Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Launched by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2004, this designated month has grown in reach and participation to a grassroots campaign, emphasizing the role we all – from large enterprises to individual computer users – have in maintaining safety and security online. Although protecting your online presence is imperative all year long, October reinforces the collective effort that is required to stop these ever-increasing cybercriminals.

As school, socializing and many aspects of our lives have moved online over the past year and a half, due to the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to protect your digital devices from cybercriminals. So, during the month of October, the FBI, the premier investigative agency, and other partner agencies want to remind you to do your part and #BeCyberSmart.

Below are several cyber safety tips to help protect you and your family from falling prey to cybercriminals:

  1. Keep software systems up to date. This is one of the most important cyber security tips for warding off ransomware. Check the update settings on your devices and make sure they’re being automatically updated.

  • Use a good anti-virus program and firewall. Anti-virus (AV) protection software is the most wide-spread solution against malicious attacks. This software blocks malware and other viruses from entering your device and compromising your personal data. In addition, using a firewall will help screen out hackers, viruses and other malicious activity occurring over the Internet.

  • Use strong passwords. Strong passwords are critical in keeping hackers out of your personal data. Here are some suggestions from Norton, one of the leading, anti-virus software companies

  • Use two-factor or multi-factor authentication. This is a service that provides additional layers of security to the standard username/password method of online identification. With two-factor or multi-factor authentication, you would be prompted to enter additional authentication like a Personal Identification Code, another password, fingerprints, etc.

  • Be knowledgeable about phishing scams. Recent cybercrime statistics indicate that 90 percent of ransomware attacks originate from phishing schemes. So, in general, be wary of emails or texts sent to you even from people you know (they could’ve been infected too). Determine where the email or text has come from and examine it for suspicious grammatical errors and/or links (hover over the link to see where it is being directed).

  • Protect your sensitive personal identification information (PII). PII is any information that can be used by cybercriminals to locate or identify an individual like your name, address, phone numbers, date of birth, social security number, IP address, etc. In today’s social media world, you should be very cautious about the information you include or share online. Minimize the information you share about yourself on social media sites. Review your privacy settings on all your social media accounts. The more information you share about yourself drastically increases your risk of being “hacked.”

  • Use your mobile devices safely. According to a recent study by McAfee, another leading computer security software company, mobile devices are now target to more than 1.5 million new incidents of mobile malware. Some tips to help keep your mobile devices safe include create difficult passwords, only install apps from trusted sources, keep devices updated, avoid sending PII or sensitive information over text message or email and perform routine mobile backups using iCloud or Enabling Backup & Synch from Android.

Is a Website Essential to Your Business?

The answer is an emphatic yes!

In today’s digital world, most businesses, especially small businesses, won’t survive without a Web presence. A business’s online presence, regardless of industry, can have a huge impact on its ongoing success. Studies show that 88 percent of consumers do online research and read reviews before purchasing anything in-store or online.

A website can accomplish many different marketing strategies to help your business grow. Some of these include:

Builds Business Credibility

A website provides legitimacy to your business. Most consumers today expect a credible business to have a website. Having a website that looks good and clearly conveys quality information gives you the opportunity to make a great first impression as well as show prospective customers you’re a real business.

Builds Brand Recognition

A good website establishes who you are, what you do and what makes you different/better than your competitors. It showcases your brand. By doing this successfully, you increase the likelihood of consumers buying from you.   

Builds Leads

A website can generate leads. Once people find your business online, they can learn more about your product or service and how to contact you from the information you’ve provided on your site, giving you the opportunity to increase your customer base and sales.

Saves Time and Provides Customer Service

Many potential or existing customers want simple information like your hours of operation or where you are located. You can provide this information without forcing the customer to call you or distracting your staff from focusing on other important aspects of your business. Providing this kind of useful information on your website increases your business’s internal productivity as well as delivers a better overall customer experience.

Provides the Best ROI on Your Digital Ad Spend

If you plan on utilizing digital marketing to increase your leads and grow your business, you will want to drive traffic to a source of useful information. Your website is the perfect place. It is best to have your website up and running before you begin a digital ad campaign.

Builds Organic Traffic

By being online and having a SEO-optimized website, your business has the opportunity of showing up in Google search results. With a SEO-optimized website, you increase the likelihood of your site showing up in the results when people are searching for a product or service. This gives you a chance to increase your customer base significantly.

Provides Updates and Announcements

Your website is out there 24/7/365. So, it’s easy to post time-sensitive updates and announcements to your customers. It provides a way to keep your customers current on everything you’re doing. The more relevant this information is to them, the greater likelihood you will be able to gain sales.

Most businesses who don’t have a web presence, cite concerns of not being tech-savvy enough, not being able to manage a website or the cost. The good news is there’s a solution out there that will work for you and the specific needs and resources of your company. Do your homework and due diligence. Begin by looking at websites of competitors or companies you admire and jotting down the best ideas you see. Then meet with a few Web designers (get references) and compare approaches, level of service, expertise and cost.

In the end, the cost involved to design and maintain a good business website is well worth it!

Exciting News! We are busy enhancing our website to continue providing state-of-the-art online service to our customers. We plan to launch our new site before the end of the year! Please visit our website,, for updates.

Their Future Depends on You

Small businesses have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. The economic hardship, caused by the pandemic, has forced many small businesses into bankruptcy, or to drastically scale back operations, leaving them struggling to survive. About 53 percent of small business owners don’t expect to return to pre-Covid operations for at least the next six months, according to the Small Business Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in December 2020. Now, it’s more important than ever to ensure local small businesses recover because of the role they serve in driving economic vitality into our local communities.

According to The Small Business Economic Impact Study, conducted by American Express in 2018, small businesses account for 44 percent of the economic activity. The study also states that every dollar spent at a small business supports 50 cents in local business activity, and every ten jobs created at a local business supports an additional seven jobs within the community. Consequently, losing these businesses could have a devastating ripple effect on a local community.

Supporting your local small businesses – some added benefits:

  1. Community Support. Local small businesses become an integral part of the communities they serve. By supporting these businesses, small business owners will likely give more back to their communities in return. It’s a win-win!

  • Community Desirability. The unique flavor a small business brings to a community makes it a special place to live or visit.

  • Unique Offerings. Local small shops can fill a narrower niche than big-box stores. They can cater to the customer looking for something unique or uncommon.

  • Personalized Customer Service. Many small business owners know their customers by name and make it a point to develop relationships with their regulars. Customers are more than a number.

  • Competition. Competition is fostered by communities with many small businesses, which keeps prices low and innovation high.

As the impact of COVID-19 lessens and many of the local businesses you once frequented are open again, here are some surprisingly simple ways you can help and support them:

  1. Shop locally and online. Patronize open local shops. If you’re still not comfortable shopping in person or if the store is still not open for in-store service, many small businesses have an online presence as well.

  • Do something small for your favorite local shop each week. Making a small purchase or giving them a positive review online each week can go a long way to help them stay afloat.

  • Buy a gift card or shop now for later. Think about gifts or gift cards you can buy right now and give later. You may not need these today, but the revenue from these sales is a huge boost to the business’ bottom line during this critical time.

  • Order take-out. Even if your favorite restaurant remains closed for indoor dining, you can support them by curbside pick-up or delivery (e.g. Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc.).

  • Tip generously. Whether you eat in or take out, give a generous tip. Tips are even more important right now to small business workers who may have lost hours due to in-house services being shut down.

  • Recommend your favorite small businesses to your friends and family. Word of mouth, especially when it comes from a friend or family member, can go a long way to help support local small businesses.

  • Advertise your favorite small businesses. Small businesses often have branded merchandise (t-shirts, caps, etc.) By purchasing these items you will be increasing their sales revenue as well as promoting their business when you wear them.

  • Consider small before big. Before hitting the “purchase” button on your favorite big-box online store, always be mindful and take a few extra minutes to determine if you could be supporting a local small business instead.

We are stronger together and because of that we can be a great source of support to our local small businesses. Together we can truly make a difference and help save our small businesses and the jobs they create.

National Teach Children to Save Day

One of the most valuable lessons you can teach a child is the importance of saving. With April 22 designated as National Teach Children to Save Day, there’s no better time to start or reinforce this important practice. This annual event, sponsored by the American Bankers Association since 1997, promotes education to students in grades K-12 about budgeting, saving, recognizing needs versus wants and how interest makes money grow.

According to a recent National Foundation for Credit survey, just 55 percent of adults give themselves a good grade in their knowledge of personal finance. In additional, according to Bankrate, approximately 3 in 10 Americans, or 28 percent, have no savings set aside for emergency expenses.

Building a habit of saving money doesn’t happen overnight. It requires time and diligence, and many adults have yet to master it. Consequently, our next generation’s financial literacy needs attention immediately. Developing good saving habits as a child creates a foundation for a lifetime of saving and teaches money management skills that prepare them for a solid financial future.

Here are some actions you can take to get your child – and perhaps yourself – on the right track:

  1. Help them understand the difference between wants and needs. Teaching kids to differentiate between wants and needs is the building block of the value of saving. If you don’t have a household budget, this is the perfect time to develop one and share it with your child. With this in hand, explain that needs include the basics, like food, shelter and clothing, and wants are the extras – once the basics have been met.

  • Let them earn their own money. Allowing your child to earn their own money, via a weekly allowance for chores around the house or getting paid for other side jobs (e.g. helping the neighbor with yard work, washing their car, etc.), helps them to become savers. This also teaches them the importance of earning, saving and where to spend their money, as well as helps them learn the value of hard work.

  • Help them establish savings goals. Just being told to save money without a “why” will seem pointless to a child. Having a savings goal, for example, wanting to buy a certain video game or toy, will help them figure out how long it will take, based on their savings rate, to reach this goal.

  • Provide a place to save. Once your child has established a goal, now he/she needs a place to put their money. For younger kids, this can be piggy bank. But, if they’re older, this is an opportune time to help them set up their own checking or savings account. With either option, provide them with a journal or register to help them keep track of the progress they’re making towards their savings goal.

  • Provide interest as a motivator. Like adults, children are motivated to set money aside not only by achieving a set goal, but also by earning interest. While savings accounts today offer very low interest rates, you can provide additional incentive for your child by being the banker, so to speak, and providing an established interest payment, based on their savings balance, or a matching contribution every month.

  • Help them account for their spending. Realizing where their money is going will be an eye-opening experience, like it is for most adults when developing a household budget. Have your child write down their purchases (in their journal or register), as they occur, and adjust the balance. This will help them have a better understanding of how they are spending their money as well as how much faster they could reach their savings goal if they change their spending habits – practicing delayed gratification.

  • Allow them to make mistakes. Putting your kids in control of their money also gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Although it’s tempting to step in and steer your kids from financial mistakes, in the long run it’s better to use the mistake as a teachable moment. Learning from their financial mistakes now will help them avoid potentially costly mistakes in the future.

  • Talk about money and lead by example. In a recent T Rowe Price study, 44 percent of the parents indicated they’d never discussed long-term investing with their kids and 10 percent of these parents said they had zero savings for retirement, emergencies, college, or other financial goals. If you want your child to know about saving and become a saver, you must lead by example by keeping the money conversation ongoing and being a saver yourself.

Although Teach Children to Save Day only occurs once a year, there are lessons to be learned, by parents and children alike, all year long. So, take the opportunity that April 22 presents to lay the foundation for a bright financial future for your child and yourself.

November…The Perfect Time for Storytelling

With the Thanksgiving holiday just a few weeks away, November is the perfect time to celebrate National Family Stories Month. 

Family memories and traditions hold a special place in our hearts, especially during the holiday season. So, National Family Stories month, celebrated throughout the month of November, is a great way to kick off the holidays by gathering your loved ones together and taking a trip down memory lane. This annual celebration provides an opportune time to share fun stories from the past as well as revisit some of life’s historical moments that can be passed around and down to future generations.

Whether it’s a funny story about your then teenage brother who was met with the seething look of the neighbor lady as he’d just finished toilet papering her house or a sad story about unexpectedly losing someone dear to you at a young age or the story of the strength and courage of your grandfather who immigrated to America by himself at the tender age of 13 or a romance story of how your parents or grandparents met, your loved ones will surely treasure these anecdotes for years to come.

So, as you gather your family (big or small) together this Thanksgiving holiday, start a new tradition, family storytelling. I’m sure you’re already coming up with some great ideas to celebrate National Family Stories Month, but just in case, here are a few suggestions to get the dialogue started:

  • Prepare a list of questions ahead of time and email them to your family members who will be attending your Thanksgiving celebration. Here are some prompts:
  • What is your favorite story about your childhood?
  • What was the most impactful invention/breakthrough in your lifetime and why?
  • Who was your first crush?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up, or for kids, what do they want to be when they grow up and why?
  • What was the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
  • What was the bravest thing you ever did?

  • Grab an elder in the room and ask them to share some stories about the “good ole days.”

  • Share stories about your children with them – their birth, funny things they said and did as a kid, their first words, etc.

  • Add photos, when possible, to complement the stories.

Every family has a story to tell. Stories that teach, inspire, bind and give us a sense of belonging. These are family heirlooms to be held on to long after the holiday dinner leftovers. So, celebrate this National Family Stories Month and the Thanksgiving holiday by opening your family’s book and sharing the first of many memorable chapters.

From our Intracoastal Family to yours, have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving holiday!

The Power of Your Vote

We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate. Thomas Jefferson

We are entering the home stretch of the Tuesday, Nov. 3, Election Day. This election may be the most contentious – lines etched deeply in the sand – in our country’s history. Yet, no matter what your party affiliation is or who you are rooting for, what’s important is exercising your right to vote.

With the voter registration deadlines looming across the country (Florida’s deadline – Online: Oct. 5, Mail-in: Postmarked by Oct. 5, In person: Oct. 5), time is of the essence to ensure your vote counts.

Strong voter turnout is essential to a healthy democracy. Sadly, voter turnout in the U.S. is much lower than most established democracies. Typical voter turnout in presidential election years is approximately 60 percent of the eligible voting population. During midterm elections, voter turnout drops to about 40 percent. Local elections tend to be decided by a much smaller group, with fewer than 15 percent of eligible voters turning out.

These percentages are troubling because it reflects the political disengagement of the U.S. voting population. People who are eligible to vote and don’t are renouncing one of the most effective ways to shape the direction of our country and the local communities in which we live.

If you think your one vote doesn’t make that much of a difference, you’re mistaken.

In 2000, Al Gore narrowly lost the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush, with the election coming down to a recount in Florida. Bush had won Florida’s popular vote by such a small margin that it triggered an automatic recount as well as a Supreme Court case (Bush v. Gore). Bush ended up taking Florida by only 0.009 percent of the votes cast or 537 votes.

In the 2016 election, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by a close Electoral College win. Clinton had won the popular vote by nearly three million votes, however, the concentration of votes for Trump in the key “swing” states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan gave him enough electoral votes to win the race.

Every vote counts! Participating in elections is one of the key freedoms of being an American. Your vote is your voice. It’s a powerful way of telling lawmakers, on community, state and national levels, what you want and what issues are important to you.

However, merely casting your vote is only part of your civic duty. You should be an informed voter as well. Not knowing anything about any of the candidates or issues isn’t an excuse for haphazardly or apathetically voting, or not voting at all. Bring yourself up to speed on political issues, local and national, and determine where you stand. It’s not too late. Fortunately, we have the power of the Internet today, and finding out who each candidate is and what he or she stands for couldn’t be easier. Check out candidates’ websites and social media pages as well as news articles about them. The posts of your Facebook “friends” shouldn’t shape your opinions of candidates and issues.

Voting is not just a right, it’s a civic responsibility. Voting only takes a few minutes but has an impact for years to come.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is designated National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, with the week of September 6 – 12 National Prevention Week and September 10th World Suicide Prevention Day. During the month, suicide prevention organizations around the nation will be holding events to raise awareness of what has become the leading cause of preventable deaths in our country.

Suicide is a significant and often unaddressed public health problem in the U.S., and it’s getting worse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are an average of 123 suicides each day, making it the tenth leading cause of death, and it is the second leading cause of death for ages 25-34 and third leading for ages 15-24 in this country. The CDC also reports that the rate of suicide has spiked by 35 percent since 1999.

Suicide doesn’t discriminate by race, age, gender, or ethnicity, notes the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The NIMH cites the following main risk factors for suicide:

• A prior suicide attempt
• Depression and other mental health disorders
• Substance abuse disorder
• Family history of mental health or substance abuse disorder
• Family history of suicide
• Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
• Being between the ages of 15 and 34 years or over 60

Since late June, mental health professionals have been reporting a significant increase in depression and anxiety, with many mental health clinics overrun with new patients and increasing visits from existing patients. They are attributing this recent increase to the coronavirus pandemic. With daily doses of statistics of new virus cases and related deaths and record unemployment numbers, and increasing fear and isolation, mental health experts are growing concerned that the pandemic is pushing American into a mental health crisis.

The CDC found that about 41 percent of adults surveyed in late June “reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition.” Additionally, this report shows that the number of Americans suffering from depression and anxiety has tripled compared to the same time last year. Approximately 1 in every 10 of the survey respondents indicated they’d started or increased their use of alcohol or elicit drugs, and twice as many respondents, as compared to this same time period in 2018, reported serious consideration of suicide.

These are extremely challenging times. But, we can all do our part during the month of September (and beyond) to help those in need by drawing attention to the problem of suicide and advocating the prevention of this terrible, preventable tragedy.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Spread the Message – Spread awareness during the month of September by taking time to reach out to those in need via social media, wearing and sharing suicide prevention pins or starting your own suicide awareness and prevention campaign.

2. Volunteer – Volunteer at your local crisis center.

3. Record and Share a Supportive Video – This is an easy way to help that doesn’t cost money or time. Simply record a video promising your family and friends that you are there for them if they need to talk about anything. Then upload the video to your social media sites using hashtags such as #suicideispreventable #800273TALK.

If you are concerned that someone you know may be suicidal you should:

1. Ask the Tough Question – Even though it’s uncomfortable, be direct…ask them if they are thinking about suicide.

2. Listen – Be sure to let them know that you are there for them, day or night, and you want to hear and care about what they have to say.

3. Perform a Safety Check – If you’re concerned about their well-being, try to remove things in their immediate environment that they could use to harm themselves.

4. Don’t Keep This a Secret/Help Them Seek Professional Help – Let them know you will help them come up with a plan that involves finding and talking to a mental health professional.

Although these are great ways you can help all year-round, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is the perfect time to get started! For free and confidential emotional support 24/7 for those in crisis or emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Maintaining Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis

As you navigate this alien world of surgical masks in the grocery stores, the shortage of everyday household supplies, the overcrowding in our healthcare facilities and the bombardment of news that our world has become a dangerous place to live, you may be beginning to feel overwhelmed and anxious. The novel coronavirus outbreak has created unprecedented levels of anxiety for most of us – for some who are actually battling the virus, but for the vast majority who are facing the unknown, the disruption of their everyday routine, loss of employment and serious financial concerns.

This is unchartered territory for most of us, and it is frightening! For many people, the fear of the unknown and the incessant doom and gloom headlines make it all too easy to spiral into overwhelming dread and panic. But, there are many things you can do to self-care – manage your anxiety and fears – during this unique crisis.

Take Care of Yourself First – Like the announcement we hear each time we get on an airplane, “In case of a cabin pressure emergency, put your own mask on first before assisting others.” This is a metaphor for life. You can’t help others for very long if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Keep a Routine – Even if you’re stuck at home, try to maintain your normal routine by sticking to your regular sleep, meal, and school or work schedule.

Eat Well – Proper eating is one defense against most diseases. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid eating out of boredom or anxiety, eliminate or reduce alcohol consumption and other intoxicants and stay well hydrated.

Exercise – Although we can’t hit the gyms like we used to, there are many safe alternatives you can do in the comfort and safety of your home. If you don’t have any exercise videos, use YouTube and Instagram to help you find ways to stay fit or just take long walks.

Limit News Intake – Limit your media consumption to only the information you need to know to stay safe…then turn it off! This advice goes for financial information as well. Watching the stock market go up and down (mostly down) all day can have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing.

Have Fun – Enjoy the extra time you have with your family by talking…and laughing, playing board games, cards, putting together puzzles and cooking.

Connect – Take this downtime to reach out to those you care about, making sure they are staying safe and letting them know how important they are to you. Take advantage of the many technical (FaceTime) and social media resources to stay connected during this time of social isolation.

Engage in Positive Activities – Read a good book, listen to uplifting music, watch the sunrise or sunset, get out in nature, practice yoga or meditate. Limit your interactions with negative people. Remember emotions are contagious and right now fear is rampant.

You can also counteract distress over the loss of control by straightening up what you can. This is a great time to clean and organize your home or to attack a home improvement project you’ve been meaning to get to.

Reflect – The sudden halt in our daily lives, caused by this unprecedented crisis, has forced us to sit still. We can spend this time by being overwhelmed with negative thoughts and a sense of despair or we can use these quiet moments to reflect on the positive changes we want to make in our lives when this pause button is removed. Try to think about the activities in your life you’ve come to realize are important and you want to resume, start making a mental list of the ones you don’t, and above all, focus on the many blessings you have.

The national Disaster Distress Helpline is available to anyone experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak to a counselor.

February: American Heart Health Month

With Valentine’s Day less than two weeks away, many of us view February as the month of love. However, February is also designated as American Heart Health Month. In addition, on the first Friday of every February (this year is February 7th), the nation comes together, donning the color red from coast to coast, for National Wear Red Day, celebrating one common goal: the eradication of heart disease and stroke.

American Heart Health Month is a federally designated event that was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on December 30, 1963 to encourage Americans to join the battle against heart disease. This annual, month-long celebration helps remind Americans to focus on their heart and encourages their involvement with family and friends, and within their communities.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death of Americans. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 2,200 people die each day from heart disease. In addition, about 1.3 million adults have high blood pressure and 6.5 million are living with heart failure.

Heart disease is being diagnosed in younger adults more and more often. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among young people are putting them at risk of heart-related diseases at an earlier age. Although genetic factors play a role in heart-related conditions, nearly 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with education and lifestyle changes.

How to Take Control of Your Heart Health

Don’t Smoke – Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders including atherosclerosis and a buildup of fatty substances in the arteries. So, if you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit – there are numerous helpful resources out there.

Managing Your Health – Work with your health professionals to manage your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. All of these factors play a significant role in maintaining a healthy heart.

Stay Physically Active – Heart pumping physical activity helps prevent cardiovascular disease as well as improves your overall mental and physical health.

The American Heart Association recommends five 30-minute exercise sessions each week. If this seems a little daunting, break these sessions up into two or three 10-15 minute segments throughout the day. Walking, jogging, biking and swimming are great forms of cardiovascular exercise. The American Heart Association also recommends adding moderate to high-intensity strength training into your sessions to improve daily functional movements and decrease the chance of injury.

Make Heart-Healthy Eating Choices – A diet low in trans-fat, saturated fat, added sugar and sodium is essential to a healthy heart and lifestyle. Aim to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables and fruit. Salmon, nuts, berries and oats are just a few of the heart “superfoods,” that may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. As a special treat, add dark chocolate, in moderation, to the list – it’s good for the heart and satisfies the sweet tooth.

Reduce Stress – Stress increases cortisol, a steroid hormone, which can lead to weight gain, a key risk factor in heart disease. Stress can also lead to other unhealthy habits including overeating and excessive alcohol consumption. Stress can also increase the risk of anxiety and depression.

Get Plenty of Rest – Many Americans today are sleep deprived. Sleep restores the body, helps decrease stress and anxiety and increases overall happiness.

With all this said, “get your red on” and make this February the beginning of healthy habits and lifestyle changes. Your heart will thank you!

The History of New Year’s

Now that you’ve rung in 2020 with a glass or two of the bubbly and are most likely already rehashing the long list of resolutions you’ve made, and probably not kept, over the last decade, vowing to make a better effort this year, I thought I’d share some New Year’s history facts you probably don’t know. I’m sure you’ll find, like I did, that there’s a fascinating and lengthy history behind this widely celebrated holiday.

Many countries around the world celebrate the beginning of the new year. However, celebrating New Year’s is not new. Celebrations of the new calendar year have been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Babylon in 2,000 B.C. The Mesopotamians marked the beginning of the new year by the first new moon after the vernal equinox, which took place sometime in late March. This was celebrated with a huge 11-day festival called Akitu. The festival involved a different ritual every day, celebrating the mythical victory of the sky god Marduk over the sea goddess Tiamat. This celebration also included the crowning of a new king or allowing the current ruler to continue his reign. According to the history books, this was the festival of all festivals and would put our present day New Year’s celebration to shame.

The Roman’s celebration of the new year also originally corresponded with the vernal equinox. Their early calendar, which according to tradition, was created in the eighth century B.C. by Romulus, the founder of Rome, consisted of 10 months (304 days), with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox. However, over the centuries, this calendar fell out of synch with the sun. Consequently, in 46 B.C., with the consultation of the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of the time, Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar. This was a solar-based calendar, instituting January 1st as the first day of the year. Caesar chose this day to honor the month’s namesake Janus, the Roman god of change and beginnings. This calendar resembles the modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today.

By the middle ages, medieval Europe considered the January 1st celebrations of the new year pagan and unchristian-like. Consequently, in 567 A.D. the Council of Tours replaced the January 1st date with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25th or March 25th.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XII re-established January 1st as New Year’s Day, after the reform of the Gregorian calendar. Interestingly, although most Catholic countries immediately adopted this calendar, Protestant countries, like Britain and their American colonies, continued celebrating their new year in March until 1752.

So, now that I’ve astonished you with all these fascinating tidbits of New Year’s history, it’s time to begin or get back to the task at hand – formulating this year’s new and improved (LOL) list of New Year’s resolutions!

From our Intracoastal family to yours, here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2020…and sticking to your resolutions!

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