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Thanks and Gratitude

Posted by on Nov 22, 2014 in Blog, Happy Together

Thank you. Those two words are among the most important and appreciated in any language. He who does a good deed is often satisfied to hear “thank you” as his only reward. It’s too bad the phrase is so underused. Some people rarely say thank you. You wonder what holds them back. We should have developed the habit of expressing our gratitude by the time we were three years old.

On the day of Thanksgiving, people around the United States are expressing gratitude for the bounty of their lives, but many may not realize that in doing so, they are also improving the quality of their health and increasing their life expectancies.

Scientific evidence is conclusive when it comes to mood, outlook, and health. Happy people live 7 to 10 years longer than unhappy people and optimistic people have a 77% lower risk of heart disease than pessimistic people. But how can you become happier and more optimistic, and how does gratitude boost happiness?

Research shows that consistently grateful people are happier and more energetic, hopeful, helpful, empathetic, spiritual, and forgiving, as well as less materialistic. They’re also less likely to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, neurotic, or sick.

According to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California, gratitude:

  • Promotes savoring of positive life experiences.
  • Bolsters self-worth and self-esteem.
  • Helps people cope with stress and trauma.
  • Encourages caring acts and moral behavior.
  • Helps build social bonds, strengthens existing relationships, and nurtures new relationships (and we know lonely people have twice the rate of heart disease as those with strong social connections).
  • Inhibits harmful comparisons.
  • Diminishes or deters negative feelings such as anger, bitterness, and greed.

You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy the benefits to your health and happiness that accompany gratitude. Let’s make every day a day of giving thanks – a thanksgiving day. I’m going to try harder, and I hope you’ll join me. Come on. You can say it: THANK YOU!

Nancy
Senior System Administration Technician

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I Just Can’t Wait for Winter to Arrive

Posted by on Nov 15, 2014 in Blog, My Favorite Things

Unless you are an avid outdoors person, snowmobiler, or ice fisherman, winter is probably not your favorite season. This is why now is the perfect time to take a close look around the house since winter is no friend of an unprepared building.

Last year was a long and brutal winter for many in the Midwest. A few precautionary steps now can lead to a lot fewer cold-weather problems come the first consistent freeze and snowfall. Taking steps to prevent damage now makes for a much quicker spring cleanup.

Gutters and downspouts serve a great purpose in removing water from our homes. They also are excellent in catching debris and getting clogged as leaves begin to fall. Fall is an excellent time to make sure the gutters are clean and ready to direct the water away from the home and foundation.

Take a close look at your windows and doors. Caulk areas that are showing gaps or where old caulk has dried out and failed. It is a lot easier to add any weather stripping while the temperature is still comfortable.

A change of season is a good time to change out the furnace filter after running the air conditioning throughout the summer. A clean air filter helps the efficiency of the furnace and extends its life. Vacuum out any dirt and debris that may have fallen into the supply vents. This is also a good time to have a professional analyze your heating and cooling system so they can check both at the same time and you can save some money.

Add insulation to any plumbing that is near an outside wall. Make sure to drain any outside spigots to prevent frozen pipes and major water damage.

If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, get your chimney checked and cleaned if needed. A winter fire should not be on you must-do list this winter. Make sure your agent is aware of any wood-burning appliance in your home. Your insurance coverage could be in jeopardy if this has not been disclosed.

Inspect any trees that may have damaged or dying branches. If these are anywhere close to the home, get them removed to prevent them from falling on the roof. If they are near power lines, contact your utility company to create an adequate space for the lines to be unaffected by heavy, ice-ridden branches. If you do not like being left out in the cold, neither do insects and rodents. Take a close look around your property, and seal up any small cracks and crevices that would allow critters to gain access.

Taking these few steps now should allow you to concentrate on the important things of winter … like when spring will arrive.

Tom
Regional Claim Manager

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Don’t Let Minor Mold Exposures Shut Down Your Business

Posted by on Nov 10, 2014 in Blog, Small Business Safety

Mold can cost your business time and expense. Taking action as soon as you see water intrusion and/or mold starting to grow will reduce your loss.

You can obtain mold remediation information from a number of different resources. Most likely you will need a professional mold remediation contractor to handle those problems. You do not want to disturb the mold, get it airborne, and have it spread throughout the area and into the HVAC ducts.

To keep things in perspective, indoor air samples compared to an outdoor air sample will almost always show more mold in the outside air. That is usually true even if there is a minor/small mold exposure in the house or commercial building, which is the reason you don’t want to touch the mold.

Water intrusion (small leaks) and high humidity (frequently in lower levels or basements) are two of the more common problems for minor mold growth that we normally see. For water intrusion, you need to find the leak(s). These can come from a leaking roof, windows, leaking pipes, or pipes with excessive condensation. It is important to find and repair the leak as soon as you can as mold generally does not start to grow for about 48 hours (but can be sooner). Effective use of air conditioning and a dehumidifier are needed to help with drying the area after the mold has been cleaned. Actually, the effective use of the air conditioning and a dehumidifier are two main controls to help prevent minor mold issues.

There is no single solution that works for all situations, but we do see some simple prevention controls that have shown to be effective. These are fix and clean gutters, direct surface water away from your house/building, use ventilation in areas of higher humidity (bathrooms and basements in particular), use air conditioning to keep humidity levels low, use dehumidifiers in high humidity areas, place the dehumidifier away from floor drains, and establish a cleaning/disinfecting schedule for areas with higher potential exposure.

Following the simple prevention controls listed above will reduce your chance of having to deal with a mold problem which can impact the health of your workers and your bottom line.

Ed
Senior Loss Control Representative

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Individually, We Are Responsible for Our Own Health

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Blog, Happy Together

Whether they are rich or poor, many people fail to see the link between their habits and their health. They may regard enjoying good health as a matter of chance or as something over which they have little control. Whatever your financial circumstances, there are basic steps you can take to protect and greatly improve your own health and that of your family. You can increase the quality of your life and avoid needlessly shortening it. By word and example, parents can teach their children to form good habits, resulting in better health.

Eat Wisely

Eat fresh foods. Concentrate on eating “real” food—whole, fresh foods that people have been enjoying for millenniums—rather than modern processed foods. Commercially prepackaged foods and fast food from chain restaurants usually contain high levels of sugar, salt, and fat, which are associated with heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other serious illnesses. When cooking, try steaming, baking, and broiling instead of frying. Try using more herbs and spices to cut down on salt. Make sure meats are properly cooked, and never eat spoiled food. Do not eat too much. The World Health Organization reports a dangerous worldwide increase in overweight and obese people, often the result of overeating. One study found that in parts of Africa, “there are more children who are overweight than malnourished.” Obese children are at risk of present as well as future health problems, including diabetes. Parents should set a good example for their children by limiting their own portions.

Eat mostly plants. A balanced plate favors a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains over meats and starches. Once or twice a week, try substituting fish for meat. Reduce refined foods such as pasta, white bread, and white rice, which have been stripped of much of their nutritional value. But avoid potentially dangerous fad diets. Parents should protect their children’s health by helping them to acquire a taste for foods that are healthful.

Drink plenty of fluids. Adults and children need to drink plenty of water and other unsweetened liquids every day. Drink more of these during hot weather and when doing heavy physical work and exercise. Such liquids aid digestion, cleanse your body of poisons, make for healthier skin, and promote weight loss. They help you to feel and look your best. Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and too many sweetened drinks. One soft drink a day can add 15 pounds (6.8 kg) to your weight in a year.

Take Care of Basic Body Needs

Get enough rest. The demands and distractions of modern life have whittled away at the time people spend sleeping. But sleep is essential to good health. Studies show that during sleep our body and brain repair themselves, benefiting memory and mood. Sleep reinforces the immune system and reduces our risk of infection, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, obesity, depression, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than artificially bypassing sleepiness—our natural “safety device”—with sweets, caffeine, or other stimulants, we should heed it and simply get some sleep. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every night to look, feel, and perform their best. Young people need more. Sleep-deprived teens are more prone to having psychological troubles and to falling asleep when driving. Sleep is especially important when we are sick. Our body can overcome some illnesses, such as a cold, if we simply get extra sleep and drink plenty of fluids.

Take care of your teeth. Brushing your teeth and flossing them after meals, and especially before going to bed, will help ward off tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Without our own teeth, we may not benefit fully from the food we eat. Children who have been taught to brush and floss their teeth after eating will enjoy better health in youth and throughout life.

Go to the doctor. Some ailments call for professional medical attention. Early diagnosis usually results in a better outcome and less expense. So if you do not feel well, get help to find and eliminate the cause instead of merely seeking to relieve the symptoms. Regular checkups from accredited health care providers can head off many serious problems, as can getting professional medical attention during pregnancy.

Keep Yourself Moving

Exert yourself. Leading a physically active life can help us feel happier, think more clearly, have more energy, be more productive and, along with proper diet, control our weight. Exercise need not be painful or extreme to be effective. Regular periods of moderate exercise several times a week can be very beneficial.

Exercise is beneficial for people of all ages, and membership in a gym is not required to get it. Simply using your feet instead of a car, bus, or elevator is a good start. Parents, encourage your children to participate in physical play, outdoors whenever possible. Such activity strengthens their bodies and helps them to develop whole-body coordination in ways that sedentary entertainment, such as video games, cannot.

Protect Your Health

Keep yourself clean. “Hand washing is the single most important thing that you can do to help prevent the spread of infection and to stay healthy and well,” reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As many as 80 percent of infections are said to be passed on by unclean hands. So wash them often throughout the day. Do so especially before eating, preparing food, or dressing or even touching a wound, and do so after touching an animal, using the toilet, or changing a baby’s diaper. Washing with soap and water is more effective than using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Children stay healthier when parents train them to wash their hands and to keep them away from their mouth and eyes. Bathing every day and keeping your clothes and bed linens fresh and clean also contribute to better health.

Keep your home clean. Make whatever extra effort is needed to keep your home tidy and clean, inside and out. Eliminate any places where water can collect and mosquitoes can breed. Litter, filth, and uncovered foods and garbage attract insects and vermin, all of which can bring in microbes and cause disease.

Avoid injuring yourself. Obey safety laws when working, riding a bicycle or motorcycle, or driving a car. Make sure your vehicle is safe to drive. Use appropriate protective equipment and clothing, such as safety glasses, headgear, and footwear, as well as seat belts and hearing protection. Avoid excessive sun exposure, which causes cancer and premature aging of the skin. If you smoke, stop. Quitting now will significantly lower your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke.

Whatever adjustments you need to make, you may experience more success by starting gradually and not setting unreachable goals for yourself. For example, try cutting down on less healthful foods, rather than cutting them out. Try going to bed a little earlier and getting a little more exercise. Doing something is better than doing nothing. It normally takes time—weeks or months—before a new good habit becomes second nature. In the meantime, if you do not see immediate benefits from your extra efforts, do not despair. If you persist, despite setbacks, your health is likely to improve.

Alvina
Policy Issue Associate

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When Doing Your Holiday Shopping Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in My Favorite Things

Reprinted with permission from IDT911
The holiday season can be a frantic time for both online and retail shoppers. With this knowledge, identity thieves are well prepared to target shoppers—leaving shopping safely largely in the hands of consumers. Armed with awareness, shoppers can confidently make their purchases and protect their
identities.

There are simple ways consumers can avoid scams and other types of
malicious cyber activity and enjoy their holiday shopping. A bit of forethought and preparedness is all it takes to foil thieves’ efforts.

Keep these tips in mind when shopping online:

•Watch the Web address. One quick way to check a site’s security is to take a look at the URL—does it read “http” or “https?” If it reads “https,” that means the page is secured—that should always be the case for pages on which credit card information is entered. If the site is not secure, consider taking your business elsewhere.
•Don’t be tempted to store information. Many e-commerce sites ask consumers to store credit card information on the site, with the enticement that it will make future purchases go faster. That might be the case, but storing financial details like credit card numbers on a retailer’s website is a dangerous move, leaving sensitive information more vulnerable to identity thieves.
•Pay from one place. Entering financial information at countless sites across the Web multiplies the risk of identity theft. Paying bills from one central, secure location—such as a bank’s website—lessens the exposure of key data that identity thieves are after.
•Create complex passwords. It might seem like a bother to remember a plethora of complex passwords, but the effort can pay off in terms of safety. Hard-to-guess passwords help protect accounts that contain financial and other identifying information at online shopping, financial, and other sites. Change passwords regularly as yet another precautionary step.

A truly happy holiday also means protecting those soon-to-be-purchased presents. With retail shopping, credit cards reign supreme over cash or debit cards. Here are three reasons why:

•The Most Protective Plastic. Under federal law, the consumer’s ultimate liability for fraudulent use of a credit card is only $50. Many issuers waive that fee if the plastic falls into the wrong hands; if card is reported lost or stolen before bogus charges are made; and if the card number is stolen but not the card itself.
•Season’s Thievings. It’s not just seasonal Santas who appear at the mall this time of year. Pickpockets also show up using bump-and-lift efficiently to heist wallets. If the wallet goes MIA during a shopping trip—or any other time—the cash and credit cards are lost forever. With a quick phone call to the card providers, those accounts are immediately frozen and replacement cards are issued so holiday shopping can be resumed.
•Purchase Perks. Credit card rewards such as travel miles or cash back are one incentive to pull out the plastic. But the list of perks continues when using a credit card to make holiday or other purchases. Additional benefits can include extended return policies, price protection, damage and theft protection as well as extended warranties.

If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, contact Pekin Insurance® at 1-888-735-4611. To learn more about our optional Identity Fraud Expense Coverage, please visit http://www.pekininsurance.com/home/identity-fraud/.

Jenny
Personal Lines Administrative Assistant

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The Perks of Having a Pet

Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 in Blog, Happy Together

Owning a pet can have a wide array of therapeutic and health benefits. Those who have a pet know the joy that goes along with them but may not realize the benefits that accompany playing or snuggling with their furry friend. The benefits extend far beyond the love they show as we are eagerly met at the front door or the warmth they provide as they lay next to us. Studies are scientifically exploring the benefits of the human-animal bond. The American Heart Association has linked the ownership of pets, especially dogs, with a reduced risk for heart disease and greater longevity.

Studies have also found that:

  • Simply petting your cat or dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine (the feel-good nerve transmitters in our brains), which can calm and relax you. Pets have the unique ability to calm and soothe.
  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression.
  • People with pets have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels which may reduce the risk of heart attacks down the road. Pets can help lower heart rates and reduce muscle tension.
  • Heart attack patients with pets survive longer that those without.
  • Pets can ease feelings of stress. Chronic stress can increase your risk of a number of health problems from heart disease to cancer.
  • Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
  • Pets can provide people with a sense of purpose, especially the elderly and those who live alone.

While people with dogs often experience the most significant health benefits, studies have shown that aquariums filled with brightly colored fish can also lower stress and produce a calming effect.

On a much lighter note… Single?? Pets can be a great conversation starter, and dogs are natural date magnets. Who wouldn’t want to pet and talk with that dog on the end of your leash? With more and more dog parks, it is easier for people to get out, socialize and meet others while providing their dogs with fun and exercise at the same time.

But… pet ownership, rather it be a dog, cat, horse, or whatever your pet of choice is, is not for everyone. Becoming a pet “parent” is a big decision that should not be made lightly. Pets require, and deserve, a lot of our resources including: time, money, and not to mention our love.

Donna
Case Management Nurse

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