Starbucks Offers Nearly Free College | Happiness in Corporate America

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Michael Ransom, Contributor EditorLast Modified: 02:59 a.m. DST, 17 June 2014

"Getting ready to go" Photo by: Kerri Lee SmithSEATTLE, Washington -- Coffee powerhouse Starbucks is setting a new bar for employee benefits. Yesterday, 16 June 2014, Starbucks announced that they will partner with Arizona State University online to provide four-year bachelor's degrees to employees for only $13,500.

According to CEO Howard Schultz, the initiative will allow baristas to continue their studies while attracting high-caliber employees. Students will pick their own major, and class schedules are flexible. Also noteworthy, those who take advantage of the program can leave the company at any time.

The joint venture will make a four-year degree affordable for many working Americans. And likely, Arizona State University will benefit by enrolling a record number of students into their online program. Generally, a year of studies at ASU online would run $10,000. During the first two years, students who work 20 hours or more at Starbucks are eligible to pay just $6,750 a year. Coursework during junior and senior years will cost them nothing.

For those employees looking to earn their undergraduate degree, this idea will be life-changing. But can these efforts be profitable for the Starbucks chain in terms of dollars and cents? Schultz believes so. And there is considerable data to back up his wager.

Many of the world's largest and most profitable corporations are prioritizing the health and wellness of their employees by increasing opportunities from the bottom-up. Through mindfulness and meditation strategies, companies such as Google and Microsoft are bringing age-old Eastern wisdom to the Western workplace.

As a worldwide leader in information technology, Google is always pushing the envelope of possibility. It is no surprise, then, that Chade-Meng Tan has made a name for himself as a member of the San Francisco based company. Tan is the "Jolly Good Fellow" at Google, a self-help coach who combines mental health, meditation and productivity training together, in order to optimize happiness and creativity in the corporate office.

Software giant Microsoft is further evidence that putting mindfulness experts on the payroll can be beneficial for individuals and the bottom-line alike. The payoff for Microsoft is crystal clear. CareerBliss has ranked Microsoft employees as the 9th happiest in the United States. According to the website, Microsoft workers' fulfillment derives from an office culture that "is motivated to push boundaries."

The mindfulness movement is continuing to gain ground inside a host of powerful corporations. Increased educational opportunities and mental health resources are slowly becoming the inclination of top companies, and as a result these businesses will draw top talent. Talent that is spiritually centered, mentally balanced, and mindful of their potential within their organization. Happiness outside the office will improve the bottom line for corporations, increasing the feeling of investment for employees who may not otherwise be compensated monetarily.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

Emotional Health – Surviving the Maelstrom

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Julie Rowley, Contributing AuthorLast Modified: 00:10 a.m. EDT, 15 August 2013

Being healthy is about more than just keeping physically fit and maintaining a good work/life ratio. With all that life throws at us: the small troubles we encounter and have to resolve each day; the monumental tribulations that arrive on our doorsteps unannounced; and the vagaries of our bodies, we ride an emotional roller-coaster that can take its toll on us.

Our Bodies

From the time we hit our menses, we are subject to the ever fluctuating chemical balance of our bodies. We may experience anxiety about our menstruation, both anticipating it and dreading its arrival. For some women their monthly cycle is a time of intense pain, with cramps which can affect not just the abdomen, but circle around to the back as well.

For women with heavy menstrual flow there is the additional concern throughout this time of keeping clean and the fear that the telltale signs will appear on our clothing. Another common fear that women face is the absence of their menses, which may indicate an unwanted pregnancy. With the best will in the world and the use of birth control, slips can sometimes occur. At the other end of this scale are the women for whom the appearance of their menses means the conception they are trying to attain has not happened – yet again.

This comes with the corresponding disappointment and when this becomes a long term occurrence, depression and anxiety, as well as feelings of failure can set in.

Pregnancy is for most women a strange mixture of joy and misery: from the morning sickness (who ever coined that phrase has a lot to answer for…), through the dizzy spells; water retention; and cravings for foods we would normally not look at once, let alone twice; to the discomfort of the baby taking up so much room that all our normal body functions are disrupted. This is seasoned liberally with the awe and wonder of this little being growing inside us; the swelling abdomen; the first noticeable flutter of movement and we become completely and compellingly absorbed in this process.

Our hormones are wildly out of control during this time and although usually rational and reasonable people, we become emotional and volatile. Things which normally we would shrug off hurt or anger us instead. Some women find that their desire for a normal, intimate relationship with their partner dwindles or vanishes altogether during their pregnancy. This can be frustrating for the partner and a source of concern that the relationship is not as close as it was beforehand.

The diminution or complete loss of desire during pregnancy may come as a surprise, but in actual fact it is quite common and a normal feature of pregnancy. Nonetheless it can cause tension and stress between partners. Added to this already complex bundle of changing needs and emotions is the ongoing concern about the baby: the fear of miscarriage during the first 16 weeks; the waiting for the first movement and worrying if it does not happen at what we are told is the “right time”, even though it varies from one pregnancy to another; then dealing with all the odd twinges and aches which occur through the later part of pregnancy.

The birth itself can be a source of anxiety and fear, particularly if it is the first; and this is mingled with a sense of anticipation and excitement that the moment has finally arrived and very soon the “bump” will be gone and we will be able to hold our son or daughter.

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Published: 15 August 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

Further along the line, when we reach the end of our childbearing years, we have the looming specter of menopause. Not only do we have to deal with the regrets and feelings of loss as we leave behind the prospect of fertility and release our past identity to embrace the new phase we are entering, which in itself can be difficult and prolonged; but we have to deal with any physical symptoms which can accompany menopause.

Some women are lucky enough to sail through, while at the other end of the spectrum are those who experience every unpleasant physical side effect in the book, having to deal with the embarrassment of: sweats; mood swings; sleeping problems; and palpitations; to name but a few.  We may have to deal with depression, anxiety and feelings of loss of identity or alienation as we struggle to find new meaning to our lives.

Dealing with the Emotional Fallout

The emotional and mental experiences of these phases of our lives would be enough by themselves to live through and come out the other side in one piece. However, this is only, as women know only too well, a small part of the picture. We can add to this the many milestones and events, both large and small, in our life which can cause stress, anxiety and depression; the negatives can often seem to outweigh the positive, especially when we are dealing with bereavement and loss.

We now recognize that grief follows a natural cycle, whether that grief is related to losing a job or perhaps a divorce; anything which takes something out of our lives will trigger the grief cycle. This is composed of around 5 different stages, although there are different interpretations and some include 7 stages.

The first stage is of shock and denial, when it is difficult to grasp or to accept what has happened. As the reality of our loss becomes more real, the initial shock can turn to anger, which can be directed inwards at us or outwards at the world.

Following this we may enter a stage of trying to change the situation by altering our position in relation to it, by bargaining for the return of what or who we have lost.This passes and we then enter a phase of deep sorrow and depression, where life can lose its meaning for us and everything becomes a struggle. Finally we reach a level of acceptance of what has happened and our lives start to move forward again. It can take several years on average to work through this process, although everyone re-adjusts at their own pace and may take longer to pass through some stages than others.

Occasionally our own internal emotional processes become unable to complete the grief cycle and we can become stuck in one of the stages. At times like this, where our own resources and inner strength are not enough to find resolution to our problems, we depend on those close to us to understand and be there for us.

Sometimes though they are unable to give us the help we need to move on through the grieving process and it is at times like this where counseling can be invaluable; to be able to release our thoughts and emotions around our loss to someone who can understand and empathize, as well as helping us to see things from a different perspective and facilitate our moving forward once more.

When we think of the toll that a lifetime of such emotions can take on us, it is truly amazing that not only do we manage to survive this wild ride, but is a tribute to women everywhere that we emerge as such profound and inspiring human beings.

Follow Julie Rowley on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report

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Malice Aforethought

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:16 AM EDT, 3 January 2012

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive” ~ Sir Walter Scott

In the world of predator and prey, the predator's desire to satiate their hunger leads them inexorable to kill. Unlike humans, the wild predator's desire to cull the weakest from the pack is purely instinctual.

By contrast, people who possess a desire to abuse others as a means to meet their own emotional inadequacies, seek out the weakest members of society to exploit. Their chosen prey can be children, the elderly, men or women who have been emotionally or physically abused.

This type of abuse is a human rights issue, but because the individuals seem to be willing participants, they are not traditionally viewed as victims. Often men and women who find themselves in adulterous or other inappropriate relationships play the role of victim or victimizer. When the two first meet, each tell lies which are sown in a garden of deceit with the hope of a relationship. The predator lies to his prey, and the prey lies to themselves by believing the lamb can lay unharmed with the lion.

Though abusive relationships affect people from all walks of life, this post shall focus on women. As a person who has suffered abuse during my formative years, I was often perceived as prey. Once I reached adulthood I engaged in unhealthy relationships until I received help. However, in all that time I never crossed the line with married or committed men nor did I tolerate physical abuse.

All relationships begin with chance or intentional meetings, followed by polite conversation during which people get to know each other. By contrast, the predator uses these interludes as a fact finding mission. During these 'chats' abuse victims unconsciously reveal the source of their pain because venting provides temporary relief from constant self-recrimination.

Predatory men exploit the information they glean by assuring women that they are not like the other men who have abused them in the past. They then proceed to fabricate a reality which leads them both down a slippery slope. If the man is married, the oft said and well known lies soon follow. "I am leaving my wife. We are getting a divorce. I am only staying for the children."

Once the woman is thoroughly invested, the man begins to make overtures toward a sexual relationship. When consummated it becomes nearly impossible for the women to extricate herself from the adulterous affair.  In addition to the mental subjugation, the woman becomes physically bonded to the man by a combination of two powerful hormones called oxytocin and vasopressin, also know as 'love hormones.'

An adulturous couple are much like the characters from the medieval tale Tristan and Isolde, who accidentally consumed a love potion and are turned into hopeless addicts. Even though they realized that Isolde's husband, the king, would punish their adultery with death, they had to have their love fix. It also stands to reason that humans are conditioned by their experiences, which may be the reason some people tend to date the same “type" of partner over and over again.

“Some of our sexuality has evolved to stimulate that same oxytocin system to create female-male bonds,” according to neuroscientist Dr. Larry Young.  He posits that sexual foreplay and intercourse stimulate the same parts of a woman’s body that are involved in giving birth and nursing."

This hormonal hypothesis, is by no means proven fact, but this “cocktail of ancient neuropeptides,” like the oxytocin released during foreplay or orgasm," would help explain females’ desire to have sex even when they are not fertile." Being Human: Love: Neuroscience reveals all:  (Nature 457, 148 (8 January 2009)

In Western societies where polygamy is not an acceptable norm, the women who find themselves in the position of mistress remain quiet for fear of reprisal from the wives, and judgment from people who would blame them for their plight. Thus, many women spend years with married men who father their children and build parallel lives with them without fully committing. In the case of a friend, she only discovered her father's duplicity at his funeral when his other family arrived.

This post does not seek to absolve either adulterer of responsibility, but in the case of a man who preys upon the emotional weakness of a damaged woman, he is nothing short of a predator. His indifference to the collateral damage his actions cause to his primary family, to the extramarital children he fathers, and to the woman he is exploiting, is nothing short of malice aforethought.

Wildly Artistic in the Wilderness of Bipolar (Part 1)

I long ago abandoned the notion of a life without storms, or a world without dry and killing seasons. Life is too complicated, too constantly changing, to be anything but what it is. And I am, by nature, too mercurial to be anything but deeply wary of the grave unnaturalness involved in any attempt to exert too much control over essentially uncontrollable forces. There will always be propelling, disturbing elements, and they will be there until, as Lowell put it, the watch is taken from the wrist. It is, at the end of the day, the individual moments of restlessness, of bleakness, of strong persuasions and maddened enthusiasms, that inform one's life, change the nature and direction of one's work, and give final meaning and color to one's loves and friendships. ~ Kay Redfield Jamison

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