Do Good, Eat More Cookies!

Launched in 2017, Girl Scouts of Greater New York’s Troop 6000 is a first-of-its-kind program designed to serve families living in temporary housing in the New York City shelter system.

Each week, Girl Scouts meet in shelters across the city to take part in activities that help them make new friends, earn badges, and learn to see themselves as leaders. All fees, uniforms, trips, and program materials are provided at no cost.

As a permanent fixture of the program, we also established the Troop 6000 Transition Initiative, which supports Girl Scouts and their families as they transition to permanent housing. The average stay for a family in a city shelter is 18 months. Remaining connected to the community and opportunities introduced to them through Troop 6000 can help facilitate a successful transition for girls and young people, and it is essential they continue to receive the financial support that allows them to do so.

For Troop 6000 members, not only does Girl Scouting mean fun, it means consistency and community – a network of supportive peers and adults who, even if they’ve never met before, have similar experiences and are part of the same club.

If you want to support this, and do not have a local troop to buy from, or need an ethically driven reasons to buy even more, you can buy cookies to support Troop 6000 at

To learn more about Troop 6000’s expansion to serve recent immigrant and asylum-seeking families, click here.

Rebooting the Resolution

This post will be published on the last day of January. Statistically speaking, many of us have already had to rethink or abandon our resolution for the new year. But is there another way of thinking about this?

Christina Caron, a writer, clinical researcher, and ethicist publishing at the New York Times, recently authored a piece examining why we get stuck and describing 5 ways we can try to get unstuck from common traps that can impede progress toward our goals. You can read her full article at and these 5 tips are summarized below.

Do a ‘friction audit’: The friction audit is one way organizations weed out areas of inefficiency. Individuals can apply the same principles to their own lives by identifying the things that create obstacles and add complications or stress, Dr. Alter said. To get started, try asking: Am I repeating certain patterns that are unhelpful? Are there certain things I do regularly that I don’t enjoy? The next step is to either trim away or smooth out each friction point. Say you dread your commute but feel powerless to change it. Dr. Alter suggested asking yourself: “What’s the part that makes it most unappealing?” What specific changes can you make to address the problem? Will it help to listen to a great podcast or audiobook? If you drive, can you start a car pool with other co-workers? Is there a way to work from home more often?

Reframe negative thoughts: Maybe you engage in “catastrophizing,” or thinking the worst will happen. Or maybe you are overly harsh with yourself and have a case of “the shoulds,” as in: “I should have gotten more done at work,” even when you accomplished a good amount. Persistent thoughts like these can create stress and interfere with your goals, said Judy Ho, a clinical neuropsychologist and associate professor at Pepperdine University. Try to reframe your thinking, Dr. Ho suggested. For example, instead of “I’m going to fail at this project,” you can think, “I’m going to do the best I can, and if I’m struggling I will ask for help.” Finally, she said, aim to evaluate your thoughts objectively: “I’m having this thought. What’s the evidence for it? And what’s the evidence against it?”

Try ‘futurecasting’: “Imagine a future life where you are unstuck,” said Sarah Sarkis, a clinical psychologist and executive coach in Boston. What does it look like? How do you feel? Then think about the specific steps that would help you work toward that vision. Write those steps down — ideally by hand. This helps us commit to them, Dr. Sarkis said. And don’t wait until you feel “ready,” she added. Do at least one step each day if you can — but be kind to yourself if you cannot. If you skip a day or two, just start again tomorrow. “Paint the future that you’re seeking,” Dr. Sarkis said. “Map a plan to get there.”

Share your goal: Telling other people about your plans can also be helpful. Adam Cheyer, the co-creator of Siri and the vice president of A.I. Experience at Airbnb, has said that this was crucial to his success. “Just the force of putting the words into the world now makes you believe — makes you commit,” he told an audience at the University of California, Berkeley. The added benefit is that people may want to help you out. “Somehow, the universe will help you achieve this goal,” he said. “It’s been a huge, huge tool for me.”

Do something meaningful: Spending time on activities that align with your values “moves you forward if you feel stuck in completely unrelated domains of your life,” Dr. Alter said. When he was feeling unmotivated early in his teaching career, he came across a poster at his gym — a group was looking for volunteers to help raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by running in the New York City Marathon. It felt almost like fate, he said; one of his friends had died from leukemia years earlier. While training, he ended up making several friends. “I felt like a more productive person and it gave me confidence to tackle other areas of my life,” he said. “We need meaning more than ever when we’re feeling stuck.”

Mindful Management of Type 2 Diabetes

Matthew Solan is the Executive Editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, and Howard E. LeWine, MD is the Chief Medical Editor for Harvard Health Publishing. They recently collaborated on a piece for Harvard Health Publishing examining how mindfulness practices and similar interventions such as yoga may help people with diabetes control blood sugar. The pair cite a recent analysis of multiple studies, published in the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine, that suggests how and why these might help.

The findings suggest that “those who participated in any of the mind-body activities for any length of time lowered their levels of hemoglobin A1C, a key marker for diabetes. On average, A1C levels dropped by 0.84%. This is similar to the effect of taking metformin (Glucophage), a first-line medication for treating type 2 diabetes, according to the researchers. A1C levels are determined by a blood test that shows a person’s average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. Levels below 5.7% are deemed normal, levels from 5.7% to less than 6.5% are considered prediabetes, and levels 6.5% and higher are in the diabetes range.”

They suggest that one’s ” “ability to reduce stress may play a big part. “Yoga and other mindfulness practices elicit a relaxation response — the opposite of the stress response,” says Dr. Shalu Ramchandani, a health coach and internist at the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. “A relaxation response can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This improves insulin resistance and keeps blood sugar levels in check, thus lowering A1C levels.” A relaxation response can help people with diabetes in other ways, such as by improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure, which protects against heart attacks and strokes.

You can read the full article at

Popular Myths About Sleep, Debunked

Marielle Segarra is a reporter and the host of NPR’s Life Kit, the award-winning podcast and radio show that shares trustworthy, nonjudgmental tips that help listeners navigate their lives. Ms. Segarra recently published an article looking at popular myths about sleep many of us believe and why we should think twice about them! You can read the full article at and have a look at some of the debunked items below.

MYTH 1: It doesn’t matter what time of day you sleep – “Unfortunately, the time of day does matter,” says Robbin. Our circadian rhythm — the internal circuitry that guides the secretion of the essential sleep hormone melatonin — is “significantly influenced by natural sunlight in our environment.” When the sun comes up and we go outside, that sunshine “stops the floodgates of melatonin and switches the ‘on’ phase of our circadian rhythm,” she says. “Conversely, going into a dark environment is what allows for the secretion of melatonin,” she adds.

MYTH 2: One night of sleep deprivation will have lasting effects – Your sleep isn’t going to be perfect every night, says Robbins. “Every now and then we might struggle. If we experience some stress during the day, our sleep suffers that night.” Sleep deprivation, or lack of sleep for at least 24 hours, can lead to short-term adverse effects such as a lapse in attention or an increase in resting blood pressure, write Robbins and her colleagues in their research paper. But they likely resolve with recovery sleep. So if you have an off night, don’t beat yourself up about it, says Robbins. Instead, try to get back on track with your normal sleep schedule as soon as possible.

MYTH 3: Being able to fall asleep anytime, anywhere is a good thing – “It’s a myth that a good sleeper would be able to hit the pillow and fall asleep right away,” says Robbins. “This is because sleep is a process.” It takes a well-rested, healthy person about 15 to 20 minutes or maybe a little bit longer to fall asleep, she adds. If you’re able to fall asleep immediately, it may be a sign of a chronically sleep-deprived state, write Robbins and her colleagues in their study. “If you were starved for food and sat down at any opportunity to eat a huge meal and ate voraciously, that would probably be a sign you’re not getting enough nutrition. It’s the same thing with sleep.”

MYTH 4: You can survive on less than 5 hours of sleep – Some people brag about needing only a few hours of sleep at night. That may come from the notion in our high-performing society that “well-rested people are lazy,” says Robbins — “which is a myth.” The reality is that adults need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, she says. “That’s where we see the most optimal health [outcomes]: improved heart health, longevity and brain health into our older years.” Sleeping less than 7 hours a night can result in weight gain, obesity, diabetes and hypertension, according to a statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. It’s also associated with impaired immune function, impaired performance and increased errors — like “sending an email to the wrong person or entering incorrect numbers in a spreadsheet,” says Robbins. So if you can, try to hit that goal of sleeping 7 to 9 hours as many nights of the week as possible, she adds. You’ll know that you’ve hit your sweet spot when you “wake up feeling refreshed, have energy throughout the day and are not reaching for coffee or energy drinks in the afternoon.”

MYTH 5: Watching TV is a good way to relax before bedtime – Some people like to wind down before bed by watching TV. But that’s not a good idea, says Robbins. “You’re starting to associate your bed with things other than sleep.” Watching a show on a device that emits heat, like a laptop positioned on your stomach, can also deter your ability to fall asleep. “Keep the body cool as you approach bedtime,” she says. Your bedroom should ideally be under 70 degrees. Hotter temperatures can lead to “tossing and turning, sleep disruption and more nightmares.” In addition, watching upsetting programs like the nightly news could cause the stress hormone cortisol to spike in your body and “hinder your ability to power down,” she says. But if watching 20 or 30 minutes of a comforting TV show like Friends or Seinfeld is a big part of your sleep routine and helps you relax before bed, then “carry on,” she adds. If your sleep routine “isn’t broken, don’t worry about fixing it.”

Read more debunked myths at

How to Stay Energized All Year Long

Jancee Dunn is the columnist for The New York Times and who writes extensively on, among other things, wellness. As part of a series she called the 6-Day Energy Challenge, Ms. Dunn shared a few tips to light up the year ahead. You can read the full story at, or have a look at her 6 tips below:

1. Reframe bedtime as the beginning of the next day.

Julie Morgenstern, a productivity consultant and the author of “Time Management from the Inside Out,” said that when we consider sleep to be the last thing we do at night, we’re more likely to push it off — staying up to scroll TikTok or finish our to-do lists. Instead, she suggests thinking of a prompt bedtime as a way to get a head start on the upcoming day. Reframing rest as a new beginning rather than the tail end of the day can inspire better sleep habits, she said.

2. Try monotasking and time-blocking.

Most of us multitask throughout the day, said Cassie Holmes, a professor at U.C.L.A.’s Anderson School of Management and the author of “Happier Hour.” It’s not unusual to be sitting in a Zoom meeting while ordering groceries online and texting.

But this is not only exhausting, it’s also counterproductive, said Dr. Aditi Nerurkar, a physician at Harvard Medical School and author of the forthcoming book “The 5 Resets.” Human brains are wired to do one thing at a time, she added.

Instead, try time-blocking, said Dr. Holmes, in which you schedule uninterrupted time on your calendar for one task.

If you’re most productive in the morning, block that time to do your most important work, she suggested. And grouping similar activities avoids “transition costs,” the mental energy that we use when moving between different kinds of tasks, Dr. Holmes said. (For example, she told me that she does all of her household chores at one time — on Wednesday evening after her kids are in bed.)

3. Set digital boundaries.

We all know instinctively that constantly checking our phones can siphon our energy, so it’s important to put limits on the habit, said Cal Newport, an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University and author of the upcoming book “Slow Productivity.”

He advised keeping your phone plugged in at a fixed location when you’re home in the evening, such as on a table in the hallway or in the kitchen. Then “if you need to look something up, or call someone, or check in on text messages, you have to go to where your phone is to do so,” he said.

If you want to listen to podcasts or audiobooks while doing chores, he added, use wireless earphones. “In this way, you are still able to get benefits from your phone,” he said, “but it is not with you as a constant companion. You cannot turn to it at the slightest moment of boredom.”

Immediately jumping to answer every text or phone call from a loved one can lead to burnout, added Nedra Tawwab, a psychotherapist and author of “Set Boundaries, Find Peace.” If you can, let the call go to voice mail. Leave the text unread. “You have the right to be unavailable,” she said.

7 tips to keep your New Year’s resolution

Making New Year’s resolutions is a yearly tradition for many people. Yet, some of us fall short of reaching our goals. Below are seven tips to help you make and stick to your New Year’s resolutions. By following these suggestions, UC Davis Health experts say you can set yourself up for success.

1. Be picky about your resolutions

We may want to lose weight, eat more vegetables, volunteer more, quit smoking and spend more time with family. But experts say that’s too many goals to set for a New Year’s resolution. Pick one, maybe two things you’d like to focus on and go all in. This sets you up to achieve specific goals instead of feeling like a failure for hitting none of them.

2. Plan your resolution

It’s best to plan for your goal. Think through how you want to accomplish your resolution and how long it might take to reach your goal. For example, if your resolution is to quit smoking, research how long it takes an average person to kick the habit and the possible setbacks to expect. Proper planning will help ensure you can see it through to the end.

3. Set very specific goals

Many of us will set a New Year’s resolution like “exercise more.” But what does that really mean? Instead, you should be detailed in your resolution. It could be “exercise 30 minutes daily.” This gives you a measurable goal to reach each day that you can check off your list. It will help you feel more accomplished.

4. Don’t take on too much

Start small. Avoid setting an overly high expectation of yourself. If you’d like to lose weight, pick a small but realistic weight loss goal. Maybe that’s 10 pounds in two months. Once you reach that goal, you can think about losing another 5-8 pounds. Setting small goals can help you achieve big results.

5. Choose a new resolution

Avoid picking a goal that you’ve tried in the past but failed. You may set yourself up to fall into the same pitfalls that stopped you previously. Instead, pick something different where you can set up a better path to success. Or maybe you can modify a previous goal if that’s something you still want to accomplish.

6. Identify accountability partners for support

Lean on people – whether it’s a friend to keep your exercise resolution on track, or a spouse to help with healthier eating habits. We function better with community around us, motivating and reminding us why we chose that New Year’s resolution in the first place.

7. Give your resolution time to become a habit

New routines don’t just become habit overnight. A 2009 study found that on average, it takes 66 days to form a new habit. Be patient with yourself. If you have minor setbacks or don’t hit your goal one week, pick it back up the next week. Just keep working at your goal and eventually it can become second nature.

Overcoming Holiday Blues

For many of us our relationship with the holidays can be complicated. At times it can be a joyful experience, at other times very sad, and much of the time some combination of complex emotions based on holidays passed. Recently Dr. Jill Suttie took some time to reflect on these challenges and what we can do to combat the holiday blues. You can read her full piece at, and below are 5 quick tips to get you started.  

Add small, pleasant activities to your life. Making time every day to do something that brings you a little joy—whether that’s grabbing coffee at the local café, talking to a friend, quilting, or watching a sunset—can help balance the difficulties of the holidays with more positive experiences.

Move your body—even if it’s just a little. Exercise of any kind—walking, biking, weightlifting, dancing—is proven to be mood-boosting and is important for overall health, too.

Try meditating or practicing self-compassion. Making yourself more aware of your feelings and thoughts and learning to accept them (rather than just pushing them away) can help some people manage their moods. And, in the midst of your suffering, it can be good to remember that others feel this way, too, and to offer yourself kindness.

Connect with other people. Sometimes, we just need to stop avoiding social interactions and start connecting with people—friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, even strangers. Try calling an old friend, asking a colleague to coffee, waving at your neighbor, or greeting your local grocer or mail carrier. These small interactions can make you happier.

Give thanks for small blessings. Try starting a gratitude journal, where you write down a few small things you feel grateful for every day. Don’t try to be grateful for things you’re not happy about, though—you don’t have to paint a smiley face on difficult things. But look for the small, good things in your life—like a delicious cup of coffee, your pet’s soft fur, a beautiful winter sky, or your child’s goofy grin—and say thanks to yourself for those small blessings.

Environmental Wellness: Climate-Conscious Holiday Gifts

Francesca Coltrera, editor of the Harvard Health Blog, recently sat down with Wynne Armand, MD, associate director of the MGH Center for the Environment and Health and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, to discuss the issues of environmental wellness and how to promote it this season. You can read the full article at the Harvard Health Blog, and their tips are summarized here below:

  • Channel the 5 Rs:Refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and only then recycle. Say no to excess. Comic sections from print newspapers or beautiful images from last year’s calendars or magazines make great envelopes and gift wrap. If you’re choosing clothes, consider buying upcycled clothing or at resale shops, as appropriate.
  • Beware of greenwashing: Eco-consciousness is big business, and the benefits of what you buy may be questionable. If you have a small lawn that needs infrequent maintenance, says Dr. Armand, keeping a trusty (albeit gas-fueled) mower could be a better choice for the planet than buying an electric mower, when factoring in upstream costs of natural resources and the carbon footprint required to manufacture and ship the new — and toss out the not-so-old. (Alternatively, maybe it’s time to replant that lawn with wildflowers and vegetables?)
  • Skip what’s not needed: A new backpack crafted from water bottles? Another sweater to add to a closetful? If there’s no apparent need, think twice about purchases.
  • Double down on experiences and connection: Think concert tickets, museum passes, or energetic options like rock-climbing gym passes and outdoor skills classes. “Gifts of experience are great, especially for people who already have all they need. If you buy for two or try a skills swap you also get to enjoy that time together,” says Dr. Armand.

5 Tips to Fight Loneliness

Around the globe, about 1 in 4 adults says they’re lonely. And the consequences of long-term social disconnection can be dire — everything from an increased risk of heart attacks to dementia and premature death.

But social isolation isn’t new or uncommon. And pangs of loneliness aren’t catastrophic. In fact, they’re nearly universal. What’s critical is how people respond to these feelings when they arise.

You can read the full story at, but here are 5 tips to try to combat any loneliness you may be experiencing. 

1. Be curious: It’s easier to connect with people if you have shared interests or experiences, so start paying attention to what’s on your mind. What are you thinking about? What motivates you? What excites you? Nobel says knowing yourself can be a first step to bonding with others. “I think connecting authentically with other people is best done — and perhaps only done — if you have some kind of authentic connection with yourself,” Nobel says. If you know what’s meaningful or fun for you, it may lead you to an activity or creative outlet that connects you to people who share your interests.

2. Make something: “When we say make something, people immediately say, ‘Well, I’m not Picasso. I don’t know how to do a fancy painting,'” Nobel says. And, of course, you’re not! But the opportunities for creative expression are endless. “Do a doodle [or] a dance move,” Nobel suggests. Resurrect your grandma’s pie recipe, plant an herb garden, try a textile art. “Make something that puts your thoughts and feelings and vision about who you are and what matters into a tangible artifact that then can express those thoughts and feelings to others,” he says.

3. Take a risk by having conversations: “Share something about yourself,” Nobel says. “It doesn’t have to be the biggest, darkest secret of your life, but just something you think other people might find interesting and compelling, and see where it goes.” Even if you’re nervous about being judged or dismissed, putting yourself out there requires a bit of a risk, and it’s the first step to authentic connection. If you’ve made something — say your doodle or dance move or pie — this can be a catalyst to sharing. Simply explaining what you’ve made may make it easier to open up about who you are.

4. Find a group that matches your interests: Whether it’s volunteering for a cause you believe in or playing frisbee or Scrabble, try to find others who share your interests. And if you follow your natural curiosities, you may find something new. In his book, Nobel describes an online group that has a quirky shared interest: a fascination with brown bears in Alaska, which led to Fat Bear Week. “Share your thoughts and feelings in creative ways with other people who have that interest,” he says. And, hopefully, in those interactions you can begin to reveal yourself and share the unique things that matter to you. “Then, other people recognize that, share their story in return, and it’s like an electric circuit is connected,” he says.

5. Other people’s loneliness matters too: Loneliness can spiral. If the pangs of loneliness go unaddressed, people can end up in a world of hurt. “If you see someone who’s experiencing loneliness, tolerate the risk of asking them how they’re doing,” Nobel says. Be kind. Be willing to share something about your own experiences of loneliness, and take that risk. “Other people’s loneliness makes us lonely too,” he says.

Holiday Hostility Helpers

Many of us will be observing a variety of holidays in the coming month. This often means gatherings and, even amongst the closest families and friend groups, some tension as popular yet uncomfortable topics arise.

With that, we offer some advice via Heidi Godman, Executive Editor of the Harvard Health Letter.

  1. Recognize Vulnerability Factors: Some things predispose us to arguing. Common factors include financial worries that are more pronounced at the holidays, colder and darker climates, tracking modified work and school schedules, painful memories and reminders of loss, as well as behavioral factors like alcohol consumption. Gillis recommends recognizing your vulnerabilities and mitigating what you can while working toward coping with things beyond your control through regular self-care.
  2. Plan Ahead: Gillis offers three ways to prepare ahead of time if arguments are possible. These include:
    • Set a time limit: If you’re hosting the event, let your guests know in advance what time the festivities will end.
    • Ask for help: To help you rein in reactivity, ask someone you trust to give you a sign if a conversation appears to be risky or escalating.
    • Schedule breaks: Think about when and how you’ll be able to take breaks during a gathering. This gives you an opportunity to check in with your emotions.
    • Prepare words of deflection: If you know loved ones might ask questions that will lead to conflict, have a prepared answer and practice it. “Make a statement acknowledging the person’s feelings and letting them know it’s best for the topic to change,” Gillis says. He suggests using a version of the following statement. “I appreciate your thoughts, but let’s talk about something we agree on or share.”
  3. Learn to De-escalate:
    • Don’t take the bait: Don’t answer nosy questions if you don’t want to. “Change the subject. Move the focus back onto the other person and ask how they’re doing,” Gillis says. And if someone asks a loaded question (such as, “I suppose you voted for that candidate?”), use humor if appropriate (“Let’s talk about the Bruins instead”) and change the subject or the activity.
    • Adjust your mindset: “We have to accept that there are perspectives we don’t like and that engaging in conflict isn’t likely to change anyone’s perspective,” Gillis says. “You can choose not to participate in an unhealthy conversation.”
    • Respond with kindness: “If someone is angry with you, that suggests they really care what you think. Remember that and try to maintain a compassionate stance and response,” Gillis advises.
    • Remember why you’re there: The goal of the gathering is celebrating, not solving painful or controversial issues. “It’s the holiday. It doesn’t have to be the day when everyone puts their cards on the table to work out problems,” Gillis says. “Make it festive and enjoyable so you can feel that you created a pleasant holiday memory together.”