Helping You Define Your Lifestyle

Best Practices to look for in a Non-Profit

Non-profits fulfill a needed and exemplary role in society because they bring aid and relief to those in need in our society. When there is a natural disaster or tragedy of any kind it is they who take the lead on the front lines along with the police, fire departments and government agencies. Often when red-tape or a lack of resources prohibit the government agencies from being effective the non-profits step in and fill the gap quickly and decisively.

The best charities like Helping a Hero, a nationally recognized reputable charity that provides wounded veterans with custom homes that accommodate their disabilities, are always prepared to provide assistance and they do it in an exemplary way. They also have processes that prove they are legally authorized to act as a non-profit and provide their services. Finally, they observe best practices throughout their operations. Here is the list they follow and what you should look for if you intend to donate to or volunteer at a non-profit.

Are they a legally registered 501(c)(3) ?

Non-profits must be legally registered with the Internal Revenue Service in order to receive their non-profit status. This legal designation is called a 501(c)(3) and it allows them to take in your money and only use it for its intended purpose and as a result, they receive certain tax breaks and can provide you with some as well. These breaks go to you whether you are donating time, merchandise or time so from that perspective ensuring that non-profit is legally registered id is critical. It also speaks to their integrity. If a company has not registered as a charity, they are allowed to spend the money you give them in any way they choose without any oversight from the government. Many of these companies spend less than 5% of their donations on the actual cause they claim to be helping. You can find out if the non-profit you are researching is a 501(c)(3) registered company by going to non-profit online database called GuideStar.org. Enter their name and you will see if the company is registered. If not ask the non-profit why they are not registered and remember without this registration there is no legal oversight of that organization as a charity. A key thing to know is that just because an organization has a website ending in .org, does not mean that they are a legal charity. So beware.

How Much of Their Donations Go to the Cause

Charities use donor’s money to do everything their organization requires. This includes salaries, traveling, their office space, marketing and every other detail related to the organization. They also use that money to support the cause they are espousing. Charities like every other business are run at widely varying levels of efficiency. Some actually spend very little on the cause and the vast majority on salaries. You need to understand what percentage of their donations actually go toward the cause. The best organizations consistently have a ratio of at least 75% of their donations going to the actual cause If the charity you are researching is much below this number, you should be wary. The first thing you should ask them why this is the case and wait to hear an answer that makes sense. If not, you should reconsider donating to them and find a more efficient charity. There are websites like CharityNavigator.org, that contain the annual financial of all 501(c)(3)  companies and you can review their performance and ratios of giving here. Again, this is an important statistic to look at but there could be extenuating circumstances if the number iis below 75%. The key is to know what the number is and ask questions if it is lower.

Do your homework and give until it hurts.

How to Use Poker as a Mindfulness Practice

Most common mindfulness practices are fundamentally simple. Things like deep breathing, counted breaths, and short breaks and walks can help to calm us, clear our minds, and generate simultaneous states of relaxation and awareness. As much purpose as these small, simple practices have though, there are also some more involved activities that can assist with the development of greater mindfulness. And it may surprise some to learn that the game of poker is among them.

Gaming and Meditation

It is first important to understand that a link has been established between gaming and meditation in general. For a long time there were a lot of misconceptions about gaming as an active, almost violent practice meant solely for young people. But perceptions have changed over time. We now understand that people in all age groups play games of all kinds, and we further accept that a lot of these games have meditative qualities. Gamer testaments and a few scientific studies alike have indicated that the right game can have a soothing effect on one’s mental state.

This is the case with poker as well. A passion for many around the world, it’s a unique game that doesn’t necessarily fall under the umbrella of traditional “gaming” as we tend to think of the term. It is nonetheless similar with regard to mindfulness, however. Approached with intention, it can be a calming, almost meditative hobby for players.

Mental and Emotional Calm

When considering the game of poker specifically, one tends to think first of strategy, luck, and mathematics. In some sense, these are the building blocks of any given game of poker, and it will of course be important for any aspiring player to learn how they all factor in. However, what really helps successful players to win at poker is a sound mindset. The manifestation of a sound overall poker game requires that players learn to accept defeat and to avoid getting too high from a win. It demands reasonable approaches to betting and competition, clear-eyed social interaction, and the ability to operate without ego.

Add those factors up, and what success in poker really demands is mental and emotional calm. Players need skill and strategy to be sure, but above all else they need to be able to clear their minds of various pressures and shut out hasty impulses. This in and of itself is nearly a form of meditation, and certainly serves as a sort of training for mindfulness practice.

Focused Meditation

Beyond helping players to establish a general sense of mental and emotional calm, poker also leads to an ability to focus that, in its own way, is meditative. Generally, a focused meditation is described as the practice of focusing on something intently as a way of staying in the present moment and slowing down inner dialogue. It more or less means zeroing in on one subject to the exclusion of all else for the purpose of clearing one’s head — which is pretty much exactly what one has to do in poker! Even the slightest distraction can be a problem, and while the game demands a lot of attention it still makes for such narrow focus that one can clear one’s mind in a useful and soothing way.

Even given all of these benefits, poker does not comprise an entire mindfulness or meditation routine. For those interested in working on these aspects of personal wellness though, it’s always good to have one more option! Some will find this simple, popular card game to be legitimately beneficial.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our piece on how to boost your energy, especially useful as we enter a new year and search for fresh motivations!

Earfree Nitebuds: For Better Sleep

Earfree Nitebuds, the two-in-one speaker and pillow that plays calming music, improving the quality of your sleep, is launching on Indiegogo.

The idea for the Nitebuds sleep pillow came from people who used to sleep with earphones in. Many of us who have trouble sleeping at night use earphones to listen to calming sleep music, but sleeping with earphones in is just too uncomfortable. Using earphones while you sleep can cause pain and inflammation in the ear; plus, earphones tend to fall out in the middle of the night. But the adverse effects of earphones on ear health is undoubtedly the most critical of these issues.

Nitebuds puts music IN the pillow to solve the problems caused by conventional earbuds. All you have to do is lay your head down on the pillow to be serenated with lovely music. There’s no earbuds involved – so you can roll around in bed all you like without having to worry about damage to your ears or earbuds falling out.

Nitebuds are simple to use. Just place the speakers in the special sleep-aid pillow, then use Bluetooth to pair your smartphone and begin your music therapy. Once your music is playing, Nitebuds’ crater-shaped design enhances the acoustics, making you feel like you’re listening in on a concert hall performance. This design also prevents the sound from leaking out, giving you the same quality of sound at a 30% lower volume, so as not to bother whoever’s sleeping next to you.

The Nitebuds app also provides free ASMR music and ambience, soothing the brain and easing any anxiety. This white noise works has great benefits on mental health and attentiveness, making the sleep music from the Nitebuds app particularly effective at inducing a natural sleep.

Nitebuds uses 3D mesh material for full, fluffy comfort. The mesh also helps the music play through the pillow without getting muffled, plus high-quality microfiber cotton is also used to give the perfect amount of depth and coziness. The microfiber cotton is also a renewable, biodegradable material, which means Nitebuds is eco-friendly, too.

Even though Nitebuds is electronic, the speaker and pillow are fully separable, meaning the pillow can be washed without issue. If you want, you can even use the pillow by itself without the speakers, or even place other items inside the pillow to help you sleep.

For instance, if you find yourself sweating a lot in those hot summer nights, you can place ice-packs in the pillow to help cool off. Or, when you’re stressed out and in the mood for aromatherapy, the CYPRESS insert can be used for some phytoncide healing.

Also, if you have a preference for a specific pillow height, just use the COTTON insert to adjust the pillow’s height to your preference.

You can back Earfree Nitebuds – the high-tech pillow that serenades you to sleep – by finding their campaign on Indiegogo.