that take up time during the day. If you let technology take control of generating invoices and other tasks then your workers will have more time to devote to the more technical aspects of their job roles. Your company will be more productive, and your employees will be happier.

Get ambitious with your marketing techniques.

You need to get ambitious with your marketing style if you want your business to grow. Use the internet to help you out; if you advertise a good enough deal then people will spread the word online for you. You could offer coupons and discounts to people who refer your business to your friends. You could also target new markets by offering incentives and deals to certain demographics. Perhaps you could offer 20% off your products to students in order to reel in a younger audience, for example. It all depends on the nature of your business, of course. The point is that incentivizing consumers with deals is a great way to spread the word about your business. If you use social media properly then people should share your posts and spread the word for you. And if they get discounts for doing so then they definitely will.

Connect with existing and potential customers.

We briefly discussed this in the point above. Impressing customers can be a marketing technique to spread the word about your business and increase your client base, but it can also be a way of making a direct connection with the target audience. This will help your business to grow because it’ll improve the reputation of your brand name. Excellent customer service is a good way to start with this, of course, but you can go deeper than that. You could send handwritten letters to clients as a way of thanking them; this requires more time and effort than an automated response. It’ll show your customers that you really value them.

You could even give away something valuable on your business’ website in order to entice people to try out your business before they spend any money. Again, it’s all about making a connection with the customer. The best way to do that is to give them something that you can afford to give away for free but which is very valuable to them. This will make them feel as if your business really cares about rewarding its clients. Plus, they’ll return to your business to buy more goods and services if they liked the initial freebie. If you make a real connection with your clients then your business will naturally start to grow.

Health & Wellness

Religious freedom laws may be linked to poorer self-reported health among sexual minorities

Religious freedom laws may be linked to poorer self-reported health among people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or are unsure of their sexual orientation.

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#QueerInFaith

Religious freedom laws may be linked to poorer self-reported health among people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or are unsure of their sexual orientation – a group known as sexual minorities.

This is according to an analysis led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for LGBT Health Research. The study, published online in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, focused on Indiana in the US. It found that after the passage in Indiana of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 2015, sexual minorities increasingly reported poor health on a national survey. Such laws are often invoked by courts to support those who want to deny services to members of particular groups due to conflicts with their personal religious beliefs.

In the Philippines, for instance – and to contextualize – the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has been one of the staunchest opponents of passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI people.

In 2015, it actually gave a “partial support” to the passage of an anti-discrimination bill (ADB). However, this support is limited by CBCP’s desire for it to still be allowed to discriminate, particularly in: 1) determining who should be admitted to priestly or religious formation, who should be ordained and received into Holy Order, or who should be professed as members of religious communities and orders; and 2) for Catholic schools to be allowed to discriminate on who they can admit or retain.

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The CBCP also stressed its “love the sinner, hate the sin” position by claiming its “disapproval of homosexual acts (that) remains part of the Church’s moral teaching.”

In the aforementioned American study, the researchers – which included John R. Blosnich, Ph.D., M.P.H., Robert W.S. Coulter, Ph.D., M.P.H., Jordan M. Sang, M.P.H., and Christina Mair, Ph.D. – used data from 21 states that participated in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. Across the participating states, the team focused on the health of the nearly 5,000 participants who identified as sexual minorities. In particular, the team analyzed the number of “unhealthy days,” which the CDC characterized as the total number of days in the past 30 that people reported that their physical and mental health were not good.

The researchers found that, among residents of the 21 states, only Indiana saw a significant increase in the percent of sexual minority people reporting unhealthy days over the course of 2015. In the first quarter of the year, 24.5% of sexual minorities surveyed reported that their health was poor for 14 or more days each month. In the final quarter of the year, following public discussion and Indiana’s passage of the RFRA, 59.5% of sexual minorities reported poor health in 14 or more days per month. By contrast, heterosexual people in Indiana did not have any increase in unhealthy days across the same period.

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Research shows that sexual minority populations have greater rates of poor mental health, including depression and anxiety, which are attributed to the discrimination, harassment and stigma that they often endure. They also face a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

“The Indiana case suggests that the character of the RFRA law might be an important factor in its broader impacts on public health,” study co-author Erin Cassese, Ph.D. was quoted as saying. “Some RFRAs are stronger than others, and Indiana’s RFRA law ‘has teeth’ in the sense that it can be used in private litigation, including cases where businesses wish to deny services to sexual minorities. It also permits courts to grant compensatory damages against whomever brings the suit – making a court challenge to a service denial a much riskier proposition.

In the end, this research adds to a growing body of research demonstrating that experiences of discrimination are associated with poor health outcomes in a range of minority populations, Cassese added. It also “suggests negative health outcomes might be a consequence of this type of policy, and thus warrant some consideration by policymakers.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Art to push the curious to explore

Check out Copenhagen-based artist Spurv, whose erotic art pieces reached/touched others, particularly those “like me (who) have the curiosity to explore, and the people who are afraid to dare.”

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Sometime in 2015, Copenhagen-based artist Spurv started making erotic art pieces. It was, he said to Outrage Magazine, “somehow my personal journey through sex life where I explore my hidden sides, curiosities, fetishes, desires, limits, et cetera.

And so – in not so many words – Spurv said that without wanting to sound self-centered, he was “inspired by life itself – my life.”

Here’s the thing, though: although his artworks are “my story”, Spurv’s work eventually reached/touched other people, particularly those “like me (who) have the curiosity to explore, and the people who are afraid to dare.”

Spurv uses the old technique of gravure, this time on linoleum to create linocuts (block prints).

Linocut, a printmaking technique that is a variant of woodcut where a sheet of linoleum is used for a relief surface; the design is cut into the linoleum surface with a knife and the raised/uncarved areas represent a reversal/mirror image of the parts to show printed. The linoleum sheet is then inked with a roller, and then impressed onto paper or fabric.

“I chose (this technique) because I find very appealing (in creating) the contrast between this technique and the depicted topic of gay fetish,” Spurv said.

His subjects are actually reminiscent of Tom of Finland, Hal Fischer, Jim Wigler, Rinaldo Hopf and Etienne (among others), adapting the same raw approach to (male-to-male) sex/sexuality. And yes, as he noted, the use of linocut – instead of sketching/drawing/painting/photography – differentiates Spurv’s works.

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Obviously, Spurv is cognizant of how – even if erotic art is now very pervasive – it continues to be frowned upon. But not wanting to go deeper into this topic, he said that appreciating this necessitates going deeper to see beyond the superficial perspectives/POVs/analyses.

With art, Spurv said that there is no need to compare oneself with others, particularly since “every artist depicts his own universe in his own way. This is not a competition.”

For up-and-coming artists, “I would always encourage people to know and then express themselves (since being able to) express themselves in an artistic way is a blessing,” Spurv said. So, just like the many males in his artworks, going about discovering their sexuality, “fear is not an option.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

7 Life changes that will improve your mental health for good

No matter how major or minor the problem may be, there will be somebody close by who can help you to heal. Never keep your problems bottled up inside you; stay positive and be open with your friends and family.

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The ongoing topic of mental health has been in the public eye for a number of years now; the importance of maintaining a well-balanced life that helps to keep your ongoing state of mind healthy is ever growing. Mental health should be taken just as seriously as physical health so it is fundamental that people learn how to change their lifestyle to improve their overall mindset.

Whether you have been through a traumatic incident over the recent months or you need to remove toxic people from your life, there are several ways to conquer ongoing mental health battles. Even if you don’t think you are suffering from any major mental health traumas, all of the ideas mentioned below will help you to maintain a healthy state of mind.

If you have a history of mental illness in the family or you are worried that your past experiences will cause you to suffer, you might want to start incorporating some of these methods into your day to day lifestyle. The most important thing to remember is to stay positive and look for the best in every situation. If you can stay humble and grateful for the amazing things you do have in your life, you will find it so much easier to maintain a happy and health state of mind throughout your entire life.

1. Removing Toxicity

Getting rid of negativity in your life will help you to move on and become much more positive in your mindset. Whether you have a family member that keeps putting you down or you are with a partner who has domestic violence charges against them, when you feel unsafe in an environment it can begin to take its toll on your mental health. Make sure you find a way to get rid of the toxic elements that are holding you back from being happy. Talk to somebody you trust and there will be a way out of your current situation.

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2. Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Lack of sleep can take a huge toll on your overall mental health, so if you aren’t getting enough sleep at night you need to make this a priority. Think about how you can set a calming atmosphere in your bedroom so that you can drift off peacefully. Operate a no phone policy in your bedroom when you are ready to go to sleep; the blue light from electronic devices can prevent you from switching off completely. Read a book, drink a caffeine free hot drink or take a long hot bubble bath to help you relax as a bedtime routine.

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3. Writing Down Your Feelings

Sometimes you can overthink certain situations in your head, which can lead to a lot of ongoing anxiety and troubled mental health. Grabbing a pen and paper and writing down exactly how you are feeling in that moment can really help you to lighten your load. You might come to a conclusion that you were overthinking silly situations in your mind and you will then be able to move on quickly. Even if you aren’t particularly creative, writing is the perfect outlet to let go of pent up feelings.

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4. Turning Things into a Positive

When something goes astray in your life or it doesn’t quite go to plan, it is very easy for this to become a negative in your mind. Perhaps you didn’t land the dream job you wanted or you haven’t managed to find the perfect house to live in yet. Whatever goes wrong in your day to day life, there will be a reason, so turn it into a positive. Perhaps a better job is round the corner or a better value house is just ready to be snapped up. Every cloud has a silver lining so always look on the bright side when you can.

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5. Changing Your Eating Habits

The food that you put into your body can have a huge knock on effect to your overall mood. If you are feeding yourself junk food that is full of saturated fat and refined sugar you are going to go through highs and lows, whilst feeling sluggish. Nourish your body and mind with delicious food and plenty of water every day and you will have a much better chance of standing up to those mental health demons. You will feel more energized and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.

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6. Exercising Regularly

The endorphins that are released when you undertake exercise are renowned for making people feel happy and uplifting their mood. No matter what type of exercise you enjoy, you can instantly put a smile on your face if you get your blood pumping. It’s even better if you can enjoy exercise with a friend.

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7. Practicing Mindfulness

Whether you meditate for ten minutes each morning or really focus on the foods you are eating, mindfulness is an amazing tool for mental health. It can help you appreciate the beautiful world around you so you aren’t taking anything for granted. Write down all of the positive things you have going on in your life and you will soon find a reason to smile every single day.

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Sometimes it is easier said than done when it comes to keeping your mental health in check. More and more people are being diagnosed with mental health issues each day, so it is very important that you take these things seriously. Small and subtle changes to your lifestyle will help you to live a happier and healthier life overall, which will then have a positive impact on your overall state of mind. When you become anxious or worried about something, you should always try and talk to somebody who can help you through.

No matter how major or minor the problem may be, there will be somebody close by who can help you to heal. Never keep your problems bottled up inside you; stay positive and be open with your friends and family. There might be a sufferer just like you sat close by, so look around and believe that everybody is around to help you through.

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Health & Wellness

LGBT adolescents more likely than other kids their age to try to kill themselves

A study found that sexual minority youth were 3.5 times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers. Meanwhile, transgender adolescents were 5.87 times more likely, gay and lesbian adolescents were 3.71 times more likely and bisexual youth were 3.69 times more likely than heterosexual peers to attempt suicide.

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LGBT youth have higher risk for suicide attempts.

This is according to “Estimating the Risk of Attempted Suicide Among Sexual Minority Youths: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”, a study done by Ester di Giacomo, MD; Micheal Krausz, PhD; Fabrizia Colmegna, MD; Flora Aspesi, MD; and Massimo Clerici, PhD and which was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

For this study, the researchers pooled data from 35 earlier studies to show that sexual minority youth were more than three times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers. Transsexual youth were at highest risk, nearly six times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual peers, researchers reported.

“Adolescents facing ‘non-conventional’ sexual identity are at risk of higher self-threatening behaviors, independent of bullying and other risk factors,” Dr.di Giacomo, the study’s lead author, was quoted as saying by Reuters Health. “I think that a difficulty in self-acceptance and social stigmatization might be keys for understanding such elevation in the risk of self-threatening behaviors.”

This may be because many LGBT youth have trouble accepting who they are because of the way they are seen by others, di Giacomo added.

The study noted that “suicide is the second-leading cause of death among adolescents” and that “sexual minority individuals are at a higher risk of suicide and attempted suicide.”

Thirty-five studies reported in 22 articles that involved a total of 2 ,378,987 heterosexual and 113, 468 sexual minority adolescents (age range: 12-20 years) were included in the analysis. The study found that sexual minority youth were 3.5 times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers. Meanwhile, transgender adolescents were 5.87 times more likely, gay and lesbian adolescents were 3.71 times more likely and bisexual youth were 3.69 times more likely than heterosexual peers to attempt suicide.

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Since the findings suggest that youths with non-heterosexual identity have a significantly higher risk of life-threatening behavior compared with their heterosexual peers, the researchers stressed that “public awareness is important, and a careful evaluation of supportive strategies (e.g. support programs, counseling, and de-stigmatizing efforts)… be part of education and public health planning.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Why it really is important to save up

Remember that even if you’re living it up right now and constantly have money pumping into your account – things change, and you may find yourself in completely different circumstances within the blink of an eye, all because you weren’t careful.

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We often hear so many things about the importance of saving money, and yet there is never an explanation as to why. So many people – especially in the modern world we now live in – want to live in the moment, and in doing so, means being a little impulsive at times and buying what they want, when they want, because they can. This is a freeing way to live because it banishes responsibility and stress and pressure, as there are no longer any rules to abide by. While this may sound rather nice, there is a reason that people make rules regarding their finances.

It’s easy to be blasé about it when you have a nice figure looking at you in your account, but when you don’t have that luxury and instead end up having to worry about scraping by until next month – everything changes. So remember that even if you’re living it up right now and constantly have money pumping into your account – things change, and you may find yourself in completely different circumstances within the blink of an eye, all because you weren’t careful.

Here are a couple of other reasons why you need to think about saving up, and how.

Your health

You never know what kind of situation you may end up in. You might be a fit and healthy young adult, and wake up one day and get involved in a car accident, or get diagnosed with an illness you never imagined you’d have. And while this is awful, you need to think about how you’re going to get the treatment you need without ending up in major debt that you’re having to pay off for the rest of your life. But this is where the Health Savings Account Guide comes into play. You are able to safely put your money away in the event of an unexpected emergency, but not only can the money be used to cover health care expenses, but it can be used in retirement too on a completely tax-free basis.

By saving up the money you have coming in now, you won’t have to worry about the risk of not being able to pay your way through schooling or college, because you have your future education funds that have been accumulating over time, giving you the freedom to learn whatever you want to learn, and build a career from the ground up.
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Your education

While you may not have any big career dreams right now, that could always change in the next few months or years, and you want to be able to have the opportunity to pursue whatever you like, without there being any money issues that are holding you back from following a certain path. So by saving up the money you have coming in now, you won’t have to worry about the risk of not being able to pay your way through schooling or college, because you have your future education funds that have been accumulating over time, giving you the freedom to learn whatever you want to learn, and build a career from the ground up.

Now that you have a couple of examples, you can understand why it’s important to be wise with your money and think about the potential of your future. Regardless of whether you have a plan right now or not – things change all the time, and something may arise where you’re so glad you had some savings to tap into.

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Health & Wellness

4 Reasons why people put off doctor visits (But you really shouldn’t)

Whether it be for an annual checkup or because you know that you’re sick, everyone needs to visit the doctor now and then. That being said, chances are, you don’t go as often as you should.

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Whether it be for an annual checkup or because you know that you’re sick, everyone needs to visit the doctor now and then. That being said, chances are, you don’t go as often as you should. This certainly isn’t the most enjoyable activity, but it’s one that is necessary for optimal physical and mental health. Despite this, more and more people choose to skip instead, with the biggest culprits being millennials. This is a risky decision that could put your whole life at risk.

Here are four reasons people why put off doctor visits, but you really shouldn’t.

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1. “There Is Never Enough Time”

Everyone in the world has better things to do than visit the doctor, but, you’re kidding yourself if you think that you can’t spare enough time for an appointment. Annual checkups usually last no longer than half an hour, with more specific issues often taking up even less time. There’s no use in putting off or canceling these trips to do one thing or another, because, if you were to get sick or worse, you wouldn’t be able to do them anyway. Your health should always be the priority.

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2. “I Am Probably Healthy Anyway”

Unless you’re showing signs of being sick, you probably are okay, but that doesn’t mean that you should take this chance. There are lots of incredibly serious conditions that have very few or no symptoms or don’t start showing these until it’s far too late. Finding illness early gives you a much better chance of getting better, which is why you should never skip your annual checkups. You’re not a doctor, so don’t assume that there isn’t an issue until you’ve actually spoken to one.

3. “It Is Better Not Knowing”

Even if your doctor tells you some bad news, it’s never better not to hear it. After all, there is usually something that can be done to help. If you went your audiologist for poor hearing, for example, they would be able to tell you all about hearing aid benefits and their success rates. You can’t get treated if you bury your head in the sand, regardless of what the issue is. You might not even be sick, but, if you are, you should give yourself the opportunity to get better.

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4. “My Partner Won’t Stop Nagging”

You and your partner can argue about almost anything, from the washing up to the weather, but the one thing that you shouldn’t disagree on is the importance of your health. Even if your significant other tends to nag about anything and everything, you should listen to them when they tell you to go to the doctor. After all, if they didn’t believe that it was necessary, then they wouldn’t try to convince you. Listening to your loved one is not defeat, but a chance to be together longer.

When push comes to shove, there is never a good reason not to go to the doctor. Instead of coming up with excuses, you should book an appointment and get it over with.

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