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04.21.22 | Sage Advice

Creative vs. Critical Thinking

At Sage Collective, we champion our inspired model of 9 Ways of Vibrant living, and encourage everyone to discover new methods to help better their wellbeing. Today, we’re taking you back to Psych 101 to talk about the key differences between critical and creative thinking, why they’re both important, and ways you can practice both in your life to help you live more vibrantly: 

What Are Creative and Critical Thinking?

Understanding the difference between critical and creative thinking can be broken down simply this way: creative thinking is approaching problems or situations in new ways and with a new perspective, whereas critical thinking is using logic to analyze a situation in order to make an informed decision. Essentially, creative thinking is more subjective (influenced by feelings) whereas critical thinking is more objective (influenced by logic). Both are important when decision-making, so let’s explore some of the reasons why. 

Why Are They Important?

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, creativity – particularly for adults – can lead to a happier, healthier lifestyle. The same rings true for thinking creatively! Brainstorming new solutions and exploring new ideas are imperative for older adults because it helps provide a sense of self that is innovative and capable. The goal with creative thinking is to have an open mind and to approach situations with diverse perspectives. As for critical thinking, it’s equally important to approach situations constructively and logically, but it is the synergy of both thinking patterns working together that makes us great problem solvers. 

How to Improve Creative and Critical Thinking Skills:

To improve critical thinking skills, when you’re problem-solving, make a list of facts and then cause and effects. This will help you logically analyze outcomes, and come to a decision that way. To think more creatively, try asking yourself: what other considerations are there in this situation? What perspective could I be missing? An easy way to practice this is by brainstorming with another person– hearing a different perspective may inspire you to think of others as well, and is great practice for when you’re alone.

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12.14.21 | Sage Advice

Deliciously Healthy Winter Dishes For Any Gatherings

When winter comes around, no matter where you end up, it’s not difficult to find the sweet treats and savory meals that are traditionally associated with the season. However, for those inspired to maintain or start conscious eating habits, the winter can be a difficult time filled with temptation. Today, inspired by our vibrant living principles, we’re sharing a few deliciously healthy winter dishes that anyone can enjoy this winter. 

Sweet Potatoes

A favorite during this time of year, sweet potatoes are hard not to enjoy. While most people enjoy sweet potatoes even sweeter, baked with brown sugar and marshmallows, there are various methods to cook the vegetables that are just as enjoyable but much healthier. Like a standard potato, sweet potatoes can be served in a variety of ways. Baking them whole, mashing them, and even dicing them in a salad proves how versatile the vegetables can be. No matter how you cook them, we promise they won’t lose the sweetness that makes them so delectable in the first place. 

Winter Crudités

Who doesn’t love a mix of fresh vegetables? Crudités make the perfect winter dish for that reason. Not only can the appetizer appeal to virtually anyone, but it comes with a plethora of highly vitamin-packed vegetables that you can personally pick and choose. If you want to put a twist on the classic appetizer, make your own tasty dip to pair with the refreshing produce. 

Festive Fruit Salad

While it might seem out of season, a festive and healthy fruit salad is sure to excite taste buds in the winter. Similar to the crudités, not only is this dish healthy, but you can bring it and eat it anywhere and anytime. The nourishing food makes a perfect option for a morning snack or a late-night dessert. Along with the fruit, don’t be afraid to add in extra ingredients that bring even more flavor to the salad like mint, basil, lavender or even cayenne pepper for a little heat. 

Seasonal Squash

Another versatile food, squash is the perfect vegetable to substitute in and out of almost every traditional meal. Typically harvested in the fall, the nutrient-packed acorn squash, sugar pumpkins, spaghetti squash and butternut squash are available for cooking your favorite dishes year-round. Some seasonal favorites include butternut squash mac and cheese, soup and casserole, stuffed acorn squash and roasted spaghetti squash with kale

Even with the sweet temptations that surround us throughout the holiday season, healthy options are never too far out of reach. Whether you’re serving food at home for yourself or preparing a dish to bring to a gathering, there are various methods we can each take to continue practicing conscious eating habits and living vibrantly.

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11.04.21 | Sage Advice

Practicing Empathy: How it Can Create a More Vibrant World

Empathy is a universal tool for understanding. By definition, it’s a way of emotionally recognizing and validating what someone else is feeling. At Sage Collective, we approach all of our work with empathy, and believe that with practice, exhibiting empathy improves communication, heightens creativity and enhances appreciation.

What the Science Says

Empathy has always been an essential skill for communication and understanding. However, it’s more important now than ever, in light of the enormous levels of stress many confront today. Displaying empathy serves as an antidote for burnout and anxiety — producing beneficial effects on wellbeing and supporting positive social interactions for individuals and groups alike.

According to a recent study published by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, empathy in older adults may play a sizable role in shaping the regularity and types of support they exchange within social networks and the ramifications associated with the exchanges. The study concludes that empathetic older adults grant emotional and instrumental support more often than older adults who display less empathy. Furthermore, those who are more empathetic enjoy greater levels of emotional comfort from their networks and uphold more positive moods throughout the day, producing significant exchanges of care and more powerful controls over temperament. 

Practicing Empathy

Because empathy is a crucial element for collective support, everyone can benefit from improving their skills, whether practicing empathy comes naturally or must be learned. However, with time, an empathetic approach to all situations becomes instinctive. Here are three kinds of empathy that a person may encounter and should strive to understand:

Cognitive empathy consists of putting yourself in someone else’s situation to try and
comprehend what they might be going through at that moment. Even if it involves
something unfamiliar, the effort of understanding can transform anyone’s perspective. 

Somatic empathy requires the ability to experience someone else’s feelings. It usually
includes physical reactions to situations like feeling sick, sweating or blushing.

Active listening is a large part of being empathetic, but taking action and giving appropriate feedback takes the skill a step further. Affective empathy entails understanding the emotion someone else is feeling and answering accordingly. The awareness establishes personal connections and leads to a more profound concern for others’ feelings. 

As more and more people recognize the power of using empathetic techniques, a mutual understanding and compassion will blossom, empowering our communities to become more vibrant and rich in emotional support.

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10.19.21 | Sage Advice

How Museums Might Reduce Your COVID-19 Stress

One of the largest challenges in modern-day life is finding a treatment for the frequent burnout that most of us feel daily. At Sage Collective, one of our most cherished beliefs is that wellness, health and empowerment should be made priorities in every community. That’s why today, we’re exploring how museums might be the perfect answer to your post-pandemic stress and burnout. 

Many individuals, especially older adults, have faced higher stress levels over the past year and a half than ever before. Feelings of uncertainty and unpredictability due to COVID-19 have also led to many feeling alone, anxious and burnt out, with little reprieve. However, there is growing research that offers tangible steps toward alleviating these negative feelings. 

Often in the present day, many feel like time is limited, and burnout is constant. However, solace can be found in the relaxing and revitalizing spaces of a museum. For many, the knowledge that curated spaces of art and history can provide a wealth of benefits for mental and physical health is new.

Recently, doctors in Belgium received permission to prescribe museum visits to combat the mental health crisis in their country, and similar actions have been implemented in Canada. Patients who get the prescriptions can go anywhere from an intimate art gallery to a fashion exhibition at a history museum. 

The goal behind the three-month-long trial is to promote an engaging learning experience and shift people away from the stress of their daily routines in hopes of having a positive impact on mental and physical health. The museums and exhibitions act as safe and welcoming places for patients to unwind from their day-to-day responsibilities and explore new ideas and areas of interest. Not only does the time off allow patients to catch their breath and spend time with loved ones, but it also acts as a moment of respite from the harsh realities of the pandemic. 

Instead of relying on drug therapies, this mode of enrichment has the possibility to be expanded to other areas of mental health beyond pandemic-related stress and anxiety to alleviating symptoms of depression, psychiatric disorders, anxiety and more. 

Numerous museums, galleries and art centers around Bronzeville present the perfect opportunity for anyone looking to combat stress and relax — in person or virtually. The South Side Community Arts Center, Gallery Guichard, Smart Museum of Art, DuSable Museum of African American History, and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry are all wonderful choices to spend an afternoon enhancing your wellbeing and expanding your mind. 

Furniture and a crowd of people fill a bright museum interior.
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09.02.21 | Sage Advice

6 “superfoods” you can incorporate to boost your health

As we continue to change with age, eating healthy can be a vital step in caring for your future self. Taking inspiration from our 9 Ways of Vibrant Living, which you can read more about here, we compiled a list of our favorite “superfoods” you can easily introduce into your diet. These highly nutritious items can be added to a larger meal or snack to boost your health and help to achieve a balanced diet.

Tea

Not only is tea low in calories, it is also a refreshing alternative to coffee, soda and other beverages. Notably high in antioxidants, tea can be a tool for weight management and has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic (cancer-suppressing) benefits. One study suggested that the regular consumption of white and green teas resulted in a vast reduction of stress for most participants.

Avocados

Avocados are much more than the brunch staple or spread for toast that they’ve become over the last decade. As a great addition to a salad, guacamole or being eaten simply with a pinch of salt and pepper, avocados provide numerous health benefits. Rich in fiber and and healthy fats, avocados can be a great substitute for eggs, mayonnaise, sour cream and even butter.. 

Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine and culture for millennia. They are known to increase the health of the immune system through their many therapeutic properties. After much scientific research, we are learning more about the dramatic positive effects mushrooms can have on preventing cancer, lowering blood pressure and overall increasing well-being. You can incorporate mushrooms into your diet by cooking them along with other vegetables, adding them to salads and pasta or simply frying them with healthy oil. Some of the most popular mushrooms you should look out for at the farmer’s market or grocery store are Portabella, Shiitake, Buttons, Oyster, Enoki and Lion’s Mane. 

Dark Leafy Greens & Cruciferous Vegetables

There is a wide consensus among nutritionists that vibrant green vegetables and those in the cabbage family offer some of the best nutrients and vitamins. These include arugula, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, radishes and turnips. Most of these are full of zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, fiber, and what seems like a never-ending list of enriching minerals that can reduce the chances of heart disease and diabetes while lowering blood pressure and preventing some cancers. 

Salmon

Salmon is both tasty and full of healthy protein, B vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. Because of its abundance of rich nutrients, salmon has more health benefits compared to other animal products and is known to help prevent heart disease and diabetes. One way you can enjoy this hearty fish is by baking it with lemons, herbs and a healthy (oil, avocado or sesame).  

Garlic

Garlic packs a punch in flavor and delivers huge nutritional benefits, too. Each clove of garlic contains magnesium, vitamin C and fiber, which are all essential to a balanced diet. Research indicates its effectiveness to support the immune system while reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. One study even found that garlic provides antibacterial and antiviral characteristics. 

However you incorporate these superfoods into your meal planning and cooking regimen, they offer delicious and easy ways to boost your overall health and well-being.

A dinner plate contains salmon, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, and a mix of other vegetables and sauce.
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08.10.21 | Sage Advice

Embracing the cultural process of aging

As we articulate in the Sage Vibrant Living Manifesto, cultural perceptions of aging have an enormous impact on individuals and their communities. As we continue to fight ageism and the traditional American notions of aging that many of us still experience today, we look to the wisdom of others to share new ways of thinking and doing.

Carl Honoré, writer and activist, argues that in order to age better we must feel better about the process. Learning how to age better in a world where aging is presented in a negative frame can be extremely hard, but it only takes a few minutes to change your perspective. In his TED Talk, Honoré explains how to embrace the aging process. Honoré also delves into his method for combating ageist traditions and practices within our lives. Watch below to learn more:

A quote sits on top of an image of two older adults laughing. The quote reads "We need to feel better about aging in order to age better," and is attributed to Carl Honore. The sage logo sits in the bottom right corner.
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08.05.21 | Sage Advice

Understanding Mutual Aid: How It Can Support Community Success

At Sage Collective, we strive to foster feelings of value, engagement and community. One of the most impactful ways these shared values can be attained is through the action of practicing mutual aid in our everyday lives. 

The concept of mutual aid is something not talked about enough, specifically in shared environments. Looking back on the events of the past 18 months, the practice of mutual aid is more important than ever to the continued success and survival of communities like ours all around the world. 

What is it?

Mutual aid (often referred to as care webs)  is a form of public and political participation for neighborhoods, organizations and groups of all sizes. They provide an avenue for looking after and tending to each other’s health and well-being to create more livable, sustainable environments.

The process and goal of mutual aid is to create accessible and collective care by accepting and sharing mutual responsibility within one’s community space. 

Why is it important?

One of the most important reasons why enacting mutual aid in these spaces is such a key to survival is because it helps foster community engagement and social relationships through responsible, collective action. The more people who perform mutual aid in a shared community or group, the greater its tangible benefits spread.

The concept of mutual aid also parallels other values that we hold at Sage Collective, since it lessens the strain on individuals by strengthening the collective will and ability to ensure the success of all. Think about the expression “a rising tide lifts all boats.” That’s mutual aid in a nutshell.

How to practice it?

There are many ways to practice mutual aid in everyday life. Some may practice it in routine activities and others may spend time waiting for an event or specific cause they feel comfortable supporting. The most important thing to remember about mutual aid is that you shouldn’t feel pressured to offer more than you are capable of providing for yourself or your community.

Here are some examples of how to apply mutual aid in your own life:

Offering a space to share information, organizations and resources such as access to healthcare and food services, as well as transportation accessibility. 

Taking political action locally by volunteering for campaigns and vocally supporting policies that may help those in your community, or actively supporting movements, protests and funds that help benefit those in your care web.

Practicing mindfulness and sharing resources for anything from mediation guides to suggestions for dealing with anxiety, grief or anger.

Providing communication skills such as being open to offering translation services, if you are multilingual, to those in need. You can also help others with different technology devices and platforms you might better understand, or training and learning techniques in bystander intervention and/or steps for nonviolent communication. 

These are all ways in which we can help to foster a sense of connectedness and community among your neighbors and friends in support of uplifting the collective.  Everyone has something that they can share with those who could use a little help in the community.  Sage encourages you to engage your friends and family to initiate activities that provide others a chance to share their skills and experience with those in need.  This isn’t a new concept, it’s simply one that could use a little refreshing.

A group of people holding each other.
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08.03.21 | Sage Advice

The Science of Laughter

Laughing is something we do numerous times a day without a second thought. Whether we are with friends, watching a funny movie or simply reacting to something that catches us off guard. There is much more behind the infectious response than the loud, quirky and eccentric sounds that come with it. The power of incorporating laughter into your day-to-day routine has huge implications for the quality of your life in the broadest sense. Let’s look further.

Recognizing the impact of laughter’s effects on things such as stress, happiness and health, we at Sage Collective appreciate its importance, especially in relation to our 9 Ways of Vibrant Living

Why do we laugh?

Throughout history, laughter has been seen as a social signal. There are many factors that can affect what we find humorous including age, gender, culture or community. Laughter presents itself in most human interactions as the presence of connectivity, comfortability and the strengthening of a shared or mutual relationship. Furthermore, research shows that the more laughter that is present in those relationships, the stronger those connections or bonds become.

The prevailing theory is that there are three types of scenarios that make us laugh: incongruity, superiority and relief. Incongruity theory is rooted in the idea of expecting one outcome, and receiving a totally different one — resulting in laughter. Superiority theory explains that we might find someone else’s weaknesses or mistakes humorous, making us feel superior to them in the moment. Last, relief theory is the use of comedy in tough or uncomfortable situations in order to relieve stress or tension. If you reflect back on what made you laugh today, do you see the reasons falling into one of these categories?

The health benefits of laughing

There are tangible health and wellness benefits for individuals and communities when we all spend more time laughing. From a purely biological perspective, when we laugh, our bodies reduce the levels of stress hormones, in turn lowering our physical stress and anxiety. At the same time, the action also releases serotonin, which leaves us feeling euphoric. As stress hormones diminish, we lower blood pressure and increase blood flow — which directly leads to the oxygenation of our blood to provide us with more energy. 

Incorporating more laughter in your life

Wondering how to add laughter to your life? Start by considering the concept of humor and its relationship to laughter.

Merriam-Webster defines humor as “the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous: the ability to be funny or to be amused by things that are funny.” However, because humor is so subjective, it’s nearly impossible to give it a clear-cut definition. Let’s just say that laughter is the direct reaction or acknowledgment that someone has found something humorous.

For some, laughter may come easy. For others, it might be more difficult to find humor in life. Either way, here are some tips for learning to laugh more. 

One of the easiest ways to find laughter is to surround yourself with people who you find funny and entertaining, but with whom you already have a comfortable and strong relationship. Discovering things that make you laugh throughout your daily life and experiencing them more is also a great way to easily find humor. This might be found in the radio station you listen to on your daily drive, or a television show you play in the background while you do chores at home. And if laughter doesn’t come easily for you, consider laughter therapy — it’s a new form of searching for a chuckle by training yourself to look for humor in uncomfortable and difficult situations, rooted in laughter’s relief theory. There are lots of resources available online, and even apps you can download to your phone!

So even if you aren’t the traditional joking type of person or you find it hard to see the comedy in hard situations, dig deep and look for the laughter in your life. You won’t regret it.

A group of people stand around each other looking at a phone and laughing
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05.20.21 | Sage Advice

Can faking a smile really make you happier?

Throughout our lifetime, we’ve all heard the old sayings like “turn that frown upside down” and “fake it till you make it.” But does the simple act of smiling really provide a mood boost? Science says yes.

Facial Feedback Hypothesis

Over two centuries ago, Charles Darwin was the first to suggest that the facial expressions you make have an impact on your overall disposition. This theory, dubbed “facial feedback hypothesis” by scientists, states that the contraction of facial muscles not only communicates what a person is feeling to those around them, but also communicates what that person is feeling to themself, too. Ergo: by contracting your facial muscles into a smile, this physical act will communicate to your brain not just that it should feel happy, but that it is.

As the Studies Suggest

In an early study, published in 1988, testing the facial feedback hypothesis, participants were made to hold a pen between their teeth (thus mocking the muscle contractions of smiling without being told what they were doing was indeed smiling in order to remove cognitive bias). From those whose pen helped them to mock smiling, to those whose pen helped them to mock scowling, the results demonstrated that those smiling did indeed report more pleasant emotions.

Other studies conducted since then have replicated these findings. A recent study, published in 2020, also asked participants to hold a pen between their teeth (once again mocking the musculature of smiling) and yielded similar results — those that smiled were indeed happier. In fact, one study published in 2009 even suggested that botox users — due to their inability to frown — were happier than those without fillers, who naturally have more facial elasticity.

The Health Benefits of Smiling

Scientists have also suggested that, in addition to lifting your mood, smiling can also lower stress, boost your immune system and possibly even prolong your life. That’s because when you smile, your brain releases neuropeptides, which help fight off stress, and neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, all of which play a critical role in emotional regulation.

And while smiling no doubt has a positive impact on your own disposition, it also has the added benefit of positively impacting those around you. Afterall, smiling is contagious. American spiritual teacher, Peace Pilgrim, famously said: “Life is like a mirror: Smile at it and it smiles back at you.”

There’s an old myth that while it takes 43 muscles to frown, it only takes 17 to smile. So next time you’re feeling down in the dumps, give these scientific hypotheses a try — if we see you around, we’ll be sure to smile right back!

An African American woman smiling in a leopard print dress and black jacket smiles while holding up her cell phone to take a picture; she's contrasted against the red wall behind her.
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