Blog Posts by Sarah McColl, Shine staff

  • 3 science-proven ways money can't buy happiness

    Good news for the thrifty, penny-pinched, and underpaid among us: A study from Belgium's University of Liege found that money diminishes our appreciation for life's mundane pleasures. The reasoning? Regularly enjoying extravagances that money can buy--like going out to spendy restaurants and buying all the Chanel we ever wanted--makes it harder to savor the beauty in life's little joys, like sunny days and cold beers. Here, three ways to cultivate a life with more happiness, no money necessary.

    While more content people generally report higher job satisfaction, a study from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, finds that loving your job won't necessarily increase your overall level of happiness. The study suggests that the secret to being happy at work is to be happy with other areas of your life, like family and friendships. Instead of working late again, how about punching out to meet your bestie for a yoga class?

    Read more: How to love the job you have


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  • Scary or awesome? Researchers report gene therapy could cure depression

    In the "Whoa, we live in the future!" moment of the week, researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City report they have identified a gene responsible for depression. Could replacing the gene cure depression?

    Neuroscience Michael Kaplitt and co-author of the paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine said in a statement, "We potentially have a novel therapy to target what we now believe is one root cause of human depression."

    Kaplitt's team looked at the activity of a gene called p11 in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, an area responsible for feelings of reward, pleasure, and laughter. When doctors are determining whether to give a diagnosis of depression, one of the key symptoms they look for is anhedonia, or the inability to derive pleasure or satisfaction from previously-enjoyed activities.

    Kaplitt's team conducted studies on depressed mice who lacked motivation to squirm away when held by their tales or pass swimming tests. When

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  • What's your tried-and-true way to banish a bad mood?

    There are some questions I ask over and over of people. "What's your go-to weeknight dinner?" is a biggie. But as someone who is now and then beset with bad moods, here's another choice query: How do you fix a bad mood? Self-soothing tactics aren't just some namby-pamby way to coddle yourself. The way I see it is like this: if we don't take responsibility for our own happiness, who will?

    By the time we hit adulthood, most of us don't have a mommy who will wipe away our tears with the same regularity as when we were toddlers. It's vital to know how to do this for ourselves. Not because bad moods don't have a place in our lives--they're a part of the normal emotional life cycle, for sure. In fact, research has shown that not only are bad moods natural, but that they can help you make clear-headed decisions and boost memory.

    But whatever. None of that means anything when life has just come at you hard: a project lands on your desk at the eleventh hour, you get stuck in traffic, and a

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  • 5 ways to upgrade your vocabulary without sounding like a know-it-all

    You know in Clueless when Cher challenge Tai to use one big word a day? Or when Diane Court makes a dot in the dictionary next to every word she looks up in Say Anything? These are the images that came to mind when I realized Saturday was Dictionary Day. If you're tired of using the same old words (me!), here are some easy ways to get all SAT prep on yourself and upgrade that vocab.

    Make it a daily habit.
    Sign up for's Word of the Day. They don't just give dry definitions, they give context (which your brain needs to retain the new information), like usage from literature and current events, as well as the word's origin.

    Be curious.
    There's nothing embarrassing about not knowing something. If we couldn't admit the limits of our knowledge, we'd never learn anything! So look up the words you don't know and ask your friends what a word they used means. And you might have to ask again and again. For instance, on a particularly pleasant girl's weekend recently, apoplectic

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  • Money makeover: 20 ways to slash your grocery store spending

    Perhaps it's the Yankee in me--relatives who will remain unnamed have been known to pick up nickels off restaurant floors--but I was born a thrifty girl. So when the economy tanked and belts were tightened, I was already in the habit of living close to the bone. Only now I had to find new ways to cut costs that still jived with my desire to lead a life filled with daily pleasures. But cutting back at the grocery store doesn't have to mean giving up your bon vivant mantle, just a little reimagining of the way we spend, shop, and eat. Here, bloggers and smart ladies like you share some ideas.

    1. I've found that getting handy with baking has been a huge money-saver in our household. Homemade bread for roughly 50 cents a loaf is awesome. So are fresh batches of zucchini bread, applesauce muffins, and bar cookies. --Kristina
    2. [One of my biggest tricks is] Planning my menus for the entire week. When I plan ahead I can take into consideration what I have in my pantry - or what few
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  • Stoke a creative spark in your daily life

    In my neck of the woods, we're experiencing the kind of weather that inspired Norman Rockwell's entire canon. Yesterday, I saw cute little girls in plaid coats, dogs trotting through dry leaves, and the light coming down on my dirty neighborhood sidewalk, sunny but diffuse in that quintessentially October way. Fall seems to stir up our creativity (call it a vestigial habit from our school days), and the trick of making it a part of our lives is just listening--hearing our inner creative voice (everyone has one) and letting it out. Here's how.

    Try a daily photo challenge.
    We take photos at weddings, graduations, and birthdays, but a daily photo challenge calls you to look for the beauty in your ordinary, everyday life. Looking around for just the right frame becomes not only an exercise in seeing the art of the everyday, but a simple exercise in awareness. Choose a method that works for you: digital photos, snapshots on your cell phone, polaroids, whatever. And then, if you feel really

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  • Splurge-y drugstore deals under $10

    There are those days when the solution to life's problems feels like it could be uncapped with a new lipstick. Or a lavender-scented bubble bath. Or a peppermint foot scrub. Says my friend who feels no guilt about such occasional drugstore splurges: "That's just the price of happiness today." Better still is when your beauty treat is so easy on your wallet, happiness comes free from any buyer's remorse.

  • Poll: You get a flat tire. How do you deal?

    Because I had spent a practically perfect weekend away with two of my favorite lady friends, of course something had to go wrong on the way home. After we lurched in stop-and-go traffic for an hour, my bus broke down on the side of the Jersey Turnpike. As we waited over an hour for a replacement bus to pick us up, some people whipped themselves into a lather. They called the bus company to demand a refund on their $12 ticket, and dialed up their credit card company to ask about traveler's insurance (do I need to tell you that call was unsuccessful?). Some passengers just complained loudly to whomever would listen. A guy seated nearby started making jokes. My seatmate turned to me as she cued up another episode of Arrested Development. "At least neither of us is traveling with a baby." In one sentence, I went from being feeling pretty zen about the whole thing to being seriously grateful the situation wasn't so much worse.

    My seatmate and I got the last two seats on the replacement

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  • How to make changes that stick

    Something in my life has just mentally clicked over from annoying-thing-I-don't-like-about-myself to enough-is-enough-already. I'm ready for a change. But when you're familiar with that desire for things to be different but the sad reality of them, well, never actually changing, the need to set yourself up for success becomes as strong as pit bull's jaw. Here are three wise ways to make changes that stick.

    Break it into the tiniest "to do" possible
    Let's say you want to have more energy. You feel ready to run one thousand errands when you eat some protein at every meal. What kind of protein do you like? Turkey sausage, you say? Write down "buy turkey sausage" on your to do list. Identify what you want in your life and then distill it down to the smallest action items. Want to run a 5k Thanksgiving morning? Download the Couch to 5k running plan. Schedule your first gym time. Lay out your workout clothes. See how easy it is to get going? When you break your goal down into small pieces

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  • 6 natural cures for your PMS

    I had a thoroughly depressing realization recently: If your PMS lasts about a week, your actual period another five days--and if you're also one of the lucky few who is struck with pre-PMS, go ahead and tack on another week of cravings and mood swings--that means hormones are riding roughshod over 50% of our lives. So unfair. Here, six natural ways to deal with that half of your life. (And remember to ask your doctor before taking any supplements!)

    Studies have shown that magnesium can significantly reduce weight gain, swelling of the hands and legs, breast tenderness, and bloating. Beef up on magnesium-rich foods like legumes (soybeans, black beans and peanuts), dark leafy greens (swiss chard, spinach, kale) and seafood (salmon, halibut, oysters). And while it's hard to do when cravings are running rampant, limiting your sugar and salt intake can reduce bloating.

    Whether you're PMS-ing or not, exercise is a tremendous natural mood stabilizer. If your body is

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