Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Ramadan Joke from Hayfa

Thank you, Hayfa!

Michael and Mohammed

Two guys lost in the Sahara desert, one is David and the other is Michael.. They were dying of hunger and thirst when they suddenly came upon an oasis, with what looked like an emirates with a mosque in the middle..

David said to Michael: “look, let’s pretend we’re Muslim, otherwise we’ll not get any food or drink. I’m going to call myself “Mohammed”. Michael refused to change his name, he said: “My name is Michael,and I won’t pretend to be other than but what I am…Michael”..

The Imam of the mosque received both well and asked about their names, David said: “my name is Mohammed” Michael said: “my name is Michael” The Imam turned to the helpers of the mosque and said:

“Please bring some food and water for Michael only”

Then he turned to the other and said: “Marhaba Mohammed, Ramadan Kareem”…!!

August 13, 2011 Posted by | Humor, Joke, Ramadan | 6 Comments

Arabian Gulf Legacy

In today’s Lectionary, Psalm 107, there is the following verse:

41 but he raises up the needy out of distress,
and makes their families like flocks.

My heart goes back to Qatar, and I think of “my” family there, a family who adopted me, slowly but surely. The woman, who taught me Arabic, has twelve children. “Twelve children!” I used to think, was about ten too many, but I learned so much from this woman, and from her family. Every day she and her husband would sit together. They discussed each child. No child in that family was lost or overlooked; they cared for each and every one. I, too, know each child. I was particularly close to the oldest girls, but there was one young son who hit me on my bottom during my very first visit, hard, as I was bending over to put on my shoes. While everyone else looked on in horror, he just grinned up at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh. I pray for each and every one in this family, and they pray for me. Relationships don’t get much more intimate than that, I think, that we pray for one another, and we have some idea what to pray for.

And while they are not wealthy, they have enough, and they are a happy family. When one has a need, the others sacrifice, and I never hear a grumble of a complaint. Each has an assurance that when their turn comes – as it comes to all of us – their family will be there to assist them.

We said goodbye to our Saudi friends this week, on their way back to the desert kingdom to finish Ramadan and celebrate Eid with their family. They have been such a blessing in our lives here, and we wish them well. They left a lot of last minute things for me, a coffee and tea set with coffee cups, trays for serving drinks, spices, bags – the detritus of a life of moving, there are always things which still have use but for which you have no room in your packing crate. I am starting a lending closet with them; as other families arrive, I will offer them up to new arrivals who need the same pieces for their daily life and entertaining. The spices I will share with one of my co-mother-in-laws who makes a chicken biryani they call Chicken Perlow. It is moister than biryani, but has much the same flavor. Oh yummm.

As our Saudi friends depart, we have new friends arriving and we will have them for dinner tomorrow night. We have met them, one is Algerian, the other is Omani; as the Ramadan fast ended, the Algerian was trying to eat a piece of bruschetta with a knife and form. “You are so French!” I laughed, and told him we eat this with our fingers, which greatly relieved him, as he was standing, and to try to cut a piece of French break with a fork while standing is close to impossible. Both are a lot of fun, and while we will miss our departing Saudi friends, we are looking forward to these new friends.

One thing that pleases me greatly. I asked my Saudi friend how she was received when she went out, as she is fully covered, abaya and scarf and niqab (face covering). She said she had been warned before leaving Saudi Arabia that people would be unkind to her, but never once did she run into this, that people were always kind, “in the hospital, in the Wal-Mart, in the shopping, everywhere.” It just made me so proud to be living in Pensacola.

August 13, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cross Cultural, Eid, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Qatar, Ramadan, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues | 2 Comments

When is Eid al-Adha / Eid al Kebir 2011?

In the Muslim world, making travel plans for the Eid al Adha is like making plans for Christmas is for us. You have to plan early – many reserve even a year in advance.

This is from the website When Is . . . You can go to this website and find the Eid al Adha for any year. I like that they take into account geographical differences, and give different dates if appropriate.

When is Eid al-Adha in 2011?

Eid al-Adha in 2011 is on Sunday, the 6th of November.

Based on sightability in North America, in 2011 Eid al-Adha will start in North America a day later – on Monday, the 7th of November.

Note that in the Muslim calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Adha on the sunset of Saturday, the 5th of November.

Although Eid al-Adha is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Eid al-Adha moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. The date of Eid al-Adha may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not.

The dates provided here are based on the dates adopted by the Fiqh Council of North America for the celebration of Eid al-Adha. Note that these dates are based on astronomical calculations to affirm each date, and not on the actual sighting of the moon with the naked eyes. This approach is accepted by many, but is still being hotly debated.

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Eid, Ramadan, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Great Customer Service at Budget Car Rentals

So here is the back story. I rent with Budget because they have an agreement with USAA so I don’t have to buy any additional insurance and because I can pick up my rental right in the Seattle airport. This time, I had a great car, looked good, had good pick up, good steering, and was comfortable and got great mileage.

But when I turned it in, I noticed they had charged me for a fueling charge, and I had returned the car FULL.

Then they sent me a survey, which didn’t have any blank spaces for extra comments, so I filled it out, and then I wrote a note to customer service telling them how angry I was to find that fueling charge. It wasn’t a huge amount, but I had gone to a lot of trouble to return the car FULL. All I asked was that they refund the amount they shouldn’t have charged me, but I wasn’t sure anything would come of it.

Wooo HOOOO on Budget. Now I am happy to rent with them again. It makes all the difference, being treated like a reasonable – and valued – customer.


Budget Case XXXXXXX

Dear Ms. Intlxpatr:

Thank you very much for letting Budget know about your disappointing
experience. On behalf of our entire Budget team, I apologize for the
issue you had with a refueling service charge.

What you experienced is unusual, and I am so sorry that we didn?t
measure up to your expectations.

After carefully reviewing our records, we have found that you are right.
Based on the information you provided, it is clear that your fuel charge
was inaccurately calculated. By copy of this letter, we are advising
appropriate members of management of this situation to prevent it from
happening again.

To settle this matter quickly, we have adjusted the refueling charge for
your rental, and credited the amount of $13.57 to your Visa credit card.
This adjustment will appear on your statement within 30 to 60 days,
depending on your billing cycle.

Ms. Intlxpatr, Budget takes great pride in providing dependable cars and
attentive service at a great price, with no surprises. Your feedback is
extremely important because it helps us maintain our high service
levels. We appreciate your business and hope you will give us another
opportunity to meet your rental needs in the near future.

If I can be of service again, please call Budget Customer Service at
1-866-729-0770, or email us at Your
comments and suggestions are always valued and appreciated by Budget.

Sincerely yours,

Melissa Lofton
Customer Service Representative
Budget Car Rental

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Warden Notice 9-2011

Notice 9-2011

Kuwait City, Kuwait
August 9, 2011

To: All American Wardens

From: Consular Section

Subject: Emergency Message for U.S Citizens � Demonstration
Notice 9-2011

Please circulate the following message without additions or omissions
immediately to all U.S. citizens within your area of responsibility.

According to the Kuwait Ministry of the Interior, public gatherings may continue to take place over the next week in front of the Syrian Embassy, located in Mishref (off route 303). In order to avoid any possible incidents, the U.S. Embassy recommends that this area be avoided after Aisha prayer (just prior to 8pm).

Spontaneous and planned demonstrations take place in Kuwait from time to time in response to world events or local developments. At times, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. Do not let curiosity get the best of you; avoid the areas of demonstrations and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large gatherings. Please stay current with media coverage of local events, be aware of your surroundings, and practice personal security awareness at all times.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State�s Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, as well as the Country Specific Information for Kuwait can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The U.S. Embassy is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14,
Bayan, Kuwait. If you are a U.S. citizen in need of emergency assistance in Kuwait, you may reach the U.S. Embassy by calling +965-2259-1001 and requesting the duty officer.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to enroll in the
Department�s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so that they can obtain
updated information on travel and security. U.S. citizens without internet
access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By
enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. For additional information, please refer to “A Safe Trip Abroad”.

This message may be accessed on the Embassy website,

Please note that the Consular Section is closed for U.S. and most local
holidays. The current holiday schedule for 2011 is posted on

August 9, 2011 Posted by | Kuwait, Living Conditions, Travel | Leave a comment

Bonelli’s Italian Cafe

Warning: Not for people fasting. Do not read until after sunset. 🙂

We have a real weakness for Italian food, so after we had passed this cafe (at 1217 9th Ave. N.) a couple times, it came to mind one late afternoon as we were trying to figure out where to have lunch.

The welcome was warm. We had a nice booth. It’s too hot to eat outside, at least for me, but there is a lot of outside seating that looks like fun at night or on a cooler day than mid-summer-in-Pensacola. Great smells.

We shared a Caprese salad, which was beautiful and had great big tasty leaves of fresh basil and good olive oil; secrets of success:

I had a pizza, I believe one of the make-it-up-yourselves kind. They offer up a lot of options, but I really love that one option is like four ingredients of your choice, because I love choices and I have my definite favorites. This one is all veg – red onions, olive pesto, maybe capers and maybe artichoke hearts, I can no longer remember anything except that it knocked my socks off. It was beautiful, and it was delicious:

AdventureMan ordered a Panini; he also got to choose his own ingredients, and he said it was the best:

We couldn’t resist. We had to try the tiramisu, but it was so good, I didn’t get a photo!

This is one of those default places – when you want good food you know you can count on with little fuss, this is a go-to place.

August 9, 2011 Posted by | Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Ramadan | Leave a comment

Lightning Strikes

It’s thunderstorm time in Pensacola, and what surprises me is how the sky can look relatively clear and blue, and then a big bolt of lightning strikes.

This is from today’s Bottom Line Health News:


The weather outside is frightful, inside it’s so delightful… it’s awfully early in the year to sing this song, but it’s what came to mind as I was researching this story on a particular hazard of summertime weather — lightning. It’s far more “frightful” than snow or ice — lightning can kill you instantly. While some of us may already know exactly what to do when there’s lightning around, it’s remarkable how many people don’t know or simple don’t take lightning seriously enough. I decided to seek out the latest information on staying safe.


In the summer months, lightning is predictably unpredictable — there’s lots of it and you don’t always see it coming. You’ve heard the term “a bolt from the blue”… it derives from the fact that lightning has been known to light up a bright blue sky (though not so often as a dark and stormy one), and it can travel as far as 10 miles, not only vertically but horizontally as well. Hot summer weather raises the likelihood of thunderstorms, which always bring lightning (whether you see it or not).

According to the National Weather Service, lightning strikes ground some 25 million times a year here in the US, hitting an estimated 400 people and killing about 40, who typically die from severe burns, cardiac arrest and/or respiratory arrest. While 90% of those who have been hit by lightning survive, they often suffer serious side effects that can include paralysis, internal and external burns, deafness, ringing in ears, amnesia and/or confusion, personality change, depression, sleep disturbances, memory dysfunction, headache, fatigue, joint stiffness and muscle spasms.

To learn how to stay safe and what to do if you’re ever with someone struck by lightning, I consulted our contributing medical editor Richard O’Brien, MD, an emergency physician in Scranton, Pennsylvania, who told me he sees lightning victims every summer.

While everyone seems to understand that lightning is dangerous, many are unclear on what they need to do to protect themselves. So, one by one, we went through the facts that are most important to know…


The most important thing to understand about lightning, said Dr. O’Brien, is that it wants to find a way to get into the earth — it’s called “grounding.” The human body, water and metal all are excellent conductors of electricity and will get it to ground very effectively. Rubber, concrete and wood, on the other hand, are protective.

“When thunder roars, go indoors.” This is the catchy phrase that the National Weather Service uses to educate people on the most important thing you can do to stay safe from lightning — get out of its way. Get inside a safe building (one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls, electricity and plumbing) or seek shelter in a car with a metal roof and the windows up (not a convertible, even with the roof up). “There is no such thing as being safe outdoors in a thunderstorm,” said Dr. O’Brien. Even if you are inside, remember that lightning has been known to strike through glass. Stay as far away as possible from windows and skylights. Lightning also has been known to strike through electrical outlets. If it hits an outside wire (phone/cable/electric), it can conduct into the jacks in the house, Dr. O’Brien explains.

Stay dry and disconnected. You can use a cell or cordless phone safely during a thunderstorm as long as the handset is not plugged in or attached to the base. Note that by using a cordless phone you still risk drawing an electrical surge to the base and destroying it. Under no circumstances should you talk on a landline. Any electrical device, handheld or otherwise including an electric stove, is a magnet for lightning, especially when it is using power. Stay out of the shower or bath and don’t use the sinks. “Lightning can come through the plumbing,” notes Dr. O’Brien. “If it hits the house, it looks for ground (your metal pipes) and if you’re in the shower, naked and wet, you’ve had it.” If you must go outdoors, remember there is no such thing as safe phone use — even a cell or cordless.

Be patient. Wait to go outdoors until you’ve heard no thunder for 30 minutes.


If you or someone near to you is struck by lightning, get help immediately. Call 9-1-1 (from a safe location if there is one!). If the person is unconscious and without a pulse, perform CPR. The 911 operator can help with advice as well. As a quick guide to CPR, the American Heart Association says to use both hands and push on the chest “hard and fast” to the tempo of the old Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive.

There’s no need to fear being electrocuted yourself if you touch a person who has been struck by lightning, said Dr. O’Brien — but you do need to protect yourself from another bolt of lightning. Take whatever measures you can to get yourself and the victim out of danger as fast as possible.

During these summer months, it’s important to be aware that lightning is a clear and present danger — take it seriously!


Richard O’Brien, MD, attending emergency physician at Moses Taylor Hospital, and associate professor of emergency medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College of Pennsylvania, both in Scranton.

August 9, 2011 Posted by | Health Issues, Safety, Weather | Leave a comment

As Bad as the Rest of Us

I laughed out loud while listening to my NPR station, WUWF in Pensacola. The interview was on Talk of the Nation, Science Friday, and if you click on the blue type, it will take you to the 12 minute interview. I laughed because he starts out telling us that we’re all pretty much the same, and that people who live longer have some tiny genetic differences.

I think of how hard we work to live long and prosper, how we try to control our fat foods, our salt, how we try to exercise more and to live faith-filled lives, all of which have been shown to correlate with longer lives. Only 7% of the long-lived people studied claimed a spiritual foundation. One 95 year old woman continued to be a heavy smoker. A good portion of the long-lived women did not have children. Men who survived to a ripe old age, they tell us, tend to be in much better shape than the women.

My grandmother lived to 105, and I have always wondered if I would be one of those who also lived long. Author Nir Barzilai discusses his study of people who live long lives and tells us that counter to popular wisdom, most of them had the same bad habits the rest of us had – many smoked, right up into their old age, drank, and ate sugary and fatty foods.

“We humans age at different rates,” the author states, and those who live long have good genetics – particularly a high HDL, the good cholesterol.

Now they are studying the particulars of the genes to further unlock the secrets to longevity.

AdventureMan and I love these Toyota commercials about older people and social networking 🙂

August 6, 2011 Posted by | Aging, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Statistics | , , , , | 4 Comments

10 Secrets to a Happy Marriage

An article from Healthy Living:

The 10 Secrets of Happy Couples

By Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP

They might be 30 or 75. They come in all colors, shapes, sizes and income brackets. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been together. Whatever the demographics, when you see a happy couple, you just know it!

How do these couples stay in love, in good times and in bad? Fortunately, the answer isn’t through luck or chance. As a result of hard work and commitment, they figure out the importance of the following relationship “musts.”

Happy Couples and Their Secrets

Develop a realistic view of committed relationships. Recognize that the crazy infatuation you experienced when your romance was new won’t last. A deeper, richer relationship, and one that should still include romance, will replace it. A long-term relationship has ups and downs, and expecting it will be all sunny and roses all the time is unrealistic.

Work on the relationship. An untended garden develops weeds that can ultimately kill even the heartiest plants. And so it is with relationships. It is important to address problems and misunderstandings immediately. Some people believe good relationships just happen naturally. The truth is that a good relationship, like anything you want to succeed in life, must be worked on and tended to on a regular basis. Neglect the relationship, and it will often go downhill.

Spend time together. There is no substitute for shared quality time. When you make a point of being together, without kids, pets and other interruptions, you will form a bond that will get you through life’s rough spots. Time spent together should be doing a shared activity, not just watching television.

Make room for “separateness.” Perhaps going against conventional wisdom, spending time apart is also an important component of a happy relationship. It is healthy to have some separate interests and activities and to come back to the relationship refreshed and ready to share your experiences. Missing your partner helps remind you how important he or she is to you.

Make the most of your differences. Stop and think: What most attracted you to your partner at the beginning? I’ll almost guarantee that it was exactly the thing that drives you most insane today. Take a fresh look at these differences. Try to focus on their positive aspects and find an appreciation for those exact things that make the two of you different from one another. It’s likely that your differences balance one another out and make you a great team.

Don’t expect your partner to change; but at the same time give them more of what they want. If both you and your partner stop trying to change each other, you will eliminate the source of most of your arguments. At the same time, each of you should focus on giving one another more of what you know the other person wants, even if it doesn’t come naturally. For instance, instead of complaining how your partner never cleans out the dishwasher, try just doing it yourself once in awhile without complaint. Your partner will likely notice your effort and make more of an effort himself around the house. If you do both of these things at once you’ve got a winning plan!

Accept that some problems can’t be solved. There may be issues upon which you cannot agree. Rather than expending wasted energy, agree to disagree, and attempt to compromise or to work around the issue. Two people cannot spend years together without having legitimate areas of disagreement. The test of a happy relationship is how they choose to work through such issues — through compromise, change, or finding it’s just not that important to stew over.

Communicate!! Lack of communication is the number one reason even good relationships fail. And here is a useful format for doing so, especially when dealing with incendiary topics: Listen to your partner’s position, without interrupting him. Just listen. When he is finished, summarize what you heard him say. If you can, empathize with your significant other even though you don’t agree. This will take your partner off the defensive, and make it easier for him to hear your thoughts and feelings. It’s hard to argue when you use this format, and best of all, you may come up with an understanding or a solution.

Honesty is essential. You may share with your partner the things he doesn’t want to hear. Better this than to have him doubt your honesty. Mistrust is one of the key deal breakers in relationships. And once trust is lost or broken, it can take a very long time to re-establish it in the relationship.The happiest couples are the ones where honesty is as natural and every day as breathing.
Respect your partner, and don’t take him for granted. Treating your sweetheart with respect is likely to get you the same in return. And regularly reminding him how much he means to you will enrich your relationship in indescribable ways. When you say, “I love you,” pause for a moment to really mean it. And don’t be afraid to express your feelings of appreciation with your partner — he will be thankful that you did.

Making these secrets an integral part of your relationship won’t be easy. In fact, your efforts may initially seem like planted seeds that never come up. If you maintain your efforts, however, you will likely reap what you sow.

August 4, 2011 Posted by | Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships | Leave a comment

Surprising Secrets to Happiness

Received this in an e-mail this morning from Bottom Line, a service we have subscribed to for many years because they report some of the newest findings in concise and readable articles:

Surprising Secrets from the World’s Happiest People

Dan Buettner

We’ve all heard that “wealth doesn’t buy happiness.” Neither, it turns out, does social status, youth or beauty.

Social scientists have collected tens of millions of data points that help identify what truly makes people happy. Genetics and life circumstances can influence happiness, but personal choices account for about 55% of it. That means we all have more control over our happiness than we may realize.

National Geographic author and explorer Dan Buettner spent five years talking to people in areas identified by researchers as the world leaders in happiness—Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula… Singapore…Nuevo León, Mexico … and the town of San Luis Obispo in California.

In his new book, Thrive, he identified the main characteristics of what he calls thrivers, people who consistently report the highest levels of well-being. Here, secrets from the world’s happiest people…

Own one TV, no more. Americans spend more than four hours a day, on average, in front of the television. This is time that they’re not spending with other people, including their families. (Family time in front of the television is not the same as real interaction.)

In the places where happiness is highest, people spend the least time watching television. It’s not that they never watch—they just watch less than most people.

I advise people to own no more than one television—and to keep it in an out-of-the-way place, such as the basement. You still can watch your favorite programs, but watching will become a deliberate activity, not something you just do automatically.

Create a “flow room.” In Danish society, most families have an area in the house where everyone naturally congregates. I call these rooms “flow rooms” because they’re places where time seems to flow away when people are engaged and enjoying one another’s company. Flow rooms have no screens (TVs or computers) and no clocks. They are quiet environments where it’s easy to engage in meaningful activities with family.

In our house, I chose a room with good lighting and the best views—it’s comfortable, and everyone in the family wants to be there. I keep it stocked with good books, musical instruments and the best family games.

There’s nothing formal about our gatherings. People wander in and out. Because it’s so pleasant, we spend a lot more time there than in front of the TV or separated in different parts of the house.

Experience the “sun bonus.” By most standard measures, people in Mexico should be less happy than those in other countries. About 60% of the population is poor. Education and health care are less than optimal. Yet on the happiness scale, Mexico ranks high.

This is partly due to the “sun bonus.” People in sunnier climates are consistently happier than those who live in northern countries.

Those of us who live in colder, less sunny climates still can take advantage of the sunny days we do have by getting out and enjoying the sun. The vitamin D that is produced in the body from sun exposure is sometimes called the “happiness vitamin” because it increases brain levels of serotonin, the same neurotransmitter that is increased by some anti-depressant medications.

Stop shopping. The satisfaction that we get from buying things—an expensive watch, a new suit, a fancy car—wears off within 14 months. Yet in the US, we’re pressured by the media and social expectations to always want more. In order to get it, we have to work longer hours and take fewer vacations, which generally reduces happiness.

In Denmark, regulations limit the number of hours that shops can be open. In Mexico, most of the inhabitants are not running a status race with their neighbors.

For more happiness, take the money that you could spend on nonessential items and spend it on something that lasts. For example, take a vacation with your family or sign up for a painting class. The experiences and good memories will continue to give satisfaction for the rest of your life.

Employ yourself. Self-employed workers and business owners report some of the highest levels of well-being. It may be because they are more likely to pursue work that they love or simply because they feel more in control.

The happiness zone of San Luis Obispo, California, has far more self-employed people per capita than the average community in the US. These self-employed workers are shop owners, graphic designers, artists, wine-makers and the like. The more autonomy and control you have over your job, the more likely you will be satisfied with your work.

Make new friends. People around the world report higher levels of satisfaction when they spend time with family and friends. Every additional friend that you make (assuming that these friends are upbeat) increases your chances of being happy by 9%.

People who get together with others for at least seven hours a day have the highest levels of happiness. That sounds like a lot, but the time quickly adds up.

For example, everyone eats lunch. Ask a coworker to join you, or sit with a group in a cafeteria. Talk with friends during coffee breaks. After work, encourage the family to eat and socialize together, rather than dispersing to separate rooms. Take classes or join a club.

The Danes don’t identify themselves as being particularly outgoing, yet 19 out of 20 Danish adults belong to clubs dedicated to arts, exercise and hobbies.

Get addicted to this. The happiest people almost always volunteer in some fashion—at their church, with environmental groups, for social-service organizations and the like. Volunteering means spending time with others, and it also takes your mind off your own problems and increases self-worth and pride in your community.

Studies have shown that altruism has an effect on the brain that is similar to that of sugar and cocaine. It creates feelings of well-being, along with an addictive feedback loop that encourages people to keep doing it.

Also, volunteers are healthier. They tend to weigh less than those who don’t volunteer, and they’re even less likely to suffer a heart attack.

Commit to volunteering for a set period of time—say, once a week for four weeks. People are more likely to keep doing it when they make this initial commitment—and then get “hooked” on the rewards.

Keep the faith. Religious people tend to be happier than those without faith. It’s not clear whether religion makes people happy or if happy people tend to be drawn to religious practices. Either way, those who are religious have less disease, live longer and are less likely to engage in dangerous behavior (such as smoking and heavy drinking).

In Mexico, for example, more than 80% of people who were asked, “How important is God in your life?” responded with a 10 on a scale of one to 10, compared with only 58% in the US. This helps explain why people in some parts of Mexico, despite the hardships of daily life, tend to thrive emotionally.

Even if you’re not religious, you can achieve similar benefits by cultivating a sense of spirituality—and a belief in giving back to your community and making the world a better place.

Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones, an organization that studies the regions of the world where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100. Based in Minneapolis, he is a writer for National Geographic and author of Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way (National Geographic).

August 3, 2011 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Values | 3 Comments