Let Swedish Concept “Lagom” Bring Balance to Your Life

Mindfulness is a pretty trendy lifestyle choice that truly appears to be effective, though of course different people have different takes on it. Some professionals say that living in a fast-paced world where everything is instant exhausts us, and therefore we must sometimes slow things down a bit. For a person with a mental health condition, acceptance and awareness are necessary tools in order to find ways to live with it—though again, what worked for me might not necessarily be as successful for someone else.

There are many opinions on how to find a healthy and functional lifestyle that is most suited to one’s well-being. But if there’s another word to describe this world other than “fast-paced,” I think it would be “excessive.” We work so hard to buy so much stuff, eat so much food to do so many things, take in so much information in order to survive and then so much media to keep ourselves entertained. We need so much and want so much. This is why I find myself rather invested in the balance of one’s life as described by the Swedish concept of “lagom”.

“Lagom” [celebrates] the idea of “just enough.” It’s the space between minimalism and living in excess . . . With lagom, less is more, and instead of buying things we do not need, it is about finding pleasure and fulfillment in moderation. It is the belief that extremes on the spectrum are bad. For instance, exercise is good, but none at all is just as detrimental as too much.

The idea seems exciting, though a bit lofty. So the question now would be: how does one embrace “lagom”? Well, to answer this, you would constantly have to ask another question: is this good enough? Because good enough is the way to go for “lagom”. When it comes to housekeeping, one should learn to keep what’s valuable — don’t hoard every single souvenir, but don’t toss everything out so quickly either.

[B]efore adding anything else to your space, ask yourself if things are good enough already. The point is to find a simpler life that still has room for the things that make you happy.

As for work, you have to know your limits. Decide when enough is enough. Don’t demand too much, but don’t let your employer demand too much from you either.

Accept that work is an important part of life, but find the balance between letting it be the main focus of your life and an unpleasant task you charge through as quickly as possible.

Another compartment of life that “lagom” works wonders with is your diet. This is because the idea of balance and moderation is best when it comes to nutrition.

[T]here is a time for indulging in all the delicious goodies that make a celebration great, but there is also a time to moderate. The first step to eating lagom-style is to eliminate waste.

Not every good meal has to be indulgent and expensive. Buy local. Grow your own produce. As long as it doesn’t take too big a space in your schedule, make time for things that will balance your life.

Like I said, you may read a lot of opinions about the real way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. You may hear from your momma or Aunt Carol about their own take. Then again, every person’s life is so specific, and what you end up doing with mindfulness, slowness, or even “lagom” depends entirely on how you want to live yours. “Lagom’s” only reminder is as simple as this: simple is best.

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Superhero Pope Francis Shirts Help the Poor

There are a dozen different ways to help the poor outside of huge monetary donations. This Anatolian restaurant is feeding the needy for free. This Philippine community is building bleach lamps from plastic bottles for households without electricity. Graffiti artist MauPal is using Pope Francis as an icon of hope, creating “Superpope” t-shirts to help Vatican-sponsored charities.

“With the economic and social crisis that hit Italy and the world, I saw Francis as a symbol of hope for all,” the artist said.

“I graphically summed up a widely-shared opinion of the pope as someone with a lot of power who is also humane and humble at the same time.”

The Pope Francis shirts aren’t MauPal’s only masterpieces. In previous years, the artist depicted the Pope in various playful forms as street art. However, city cleaners were less than pleased, scrubbing the works off walls near St. Peter’s Basilica.

It was only after that MauPal made the remaining sketches appear on the Pope Francis shirts. And while some are also not appreciative of the cartoon tees, the Pope himself has expressed his approval.

“I offered him the drawing I had painted on a simple piece of wood, a medium I thought fit his (anti-luxury) philosophy. He looked at me, he smiled at me, then he affectionately pinched my cheek,” MauPal said.

If the Pope himself gives a thumbs-up to your work of kindness, you must be doing something right. And more importantly, if the Pope has given your artwork the smiley rubber stamp, well, I’d say you must be pretty skilled with a pencil!

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Map Shows Literal Translation of Country Names

Not everyone who has walked through the beautiful pueblos of Spain knows that the country is named after rabbits. Likewise, you may have revelled in the sun-kissed beaches of Maldives, not knowing that the natives called their place a garland of islands. A beautiful name for a beautiful place, really. In an awesomely nerdy project that indulges our interest in travel, the Australian company Credit Card Compare created a map with the literal meaning of all the country names in the world.

“Learning the etymology – the origin of words – of countries around the world offers us fascinating insight into the origins of some of our favourite travel destinations and the people who first lived there,” the company says. Zooming in on continents and regions, from Europe to South America and Africa, the map offers a different perspective.

Varied reactions sprung up online, ranging from pure fascination to a personal need to verify the facts and study further, but one thing is for sure: the company’s research provides us with valuable insight to see the places we have been and the places we have yet to be in a new light.

“The interest has been enormous far beyond Australia because of some of the unexpected names. People are contacting us with their positive feedback and reasons for some corrections to one or two names. We plan to release even high-def downloads suitable for big poster-sized prints.”

A while ago, I wrote about the many different ways you can maximize your weekend. It could be difficult—though definitely not impossible!—to cram an exhilarating getaway in that two-day window. But sometimes, when you cannot go out there yet and travel, relaxing at home and making discoveries about the places you dream to explore could suffice. Make yourself a hot chocolate or a mojito, cozy up, and start with this map.

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Female Pakistani Superhero Is A Role Model To Girls

Slowly but surely, the world of literature and television is finally becoming more diverse. People from marginalized populations are now gaining some representation, especially in global mainstream media. Last year, for instance, Sesame Street introduced their first Afghan member Zeerak. But things are also at work internally. The Middle Eastern comic book world is not far behind with Sarah, a female Pakistani superhero.

The creator, [Hassan Siddiqui], of the English-language comic says he hopes the superhero will give young girls across Pakistan a role model and embolden them to fight corruption and violence in a country where crime is rife in major cities and corruption is the norm.

It’s a step towards abolishing gender discrimination in a country where honor killings are frequent. The comic does not only tackle crime and corruption, but even zooms in on gender-based violence and domestic abuse, shedding light on very important issues.

But while the online community has received “Pakistan Girl” with open arms, local readership could be a problem. Illiteracy rates are at an all-time high. However, believing in its significance, schools across the nation are now implementing the comic into curriculums.

“I think we should be teaching them through this kind of literature because that’s actually the tender age when they are building their own images of their future life,” said [new comic book fan and school principal Saadia Adnan] after browsing through a bookstore copy.

Siddiqui’s previous works include “The Burka Avenger” and “Pakistan Man”, with both titular superheroes combating the crisis of corruption. But as “Pakistan Girl” targets gendered issues and provides a different representation, I hope that Sarah, the female Pakistani superhero, becomes to young women all over the region a great figure to look up to.

With the future of this world in the hands of young ones, inspiring respect and dignity seems the way to go.

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The Real History Behind Mother’s Day

Time and time again, a mother proves herself to be a great blessing to those around her. Sometimes, it takes a lot of sacrifice, as shown to us by a mother who chose to forgo cancer treatment to save her baby. Sometimes, it can be in the seemingly little things, like this mom’s viral post on social media promoting depression awareness.

Other times, a mother shares her kindness to people not even her real children, as in the case of this woman donating 5,000 pints of breast milk to gay couples and parents of premature babies, this woman adopting her former student who has been in the foster system since he was nine, or even this group of stay-at-home female doctors providing online consultations to the poor.

Mother’s Day is a tribute to people like them, for sure. But beyond the flowers, fancy gifts in pastel wrapping paper, and delightful brunches, the real history behind the holiday has a lot more to do with peace activism and anti-war sentiments.

A woman named Anna Jarvis started a campaign for an official holiday honoring mothers in 1905, the year her own mother died . . . Over the next few years, Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized . . . Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday, to take place the second Sunday of May.

Anna Jarvis put Mother’s Day on the calendar as a day dedicated to expressing love and gratitude to mothers, acknowledging the sacrifices women make for their children.

If you’ve ever experienced confusion on where the apostrophe falls, don’t worry. I think all of us have. However, even in the 1900s, Anna Jarvis was determined to make it a singular possessive, with the apostrophe coming before the s. She believed that each mother in each family has to be recognized, and so, each mother deserves to feel like it’s her own day.

But again, like I’ve teased earlier, the history of Mother’s Day has even deeper roots. Where did Anna Jarvis get the idea to push for her agenda? That’s right — the answer, of course, is her own mom.

[Ann Reeves Jarvis] played an important role uniting women for good causes. [She] cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the field during the Civil War, and in its aftermath she organized a “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” the goal of which was to foster reconciliation between former Union and Confederate soldiers by having them come together, along with mothers from both sides.

In an attempt to stop the violence brought upon by the American Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis wanted to rally mothers. Her entire life was spent promoting peace and childcare, especially in the midst of war. No wonder her daughter wanted to pay tribute to motherhood.

Years later, daughter Anna Jarvis lobbied against the commercialization of the holiday. She thought that the whole point of Mother’s Day was defeated by how florists, card-makers, and other businesses profit so much from it. And I agree, though I won’t protest the existence of the holiday itself. This Mother’s Day, we might want to look beyond the fancy-shmancy stuff in shops and restaurants. Perhaps we might also want to recognize the day’s roots in women’s activism, and celebrate some recent gender milestones.

Then again, I think it’s okay to spoil your mom just a little. After all, we should remember where the apostrophe falls. This Mother’s Day, it’s okay to get your mom carnations if she loves them. It’s okay to have afternoon tea with pretty pastries. Just don’t forget what this day really is about: her.

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Stay-at-Home Female Doctors Serve the Poor Online

Women have been slowly but surely breaking the barriers that have been set for them in the past centuries. A beauty queen with Down’s syndrome made history, single mothers run startup companies, more women are fighting back against sexual harassment and even lead hundreds of people to resuscitate a dead river.

Here’s to another amazing woman. A female Pakistani doctor recognized the odds stacked against physicians in her context, and acted to provide more flexible options for women in the medical industry. Dr. Iffat Aga founded a platform to connect home-based female doctors to poor communities.

Sehat Kahani is a revolutionary tele-health platform that connects at-home, out-of-work doctors who can provide quality health care to underprivileged patients in low and middle-income markets.

The organization currently constitutes a network of 14 facilities across Pakistan which have served more than 550,000 patients. When a patient visits the clinic, a nurse logs their basic medical history, and then doctors are called in to continue the consultation through a video conferencing system.

The percentage of women in local medical schools are higher than those of men, but less than half of these women eventually end up as practitioners because they believe they need to nurture their families first. Because of the responsibility weighing down on them, female doctors stop pursuing their careers.  Dr. Iffat knew this problem needed a solution, so she partnered up with women who similarly understood — and perhaps personally experienced — the crisis, and together they built Sehat Kehani.

With a vision to create an all-female health provider network, Sehat Kahani simultaneously promotes women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship, and the basic need for affordable, quality healthcare in rural and urban communities – all without the doctors ever having to leave their homes.

It is truly an inspirational balancing act to target both the issues of gender inequality and poverty at the same time. Women are not only fighting for their own rights; they are doing so in order to join larger fights.

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Caribou Herds Rebuilt by Maternity Programs

This is no truth bomb: more and more species are becoming endangered or approaching the brink of extinction. However, there is some good news: more and more global efforts are also being executed to address the problem. In 2017, British Columbia banned recreational bear hunting. This 2018, China is funding a national park to serve as a sanctuary for giant pandas.

And some efforts are already paying off this year. With the special help of a maternity program at Smithsonian Zoo, baby Mokey — the first western lowland gorilla there in 9 years — was born to loving mom Calaya. In the same light, caribou herds are now being helped by the Revelstoke Caribou Maternal Penning Project.

About half [of the calves] are killed and eaten by wolves . . . said Scott McNay, a wildlife biologist. For the past four years, McNay has worked with the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations, which are taking radical action to reverse the decline of the caribou by protecting cows and calves in “maternity pens” until the newborns are ready to survive life in the wild.

That bears and wolves feed on caribou is a natural phenomenon, but the proportion has been unhealthy for the past decade. Industrial development in the area has also worsened the situation. In addition to a ban on the hunting of caribou herds that have been imposed decades ago by the elders of the First Nations, wolf population control and habitat restoration are now being done simultaneously.

During the first four years of the pilot maternity project, 47 pregnant caribou from the North Columbia herd have been taken into the penning program and assisted in a nine-hectare enclosure. A few weeks ago, another 20 were sequestered. And the results look hopeful.

To date, 36 calves have released to the wild and they have about double the normal survival rate, which has stabilized the herd.

Funded by a variety of government agencies and other organizations, the maternity program wants to commit to protecting and releasing 20 cows and calves every year, in order to successfully restore the caribou herds.

Looking at these probable results, it seems that after all, every species including humankind is just trying to survive, with each other’s help in life.

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Baby Gorilla in Smithsonian Zoo, First in 9 Years

When critically endangered species successfully reproduce offspring and show the world their adorable baby, I’m not going to lie, I also tend to feel like getting a new shot at life. An OB-gyn who delivered a western lowland gorilla via C-section at the Philadelphia Zoo even said the experience of actually making it happen felt like an incredible privilege.

Just a few weeks ago, another western lowland gorilla was born at Smithsonian National Zoo, the first of his kind in nine years!

“The birth of this western lowland gorilla is very special and significant, not only to our zoo family but also to this critically endangered species as a whole,” Meredith Bastian, the zoo’s curator of primates, said in a statement regarding Moke’s birth.

Born to mother Calaya and father Baraka, the baby gorilla was named Moke (Mo-Key). Keeper Melba Brown went through months of training with Calaya to make sure she is able to prepare for the task of motherhood. And those months have truly paid off, as soon enough Calaya is kissing and nursing adorable Moke without difficulty.

“This infant’s arrival triggers many emotions — joy, excitement, relief — and pride that all of our perseverance in preparing Calaya for motherhood has paid off,” Brown said. “We will provide support to her if need be, but I have every confidence that Calaya will be a great mom to Moke. I am excited to see how he will fit into the group dynamic. There are a lot of different personalities in this family troop, but they all work well together.”

Surely a cute baby gorilla is enough cause to celebrate. Though of course, I would like to be proud first of amazing mommy Calaya. Now let me just go get a piece of tissue to wipe away this stray teardrop on my left cheek.

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Australia Pledges $500M to Protect Great Barrier Reef

Australia has been making waves in the environmental newsfeed this past year with some fantastic headlines: its energy sector powered 70% of the country’s homes using only renewable sources, a huge permaculture farm fed dozens and dozens of families with only organic produce, and even without human help, a supposedly extinct species of insectivore suddenly showed up. But this Sunday, Australia made just about its biggest wave yet.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull pledged more than 500 million Australian dollars for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef — the greatest single investment that this reef or any other coral ecosystem in the world has ever received.

[T]he Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a national non-profit . . . will use the money to counter water pollution, combat coral-eating starfish, increase public awareness, boost reef monitoring, and improve the environmental impact of surrounding businesses . . . The funds will also be used to expand reef restoration efforts, including trialling new techniques that can breed corals resistant to high temperatures and light stress.

For a while now, the Great Barrier Reef, which hosts about 400 types of coral and 1,500 species of fish, is known to be in great danger. Its damage — including coral bleaching and ocean acidification — can be traced to climate change as a consequence of burning fossil fuels, harmful coastal development, and continuous fishing despite the already-present negative effects. A 2016 study even said that more than 90% of the reef has already been affected by coral bleaching.

However, Australia’s environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, is confident that “the right plan and the right investment” will help secure what he describes as a “remarkably resistant” reef . . . “The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it . . . Millions of dollars will go into science and to better data management and to be able to test the impacts on the reef.”

Of course, we must inevitably mull over the damage humans have caused the beautiful coral ecosystem in the past decades, but it seems to have been resilient in maintaining itself and in forgiving us. Perhaps the millions of dollars pledged to its protection can finally help us start to make up for the damage and deserve its forgiveness. I honestly can’t help but hope it’s better late than never for us and the Great Barrier Reef.

 

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Wild Wolves Are Making A Comeback In Rome

Wild tigers are resurfacing in Kazakhstan after a 70-year absence and it seems Italy may be experiencing something quite similar. Wild wolves, a symbol of the country, are making a comeback in the outskirts of Rome after nearly a century.

“This is the first time in more than 100 years that wolves have been found living near Rome,” [said professor of natural sciences] Alessia De Lorenzis.

“We think they probably arrived here from the area around Lake Bracciano, north of Rome, where wolves have always existed, even when the species was pushed towards extinction,”

Biologists spotted the wild wolves roaming a reserve in Castel di Guido. They are of no apparent threat to livestock, as they survive on a diet of wild boars. Researchers have blamed their initial demise on hunting.

Killing wolves was encouraged in Italy until the 1970s, by which time only 100 or so individuals remained in Italy. But the species was given protected status in 1971 and has since gradually recovered.

There are around 1,500 – 2,000 wolves inhabiting Italy, with others bordering France. French farmers have claimed that the slender beasts have been attacking their sheep. But then again, perhaps it’s time we listen more to the animals’ needs and less to ours. Based on studies of animal extinction or endangerment, we could surmise it isn’t really the animals crying wolf, is it?

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